06 December 2021

SUBJECTS: Cram Foundation Sensory Garden opening; Labor’s $1.2bn Future Made in Australia skills plan.
STEPHEN JONES, SHADOW ASSISTANT TREASURER: So great to be here with Karen Burdett and the team from Cram Foundation opening the new sensory garden. Really pleased to be able to contribute $7000 to ensure the project got up and away. As you can see from the clients who are here today it's transformed this backyard but it also is absolutely integral to improving their mental health and ensuring that they get a quality of life and a stimulus that they may not otherwise get. So great to be able to assist them adds a bit of colour and life to the place.
JOURNALIST: And tell us about the Future Made In Oz skills plan.
JONES: Under Scott Morrison’s watch we've seen a 20 percent decline in traineeships and apprenticeships in the Illawarra, at the very time when employers are crying out for skills. Whether it's in the building industry whether it’s in traditional trades, whether it's in hospitality, everyone's crying out for skilled workers. And the reason we don't have them is because we haven't been training them. We've gutted TAFE . Four hundred teaching places lost when they closed down the TAFE at Dapto. We need to rebuild TAFE, rebuild our traineeship and our apprenticeship system. So nearly half a million new traineeship places and apprenticeship places through TAFE. An additional 20,000 places in universities. We cannot be a smart nation if we are not training the next generation of workers and this is what this is all about.
JOURNALIST: So those TAFE facilities, how many of them are going to be in the Illawarra specifically?
JONES: This is going to be demand-driven, but we know we've got a significant shortage in the traditional trades. Right across the traditional building trades, whether it's carpenters, electricians, plumbers, we've got a significant shortage in those areas. In the metal trades there's a shortage. We also know in the hospitality industry there's a shortage. In hairdressing, you pick a trade, we've got a shortage. We need to be able to train them and we need employers to put their hand up and say, yes I'm willing put on an apprentice or a traineeship. We can't be complaining about the lack of skilled workers if we're not doing our bit to train them. Labor’s got a plan to do that.
JOURNALIST: Is this an example of one of the skills shortages here?
JONES: We know we've got a skill shortage in the caring sector. Normally when we stand up, we're saying we've got a jobs crisis, unemployment is too high. But right now we've got lots of jobs going but we don't have the skilled workers to fill them. So whether it's in the caring sector, like the people who work here at Cram Foundation. Whether it's in the health sector, whether it's in hospitality, traditional trades, building trades, employers are crying out for workers. We need to be able to train people up so they can do the jobs and fill the vacancies that are available.
JOURNALIST: And I know you said it will be demand driven. So at this stage, is there any indication as to how many of these new TAFE positions will be available in the Illawarra and any of these Uni positions?
JONES: There are thousands of job vacancies in the Illawarra and we would expect to see a significant proportion of the half a million new positions allocated to the Illawarra. I’d be expecting thousands not hundreds.
JOURNALIST: And is there any possibility that this could lead to the reopening of Dapto TAFE or the establishment of new TAFE facilities here?
JONES:  Where the TAFE facilities are located as in the State Government's hands. But what we want to ensure is that nobody is dissuaded from taking on a trade because they can't afford the cost of a traineeship or an apprenticeship. So we want to make those positions in TAFE and in the University available so anybody who wants to stick their hand up and say, I want to try it has a position available to them.
JOURNALIST: So is that specifically how it will benefit us in the Illawarra?
JONES: The big benefit for the Illawarra is we’ll have will be able to rebuild our TAFE system again. And we won't have this crazy situation where we're got to be bringing workers in from overseas to fill a skilled vacancy, even though we've got people who want to do that job but they haven't been trained up to do it. That's a crazy situation. We should be training locals first. Yes, there's always going to be as a role for immigration to fill skills shortages. But the priority has to be training locals first.
JOURNALIST: And how does Labor plan to staff these TAFE to cater to all these new students and at universities?
JONES: We know there are literally hundreds of TAFE teachers have been laid off or have had their hours cut back over the last decade. So, they're willing to re-enter the workforce and they're willing to increase their hours. It's absolutely nuts, you should ask Regional Development Australia about this, they’ve done some really good analysis of the occupations that saw the biggest and fastest decline during the pandemic. It wasn't traditional trades. It was people who were working in vocational education and education. We saw the biggest cut in workforce in the Illawarra in the very people we need to be training the next generation of tradies. That's nuts.