SUBJECT/S: Young people into trades; trades training centres
JOHN MCGLUE: ...ABC Perth, and you're with John McGlue. Well, what's the best way to get young people into trades? Well, one idea from the last Government was trade training centres in high schools. But that was the cause of a debate in Federal Parliament today, with the Opposition accusing the Government of cuts to these centres, these trade training centres.
Now, you'll hear from the Government in just a moment but, first, here's the Labor MP for Perth, Alannah MacTiernan. She joins me.
Welcome to Drive.
ALANNAH MACTIERNAN: [Unclear 0:25]. Thank you, John. And you got a mention in Parliament today.
JOHN MCGLUE: Oh, it's about time [laughs]. It was only a matter of time. Can I ask you what your concern is here, Alannah MacTiernan?
ALANNAH MACTIERNAN: Yeah. There was a Labor program that was introduced in 2009, and it was a program that was to be delivered over a period of ten years. And it was to build trade training centres in - across Australia; so building trade training centres in schools so that you have state of the art equipment and you encourage children - encourage young people - to try a range of different trades and, indeed, to develop their trade skills while they're still at school.
And it, indeed, has been a successful program. There were over three hundred of - the program was introduced 2009. There are already three hundred of these operational across Australia and, indeed, forty-nine of these in Western Australia. And so that forty-nine has a cohort of around a hundred-and-fifty schools that use those facilities. And now the Government has decided that they are going to axe this program, and so we're no longer going to - we're not going to continue building these trade training centres. And I just think this is absurd.
At the same time they're loosening the 457 visa criteria to make it easier for employers to bring in overseas skills. They are actually cutting back on the skills, on the skill training for our young people. And, John, I was referencing - in Parliament today I referenced an interview that you did with the Assistant Minister for Education, where she was saying, you know, really, schools should be doing more of this thing where kids can try trades, and that, you know, we've got a problem with people not giving kids proper counselling about trades. Then, lo and behold, you know, a month later they're cutting out entirely the trade training centre program.
JOHN MCGLUE: Well, Alannah MacTiernan, just hold on there because I will bring in the Assistant Education Minister, Sussan Ley.
Welcome to Drive.
SUSSAN LEY: G'day, John. Thanks for having me.
JOHN MCGLUE: What do you say to what Alannah MacTiernan has said just then? What do you make of it?
SUSSAN LEY: Look, both sides of politics want to see more kids in the trades and training, and we recognise it's a valid pathway and, for many, it's the best pathway. So we would agree on that point. The trade training centres, under Labor, were promised by Prime Minister Rudd to be one in every school. So I think it was twenty-six-hundred-and-fifty across the country. Only a very small proportion - I think five hundred - was actually built. Kids often have to get on a bus to go to a centre - a trade training centre - that is in another school, making the whole experience not particularly useful.
But more importantly than that - and Alannah picked up on the equipment issue - there was no continuing funding to keep state of the art equipment in every single trade training centre in every single school. It just doesn't make sense. And with technology moving so fast, you want kids to be able to access the best possible equipment in the best possible training space. And it's not going to work to have one of these in every school.
So what Labor's program was all about was buildings. It wasn't about what happened inside them. In fact, in visiting a lot of these TTCs, as they were, across the country, I'm finding that proper vocational ed is not happening in a lot of them. It's a bit like the old woodwork and metalwork lessons. Not bad for kids to do. I'm not saying that their time is wasted, but it's not leading to a trade and it's not leading to a job.
JOHN MCGLUE: Is that the case, Alannah MacTiernan, the funding was put up by the former Labor Government. It was for, essentially, for capital expenditure on the buildings. But, beyond that, there was no recurrent funding to pay for what happened inside? It's a fair point, isn't it?
ALANNAH MACTIERNAN: Oh, no. No, no, I don’t think it is a fair point because that's what the program was, to build these and hand - build them on the site of school grounds to ensure - to assist the State Government in delivering vocational education. So the whole idea was to come in there, provide - just as we did with various programs like the school buildings that we built as part of the stimulus program - we build the buildings, equip them out, and then they become part of the State Government property.
But it provides a fillip to the State Government to be able to offer this training.
Now, I mean I find it sort of really strange that we're criticising this because only five hundred of them have been built. I mean the program only started in 2009, and it was always intended to be a ten year program. You don't build these - you know, at such a scale over night. It was a ten year program. And as the minister has said herself - that around five hundred of those have been funded. And I know in Western Australia we've got forty-nine that are operational.
