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We need a government that believes in TAFE and invests young workers

Mark Burgess

The Liberals hand over cash to older voters as they slash billions from TAFE. 

Written by ETU National Apprentice Officer Mark Burgess

There has been a lot of inter-generational divides in this election.

We’ve seen Scott Morrison and the Liberal Party pit older Australians against younger Australians and make the former the victims.

The reality is that younger Australians always come last on the Liberals’ agenda.

We’ve seen that proved in their failure to accept the advice on climate change and energy policy. We’ve seen it on housing affordability and the cost of living. And we’ve seen it in their approach to investing in TAFE and training opportunities for the future workers of Australia.

Young Australians are written off as lazy and lacking real work ethic and that’s why they fail. It’s something we hear it all the time. But the real failure has been the Abbott-Turnbull-Morrison Government, a government’s lack of leadership as it’s cut $3 billion from the VET sector and let apprenticeships and training places decline by 145,000.

Fortunately we have an opportunity to elect a government that will invest in young Australians through TAFE and training and start rebuilding the sector after years of neglect.

We all know you have to work hard as an apprentice. You are there to learn on the job and at TAFE while earning a wage that can at times be very small.

As a first-year electrical apprentice on the award you earn $13.50 an hour, which works out to about $500 a week. And we’re seeing many apprentices coming into our trade when they are 18 or 19, many having already left the family home and setting out on their own. With the cost of living already going up but wages barely moving, there is a lot of pressure on young apprentices to get through to the end of their four-year training.

We know the low starting wages are one of the reasons apprentices drop out in the early years. A pay rise will help young workers and Australians everywhere is well overdue for one.

As well as better pay, we also need to see better mentoring for young apprentices with many finding themselves in their first full-time job out of school there’s a lot to learn that might not be covered in the TAFE course.

This is where mentoring and support from older workers can help because there are life and trade skills that are not taught in the classroom, whether its bullying or harassment at work, or dealing with and negotiating with a boss.

Unfortunately, over the past six years of a Federal Liberal Government has seen funding and programs gutted, including $900 million for Tools of the Trade payments, with support for adult apprentices stripped and the Pathways to Business mentoring programs also ditched.

READ MORE: 

Labor has the right plan for the future of our industry

TAFE: A fundamental cornerstone 

No wonder we are facing a skills shortage, and with so many large-scale jobs in the pipeline for coming decades – such as infrastructure and shipbuilding – the Liberals’ failure to invest in young people and plan for the future proves they cannot manage the economy.

These are just some of the reasons why the ETU is backing Bill Shorten and Labor in this election.

We’re very sad to Doug Cameron stepping away from Parliament. I have worked closely with the Senator over the years and he established a strong plan that will be carried on by Tanya Plibersek and whomever succeeds our good comrade Cameron.

I know this because Labor are backing workers young and old and they will work to give TAFE and apprentices the back the support that’s been stripped away these past six years.

Labor has committed to launching a review of our TAFE-VET sector within its first 100 days of forming government and appoint an Apprenticeship Advocate to ensure quality and protect apprentices.

It will also waive upfront fees for 100,000 students to attend TAFE and invest $100 million in modernising TAFE facilities around the country after years of neglect.

As they have committed to abolishing the ABCC and the Building Code, Labor will also ensure one in every 10 jobs on Commonwealth priority projects are filled by Australian apprentices – something that has been (inexplicably) outlawed under this Liberal Government.

The ALP will also provide 10,000 pre-apprenticeships for young people wanting to learn a trade but not yet be old enough to start one and provide 20,000 advanced entry apprenticeships for older workers to retrain and set out on new career paths.

This is what Labor has committed to because Bill Shorten and Labor are committed to TAFE, apprentices and young Australians.

This is why I am backing Labor at this election and I encourage everyone to do the same.


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