130,000 Less Apprentices - Apprenticeship System Not In Crisis?

Reports in today’s Murdoch press that the apprenticeship system is not in crisis are completely inaccurate.   Stakeholders across the country have expressed concern for months as apprenticeship numbers continue to drop following the Liberals’ $1 billion in cuts to apprentices. “Apprentices provide vital skills to key parts of our economy.  Without urgent and meaningful intervention, the apprenticeship system in Australia will continue to underperform and fail to deliver for business and the community. “The proportion of Australian workers employed as an apprentice or trainee has fallen to a worryingly low 2.7 per cent of total employment.  “With the Federal Election looming, it is critically important that the Government and opposition parties ensure that fixing our failing apprenticeship system is put at the top of their election platforms.” Innes Willox, Chief Executive, AiGroup, Media Release, 14 April 2016 “Australia cannot afford any more neglect of skills, training and apprenticeships if our economy is to keep up with the changing demands of the 21st century”. “Mr Abbott, rather than tearing down the structures that underpin our world-renowned training system, should be building the capability of the training system to produce the skilled workers that we need. Andrew Dettmer, AMWU National President, Media Release, 22 June 2015 “While acknowledging the need for fiscal belt tightening and rigour in spending, the funding cuts have had an impact on apprentices, trainees, group training organisations (GTOs) and host employers. Group Training Australia Budget Submission 2015-16 “Only last week, figures released by the National Centre for Vocational Education Research (NCVER) show that traineeship and apprenticeship numbers have fallen by more than 40% over the past four years. It is clearly evident more needs to be done to address the shortfall.” Media Release, HIA, 23 June 2016 The Liberals have cut $2.75 billion from the skills portfolio, including $1 billion in cuts to apprentices through the Tools for Your Trade program and access and mentoring programs. When Labor left office in September 2013, there were 415,800 apprentices in training.  In December 2015 there were 278,600.  That’s a drop of 137,200 apprentices in training across the country. “The Liberals have not released one single policy to help apprentices start or complete their apprenticeship and continue to put their heads in the sand about the drop of more than a third of apprentices in training,” Ms Bird said. “By contrast, Labor has announced a full suite of policies specifically aimed at improving commencement and completion numbers: •          Ensuring a proportion of the jobs on major federally-funded projects are delivered as apprenticeships. One in ten jobs on Labor’s priority infrastructure projects will be filled by Australian apprentices. This will create 2,600 new apprenticeship places for young workers seeking a job and real skills. In government, we will also work with the States and Territories and industry to develop procurement rules for apprentices that will apply to all infrastructure, construction and defence projects with capital expenditure over $10 million. •          Bringing back Tools for Your Trade – the valuable apprentice support program axed by the Abbott-Turnbull Government. From 1 July 2017, workers starting an apprenticeship will be eligible for $3,000 in payments throughout their training. Payments will be spaced to provide support to apprentices as they train and back them all the way to completion. •          Helping more unemployed young people into apprenticeships by creating 10,000 new Apprentice Ready places. •          Pilot a National Skills Recognition Entitlement program with 5,000 places to help mature-aged, retrenched workers turn their extensive work experience into formal qualifications. •          Investing in Group Training so that these organisations can help to get more apprentices into work, with $10 million a year in new funding over the next four years. •          Connecting potential apprentices with jobs and training, and ensure they gain high quality skills, Labor will also establish an Apprenticeships Connect search portal and appoint a dedicated Apprentice Advocate.” “The Liberals don’t care about apprentices and refuse to invest in helping people to obtain the skills they need to be productive in the workforces of the future,” said Ms Bird.   FRIDAY, 24 JUNE 2016  

Local Liberals & Nationals – No Plans, No Policies And No Interest In The Illawarra

