|Issue No 41||26 November 1999|
Micheal Gadiel on the Training Agenda
The traditional Indenture between the apprentice and tradesperson has been one of the most durable relationships of the industrial age.
Traineeships too, an initiative of the Labor Party, whilst in office federally, and supported by the union movement, have been highly successful in boosting youth employment by extending an apprenticeship style relationship into a broader range of industries beyond the traditional trades. But with the advent of National Training Packages, de-regulation of training arrangements in other states and the emergence of AWAs our traditional mechanisms for the regulation and protection of employment in training are coming under increasing pressure.
A traineeship or apprenticeship is regulated in three key ways: 1) the qualification or outcome; 2) the training plan; and 3) the industrial instrument. In recent times all three of these areas have undergone significant change. Unions have been key players in the regulation of vocational training because we have had almost exclusive control over the industrial arrangements.
In NSW the qualifications and training plan are governed by the Industrial and Commercial Training Act. The Act provides for an "Indenture" between the employee and employer, usually four years for an apprenticeship or one year for a traineeship. The Indenture will set out the training that the apprentice or Trainee will receive and the qualification they will receive at the conclusion of the agreement. However, the National Training Agenda provides that NSW, along with the other States will hand over responsibility for qualifications to the National Training Authority - ANTA. The NSW Government is in the process of re-aligning the recognised qualifications to match those identified in National Training Packages. The benefits arising from this are that qualifications will portable between states and that work done in developing competencies and pathways is not duplicated state by state, the negative for unions is that NSW has been caught of the trend towards deregulation driven by the Federal Government some of the other States.
The employment side of Traineeships and apprenticeships are traditionally regulated by State and Federal awards, the Industrial and Commercial Training Act requires that the Indenture refers to industrial instrument under which the person is employed. Awards frequently contain provisions regulating apprenticeships and setting out apprenticeship rates of pay for particular industries - despite the removal of a number of these provisions as a result of the award stripping process. Traineeships are generally governed by the provisions of the National Training Wage Award, or other awards reflecting the provisions of the NTWA into various industries or jurisdictions. The rates of pay for a traineeship are almost universally in line with those set out in the NTWA.
From the 35 endorsed National Training Packages contain 180 AQF III (trade level) qualifications and around 125 related AQF II (traineeship) qualifications. These qualifications map to competencies alone - there is no time-based requirement. The philosophy of the National Training Package is that if a person is properly assessed as competent by an appropriate authority then they are able to gain the qualification. The NSW level regulation picks up the difference because Vocational Training Orders issued by the State Government pursuant to the Industrial and Commercial Training Act still specify nominal duration's for traineeships and apprenticeships.
The problem for unions is that modes and pathways are becoming more complex with the advent of the National Training Packages. Trainees may work part-time, training can occur either fully on the job, or partially on and off the job. Privately offered pre-apprenticeship courses may shorten the duration of an indenture or traineeships may be completed as part of a Higher School Certificate program. The industrial instruments in place do not accommodate these new pathways. Most NSW Training Wage Awards have no part-time or school based arrangements. Apprenticeship rates of awards provide for time-based progression, when the training establishment is shifting towards a competency-based framework.
In the past the training authorities and governments have worked with unions to establish appropriate industrial arrangements to accommodate training programs - no more. With the advent of AWAs employers may write whatever industrial arrangements they want into individual contracts with trainees - the only requirement of the Act is that a legal industrial instrument is in place.
The Federal Government, through DEETYA, has distributed how to do an AWA for a trainee pro-forma to all the new apprenticeship centres. The Federal Government is using training as a successful area for the promotion of its industrial agenda. The danger for unions is that, if this strategy proves successful, then the union movement may face a generation of young people who have experienced an AWA as their first employment contract.
We are on the threshold of a radical shift in the way vocational training is delivered and we are no longer in control of the agenda as we were in the past. For unions to ensure that AWAs stay out the training sector we must be prepared to commit resources to putting in place awards and agreements that properly protect the interest of young people, to accommodate the changing training market furthermore we need to pressure governments to accept responsibility for ensuring that trainees and apprentices are not exploited through their employment conditions.
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