The Guardian November 12, 2003


Plans to reduce regulation of on job training

Among the many cuts proposed for the NSW education system is a 
25 percent cut to field services in State Training Services. 
These are the people who monitor and regulate apprentices, 
trainees and their employers.

"It is unbelievable that at the very time WorkCover's 
accreditation failures and scandals are before an ICAC 
(Independent Commission Against Corruption) inquiry, education 
management is planning to loosen controls over training and 
accreditation", said John Cahill, General Secretary of the Public 
Service Association.

"State Training Services makes a very real contribution to 
keeping all players honest and to providing accountability for 
expenditure from the public purse.

"The proposed 25 percent reduction in field services staff will 
have a significant impact on the quality and regulation of 
training provided to apprentices and trainees", he said

State Training Services provides advice to people who may find 
themselves in inappropriate training arrangements. It also 
provides support for employers who find they can no longer deal 
with their trainees and apprentices who have gone off the rails.

There are 126,000 apprentices and trainees in NSW. There are 60 
field staff employed in 11 locations  34 are in the Sydney 
metropolitan area and 26 are in rural and regional NSW. That is 
2100 apprentices and trainees to each field officer.

The Industry Training Service Centres are the only body of people 
in NSW who are charged with particular responsibilities under the 
Apprenticeship and Traineeship Act, 2001 including:

* ensuring/confirming the capacity of employers to train for all 
declared trades and callings;

* ensuring/confirming the competency of those emerging from their 
apprenticeships and traineeships;

* issuing all "trade and calling" qualifications in NSW;

* assessing and reporting to Vocational Training Tribunals on the 
adequacy of trades and callings training (especially in the 
workplace);

* assessing and reporting to "Trade Recognition Tribunals"  
qualifying, quantifying and validating applicants' experience, 
on-the-job training and current level of competence  to enable 
the Tribunals to properly determine the issue of a trade 
qualification.

There are abuses of the training systems and the field staff are 
the people who find them and deal with them. Some examples of 
abuse dealt with by field staff include:

* A national tyre franchisee employing apprentices across NSW as 
spare parts interpreters. Actual job was tyre fitting. No 
apprenticeship training from the employer or registered training 
organisation. There was no trade work available at any site.

* Information technology trainees working in sandwich bars and 
real estate agencies. Actual jobs were making sandwiches or 
selling houses). Some trainees were not even sure they were 
trainees. They were not aware that they had signed a training 
contract.

* School kids being told they can only work in fast food outlets 
if they undertake a traineeship. They were paid trainee wages but 
no training takes place that matches the training plan.

* Apprentices and trainees left without supervisors.

* Electrical and automotive apprentices signed up to the wrong 
trade to match the off-the-job training, not what is happening on 
the job.

* Apprentice carpenters building roof trusses on production 
lines.

* A company with 40 staff all signed up as trainees. When the 
company is investigated it is found that several are not actually 
working in NSW, one was working in New Zealand.

* Group training companies suspending apprentices for months at a 
time  some sought times in excess of 12 months  and not 
advising the apprentices of their options or advising the 
Department that no training is taking place.

"When the Apprenticeship and Traineeship Act was a Bill in 2001, 
the unions of NSW spoke strongly of the need to maintain the 
integrity of training in NSW and the role of the independent 
umpire", said Mr Cahill.

"It is difficult to see how either can be maintained with the 
current proposals", he said.

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