The training programme designed to meet skill shortages on the NBN project is gathering pace, with traineeships and apprenticeships tailored to NBN work being developed to encourage new workers to enter the telecommunications industry.
The CWU met with nbn on 28 May to discuss details of Project Athena, the internal nbn exercise aimed at identifying NBN skill needs, establishing relevant training and qualification requirements for its workforce and ensuring quality outcomes from training.
We also discussed measures being taken to provide a more predictable flow of work to nbn’s Delivery Partners (or Prime Contractors).
It is hoped that these will in turn encourage employers to engage trainees and other employees.
Under the training programme, nbn will provide “gap” funding to supplement state and federal programmes, provided that training is delivered by nbn-endorsed Registered Training Organisations (RTOs).
Accreditation to work on the NBN will be dependent on having completed such training (or its equivalent) and accreditation status of NBN workers will be regularly audited.
While training will be available to mature age workers wanting to re-enter the industry and to those from other industries wanting to cross-skill, a special emphasis is being placed on encouraging young people to take up traineeships.
The CWU understands that the aim is to have some 2-3,000 school leavers take up traineeships in the next few years. The importance of this opportunity to renew the telecommunications workforce cannot be overstated, given that workforce’s current age profile.
The CWU considers that Project Athena represents a welcome, if overdue, recognition on the part of both nbn and government that the labour supply issues facing the project cannot be left to the market to resolve.
This is especially so in an environment where sub-contracting arrangements, which discourage investment in training, have become so widespread.
In the union’s view, further measures to discourage pyramid contracting on the project need to be considered, such as making nbn “gap” training funding dependent on an undertaking that trainees will be engaged as employees for a minimum period after completion of training.