Sharon Bird and Stephen Jones have called on the Liberal and National candidates in Cunningham and Whitlam to match Labor’s plans and commitments to the Illawarra.  “There are seven days left in this campaign and we have heard no plans and no policies for the Illawarra from the Coalition. It’s not good enough.  “This week the local Coalition candidates need to take the election and the region seriously and match every single one of Labor’s commitments to the Illawarra’, Sharon Bird said.  Labor has positive plans for the Illawarra including:  Steel Industry Plan – Labor has a plan for the long-term sustainability of our steel industry and the jobs it creates and supports. Build Maldon-Dombarton - $50 million in funding and a commitment to work with the private sector to build the stalled Maldon-Dombarton rail link. Improving Road Safety - $50 million to improve the safety of Appin Road. Better Legal Services - $300,000 commitment to fund frontline legal services provided by the Illawarra Legal Service. Community Facilities - $200,000 contribution towards the extension and fit out of Bulli Surf Life Saving Club. Disability Employment Services – Labor has committed to supporting Australian Disability Enterprises such as Greenacres, Flagstaff and the Disability Trust. Access to Justice – funding for a permanent, full-time judge for the Wollongong Federal Circuit Court to relieve the backlog crippling the Wollongong court system. Arts Support - $100,000 funding to upgrade Bowral Memorial Hall to ensure better access to touring productions for the community. Education – Labor has committed $59 million in extra funding for local schools in Cunningham and Whitlam.  These Illawarra-specific commitments are in addition to Labor’s delivery of the Gonski education reforms and funding on time and in full, protecting penalty rates, a funding guarantee for TAFE, investing in skilling our future workforce, additional hospital funding and our commitment to renewable energy.  Labor will also unfreeze the Medicare rebate and reverse cuts to bulk billing incentives for pathology and radiology services. This means patients will pay less for GP visits, x-rays and blood tests.  Labor will also fix Malcolm Turnbull’s mess and re-start the roll out of Fibre-To-The-Premises NBN.  Sharon Bird said that the Coalition were yet to make a specific commitment for the region.   “The Coalition have refused to back the steel industry.   “The Coalition have refused to back the Maldon Dombarton rail link.   “The Coalition have refused to back TAFE and is a complete policy-free zone when it comes to apprentices and training.  “If the Liberals expect anyone in the region to take them seriously they have seven days to match our commitments.  Stephen Jones said that the difference between Labor and the Coalition locally at this election could not be starker – Labor has a plan for the region and Mr Turnbull and the Liberals don’t.  “Once again the local Coalition candidates are hoping that some sort of trickle-down policy solutions will be good enough for local residents but they’re not,” Mr Jones said.  “The hard-working people of the Illawarra do not want to see $50 billion of taxpayer funds disappear out of their pockets and go towards a tax break for big business – most of which will go directly to overseas shareholders,” Mr Jones said.  “If Mr Turnbull is re-elected on July 2, the Illawarra will continue to be ignored,” Mr Jones said.  The only way to make sure that these real plans and real solutions for the Illawarra are implemented is to elect a Shorten Labor Government.  FRIDAY, 24 JUNE 2016  

Labor’s Plan To Expand Access To Quality Higher Education And Support Local Jobs In Penrith

A Shorten Labor Government will establish a Commonwealth Institute of Higher Education in Penrith to deliver new technical and education opportunities. A Commonwealth Institute in Penrith will deliver a mix of higher and advanced vocational education to up to 1,600 more students, as a joint venture between university, TAFE, industry and State and local Government. Commonwealth support will be subject to a funding agreement with the New South Wales Government. The Penrith site will be one of a network of pilot institutes to address acute needs in areas of higher education under-participation, while trialling approaches tailored to local conditions. While Australians are accessing higher education at record rates, the participation rate in some areas, such as Western Sydney, have hardly budged. Commonwealth Institutes will deliver high quality and hands-on work-integrated learning. Applied real-world learning will be their distinguishing feature.  Labor will invest $20 million to bring this new innovative form of education to Western Sydney. Students will be offered Advanced Diplomas and Associate Degrees, and the option to continue on to Bachelor-level study at university. By contrast the Liberals are cutting university funding and introducing $100,000 degrees. They have stood by while the VET system’s reputation has been trashed, its students ripped off, its quality of provision degraded, and the taxpayer bled dry by unscrupulous operators raiding the VET FEE-HELP system. Only Labor can be trusted to have a comprehensive plan for Australian higher education, ensuring Australia’s prosperity and securing jobs of the future.   For more information on Labor’s positive plan for Commonwealth Institutes of Higher Education, please visit: http://www.100positivepolicies.org.au/commonwealth_institutes_for_higher_education_fact_sheet THURSDAY, 23 JUNE 2016

