Industrial relations Bill undermines National Skills Agreement

Master Builders Australia has welcomed the Government’s National Skills Agreement but warns the radical industrial relations agenda being pursued by Minister Burke threatens to undermine the efforts.

Master Builders Australia CEO Denita Wawn said the five-year agreement, which will see an additional $3.7 billion invested into Australia’s vocational education and training (VET) sector, will benefit the construction industry and help to boost workforce needs now and in the future.

VET is central to skills and knowledge development in the building and construction industry, more so than any other sector in Australia.

“To meet growth projections and replace workers that leave the industry Master Builders estimates that 486,000 workers need to enter the building and construction industry between February 2023 and November 2026 – nearly half will need to be in technician and trade roles,” Ms Wawn said.

“Builders have long advocated for a range of changes that need to occur right through the apprenticeship journey. These include improving information available for apprentices at the point of recruitment, pastoral care and mentorship, information on training quality and restructuring the wage subsidy for employers.

“Industry training providers such as Master Builders state and territory associations, bring a unique perspective and understanding of expectations and teaching outcomes. That is translated into higher completion rates and tradies who are well-prepared to enter the workforce.

“Ensuring the VET sector delivers high quality training that is occupation- and industry-relevant and valued by employers and the Australian population more broadly is critical to meeting workforce needs.

“A VET qualification is the highest level of education attained for over 600,000 building and construction workers. This is 54 per cent of the total workforce and 80 per cent of workers that have a post-school qualification.

“Master Builders looks forward to working with government to implement the National Skills Agreement and to provide support and insight wherever we can, drawing on our experience at our state- and territory-run RTOs,” Ms Wawn said.

“However, the Government needs to take an approach to ensure that policy levers are being pulled in the same direction to ensure we don’t find ourselves in a position of one step forward, two steps back.

“The proposed industrial relations legislation currently before parliament will counter efforts made in the skills space and make it harder for employers to create new jobs, retain apprentices and it will sap productivity.

“The radical Industrial Relations Bill proposed by Minister Burke is a disincentive for people to enter and continue to work in this industry. It not only runs counter to the Government’s ambitions in the skills and workforce space, but it actively undermines them and will render them redundant if passed,” Ms Wawn said.