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Hiring apprentices is most important in financial crises

The National Electrical and Communications Association (NECA) has voiced its support of the Government’s ‘Keep Australia Working’ report, claiming that the report supports its own view that maintaining apprentice numbers during difficult economic times is essential.

According to NECA and the Keep Australia Working report, it is imperative to maintain apprentice numbers during difficult economic times as a way to address emerging skills shortages in a recovering economy.

The Keep Australia Working report is based on industry experience gained during the economic slow-down of the early 1990s. During this time, apprenticeship numbers fell rapidly and this had long-lasting effects on the skilled workforce.

The report recommends that in tighter economic conditions, industry should continue to take on apprentices at a sustainable rate to avoid potential labour and skill shortage lags.

Keep Australia Working cites NCVER reports that trade apprenticeship commencements (seasonally adjusted) have declined during the last four consecutive quarters, with a decrease of 21.2 per cent between the March quarter 2008 and the March quarter 2009.

NSW Department of Education and Training figures also reflect this significant drop with a 19.8 per cent decrease in utilities and electrotechnology apprenticeships in the last financial year.

The government’s findings support those of NECA in its National Skills Shortage Strategy Workforce Projections Project. NECA’s project was carried out during 2007— 2008 with around 5,500 industry representatives, employers, employees, registered training organisations, group training organisations and other key stakeholders.

It identified significant skill shortages in the electrotechnology industry and that the global economic crisis was impacting on the current and projected labour market and sources of business.

“The significant drop in apprentice numbers in the electrotechnology industry during the past 18 months and the skills shortages identified through our research are extremely concerning as apprentices represent the skilled workers of the future,” said NECA national chief executive officer, James Tinslay.

“We need to make sure that our skills base is maintained, even in tighter economic conditions, so that our industry is able to take advantage of the opportunities that come with economic recovery.

“The government’s understanding of this situation and targeted additional support to employers in taking on apprentices is imperative to ensuring intakes continue at a sustainable rate.”

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