And the idea that schools act in a collaboration is actually a positive thing, particularly the way these are structured. You do a full day of trade training. So, for example, at a very excellent one out in Morley in Mirrabooka, where Mirrabooka has the equipment for hospitality, it has a facility - the trade training centre is focused on hospitality. At Morley it is focused on automotive. So if you're Morley High School - your trade day you do at Mirrabooka, and vice versa if you're at Mirrabooka, or a number of the other schools that are in the cluster, you come for your trade day at Morley.
The kids tell me - and the principals - that this is working extremely well. So well, John, that in relation to Morley High School there have been some parents that have taken their kids out of private schools and put them into cluster schools so they could access this trade training. So...
JOHN MCGLUE: [Interrupts] Well, let bring back in...
ALANNAH MACTIERNAN: ...highly regarded.
JOHN MCGLUE: Let me bring back the minister. All those points by Alannah MACTIERNAN - how many of those do you see as being valid, Sussan Ley?
SUSSAN LEY: Look, Alannah's got the local knowledge - and I don't want to comment on specifically what's happening in the west. But what I do know is that there isn't any ongoing funding and that the equipment in these trade training centres is not necessarily going to be renewed by state governments and schools and parents. And therein is the problem.
We've got lots of excess training space, whether it be a public provider of TAFE, whether it be registered training organisations or whether it be school facilities. The issue is not the space. The issue is what happens inside and the linkages of that training to industry, and bringing - which is what we're going to do with - we actually are funding the latest round of Labor's trade training centres because we said we would before the election. But what we're going to do is bring...
JOHN MCGLUE: [Interrupts] But that's for the construction of them, right? That's...
SUSSAN LEY: Construction, correct. But what we're going to do is bring industry in. We're going to say in the contract with which we - which goes with these centres - you must have industry at the table, and you must listen to industry. And we don't want what's happening now - which is too many kids not completing a proper school based apprenticeship - doing vocational ed - which is all well and good, but if it's not a school based apprenticeship, or leading to a school based apprenticeship, it's not leading to a job.
Nine per cent of all of the kids in vocational ed in this country - and there are forty per cent doing vocational ed in schools - are actually in a school based apprenticeship. And that's not enough. So we want to see training for a job. It's our philosophy when it comes to this. It's our approach. It's our policy, and we're going to reflect it in whatever we do in schools and pass that into apprenticeships in the workplace.
JOHN MCGLUE: Is that something you would support, Alannah MacTiernan, bringing industry to the table...
ALANNAH MACTIERNAN: Oh, and absolutely...
JOHN MCGLUE: [Interrupts] In terms of how these places are run?
ALANNAH MACTIERNAN: ...industry is involved. Industry is involved. If I can give you an example, again, just talking about Morley - and I could talk about a number of the other centres. But at Morley there is an industry - deep industry involvement. Indeed, the program has been so popular that you actually have to apply now to get in to it. And there is a panel which includes two representatives from industry that actually choose the students that go into this trade training.
JOHN MCGLUE: Okay, okay.
ALANNAH MACTIERNAN: And I have to say that all of the kids from Morley that completed this program got jobs last year. This is working. It is a program that works. It's getting kids interested in trades. It's giving them quality training and it's getting them jobs.
JOHN MCGLUE: Sussan Ley, what can we expect in the Budget in terms of funding for programs like this?
SUSSAN LEY: Well, John, I'm not going to talk about the Budget. For me, that's actually quite a long way away. And, look, there are instances where this is working. But I just want us to reflect on our model, which was our Australian technical colleges.
JOHN MCGLUE: Very briefly.
SUSSAN LEY: We didn't put the money into the equipment. We brought the training organisation, the employer and the school in one place, in a school that has no equipment, but uses the facilities in the local area and does on the job training. It's not expensive. There's a few examples still operating from our Australian technical colleges, and they're a far better model.
JOHN MCGLUE: Okay. Thanks to you both for joining me on Drive today.
That's Alannah MACTIERNAN, the Labor member for Perth, and Sussan Ley, Assistant Education Minister. Thanks again.
ALANNAH MACTIERNAN: Thanks, John.
SUSSAN LEY: Thank you.
JOHN MCGLUE: And it's an argument, I think, that's going to go on for quite some time. And we'll track its progress no doubt. Alannah MacTiernan and Sussan Ley, regular contributors on this program.
Coming up to news headlines.