Skills shortages are an industry reality in Australia, but they also almost seem like the epitome of the ‘first world problem’. Here in Australia many would say that we are lucky enough to have too many jobs and not enough skilled workers to fill them. And perhaps we are.
But lucky as it may be now, this issue could prove to be a legitimate concern moving forward. Industry productivity and skill levels are symbiotic, each relying on the other to survive, balance a key element in industry stability.
It is due to this potential threat that the energy sector, this industry’s most lucrative and increasing facet, has called for the fast tracking of apprenticeships.
They have suggested that instead of following the traditional learning mode, which involves a focus on time, or the amount spent undertaking hands on training, skill level and competency should be the catalysts for proper accreditation.
Campaigners felt that by cutting the learning time and offering more intense training over a shorter period that apprentices would be less likely to drop out; apprenticeship drop out rates becoming an increasing industry trend sitting at approximately 62.5%.
The EE-Oz industry skills council has stood behind the movement as a key solution to the skills shortage, with Chairman Peter Tighe also commenting on the overall positive effect it would have in complimenting the current mining boom.
“This will boost apprenticeship completion rates, an absolute necessity if we’re to capitalise on the current resources boom” Tighe says.
Their current government submission outlines a system that allows for apprenticeships to completed in closer to two years, rather than the traditional four. Under the guidelines the new system could be implemented as early as next year in a trial run that would include 2000 apprentices.
While the system sounds extreme, fast tracked apprenticeship programs sponsored by the federal government’s Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations have showed a growing precedence this last year in a barrage of different capacities. One such system in the building and construction sector saw a fast track program for 12 apprentices undertaking the BCG30203 Certificate III throughout the construction of Eco Cottages.
Instead of a 12 month first year, it came down three months to 9, fast tracking the learning and training process. While not as extreme as the newly submitted fast tracking program, the underlying principles of skill level over time frame are the same, and further motivated the apprentices with rewards based on their learning capacity.
While the energy sector stand by the fact that they are doing the best they can in order to aid in a skills shortage turn around, critics have labelled this as a frightening movement that will lead to unskilled workers, and further favouritism of the mining sector.
It will be important moving forward that if the time is cut, rigorous testing will have to be implemented in order to avoid creating in even bigger mess for the industry at large to clean up.