The AMWU greatly welcomes Labor’s election pledge to appoint a National Apprentice Advocate as part of an overdue shake-up to protect the rights of our next generation of skilled workers.
Labor will also be targeting at least one in ten jobs on major infrastructure projects over $10 million being be filled by apprentices.
The policy signals Labor stepping up to the national responsibility to offer real jobs by properly resourcing the apprentice system, so Australia has the skilled trades workers to capitalize on new technologies sweeping across industry.
The commitment to an Advocate to ensure proper TAFE training courses and guard against exploitation of apprentices has been an AMWU objective, along with the apprentice ratio on big projects.
The policy announced by Opposition Leader Bill Shorten would also make it easier for aspiring apprentices to find positions and for employers to find them through an Apprenticeships Connect “matchmaking” portal on the web.
“These are fair reforms to the apprenticeship system, integral to developing the skilled workforce of the future which will be essential to Australia’s prosperity,” said AMWU National Secretary Paul Bastian.
“Change is desperately needed because the Abbott-Turnbull Government has put vocational training through the ringer, gutting $2.5 billion and running down TAFE while rogue operators got out of control in milking the system."
Extra hope: the ALP proposes an Advocate to protect apprentices' interests if it is elected.
Employer confidence in the system is rock-bottom with apprenticeship numbers at their lowest since 2001 – numbers have fallen by 122,000 since the last election.
Mr Bastian said the Advocate would be critical in lifting the poor completion rate for those who start apprenticeships, which is below 50 per cent.
If Labor were elected an implemented its $10 billion infrastructure program to create 26,000 jobs, it would mean 2600 Australian apprentices.
AMWU Apprenticeships and Skills Co-ordinator Ian Curry said the appointment of a National Apprenticeship Advocate fulfilled a key recommendation of an expert apprenticeship panel during the Gillard Labor Government, on which the AMWU sat.
“It would sit within the office of the Employment Ombudsman, which should see the Advocate with adequate resources,” he said.
He said the remaining priority challenge for the AMWU was to get both major parties to commit to a specific level of funding to revive the TAFE system so it can again deliver the quality technical training essential for apprentices.
The AMWU also wanted to see the Abbott-Turnbull system of $20,000 loans to apprentices scrapped, to replace debt with a realistic supplement to help apprentices with tools, training and travel.