New institute takes trade skills into the future

THE serious skills shortage facing not just Australia, but the entire Western world, has been well documented of late.

THE serious skills shortage facing not just Australia, but the entire Western world, has been well documented of late.

Over the next five years, Australia will have 200,000 more jobs than people to fill them. The vast majority of these jobs will be skilled trades.

In the years ahead, the demand for university level qualifications is expected to be just over 20%, roughly what it is now.

Over 60% of jobs will require technical or vocational qualifications, yet only 30% of the population have these qualifications.

The reasons for the shortage are numerous and complex. Not least is the perception of technical or vocational training as ‘second-class’ education.

Somewhere along the line, it is felt, people developed the perception that TAFE, Apprenticeships and vocational training courses were what you did if you couldn’t get into university. Higher education became the benchmark of success, regardless of personal talent and interests.

The Australian Government and Industry are working hard to reposition the status of trade skills and attract not just school leavers, but anyone considering a career change or looking to re-enter the workforce, back to trades.

In 2005, the Federal Government founded the Institute for Trade Skills Excellence, an industry-led initiative aimed at promoting and advancing the quality and industry relevance of vocational education for all trades in Australian.

The Institute’s three primary objectives are to raise the profile and status of trade skills within Australia; to recognise high performing Registered Training Organisations (RTOs); and to recognise excellence in teaching.

According to the Institute’s CEO, Brian Wexham, the skills shortage is a subject that’s not going to go away, “but you only ever hear about the negative things.

“You’re not going to change peoples’ minds by telling them there’s a skills shortage. A career and trade qualification is as prized as a university degree. We have to change attitudes.

“There are a lot of good initiatives happening, both from Government and industry.

“One example is the Federal Government has invested over $340m to establish and operate 25 Australian Technical Colleges across Australia to help elevate the status and heighten interest in technical careers.

“The recent Budget provided opportunities and financial support for mid-career apprentices plus there was the introduction of Work Skills Vouchers for under 25 year olds.

“What we want to do is take positive messages and multiply them, and we do this with both traditional and new media.

Employers too have a significant role to play. An investment in their apprentices should be seen as an investment in their business, their industry. Apprentices need to be encouraged, monitored, and mentored if we are to improve completion rates,” Wexham said.

The Institute has developed an innovative initiative called SkillsOne Television, but the multi-platform program is much more than television.

SkillsOne has been created in an entirely tapeless environment, allowing files and footage to be integrated across all communication mediums – from television to the web, pod casting and even mobile phones.

Aired on Foxtel Aurora Channel over 18 hours a week, all footage will be collated into a searchable archive on the web, creating a valuable resource much like YouTube for students, parents, teachers, career councillors, employers, employees and industry groups.

While using this multi-platform medium is a first for Australian broadcasting, it’s the message it can convey that will remain the initiative’s ultimate focus.

Head of Television Production, Geoff Tanner said the program will be made in derivatives of six minute blocks and each will be stories about people who are happy and successful in their trade.

“There will also be motivational speakers who will come along and say, ‘you can be the best you can be’, just basically getting people up off the couch and wanting to do something with their lives. So it’s about the meaning of life as well as specifically trade skills.

“We will also be talking to people who have become famous through their skills and talking to them about how their skills or training helped them became so successful; people like Lindsay Fox and Dick Smith. Plus we’ll have a lot of fun.

“We’re trying to develop a skills community, where we can generate a lot of user content. We’ll ask people to send in their videos, send in photographs of their work place and then they get the chance to see themselves on television.”

Further information can be found on http://www.skillsone.com.au and http://www.tradeskills.com.au.