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Crisis in vocational training

11 September 20140 comments
Apprentice trainees learning how to weld (Copyright: Adelaide Now)

Apprentice trainees learning how to weld (Copyright: Adelaide Now)

Apprenticeships and traineeships have slumped by almost 21 per cent in the last year according to a government report.

Released last week, the Department of Industry figures revealed the number of people starting vocational and educational training (VET) had decreased from 386,800 to 236,500.

South Australia recorded the biggest fall (37.8%) followed by Victoria (24.6%), Tasmania (22.1%) and New South Wales (19.7%).

These figures echo a report commissioned by the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU) that warned of an apprenticeship crisis within the construction industry.

Helmed by University of Sydney’s honorary senior research fellow Phillip Toner, the report found the number of new construction apprenticeships had fallen by 28 per cent over the past three years.

Dr Toner said the huge drop in apprentices coincided with a national unemployment rate of 21 per cent for 15 to 19-year-olds.

CFMEU Construction Division assistant national secretary Brad Parker said the drop in construction apprenticeships was “monumental”.

He said the move to a privatised model where private entities are expected to employ apprentices, combined with the widespread use of temporary migrant workers exacerbated the problem.

“We’re a union of migrants and we’re quite proud of that fact … we’re probably the best advocates for migration in this country but we don’t encourage the 457 or the work holiday visa model because that encourages exploitation,” he said.

“We have evidence of exploitation and bullying, and this leads to safety problems.

“[The migrants] are here for a short time, they’re worried about speaking out and being sent back home,” Mr Parker said.

But rising unemployment has also been responsible for driving migrant workers back home, causing the cancellation of almost 29,000 work visas, according to The Australian.

Unpublished immigration Department data obtained by The Australian revealed nearly 28,000
457 visas were cancelled during the last financial year.

A spokesman for the Department of Immigration last week told The Australian most of these had been cancelled “following the voluntary departure of a visa holder as a result of their employers advising of the end of employment.”

These cancellations reflected the demand for overseas labour, the spokesman said.

“This slowdown in growth of the program is likely due to the softening labour market as well as a combination of regulatory reform and better targeted monitoring and compliance activities,” he said.

The Department of Industry data prepared by The National Centre for Vocational Education Research (NCVER), also showed that in the March quarter, the number of people starting vocational training dropped 11.8 per cent to 61,400; the number of courses completed decreased by 13.7 per cent to 40,000; and, cancellations and withdrawals decreased by 13.5 per cent to 28,700.