Liberals’ $1 Billion In Cuts And Policy-Free Zone = 200 Fewer Apprentices In Braddon

Sharon Bird, Senator Anne Urquart and Justine Keay today visited St Brendan Shaw College Trades Areas to discuss the drop of apprentices in training in Devonport and the importance of TAFE in training and retraining Australia’s workforce.  The Liberals have cut $2.75 billion from the skills portfolio, including $1 billion in cuts to apprentices through the Tools for Your Trade program and access and mentoring programs.  These cuts have hit local apprentices hard and they don’t have one new plan to help apprentices.  They have had a devastating impact on apprentices in training in Braddon with numbers falling from 2,424 in June 2014 to 2,224 March 2015 – a drop of 200 local apprentices.  It is vital that we train and retrain our workforce to deliver on improving the participation, productivity, innovation and growth efforts required for the nation.  The Liberals are a policy free zone when it comes to apprentices and they have resorted to peddling false claims to try and cover up their blatant disregard for training our future workforce.  See Attachment A.  They have also refused to come clean on their secret plans for a TAFE-destroying federal takeover of vocational education, despite opposition from States such as Tasmania.  “The issue of VET - which is no state secret, as members opposite would suggest - was also included in that communiqué and was a matter for some discussion at COAG. As the minister said last week and as I say now, we do not support a national takeover of that system.” Hon Will Hodgman, Premier of Tasmania, Hansard, 22 September 2015    “We do not support a Federal takeover of our VET or TasTAFE in Tasmania. Hon Jeremy Rockliff, Tasmanian Minister for Education and Training, Hansard, 16 September 2015   Brett Whiteley needs to come clean and let Tasmanians know what they plan for TAFE and whether they plan to have even one new policy for apprentices during this election campaign.  In stark comparison, Labor has announced an extensive suite of policies across all aspects of the portfolio, including: A TAFE funding guarantee. A sector-wide national review to ensure vocational education is able to meet the training needs of the nation. A range of integrity measures to stop the shonks and sharks in the vocational education system, including an $8,000 cap on VET FEE-HELP loans per year and a VET sector ombudsman. A suite of initiatives to boost apprenticeships across the country, giving more Australians the opportunity to gain real skills and a good job. These include creating new apprenticeship opportunities through a ten per cent quota of apprentices on major federally-funded projects; restoring support for Group Training organisations; creating pathways into apprenticeships for young people and retrenched workers; and lifting completion rates by helping apprentices with the cost of their tools and study. The establishment of Commonwealth Institutes of Higher Education to deliver new technical and education opportunities to areas where access remains difficult and participation is too low – including Labor’s investment of $150 million in the $300 million co-investment plan with the University of Tasmania for two new campuses to be constructed at Inveresk in Launceston and West Park in Burnie This Minister has not put out one single policy.  All he can do is try and blame Labor for his own Government’s massive failings and mismanagement.  He is a policy-free zone when it comes to TAFE, apprentices and skills.    TUESDAY, 21 JUNE 2016   Continue reading

Skills Minister Peddles False Claims To Cover Up His Policy-Free Zone On Apprentices, TAFE And Skills

