Making Young People’s Lives Better By Addressing Skills Shortages

Parliamentary Secretary to the Premier and former NSW Economic Development Committee chair David Elliott today released a report outlining a series of measures which will improve the lives of youth, by encouraging economic growth and providing them with skills for long-term employment.

 “Skills shortages are extensive in New South Wales,” Mr Elliott said in tabling the report of his committee.

 “The NSW Business Chamber indicated that the Health Care, Social Assistance, Construction, Accommodation, Food and Beverage services, manufacturing, retail trade, professional scientific and technical services, and information and communications technology sectors all have reported skills shortages.”

 Mr Elliott said that secondary education had become obsessed with grades rather than skill development, which had in turn created a generation of young people not ready for the workforce.

 “Work readiness should be adopted as a goal for school leavers,” Mr Elliott said.

 “We want those that leave school to be equipped with the skills needed to succeed in the workforce.

 “School has become so focussed on university entrance criteria, that work readiness has been ignored.

 “Students are developing unrealistic expectations of workplaces, which is impeding their career development.”

 The major recommendation of the report, at a school subject level, was to again make mathematics compulsory for the Higher School Certificate.

 “Mathematics provides the basic skills that employers’ need, those who do not have those skills will not be employable,” Mr Elliott said.

 “I know making Maths compulsory may not make me popular among high school students, but, since Maths was made voluntary there have been 1000 fewer students studying mathematics.

 “It seems obvious that employers want those with a high level of proficiency in basic skills, which study in mathematics provides.”

 Mr Elliott also called for a more comprehensive approach to skills shortages, rejecting the University-focussed approach towards skills development.

 “University isn’t for everyone,” Mr Elliott said.

 “TAFE has formed the backbone of our vocational sector, and we need to continue to support TAFE as it seeks to provide world-leading trade and technical training.

 “Too often we make the assumption that young people should be going to university.

 “We need to get beyond this idea that going to university is the best thing for everyone.

 “That is why the committee has recommended that trade training and apprenticeships are marketed to parents and young people to improve their attractiveness.

 “I know plenty kids that would benefit from going to learn a trade, rather than going to university.

 “They will end up in less debt, have more fun, and earn more money in the future.

 “That is a great outcome for young people.

 “Addressing the skills shortage we are also providing youth with opportunities to develop lifelong skills for employment and setting them up for long-term success,” Mr Elliott said.

 A copy of the report “Skills shortages in New South Wales” can be accessed on the Committee’s website, www.parliament.nsw.gov.au/economicdevelopment.