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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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Apprentice Crisis Worsens

The shortage of 250,000 apprentices from traditional trades will cost the economy an estimated $9 billion, ACTU research predicts.

Figures released this week show 170,000 tradespeople will leave the workforce in the next five years while only 40,000 will enter - and in the past year government figures reveal a 20 percent jump in trades vacancies.

The government's 'New Apprenticeships' program is being blamed for the problem with the worst hit trades in printing, metal and electrical work.

Less than a third of the apprentices in the program are in traditional trades - two thirds are trainees in areas such as hospitality.

The government's $4125 incentive is given to employers of one-year trainees and four-year apprenticeships - turning off traditional tradespeople from taking on juniors.

Poor apprentice wages is also a problem with an 18-year-old manufacturing apprentice earning $100 less a week than a fast food junior.

Local and state governments used to turn out thousands of electrical tradesmen from workshops every year.

In the 1970s, outfits like State Rail and Sydney City Council would each offer opportunities to 400 youngsters every year.

The private sector keenly snapped up the finished product.

But with the rush to privatise government enterprises in the 1980s came accountants who transformed apprentices from investments into costs.

Some unions, such as the Electrical Trades Union and the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union set up training centres in the early 1990's to address the skills shortage.

The ETU created a non-profit company, Electro Group, with the sole business of employing apprentices.

By sending apprentices to "host" employers for periods of a few weeks to 12 months, the non-profit company reduces the burden of taking on apprentices for employers.

Electro Group currently employs 300 apprentices.

CEO Norm Cahill says Electro Group is "future proofing" the electrical industry against the short sighted views of the past.

Comet Training was the body the CFMEU's initiated to give apprentices a start in the building industry.

Construction and general division state secretary, Andrew Ferguson, called on the Federal Government to increase subsidies to employers to make it easier to train youngsters.

"The demographics in the industry, especially for bricklayers and carpenters, are frightening because kids are just not getting a start," says Ferguson.


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