THE federal Skills Minister Chris Evans yesterday said that the rates of apprenticeship completion in Australia were a “national disgrace”, which begs the question just what exactly is being done to improve the situation.
Mr Evans didn’t mince words with describing what he believes is part of the issue: that literacy rates were “frightening”.
It’s difficult not to think that improving this situation will come easily, as only about half all apprentices currently complete their full term.
The changes to TAFE funding suggested by the Baillieu government in Victoria have certainly created a debate about the opportunities for further training for young people. While there has been much dismay around the changes to funding arrangements, it’s likely that support for traditional trade-based areas will be improved. The debate about exactly what falls out in Ballarat for the government’s change in direction is still to be fully realised.
There are a number of factors which has made retention of apprentices difficult in recent years – including poor wages and a lack of out-of-work support.
The major fluctuations in the housing market, which trades such as plumbing, electrical and bricklaying rely so heavily on, has made employers less stable.
That Mr Evans identified literacy as a major impediment is concerning and an issue which must be resolved before young people being in the workforce. His statement indicates that the education system is not providing appropriate pathways for basic skills such as reading and writing for many students.
Improving these basic skills must be a significant priority for both state and federal governments. Those advocating for a return to secondary school programs which provide more specific programs for students who are more likely to enter trades still has merit.
The Gonski review of school funding will be a major turning point in this respect, with the government’s response expected in the coming weeks seen as a potential turning point in this sector.
Let’s hope it can help address some of the issues described by the minister yesterday.