Minister for Vocational Education and Skills, Senator Scott Ryan, has now taken to peddling false claims to try and cover up the fact that he has not announced one policy in this marathon election campaign that will help to build the nation’s skills, protect TAFE or assist apprentices. In his most recent media release, the Minister makes a series of false claims and offers no solutions. LIBERALS’ FALSE CLAIM: Students will pay upfront fees due to Labor’s $8,000 cap on VET FEE-HELP diploma courses.  FACT: The Minister’s own discussion paper details how course fees have tripled since the Liberals were elected: “Most of this growth has occurred since 2012. For example, average tuition fees grew from $5,917 in 2012 to $14,018 in 2015”. Page 16, Redesigning VET FEE-HELP Discussion Paper Students are facing exorbitant costs to undertake diploma courses and all the Minister can do is to criticise strong and sensible policy options.  Labor has put in place a plan to cap fees at $8,000 for VET FEE-HELP courses.  This will stop price-gouging.  If providers can demonstrate that their courses cost more than $8,000 per year to deliver, they are able to apply for an exemption. LIBERALS’ FALSE CLAIM: Additional support and stability of employer incentives introduced under the Liberal Government is starting to yield results. FACT: The $4,000 employer incentive currently available was available under Labor.  The Liberals have not introduced one single new employer incentive.  What they have done is cut $1 billion from apprentice support including from Tools for Your Trade, access and mentoring programs and the Apprentice to Business Owner program.  They have also cut funding for adult apprentices. This has meant that apprentice numbers have plummeted. When Labor left office in September 2013, there were 415,800 apprentices in training.  In December 2015 there were 278,600.  That’s a drop of 137,200 apprentices in training across the country. LIBERALS’ FALSE CLAIM: The Liberals introduced the Apprenticeship Support Network. FACT: What the Liberals did was to rebadge Australian Apprenticeship Centres, and cut their funding by $10 million a year.  On top of the funding cut, the Network is also expected to do additional tasks such as providing job matching, mentoring and support. LIBERALS’ FALSE CLAIM: Trade Support Loans provide assistance with living and work expenses. FACT: Trade Support Loans have an extremely low take up rate.  Under Labor, apprentices will not need to go into $20,000 of debt in order to get some assistance to purchase tools and equipment. Labor will reinstate the Tools for Your Trade payment at $3,000 per apprentice. LIBERALS’ FALSE CLAIM: The Turnbull Government has a deliberative and consultative approach. FACT: The Minister has not conducted one public visit to a TAFE since he became a Minister. What the sector needs is leadership and action but all it has received from the Liberal Government is a revolving door of Ministers, funding cuts and no policy initiative. In stark comparison, Labor has announced an extensive suite of policies across all aspects of the portfolio, including: A TAFE funding guarantee. A sector-wide national review to ensure vocational education is able to meet the training needs of the nation. A range of integrity measures to stop the shonks and sharks in the vocational education system, including an $8,000 cap on VET FEE-HELP loans per year and a VET sector ombudsman. A suite of initiatives to boost apprenticeships across the country, giving more Australians the opportunity to gain real skills and a good job. These include creating new apprenticeship opportunities through a ten per cent quota of apprentices on major federally-funded projects; restoring support for Group Training organisations; creating pathways into apprenticeships for young people and retrenched workers; and lifting completion rates by helping apprentices with the cost of their tools and study. The establishment of Commonwealth Institutes of Higher Education to deliver new technical and education opportunities to areas where access remains difficult and participation is too low. This Minister has not put out one single policy.  All he can do is try and blame Labor for his own Government’s massive failings and mismanagement. He is a policy-free zone when it comes to TAFE, apprentices and skills.  MONDAY, 20 JUNE 2016

Labor Supports The Upgrade Of Bulli SLSC

A Shorten Labor Government will upgrade the Bulli Surf Life Saving Club so local lifesavers can continue to do their great work and protect beachgoers.   The project is a partnership between the Club and Wollongong City Council, and Federal Labor will provide this funding to help get the upgrade completed.   Bulli Surf Life Saving Club has over 500 members, including 135 patrolling members, and they have outgrown the existing facilities.   An upgrade is needed to modernise the Club and provide a proper home for lifesavers, who completed 4,130 hours of patrol last summer, including 37 rescues, 41 first aid provisions and 672 preventative actions.   Sharon Bird said that local surf club volunteers provided an essential service to the community in keeping local residents and tourists safe on the beach over summer.   “I know how much work it takes to keep our many beautiful beaches patrolled over the summer months. Our volunteers undertake many hours of training and then volunteer their own time for patrolling. Our local surf lifesaving volunteers are recognised as some of the country’s best having won numerous state and national awards,” Ms Bird said.   In government, Labor partnered with local governments on more than 6,000 community projects across the nation including building libraries, community centres and swimming pools, and fixing roads.   Labor understands the need to invest in local community infrastructure, and will provide $200,000 towards the cost of the new extension and fit-out on this project.   This pledge reaffirms Labor’s commitment to putting people first in the Illawarra.   SATURDAY, 18 JUNE 2016  

