The Abbott government has announced major changes to the Vocational Education and Training sector which could see a reduction of union input into skills development.
At present the development of recognised and structured training requirements for any given industry is the responsibility of an Industry Skills Council (ISC) on which employers, industry associations and unions are all represented.
The main responsibility of the ISCs is to develop training packages which meet the needs of the industry while providing nationally recognised qualifications to those who work in it.
But the Abbott government is now proposing to open up this system to “competition”. That means encouraging employer groups – or even individual employers – to do the work of the ISCs in deciding what the skill needs of any particular industry might be.
There’ll be no need to involve unions in the process. In fact, given the views of this government, you will probably run the risk of not getting funding if you do.
The CWU believes that it is vital for employers to be involved in identifying national training needs. In the telecommunications area, the union has in fact actively encouraged large employers like Telstra and Optus to be more engaged with larger industry training issues through involvement in ISC work.
But it is equally important that the employee point of view is represented where training is at issue. Employers are too often driven by short-term thinking - a “just-in-time” approach to skill needs and a desire to avoid training costs.
The government says it is going to consult further on its proposed “competitive” model but there is little doubt that it will go ahead in some form.