Doorstop – Senator Evans and Kevin Sheedy. Apprenticeship Ambassadors program launch – Brunswick, Melbourne.
- Minister for Tertiary Education, Skills, Jobs and Workplace Relations
- Leader of the Government in the Senate
CHRIS EVANS: Thanks for joining us today. Today we’ve launched the Ambassadors for Apprenticeships program which is designed to encourage young people to take up opportunities in apprenticeships and traineeships.
And we’ve got a number high profile ambassadors that are going to help us sell the message, if you like, that there are high quality, high skilled, high wage jobs available to young people if they can complete apprenticeships.
We’ve got with us today electrical apprentices who are learning the skills that’ll take them into electrical trades. There are huge job opportunities there for them with some really good wages and career opportunities. So it’s about trying to encourage young people to understand the value of an apprenticeship, allow them to see the opportunities that are there, and to encourage Australians to take advantage of the job opportunities that are coming as a result of the resources boom. There’ll be lots of jobs available for high skilled tradespeople.
But we want to make sure Australians have the opportunity to have first crack at those jobs. To do that, we’ve got to make sure they’ve got the skills that the mining industry are going to need. So young people like those behind me today learning the electrical trades will have tremendous opportunities.
We’ve got record numbers of young Australians in training, but we’re going to need more, and today is about encouraging them to take up those opportunities. And people like Kevin Sheedy are able to communicate to them the value that an apprenticeship had for their lives, and encourage people to take that same path and allow that to be the start of their working careers. And obviously that can take them wherever they seek to go.
So today is very much about promoting modern apprenticeships and allowing people to take up the opportunities that are available there for them.
JOURNALIST: What changes are you making to apprenticeship programs?
EVANS: The world of work has changed so we’ve got to make sure the apprenticeship system changes with it.
We have issues about completion rates – young people starting and not completing their apprenticeships, and we’ve got a range of measures like our mentoring system to try and encourage and support young people to complete their apprenticeships.
We’re looking much more at a competency-based system that allows people to progress through their apprenticeship more quickly if they’ve shown they’ve got the skills. We’ve got an initiative in adult apprenticeships to encourage adult people to come back and do apprenticeships if they’ve got experience already in the workforce.
And there’s measure we’ll be taking regarding the incentives systems around the wages systems, and huge issues about trying to better harmonise the systems in various states.
So there’s a big agenda of work to try and streamline the apprenticeships system, make it more modern, but also just to highlight the fact that there are good career opportunities and job opportunities for young Australians through doing apprenticeships and traineeships.
JOURNALIST: Will the systems actually be standardised across the states?
EVANS: I’ve got a commitment from the state ministers to work to harmonise the systems.
In some states now a course can take you 24 months and it’s 48 months in another state. Some states don’t recognise each other’s qualifications.
These are things we can and should fix, and I’ve got a commitment from the state ministers to fix those problems to harmonise our apprenticeship systems and make that qualification in one state allows you to work successfully anywhere in Australia.
JOURNALIST: What about apprentice pay?
EVANS: Well there’ll be a review by Fair Work Australia next of apprenticeship and youth wages. We think there are issues that need to be addressed in terms of apprenticeship wages. Some of them, in my view, are just too low.
One of the reasons we can’t retain or attract young people in some of these areas is because they can earn much better money doing casual work that doesn’t require training.
We’ve got to make sure we’ve got the balance right that allows the employer to employ someone without huge cost, but also ensures that young people find it attractive.
And the reality is, I think, that the wage system for apprentices needs a thorough re-examination.
JOURNALIST: Over the weekend you made changes to the Labor platform affecting how parties can access last-resort arbitration in an industrial dispute. There’s a bit of confusion about how that’s going to work and why you’ve done it. Can you have a crack at clearing that up?
EVANS: Well the Labor Party conference changed the platform to reflect some concern I think driven in part by the Qantas dispute, that perhaps recourse to arbitration earlier in disputes may be necessary.
A fear that we get to those sorts of intractable situations where there are lock-outs or mass industrial action, without recourse to arbitration, is of concern to some people. So the policy reflected that if you like.
But the government’s made it very clear that the review of the Fair Work Act will be done independently, and it will consider evidence from employers, trade unions and any of the other parties and will make recommendations to government. So, we’re not pre-empting that review in any way, and that review will provide evidence-based advice about whether any changes are needed in the Fair Work Act.
JOURNALIST: What do you mean “independently”?
EVANS: Well it will be done by someone independent of government, independent of the department, and independent of trade unions and employers. So someone who can bring a fresh pair of eyes to the issues, and someone who will look at the evidence of what’s been working and what’s not working, and provide a report to government.
JOURNALIST: Who is this person?
EVANS: Well it will be someone who is independent as I say, and the announcement will detail who that person is. But it’s very much a point of actually having a look at the evidence.
Industrial relations is an area where there’s a lot of ideological conviction and a lot of rhetoric. And what the Government’s about doing is saying let’s have a look at the evidence of two years of the Fair Work Act, assess what is working against the objectives of the Act, and if any fine tuning’s required the government will make those decisions following the review.