Labor’s Boost For Illawarra Legal Centre

A Shorten Labor Government will ensure the Illawarra Legal Centre has the funds it needs to keep their doors open and can continue to serve those in the community who need legal help. The Liberals have done nothing but attack legal services since the day they came to office. Malcolm Turnbull and George Brandis have cut $52 million from Community Legal Centres, Legal Aid Commissions and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Services. The Turnbull Government’s recent funding announcements are a pathetic attempt to fix up the mess they have created. The announcements do not go far enough to address the 30 per cent funding cut Community Legal Centres will face on 1 July 2017, which will see many centres having to close their doors to clients. Labor is proud to announce that as part of a $43 million package for frontline legal services working to help survivors of domestic violence, the Illawarra Legal Centre will receive $300,000 in funding over the next three years. Labor knows how important Community Legal Centres are to Australians. They help Australians when they are often at their lowest and most desperate – victims of domestic violence and financial scams are among the most common of their clients. Thanks to the damaging cuts by Tony Abbott and George Brandis, backed in by Malcolm Turnbull, 160,000 people were turned away from Community Legal Centres last year alone. This is not right and Labor will address it. Only a Shorten Labor Government will ensure the people of Illawarra have access to legal services in times of need. You can trust Labor to protect Community Legal Centres – the only guarantee you will get from a Turnbull Government is a cut to funding. SATURDAY, 18 JUNE 2016

Labor Commits To Maldon-Dombarton Rail Link

A Shorten Labor Government will make funding available towards the Maldon-Dombarton rail link and work with the private sector to finally build the stalled project. Federal Labor calls on the NSW Government to match the $50 million funding announced today dollar-for-dollar. The completion of the Maldon-Dombarton rail project will provide a 35 kilometre rail link between the port of Port Kembla and south-west Sydney, which will expand business opportunities and create new jobs in the Illawarra. The completion of this Rail Link – which is part built – would create a freight rail connection from Port Kembla to the Main South Line at Picton, providing a major boost to freight logistics in Illawarra and south-western Sydney. The work required to complete the Rail Link would involve building a 4 kilometre tunnel – one of the longest freight rail tunnels in Australia, high bridges over the Cordeaux and Nepean Rivers, a crossing beneath the Hume Highway, road overbridges, track construction, signalling systems and ancillary infrastructure. The project would create hundreds of local jobs in the construction. Completing the rail link will also benefit commuters on overcrowded trains on the South Coast Line linking the Illawarra to Sydney by freeing the line of freight trains, enabling more commuter passenger services. The Maldon-Dombarton rail project has been a major priority for Labor. We provided $25.5 million in 2011 for the planning, geotechnical and engineering studies required. Last year, this project suffered a further delay after the NSW Government’s 12-month Register of Interest (RoI) process ruled out two separate entities expressing an interest in building the Maldon-Dombarton line. The NSW Government indicated following its failed RoI process that it would seek funding commitments from the Federal Government, but there has been nothing but silence from the Turnbull Party. Only Labor has remained committed to seeing his project delivered. A Shorten Labor Government will get this important infrastructure project back on track for the Illawarra and surrounding region. FRIDAY, 17 JUNE 2016  

