Senate debates

Wednesday, 15 October 2008

Questions without Notice

Economy

2:30 pm

Photo of Kim CarrKim Carr (Victoria, Australian Labor Party, Minister for Innovation, Industry, Science and Research) Share this | Hansard source

I thank Senator Marshall for his question. The more skills workers have, the more flexible and resilient they are and the better equipped they are to weather the storms, like the one the world is now going through. The previous government left Australia with a skills crisis. Every business survey and every major employer organisation kept saying that skills shortages were hurting growth and productivity, but those opposite did nothing.

This government came into office ready to deliver 450,000 new training places over four years through the new Productivity Places Program. In the budget we extended the program to provide 630,000 new training places over five years, including 85,000 apprenticeship places. Yesterday, the Prime Minister announced a further boost to the program. The government will invest $187 million to create an additional 56,000 new training places this financial year to help keep the economy strong during the global financial crisis. In a slowing global economy it is actually essential that every job seeker who wants to benefit from extra training has access to a place. It is also essential that industry can get the skilled labour it needs. That is why yesterday’s announcement has been so welcomed by Australian employers.

There has been a huge demand for training since the Productivity Places Program began in April. More than 50,000 job seekers have enrolled and over 11,000 have already completed their training. The government is especially pleased with the success that former Mitsubishi workers have had in retraining for new jobs. Seventy per cent of the workers who left Mitsubishi have registered with a job network and have found alternative work. Many of them have been retrained through the Productivity Places Program. This is a much better result than the previous government achieved when Mitsubishi laid off workers in 2004. Half of those workers were still unemployed after six months and half of those who had found work were in casual or short-term jobs at lower rates of pay. The higher success rate achieved under the more difficult conditions this year shows what we can accomplish when governments, employers, unions and service providers actually work together on skills to ensure that industry assistance challenges are met. It is a point that has been lost by those opposite.

Ten thousand of the new places announced yesterday will be set aside as structural adjustment places to provide specific retraining opportunities for and targeted support to displaced workers. These new places will take the government’s total commitment to the Productivity Places Program to more than $2 billion, with over 700,000 new training places being created over five years.

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