JOURNALIST: Will that evidence include the big spike in days lost to industrial relations that we just saw in the latest release of statistics?
EVANS: Well I’ll end on this note given the subject matter of the day, but this quarter’s industrial disputation figures were higher than recent times. That’s largely driven by the huge industrial action that occurred in New South Wales in response to the O’Farrell government’s limit on the capacity of people to bargain in their workplaces. That was responsible for half the increase. So I don’t expect that spike to continue. But obviously over time we’ve seen a long-term decline in industrial disputation and the government is confident that will continue into the future.
JOURNALIST: The AMWU has raised concerns about abridged training for apprentices. What do you say to the union?
EVANS: Well look, the unions are obviously concerned to ensure the integrity of the system and I absolutely understand that. I think everyone’s interests are in having a strong, sound system full of integrity, to make sure people come out with the appropriate skills needed.
What we’re doing is saying that we want to see more competency-based assessment so that we can have tradespeople move through their courses based on the competencies they learn, rather than purely on time. Some of the old models in apprenticeships I think are in need of a shake-up and that’s part of the debate we’re having as to how we better structure apprenticeships.
And one of the things the unions have agreed to is the adult apprenticeship scheme which we sponsored, which is seeing people who have been out in the workforce able to complete their apprenticeships in as little as 18 months provided they’ve got the competencies, provided they’ve got the skills. And I think unions will support accelerated apprenticeships provided they’re confident that the testing ensures the skills don’t diminish, that we still see our tradespeople graduating with high quality skills.
JOURNALIST: Well Kevin, you’ve been in this exact position to the people behind you. Tell us about it.
KEVIN SHEEDY: I think, personally it was one of the best things I ever did, being a tradesperson. The foundation set me up for life, was enormous with the people I met. The disciplines of having to be up early and get out and do a decent day’s work. For many people from around the world that become tradespeople, come to Australia to help Australian people in those days, set a standard. I can understand now that we want to make sure that everyone that works in a trade is competent. And at that stage in my life when I was coming through, I think Bill Lawry was a plumber, he was captain of the Australian test team, I think Bobby Skilton and obviously triple Brownlow medallist, Allan Collie, fast bowler. So trades were just so import and they still are. When you walk around Australia of fly to Sydney or Melbourne or Perth, every one of those trucks have been built by a tradesperson.
JOURNALIST: Essentially you’ve got 30 apprentices under you now haven’t you?
KEVIN SHEEDY: Basically yeah, we’ve got Mark Williams, Kyle and myself. They’ve been handpicked to make sure that we can get the best out of these players coming through and end up with a great side. It’s a career opportunity but they’ll be one day a week when they’ll be asked to have a look at their career and their career, AFL players careers could start with, we’ve already had a couple of plumbers and tradesmetal boys come through, Laycock who has gone back down to Tasmania to finish off his apprenticeship and (inaudible), they’ve all be tradespeople that I’ve drafted. It is very important that the AFL players actually do a trade or get into a uni course and make sure they are getting the best out of their ability. I think that you know we try to approach it that way. Obviously they leave year 12, get drafted and are on a decent wage, I would say that the best thing to happen to me is, when I look at it, being a tradesperson, I saw a person save another person, just about ready to die, and that was terrific to see that help come through from everybody on that site. It’s very dangerous in some areas of trade, but if you get it right and you help each other and develop a togetherness on building sites in particular, in Sydney now we see (inaudible) built all the players basically apartments where we are living, ( inaudible) the Giants, and you know that is a pretty important facet oh where our players, you know they get up for training at 6.30 every morning, ready to go and train and then all of a sudden the workers are ready to move onto the building site. It’s where they understand that it’s a discipline as well as a skills of being a tradesperson. You know I look back there and say to myself, you know I did five years, see I did two years trade in the army and so basically I basically did a seven year apprenticeship and easily it was the best foundation of my life. You saw a lot of different people, in different situations coming through and 22, 23 years of age, less money, I know, but better value, better quality of understanding in those early years of your life. So that is what I felt being a tradesperson was.
JOURNALIST: What do you hope you can achieve by being part of this program?
KEVIN SHEEDY: Well to be true to these young people, get the right advice, early money sounds good. But I think having a trade to back you up for the rest of your life is a great, it’s in the bank, you’ve got it there. Whether it’s electrical, whether it’s a plumber, whether it’s a chippy it doesn’t matter, engineer, in all those sorts of areas, you actually have that there, you may want to go and try something else at 35 or 40 but you’ve always got that trade. And I’ve always felt confident about that. Even working around the house and in the garden which I like, I can run my own hose, my own pipelines, my wife laughs at me now, but I love my gardening and in the end I know exactly what I need. I remember distinctly, it would have been 10 years ago, I remember ringing up the Doncaster council to cancel and I wanted to put a water tank in before these droughts come and they said you can’t do that, so I said I’d like to, they said we’ll fine you, so I said ok, so I didn’t. But then all of a sudden seven years later they’ll even help you pay to put water tanks in, so at least your on the ball and a little bit ahead of your times, sometimes.
