Australian island of Tasmania desperate for tradespeople

12 December 2005


There are concerns young Tasmanians are shunning traineeships and apprenticeships because they are not deemed to have the status of a university education. Tasmania is an Australian island located 240 km (150 miles) south of the eastern portion of Australia.

A leading training organisation has called for better marketing to entice people back into vocation-based training.

Northern Group Training cannot find enough Tasmanians to fill its vocational courses and currently has 46 vacancies across the state.

NGT's general manager Peter Lane said Tasmania had a skills shortage, and was facing a skills crisis, yet young people were not taking up the opportunities.

Mr Lane spoke out following figures released last week showing commencement of new traineeships and apprentices plummeted by 10 per cent in Tasmania in the past year -- the worst performance of any state.

Nationally new traineeships and apprentices rose by 4 per cent.

Mr Lane said it seemed young people and their parents had a low opinion of traineeships and apprenticeships.

This was despite the fact a vocational education, as opposed to a tertiary education, could lead to lucrative and satisfying jobs.

"A plumber can make as much money, if not more, than a lawyer -- particularly if a young person wants to start a business," Mr Lane said.

And he said Tasmania, and Australia as a whole, was crying out for vocational skills.

"While we need lawyers and doctors, at the end of the day it's the basic trades skills that build our economy -- they are the skills that make us globally competitive."

Mr Lane said a lot of effort and emphasis was placed on a tertiary education, although only 30 per cent of school leavers continued on to university and 30 per cent of those dropped out.

NGT is a not-for-profit company which links up trainees with employers.

It has about 450 apprentices and trainees across Tasmania, in addition to 46 vacancies.

Mr Lane said it was difficult to get young people interested in taking up traineeships and Tasmania should follow the lead of Victoria, where a marketing campaign helped raise their profile.

He said the skills shortage would intensify as baby boomers started to retire and young people with skills would be highly sought after.

"Because we are facing such a massive skills shortage, with a meagre labour supply, anybody who takes an opportunity will find themselves in a unique position," he said.