Australia's lack of skilled workers blamed on parents

30 November 2005


Parents are to blame for a shortage of skilled workers in Australia, the authors of a new study claim. Ambitious mums and dads are pushing children to enrol in high-status university degrees such as law, without regard to the labour market, the authors say.

Australia is suffering a shortage of workers with in-demand qualifications and skills in industries such as construction and mining, with some projects delayed as a result.

Elsewhere, rural communities are suffering a deficit of skilled agriculture labour, prompting some primary producers to call for a guest worker program, allowing foreign nationals to provide a temporary stopgap.

The study, conducted by private training college, the APM Institute, found parental attitudes were mismatched with those of employers.

Employers placed greater value on practical workplace experience than university degrees. Only around 29 per cent thought a university degree was the best preparation for a job. However, around 85 per cent of parents thought employers preferred university graduates.

APM executive director Alan Kuczynski said parents would be better off ensuring post-school training suited the needs of the labour market, as well as those of young people themselves.

"It is critical that parents be aware of these findings so they don't push their child in the wrong direction," Mr Kuczynski explained.

"More than 30 per cent of university graduates drop out, often because they were coerced into going to a place that wasn't really suited to their needs."

Mr Kuczynski said private colleges offered greater opportunities for practical training than universities thanks to their clearer focus on work experience placements.

Despite already attracting a large proportion of skilled immigrants, NSW is among the states and territories suffering a labour shortage.

Premier Morris Iemma has signalled the Government will join a program to attract more skilled migrants, encouraging them to settle in Sydney and the state's regional centres.

The latest measure of demand for skilled workers, compiled by the Federal Department of Employment and Workplace Relations, found job vacancies increased again in November.

Over the year to November as a whole, demand for marketing and advertising workers recorded the strongest growth, increasing 6.6 per cent.