Shortage of key skills looms
Summary: There are fears of a future skills shortage after the total number of local apprentices and trainees fell 10 per cent in the year to March — or about 4000 people.....
The total number declined from 39,629 at March 31 last year to 35,631 12 months later, according to figures from the Department of Training and Workforce Development.
A spokeswoman for the Chamber of Commerce and Industry WA claimed the drop was because of several factors including high training costs, weaker economic conditions and the transitioning resources economy.
“Businesses tell us that if training numbers continue to decline, we will see skill shortages in three to five years,” the spokeswoman said.
“This could lead to a reliance on skilled migration, as we saw during the mining construction boom, instead of local job creation, as the Government pledged during the election.”
The spokeswoman said it was imperative the McGowan Government boosted training incentives after it had reduced the number of occupations on the skilled migration list from 178 to 18.
“To achieve a skilled local workforce, the Government can’t (afford to) put their foot on the pipeline of apprenticeship and traineeship support while also reducing the skilled migration list — this shuts down every option available to business,” she said. She highlighted the importance of training in key areas such as agribusiness, construction, energy, defence, manufacturing, international education, resources and tourism.
UnionsWA secretary Meredith Hammat called on the Government and employers to do more to support training.
“Too often in the past, employers have not trained enough apprentices and then had to turn to temporary overseas labour to plug skill shortages,” she said. Australian Manufacturing Workers Union secretary Steve McCartney blamed employers and their “constant pursuit of the lowest bottom line” for the trend.
“In this country we’re still spending record amounts on research and development, but we’re not turning it into jobs for our young people,” he said.
However, some sectors are bucking the trend, with the hospitality, tourism, the arts, recreation and the mining industry increasing their intake of trainees and apprentices. Stuart Hawkins, 20, who is learning to be a chef at Perth’s C Restaurant, said his apprenticeship fulfilled a long-held dream.
He said other people had tried to talk him out of being a chef because of the long hours and stressful conditions, but he said the good aspects outweighed the bad. He said a lot of young people were attracted to the earn-as-you-learn model of training.
Hospitality Group Training general manager Iain McDougall said while there had been a slight improvement in the sector’s training numbers, the biggest problem was attrition.
He said half of all chef apprentices dropped out within six months. He called on the State and Federal governments to provide support to employers to help keep them on. DTWD statistics also show a hefty slump in the total number of people starting apprenticeships — down 15 per cent to 6285 in the year to March. 2. Trainee commencements were down 22.5 per cent to 14,934 in this time.