Wednesday, 23 November 2022
Statements by Members
Groom Electorate: Employment
Last week I welcomed the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, the member for Farrer, to my electorate of Groom. The city of Toowoomba is one she is very familiar with, having lived in the area for a period, just down the hill in Murphys Creek, and having been a student at Toowoomba State High School. Together we visited local manufacturer JRS, a family-owned steel fabrication and welding business who have worked on major projects, including the Toowoomba Bypass. As is the way with so many businesses I visit, no matter the industry, the burning concern that JRS CEO Jason Riddle wanted to discuss was workforce shortages. He has experienced firsthand how tough it is to hire a boilermaker or fitter in our region, and he's aware that it's a factor that, if not addressed, will constrain their future growth.
But, as is often the way in my patch, Jason and Jasmine Riddle aren't waiting for the government to act; they're taking matters into their own hands, launching the JRS Skills Academy. The first apprentice started this week, with more to come on board in the New Year. What this program will do, with the support of our local TAFE, is take all the learning out of the classroom and into the workshop. It's an innovative approach that I believe is an Australian first. The course also includes extra units to teach Industry 5.0 skills to apprentices so that, by the time they're fully qualified, they're ready to become leaders in the fabrication industry. JRS Skills Academy is also aiming to train apprentices surplus to their individual business needs so that more talent is flowing into our region, because, as JRS sees it, a rising tide lifts all boats.
It's crucial that the Labor government now step into this space and not allow the previous coalition government's strong record on skills and training—which brought unemployment to its lowest level in 50 years and the number of apprentices to new heights—to go to waste. Labor must listen and do more to support these businesses.