THE Federal government’s latest reforms for vocational and technical education, sees Canberra take over supervision of the nation’s training systems, with the promise to promote more flexible and accelerated training pathways.
Australian Business Limited (ABL) has come out in support of the latest rules introduced in August which point to manufacturers having to grow their own apprentices or work more closely with institutions and industry bodies on specific skilling needs.
“Strengthening training skills has become a matter for industry and government to work together on developing, and this is what the new rules point to,” ABL’s education and training advisor, Kathy Rankin told Manufacturers’ Monthly.
Howard Morey, plant manager with automotive parts producer, Ion Ltd, with over 40 apprentices, sees no changes for the company in the new funding arrangements, and the transfer to federal control of institutional apprentice learning skills. “We don’t believe it will make any changes …we are developing our own training in-house,” Morey told Manufacturers’ Monthly.
However, not all manufacturers and employee groups are happy with the new arrangements. Steve Facer, CEO of Chess Engineering , employing 80 full time people including a number of apprentices, complains the two key stakeholders involved have the least encouragement. “We (the employer) should be rated, judged and accredited as the training facilities we really are, and given incentives appropriate to the tasks.
“Companies like Chess Engineering are critical in that we provide the practical training and determine the ultimate quality of apprentice skills,” he said.
“Increased Federal involvement in a national training system can only create more bureaucracy, more rules and more hurdles for employers.”
Facer said the proposals fail to address workplace training standards and anomalies in the New Apprenticeship scheme. “The engineering trades have for too long taken a back seat in the career stakes, which is odd when you consider how much our society relies on the goods produced by manufacturing industries,” he concluded.
ABL’s Rankin concedes that institutional delivery and workplace delivery of apprentice training packages do not always match. She sees new apprenticeships in the future as on-the-job, or arranged by employers with accredited training institutions, or both, with the majority of funding provided federally through state education departments.
Rankin is calling for the manufacturing industry to continue lobbying for appropriate skills training budgets and delivery mechanisms. “Manufacturers need to make strong cases to State governments to ensure there are funds for training,” Rankin told Manufacturers’ Monthly. She sees a concerted effort for employers to ensure their voice is heard in NSW by Department of Education and Science industry skills councils which develop training packages.
“The more training can be delivered relevant to the workplace, the more confident employers can be that the competencies developed are those needed,” Rankin said.
However the unions claim not everyone will benefit in the immediate term from the new Federal and States matched funding agreements.
AMWU’s national president, Julius Roe, told Manufacturers’ Monthly that despite the huge demand for training and the need for more investment to lift Australia’s productivity, the Federal Government in the Skilling Australia Bills continues the freeze on any extra funding for the institutions.
“The evidence in Australia and internationally is clear, that investment in broad based qualifications is critical to deal with inequality, productivity and industry development,” he said.
Roe sees national apprentice training as fragmenting as a result of the Federal Government’s latest rules. “The risk of returning to a fragmented system is high.
“By pushing individual employment contracts in the TAFE sector, the government is preventing agreement between the States and the Commonwealth on the continuation of the national training system,” Roe said.