Printing has been left off an additional list of jobs in a skills shortage with Printing Industries Association of Australia saying this could lead to more printers closing their doors meaning more work will go offshore.
A $525m investment in vocational education and training and support of 80,000 apprentices for trades in a skills shortage were among key announcements made by the federal government in Treasurer Josh Frydenberg’s first Budget in April.
This was great news for the printing sector as it stood to make it easier and more practical for business to employ apprentices with employers to receive $4000 in additional funding for each apprentice taken on.
The funding was understood to have covered the advanced manufacturing sector, which took in printing and packaging, and was in addition to the existing standard employer incentive of $1500 at commencement and $2500 at completion of the apprenticeship.
The federal government has now issued a list of Additional Identified Skills Shortage (AISS) jobs and printing is not included. The list includes carpenters and joiners, plumbers, hairdressers, air-conditioning and refrigeration mechanics, bricklayers and stonemasons, plasterers, bakers and pastry cooks, vehicle painters, all and floor tilers and arborists.
The PIAA’s national standards and accreditation manager Ben Cornel says the association is concerned what this will mean for the industry and says attempts to contact both Liberal Senator Michaelia Cash and Labor Senator Doug Cameron have been unsuccessful.
Cornel says excluding advanced manufacturing skills in printing from the AISS not only affects business sustainability but reinforces the myth that the printing industry is dying. He says it could also lead to more work being sent overseas as local print shops close up.
“The perpetuation of this myth, has a direct measurable effect on enrolment numbers into the apprenticeship courses offered through TAFE,” Cornel said.
He also expressed his dissatisfaction that the PIAA was not consulted with prior to the announcement as is members in the print, packaging and visual communications sectors, represent the largest employer group in the subsector of manufacturing.
“If there had been consultation, it would have been apparent that the situation at the coalface of the many small, and family owned businesses that make up the bulk of this industry are struggling to find skilled apprentices. The AISS initiative would help them enormously,” Cornel said.
The methodology used to identify jobs that are considered to be in a skills shortage is also faulty, Cornel said, as it did not take into account the needs of the printing industry.
The PIAA says a significant factor in deciding which occupations would be supported by this policy was data collected from the Department of Jobs and Small Business skills shortage research. This was done through a telephone-based survey of employers. However, the PIAA says this was not based on a statistically valid sample and does not enable the compilation of quantitative estimates of skill shortages.
It also says the department also says that the ‘results are not intended as a measure of the degree of shortage and are not statistically precise’ yet this is the data the government and opposition are relying on for this policy.
“By the Department’s own admission, it has proven the point the PIAA have been making from the start. The data is faulty and misleading and should never been used by the Government or Opposition as the main deciding factor for which industries would be included or left out,” Cornel said.
The PIAA says it will continue lobbying the government and opposition for a meeting with the minister and shadow ministers to continue to represent the printing industry and push for print to be added to the AISS list.
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