||Issue No. 231||30 July 2004|
Interview: Power and the Passion
Unions: Tackling the Heavy Hitters
Industrial: Seeing the Forest For The Wood
Housing: Home Truths
International: Boycott Busters
Economics: Ideology and Free Trade
History: Long Shadow of a Forgotten Man
Review: Chewing the Fat
Poetry: Dear John
The Locker Room
Tom On Alienation
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.
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