JOURNALIST: Kev, you’re about to employ some more people through the pre-season draft next week, tell us about who you are after.
KEVIN SHEEDY: We’re after maybe another couple of players with reasonably good builds, we need to get some size into our club, the draft is going to be very important to building of this new footy club and of course we’ve been very fortunate that the other clubs have given us the draft this year based on the level of the first 14 picks. I’m pretty sure we won’t go down the track of any of the senior players because we want these younger players coming through in that fifth year all together.
So we may have one or two selections. We are not quite sure. I know we have got plenty of selections there, but a lot of people have forgotten that we’ve got five of the first 15 next and year and we’ll still have to pick two or three uncontracted players also, and the most difficult thing yesterday was putting in the numbers for the players this year, and that was a hard thing – just finding 45 players we’ve got there, and we’ve got to give them a number. Now, which number do we start with? So, keeping everybody happy is very difficult from that point of view.
But the Giants are going to have a good side. We are going to play Collingwood in the first game out at Blacktown. And, one of the great things coming up also is that we are going to play for a four premiership point against West Coast Sea Eagles at Blacktown and that will be a landmark game in the history of AFL, finally, on that imprint into greater Western Sydney, we’re going play a four point game. And, I hope when we do that, that in 2013 we are going to hound the AFL over this one. We’re not going to try and play our first game overseas for four points and that will be a giant move.
JOURNALIST: When you say “senior players”, Kev, is Rick Ladson too senior?
KEVIN SHEEDY: No, I don’t mind Ladson – depends on salary cap. We had to put a father in a salary cap.
JOURNALIST: You don’t have too many players in that mid-twenties age bracket – that’s not too old for what you are looking at?
KEVIN SHEEDY: I think that is a fair enough point. We could fit a person in there quite easily, but that will be up to Gavin and Steve Silvagni. They’ll have their finger on the pulse when we go to salary cap. From that point of view, I think that at least we have an opportunity to pick one or two more, and that is great. We’ve already got players now saying that I mightn’t get a game now, so the pressure’s on even within a club to find out who will be the first 22 players who will play against the Swans of round one next year.
JOURNALIST: What do you like about Rick Ladson? What does he offer the Giants?
KEVIN SHEEDY: Well, he is an experienced player. He comes out of a very good club, Hawthorne – and I think that he will just add that other mid field halfback run, and are pretty handy.
JOURNALIST: Just a couple of weeks on now from that super draft for you guys a couple of Thursday nights ago – how are the new boys settling in so far?
KEVIN SHEEDY: Well, they have only been back up there one week. We’ll only train these boys for ten weeks before they’ve played their first game, so they are actually leaving Year 12 - talk about an apprenticeship. They are going to leave Year 12 to go out and run out in front of probably 50-60,000. That’s a decent traineeship. That’s not even an apprenticeship yet. So we will not even have them for twelve weeks, before they play their first game, and two of those weeks are Christmas. Welcome to be a teacher, very difficult teaching these days.
JOURNALIST: Kev, whether you like it or not, you are going to be compared to the Gold Coast.
KEVIN SHEEDY: They’ve got better sun tans than us up there.
JOURNALIST: As we speak now, where do you sit in regards to where they were comparable?
KEVIN SHEEDY: I think we will be in the bottom four. I think it would be ridiculous to expect anything else, and I think that the most important thing is that we train these young players and give them the confidence early, and understand what is going to happen to them, and come through it.
When you’ve been in the army like I was, and that two years was very important part of developing young players, because when I was given a rifle in the old days, I was thinking, what the hell am I here for? Some of these players coming through, they are going to meet every week of their first two or three years, they are going to play an opponent that is better than them, and that is a tough task, so that you have got to keep their belief systems up.
I said to a young Dylan Shiel last year. I said who would you like to play? And he said well, I love Judd. I said good, well, you are playing on Judd in the NAB Cup. And it got that big of a buzz. He went to Caulfield Grammar and he got a great lesson playing on a champion. Now we’re going to do that with about seven or eight young players in every match this year. They are all going to be blooded nearly, and they are going to take a look at themselves, and the coaching staff are going to have a look at them. From that point of view, this is a very exciting building exercise, and a chance to look at ourselves. We are not building a structure as in buildings, but we are building hopefully one of the greatest clubs in AFL history if we get this first five years right.
JOURNALIST: How can you keep the crowds coming on?
KEVIN SHEEDY: Well, I am actually going to sign up a company today, and have an icon match like we did with ANZAC day, with Collingwood and Essendon. Then, we’ve got the Dream Time at the G with Richmond, and when you get 180,000 people for two games like that, that is marketing, because that markets our game with the right soul, the [Inaudiable] and Indigenous Australia. I think the most important game the Giants are going to have next year is not necessarily against the Sydney Swans, not necessarily against Essendon in the first game, where we had tradesmen build a new stadium for us. We modelled a new stadium. We are going to find out the great working people of Australia, and that is what we are going to commemorate this game for. Who are the great people who have built this country.
That will probably be signed up between now and Christmas.