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Thursday, 3 May 1973
Page: 1705

Mr HUNT (Gwydir) - I am pleased to support this Bill which seeks Parliament's approval to provide an additional $10m to the States for technical training facilities. This is an extension of the policy introduced originally by a Liberal-Country Party Government in 1965. Indeed, existing legislation provides for grants totalling $36m during the triennium to 30th June 1974. Over the past 5 years there has been a growing interest in the needs of technical training in Australia. For too long technical training has been the Cinderella of education. For too long it was held that university education was the be all, the end all, the aspiration of practically every Australian parent. In this technological age we need a growing number of people trained in a wide variety of technical skills. I foresee technical colleges being called upon to play an increasingly important part in education, employment and development.

I welcome the Government's decision to set up a commission to examine the needs of technical education and to make recommendations for financial assistance that should be provided to the States for technical education. We now have a number of commissions established by the Government to examine the needs of the various levels of education. It is to be hoped that in examining the recommendations from these various commissions the Government will consider the whole broad range of education requirements and will secure a balance in the distribution of financial assistance to the areas of need. There is a great need for a rationalisation of the use of resources for education - for example, in the rationalisation of education opportunities between the States. At present there is a wide divergence in the approaches to education as between the States and whilst diversity in opportunity is essential in this age and flexibility is a must there is, nonetheless, a great need for a co-ordinated approach in the use of finance and manpower to ensure that our resources are being spent to the best advantage to meet the changing needs of our time.

I want to devote attention to the need for the Commonwealth to assist the States in establishing pre-employment or transitional courses for young people at technical colleges, such courses to be of one year's duration. As the Minister for Labour (Mr Clyde Cameron) knows, I have made representations to him on behalf of the Gunnedah Municipal Council and also the Dubbo City Council to have at the technical colleges in those towns one-year pre-employment or transitional courses for young school leavers in those towns. In a letter I received from Mr Trevallion the Town Clerk of Gunnedah, he states:

We wish to see the provision of special preemployment classes for auto-mechanics, carpentry and joinery, having in mind that boys who do obtain a suitable education level will attend at the college for a period of 6 months duringwhich time they will be trained up to a 2-year apprenticeship level.

He goes on:

You will appreciate the difficulties in catering for these boys, the estimated number within the range of 20 to 25 for each course, due to the fact that many come from low income families and will be unable to attend full time courses unless they obtain some living allowance. As you know, once they register for technical training they will no longer receive Commonwealth social service benefits. It does seem anomalous to us that they should be deprived of this allowance particularly in view of the fact that there is just no employment opportunity available for the majority of the boys concerned.

The Minister for Labour (Mr Clyde Cameron) replied to my representations on 19th March. He has shown a great interest in this area of need. He said:

In your letter of 2nd February you sought support for the establishment of pre-employment training courses at Gunnedah and for the payment of allowances to students in the 16 to 18-years age group who attend courses at technical colleges. I am happy to support the establishment of free pre-employment training courses as I believe they provide an effective way of imparting basic occupational skills. However, the introduction of a course at a particular centre is, you will appreciate, a State matter and I note that the Gunnedah Council is following up this question through Mr C. M. Fisher, M.L.A.

He is the member for Upper Hunter. The Minister continued:

I note also that Mr Hewitt, the Minister for Labour in New South Wales recently announced the establishment of pre-apprentice training courses of bricklaying and carpentry at a number of country and metropolitan centres. You will be interested to know that the question of assistance for persons undergoing pre-apprentice training courses was considered at a meeting I held with my State colleagues recently. Following that meeting I have asked my Department to prepare proposals for my further consideration. The payment of allowances for attendance at any technical college course to young people in the 16 to 18-years age group, who are in necessitous circumstances and who have not yet entered the work force has not been provided for under the existing Government training schemes.

The Minister for Labour has appreciated this need and has indicated his willingness to pursue it.

I suggest that the newly established commission give consideration to such a need in our changing society. The concept is not new. For instance, courses have been provided for young people in Japan wishing to learn technical skills. Other advanced nations are considering the idea at the present time. In any such program it is essential that the Commonwealth Government pay such students at least the basic wage during the 12 months course. This is essential for low income families. It is an essential incentive to attract more young people who have neither the ability nor the desire to undertake a university education, attend a college of advanced education or undertake teacher training. At the present time too many of our young people are leaving school and taking the first unskilled job available. A young person is attracted to this decision because of the relatively higher wages available to him in some of the unskilled jobs that are available on leaving school. At present students have little incentive to go to technical colleges or to enter into apprenticeships. In rural areas there is a shortage of skilled tradesmen such as motor mechanics, electronic engineers, carpenters and joiners and plumbers. If regional development throughout Australia is to get off the ground we will need hundreds more of such technically trained people. Therefore 2 considerations are paramount. The first is that incentive is necessaryto attract more young people into these trades, and the second is that the Commonwealth will have to provide the funds for such training.

I seek leave to continue my remarks at a later stage.

Leave granted; debate adjourned.

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