This briefing is in relation to the Inquiry into Skills Shortages in Rural and Regional NSW
This briefing is in relation to the Inquiry into Skills Shortages in Rural and Regional NSW.This paper will outline the problems around the methods used by training organisations including TAFE to assess skill needs in rural and regional NSW and their response.This paper will also look into what the causes of these problems are, who are the stakeholders and how are they affected and recommendations on solutions.
The communities of rural and regional areas recognise that the supply of skilled tradespersons in their communities does not meet the current demand and that skill shortages are projected to increase.
2In the context of the Riverina Institute Griffith is a medium sized campus that has demonstrated significant and sustainable growth over the past five years.
Over the past 6 years the campus has experienced a significant increase in facilities and a concomitant increase in full time and part time teaching staff. To address the growing demand for skilled and well trained staff in the region Griffith campus has consistently amended its course offerings and has, on many occasions, provided extra courses to meet unexpected demand particularly in the trade areas. This is a good example of how much tafe applicant numbers are increasing in rural areas however not all tafe facilities are able to have the funds to support these numbers such as the above example of Griffith campus.
1Futher research in relation to concerns of skills shortages has demonstrated there is a great need to increase the amount of trained tradespersons in the workforces. This also requires the improvement of retention rate during training to reduce occupational wastage as qualified tradespersons leave the industry.
There is a fundamental need to ensure that their will be jobs available in the area of where the training took place. This is to prevent skilled trades people leaving rural areas for city life.
STAKEHOLDER ANALYSIS AND CURRENT SITUATION:
Individuals – Without a strong working force the economy of a rural community is bound to drop. More people will lose their jobs and families will have to move to find work.
Regional Industries – Many regional industries are desperate to expand, but are being hampered by a lack of skilled labour.
Councils – A current situation can be seen Wagga Wagga NSW. 3This area is seen as an agricultural powerhouse creating up to $6.5 billion per year. But the hearing has demonstrated that the region’s future growth may be limited by a shortage of workers.
Stakeholders in the Riverina believe that a lack of affordable housing and limited training opportunities are significant barriers to the recruitment of workers in rural areas. 3For example one of the country’s largest chicken meat processors, Bartter Enterprises, already employs more than 1,000 people across the region. The company hopes to increase production from 420,000 to 750,000 birds per week. But their human resources manager John Davis says that depends on being able to source workers.
The Riverina wine industry has also experienced significant growth, along with it, an increased demand for workers. 3For example, 10 years ago Casella Wines employed 14 people; today however they have a workforce of 500.
Paul Foley is the human resources manager for another of the region’s major wineries, De Bortoli Wines. 3He says the winery will employ an extra 80 people for four months during vintage, but recruitment of those workers is a major problem. While the skill shortage is already starting to bite, Leeton Shire Council is looking to the future.
General manager of Leeton Shire Council Ray Pluis says local training opportunities are important for retaining young people in regional centers. This is the third public hearing held as part of this New South Wales parliamentary inquiry. The inquiry’s chairman, Labor MLC Tony Catanzeriti, is playing down suggestions the withdrawal of state government services is partly to blame for the difficulties in attracting skilled workers to regional areas.
Research of submissions and hearings indicates many causes to skills shortages in rural areas. 4For example Peter Louis & Co submission highlights that withdrawal and reduction of services provided by government agencies and public corporations such as medical services, banking facilities and post offices has impacted on rural communities with people forced to relocate. This is a valid argument as people will would to live in areas that have necessities such as medical centers and post offices easily available. Not only will people leave an area to get closer to these facilities but also people will not even bother moving to a rural area if it is lacking of such facilities.
This also states that the campus of tafe in Illawarra confirmed that whilst TAFE provided many course not all of them were specific to the area. 4Also the tafe kept no record of students who completed and whether they stayed or left the area. This causes the problem of not allowing statistics to be examined to get an accurate understanding of the educational needs in rural areas. This also is an extremely good point and the basis of a strange argument. How can the tafe possibly know to what extent its passing students are having on the rural community if they keep no record of what the students achieve after accomplishing their education?
5Mr Bill Archer in his submission highlights two major causes of unskilled workers in rural areas. The first major cause is the distance that an apprentice in the rural areas would have to travel to receive an education. The further the distance the more it will cost the apprentice to travel so therefore becomes another incentive to not bother receiving an education.
7Transport has got to be one of the most major causes of skills shortages in rural areas the requirement for apprentices to travel such large distances to get to college is a major problem. Many rural areas have a very limited access to frequent public transport.
Also transport subsidies are not available to young people if the vehicle they have access to is not in their name and even if they are entitled to it, the amount is pitifully inadequate.
Public transport is a very important requirement as there are many dangers of country driving for young inexperienced drivers with early starts, late finishes and long distances. 7These present very real Occupational Health and Safety risks.
5The second major cause is that once an apprentice receives the education they need they are then able to move to the city were they can make more money doing their job. This is a major incentive for skilled workers to leave the rural areas and therefore leaving many jobs in rural areas left open with nobody with the skills to work them. This effects many stakeholders. The owner of the business who had spent the last few years training the apprentice must now start the cycle again. The community also suffers as there is one less person providing a service. That is why the government must find efficient ways of keeping skilled workers in rural areas as they are fundamental to the survival of the community.
Tafe teachers however in their submission do not believe that these are the major causes of skill shortages in rural areas. 7Their members point out that there are large shortages in areas where pay and conditions are poorest, eg a lot of qualified mechanics aren’t working in their trade areas, because they can earn more money driving a truck. It is therefore not just a matter of addressing skills shortages but also pay conditions and how vocations are perceived by the public. The issue of public perception of skilled trades people has not been addressed successfully by governments.
Set forth are a number of recommendations as to the problems
Councils in regional areas should encourage “stay local and contract local businesses.”
The government should provide funding to provide a Rural Work Income Insurance policy to assist tradesmen in situations that they cannot work as are establishing a new business.
Encourage major employers to establish 12 month contracts, particularly in rural areas. This will help to increase not only employment but also the economy of the community. Contracts will keep people in the area and as the business grows more jobs become available. Which leads to people moving to the area specifically for work.
Encourage training organizations like the Charles Sturt University and Tafe’s to develop seminars and spend time to educate businesses within rural areas to adopt new business practices,
Governments should make sure that rural areas have all the facilities required to encourage population growth in that area. Facilities such as medical centers, post offices and schools, should be located in all rural towns.
Government should place more funding into Traineeships. 1Traineeships are ideal for employers who have a specific need for one Trainee in a given area. Traineeships can be offered/conducted in a variety of ways with the main option taken by employers being an ‘On the Job” Traineeship. By providing Funding to Tafe institutions and providing employer incentives to business’s that provide traineeships to unskilled workers will be a major step in reducing the current problem of unskilled workers.
6Another recommendation would be the implementation of more courses done through distance correspondence. This allows students in rural areas to do courses from home. Thus distance would no longer be a barrier in the prevention of education for skilled workers.
However for the on the job training the Government should allocate funds to areas in desperate need to provide frequent transport to further encourage people to do studies.