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Issue No. 231 30 July 2004  

Bright Sparks
Australia is facing a major crisis that could affect all of us in the decades to come, a shortage of skilled apprentices, tomorrow’s tradespeople who are the backbone of the economy.


Interview: Power and the Passion
ALP's star recruit Peter Garrett shares his views on unions, forests and being the Member for Wedding Cake Island

Unions: Tackling the Heavy Hitters
Tony Butterfield became a State of Origin gladiator at the unlikely age of 33. Even that, Jim Marr reports, couldn’t prepare him for the knock-down, drag-em-out world of modern IR.

Industrial: Seeing the Forest For The Wood
Proposals to flog off NSW’s forests have raised eyebrows and temperatures amongst some of the key players reports Phil Doyle.

Housing: Home Truths
CFMEU national secretary John Sutton argues for a radical solution to the housing affordability crisis.

International: Boycott Busters
International unions have issued a new list of corporations breaching ILO sanctions to do business in Burma.

Economics: Ideology and Free Trade
The absurdities of neoclassical economic assumptions has never stood in the way of their being trotted out to justify profiteering and attacks on the rights of citizens. The AUSFTA is the latest rort we are supposed to swallow, writes Neale Towart.

History: Long Shadow of a Forgotten Man
Interest in JC Watson's short time as Labor's first Prime Minister should not detract from his more substantial role as Party leader, writes Mark Hearn

Review: Chewing the Fat
As debate rages in Australia about Fast Food advertising, Julianne Taverner takes a look at a side of the industry that Ronald McDonald won’t tell you about in Supersize Me.

Poetry: Dear John
Workers Online reader Rob Mullen shares some personal correspondence with our glorious leader.


 Goons, Scabs in Desert Showdown

 High Jump for Hardies

 Task Force in Hiding

 Court Cans Radio Bully

 Trade Deal Muddies Water

 Union Saves Kevin’s Bacon

 CFMEU Bowls Howard Model

 Mildura Bans Toxic Avenger

 Breakthrough Saves 87 Positions

 Two Million Jobs Traded

 Death Halts Sydney Tunnel

 Trainees Score $200,000

 Apprentice Crisis Worsens

 Activists What’s On!


The Westie Wing
As the NSW Labor Government sells its first budget deficit in nine years, the real concern for the union movement is the devil in the detail, especially when it comes to procurement agreements, writes Ian West.

The Soapbox
Rubber Bullets
Labor's IR spokesman Craig Emerson launches a few characteristic salvos across the Parliamentary chamber

The Locker Room
Tears After Bedtime
Phil Doyle says that it's all fun and games until someone loses an eye

Postcard from Vietnam
APHEDA's Hoang Thi Le Hang reports from the north of Vietnam on a project being fund by Australian unionists.,

 Left Holding The Baby
 Tom On Alienation
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Bright Sparks

Australia is facing a major crisis that could affect all of us in the decades to come, a shortage of skilled apprentices, tomorrow’s tradespeople who are the backbone of the economy.

ACTU analysis released this week paints a stark picture: in the next five years 170,000 trades people will leave the industry and only 40,000 will enter it; within a decade there will be a shortage of 250,000 traditional trades apprentices

The ACTU estimates that this skills shortage will cost the Australian economy $735 million a year in lost output - or up to $9 billion over the next ten years.

It also warns that the lack of apprentice opportunities in the traditional trades will have a massive social impact, in part by contributing to youth unemployment.

This skills shortage points to a major failing in government policy: the Howard Government's glossy New Apprentice Scheme, which sees no difference between a teenager flipping burgers as someone learning a trade that will set them up for life.

It also points to a total lack of leadership by the business sector, which these days prefers to engage contract and casual labour rather than invest in a future workforce.

After all, when capital is footloose and pressure is on for hyper-profits, where is the incentive to invest in a long-term employee?

And there is another factor: the aspirations of the time, which drum into young people that a tertiary degree in Linguistics or Performance Studies is a better passport to job security than an electrical trade.

And for those who do not pursue university, there is the economic reality that an apprentice earns less than a trade assistant on the average building site.

Those youngsters who do opt for a trade are, in many ways, remarkable people with maturity beyond their years, prepared to invest today for their career future of tomorrow. If they can find a job ...

So who is filling this void of leadership? In many industries it is the trade union movement, who see the future of their industries as core business and are taking on innovative ways of training their future members.

The NSW Electrical Trades Union, for instance, has invested in the trade by establishing its own group training company, which trains more than 200 apprentices every year.

The apprentices are actually employed by the group training company, which places them with 'host' employers bound by their industrial agreements to employ a set number of apprentices.

It is work that is delivering benefits not just for the young apprentices involved, but for the entire nation.

Just don't waste your time waiting for John Howard to recognise the contribution next time he gets stuck into the union movement.

Peter Lewis



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