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Telecoms training short-cuts must be stopped, says CWU

The CWU continues to receive reports of “accelerated” training programmes being provided to telco workers who are being accredited before they actually have the skills to do the job. 

In the latest case to come to the CWU’s attention, a worker was “trained” in broadband skills on behalf of a major telco contractor.   

The training was provided on the condition that the worker set himself up as a sub-contractor to the prime contracting company – though with no guarantee that he would get work! 

The worker completed his training and was accredited as competent by the training company. 

But after acquiring his ABN number and, along with it, thousands of dollars in debt so as to equip himself as a subbie, the worker was told by the contracting company that he wasn’t actually fully competent to do the job! 

This worker is clearly the victim of processes which are currently undermining working conditions, skill levels and the integrity of training processes within the telecommunications industry.  The CWU is currently pursuing this individual case. But the union believes it is only one instance of an industry-wide problem. 

Skill shortages which have existed in telecommunications for some time are now being enlarged by the demands of the NBN roll-out with the result that training organisations are being asked to speed up training schedules. 

At the same time, the growth of sub-contracting runs counter to any attempt to ensure a skilled workforce. 

In this case it shifts the consequences of poor training processes away from the employer and, ultimately, onto the trainee. But it may also have the effect of denying access to skills at all, if the sub-contractor has to wear the expense of training. In yet another scenario, a competent sub-contractor may engage other less skilled workers without anyone being any the wiser. 

While some industry members – notably nbn itself  -have put measures in place that are designed to ensure a competent workforce and quality training outcomes, it is clear from various reports that these are being subverted by a combination of “quick and dirty” training programmes and precarious employment structures. 

Both sides of this coin must be addressed by the industry – and by government – if Australian workers and the nation as a whole are to have the skills needed to meet the requirements of a modern economy. 

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