Labor’s Plan To Expand Access To Quality Higher Education And Support Local Jobs

On National TAFE Day, Labor is proud to announce that a Shorten Labor Government will establish Commonwealth Institutes of Higher Education to deliver new technical and education opportunities to areas where access remains difficult and participation is too low.    A total of ten pilot sites will be established across Australia, in locations where need is demonstrated, and where institutions, industry and local communities are ready to implement locally tailored Institutes. The Institutes will see universities working together with TAFE to trial approaches tailored to local conditions, giving students the skills they need to find local jobs. While Australians are accessing higher education at record rates, the participation rate in some areas has hardly budged. Hurdles preventing access vary from place to place, but include high unemployment, industry dislocation, economic structural change and distance to campus. Labor knows these barriers must be broken down to ensure access to jobs and education is fair and widely available. Commonwealth Institutes of Higher Education are part of that solution. Commonwealth Institutes will deliver a mix of higher education and advanced vocational education as joint ventures between universities, TAFEs, industry and in many cases state and local government. Commonwealth Institutes will be the specialist providers in the delivery of high quality and hands-on work-integrated learning. Applied real-world learning will be their distinguishing feature. Labor will invest up to $430 million nationally to establish the network of pilot sites for this timely and practical initiative. The funding will directly support over 10,000 Commonwealth Supported Places across the country, as well as helping to provide essential infrastructure for high quality teaching that will benefit thousands more.     Commonwealth Institutes will deliver Advanced Diplomas and Associate Degrees, as specified by Australian Qualifications Framework Level 6. Students will have a tradeable high-skill exit qualification, and the option to continue on to bachelor-level study at university. As a condition of funding, Commonwealth Institutes will be required to demonstrate engagement with industry and links to regional labour market need, give instruction that leads to real economy jobs, and offer a pathway to higher study at a university. For the first time, Australia will have a network of tertiary education institutions that bring together the best of applied higher education and high-level technical and vocational skills to deliver an innovation and technology driven boost to the Australian economy. This initiative will build on Labor’s existing commitments in schools, TAFE, universities and workplaces across the nation. By contrast the Liberals are cutting university funding and introducing $100,000 degrees. It is hard to imagine a more economically myopic decision than erecting walls around education. At the same time, the Liberals have stood by while the VET system’s reputation has been trashed, its students ripped off, its quality of provision degraded, and the taxpayer bled dry by unscrupulous operators raiding the VET FEE-HELP system. Only Labor can be trusted to have a comprehensive plan for Australian higher education, ensuring Australia’s prosperity and secure jobs of the future.  For more information on Labor’s positive plan for Commonwealth Institutes of Higher Education, please visit: http://www.100positivepolicies.org.au/commonwealth_institutes_for_higher_education_fact_sheet THURSDAY, 16 JUNE 2016  

Labor Is Standing Up For Steel Jobs

Today’s announcement that a Shorten Labor Government will secure more than 3,500 jobs through a targeted investment in Arrium shows that only Labor has a plan for a strong steel future for Australia.  BlueScope and Arrium play a complementary role – with Whyalla supplying long products such as rail track for the building industry and BlueScope producing the flat products like plate and Colorbond as well as hot rolled coil.  If Arrium goes under it leaves a massive hole in the domestic market that will be filled by overseas producers who will inevitably seek to supply every part of the market. If we are to remain a steel producing nation we need to produce the full range of products through efficient plans at competitive prices.  Today Bill Shorten announced that a Shorten Labor Government will work with the South Australian Government to establish a joint Steel Reserve to support Arrium to make specific investments that secure its long-term future.  Labor will provide $100 million in targeted grants and financing as part of the Steel Reserve, with the South Australian Government providing an additional $50 million.  This will ultimately see up to $300 million invested in a new plant and equipment to make Arrium more productive and efficient, while securing thousands of local jobs.     It follows Labor’s six point Plan for Australian Metals and Manufacturing Jobs, announced at the Port Kembla steelworks in April this year.  Under Labor’s plan we will maximise locally produced steel in government infrastructure projects and ensure Australia’s anti-dumping system has the right powers and penalties in place.  Meanwhile, Christopher Pyne has not even visited the Illawarra steelworks to meet with local workers.  Labor will deliver this investment in Arrium and our six-point plan because we believe in strong local industries that protect existing jobs and create new ones. When Labor was last in Government we established a $300 million Steel Transformation Plan because we understand the important of retaining a steel industry in Australia and BlueScope was a major beneficiary.  For more information on Labor’s plan to support Arrium and protect local jobs, visit: http://www.100positivepolicies.org.au/local_steel_local_jobs_fact_sheet. THURSDAY, 16 JUNE 2016