Senate debates

Wednesday, 14 March 2012


Whyalla TAFE

7:39 pm

Photo of Alex GallacherAlex Gallacher (SA, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I rise today to speak about the Whyalla TAFE institute and the good work it is doing in the pre-employment training area. On a recent visit in the electorate of Grey I was able to visit the Whyalla TAFE campus and see for myself the excellent training facilities that are helping to develop highly skilled graduates in their various fields. The brief history of the Whyalla TAFE campus is that it was initially a trade school and then was part of a technical high school for many years until 1968, when it moved to the current premises. All trades were covered back then. In 1978 the current complex was opened as there was an expectation of an increase in apprenticeships. Unfortunately, the Whyalla shipyard closed and the increase in the apprentices did not occur. Over the years the complex changed several times. It moved away from the trade school image and expanded to include business studies and other classes. It became a community college and then, eventually, to what is now known as TAFE SA Regional.

As I said, due to the closure of the Whyalla shipyard, the engineering department is currently underutilised. It was designed for 800 apprentices but currently only offers placement for around 50 per cent of that mark. Important initiatives like the Pre-employment Training Program are helping to boost numbers again. The Whyalla TAFE is currently running a full-time 20-week Pre-employment Training Program in mining and heavy industries. The project commenced on 30 January and is delivering a range of courses for the Certificate II in Engineering. Fifty local unemployed participants have been intensively learning new skills and personal development that will set them up for employment in the mining and heavy industry sectors. The project was established in response to industries in Whyalla facing difficulties in recruiting employees with appropriate skills. Participants are given the tools and experience to become work ready. They are given hands-on skills training by TAFE SA and are guided through a personal development program facilitated by Globally Make a Difference to ensure that participants are in a personal place to become full-time employees

Regional Development Australia Whyalla and Eyre Peninsula, along with the Depart­ment of Further Education, Employment, Science and Technology as well as the Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations, are working closely with key industry partners OneSteel, HWE Mining, Transpacific and the Skilled Group to ensure participants are best placed to take advantage of upcoming employment opportunities in these sectors. While these are the main businesses involved, partici­pants in the training program will be able to take their learning and apply it to almost any heavy industry role.

These local industries have helped to develop the Pre-employment Training Program based on their requirements. The companies have also shown their commitment through information sessions and site tours. OneSteel, HWE Mining and the Skilled Group were also involved with the selection of the participants and the interview process to ensure that candidates had a realistic outlook of the industry and its requirements. The industries are building relationships with participants during their training so that, if an employment opportunity arises, they will already have established a working relationship. Whilst employment is not guaranteed at the end of the program, to date, three employers—OneSteel, HWE and TPI—have visited TAFE SA during the program, and one company has indicated that there are at least four vacancies for which they would like to commence recruitment. Another mining company, Exact Mining, has called for applications to its Indigenous employment program. Participants will be invited to apply and will be assisted with applications where appropriate.

The Pre-employment Training Program is also aiming to help some participants overcome drug or alcohol problems that were holding them back from obtaining employment. Rigorous drug testing provided by OneSteel is being completed as part of the program. Those who tested positive are being offered appropriate counselling with the drug and alcohol counsellor attached to the Pre-employment Training Program. Drug and alcohol education is also being provided to the participants as part of their training. Drug and Alcohol Services South Australia provides each group with 10 hours of drug and alcohol education, presented in a workshop environment over five weeks. Topics include drugs in the workplace, drugs and mental health, and community support. I am told each group has shown significant progress from the first session to the last and that Drug and Alcohol Services SA will return later in the program for a follow-up session with each of the group participants.

Support staff for the program include two mentors, who are the first point of contact if participants have issues that could affect their studies. Supporting participants in this way is helping to maximise their chances of success in this program. While such support is being provided to participants, the program is very much self-directed, with strict guidelines that need to be adhered to, including performance indicators—for example, attendance and punctuality. Incentives are offered to those who achieve the performance indicators.

The program content covers classes from a Certificate II in Engineering and modules from the OneSteel safety training course, as well as practical classes, including exposure to things like welding, hand tool use, machining, technical drawing, quality systems and procedures, trade maths and supervised practical projects. The participants are from many groups, including mature-aged, female and Indigenous participants, as well as those with numeracy and literacy problems and, as mentioned, those who have suffered or are suffering from drug and alcohol addiction. The majority of participants are long-term unemployed from Whyalla, but two come from Oodnadatta.

In an article in the Whyalla News of Tuesday, 21 February, pre-employment training participant Damien Andersen said:

I've chosen to take part in this course because it's a good opportunity to network with some of the major players in the mining industry … So far it's been good … It simulates work style routine and expectations of your commitment, attitude and even lifestyle to a degree by adhering to a drug and alcohol free policy while being at the course as you would for the real work of mining … My end achievement is to gain employment at a mine as an apprentice diesel mechanic and set myself up for a solid career.

Female participant Hayley Pedler said the course had been beneficial to her because it had shown her what working in the mining industry would be like. She said:

We've been taught a lot of new skills, like how to weld … It's good to see what it would be like to work in the industry and see how things are done.

In a recent article in the Whyalla News, TAFE SA senior training manager Jack Velthuizen said he was pleased to see an additional 50 students learning skills for a trade because it would assist in preparing them to take on relevant employment when the anticipated mining boom hits the region.

To ensure students are not only skilled with accredited training but also mentally prepared to enter the workforce, a personal development program is being delivered throughout the 20 weeks of training. This program includes, as mentioned, a heavy focus on drug and alcohol education, but also time management, work readiness, budgeting, career development and sport, along with team building. Furthermore, students who present with literacy and numeracy issues are being provided with up to 10 additional hours of support per week by the Language, Literacy and Numeracy Program in the Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations, delivered by Mission Australia. This is another initiative that the government has implemented to ensure that those with special needs are catered for and given the best opportunities to succeed in acquiring the skills they need to move to full-time employment.

The Whyalla Career Development Centre is the first point of contact for interested job seekers. They assist applicants through the process of completing applications and cover letters, updating resumes to industry standard and offer interview tips and preparation. Furthermore, postplacement support will be provided to all participants for a minimum of three months after the completion of the formal 20-week training period. Support will include connecting participants to alternative pathways including employment, further education and volunteering.

Vocational education and training through TAFE institutes and the various private providers makes a vital difference in people's employment outcomes. According to Australian vocational education and training statistics based on 2011 survey results, 77.4 per cent of graduates from VET programs were employed after training, up 1.1 per cent from 2010. Obviously this is a very valuable program which is seeking to take advantage of the expected increase in labour needs in the Whyalla region, and I commend the work of the Whyalla TAFE and all of their very skilled and able tutors to this place.