Juggling act funds top course

THE trebling of the number of apprentices doing the construction/carpentry course at Kingscliff TAFE in the past three years has meant a re-allocation of limited funds to meet the demand, according to North Coast Institute of TAFE director Neil Black.

Mr Black said that Kingscliff TAFE had 31 apprentices doing the general construction/carpentry course in 2001 and that figure jumped to 97 in 2004.

He said the significant increase reflected a growing trend locally of employers putting on more apprentices but it meant the TAFE college had to shift State Government funds from other courses to meet the demand for classes.

"Unless we get additional money, we will need to shift money from other areas. That's why we offer post-trade courses on a commercial basis," he said.

"There is an obvious shortage of skilled tradespeople on the North Coast, as in other parts of Australia, particularly in the construction and manufacturing industries," he said.

Mr Black agreed with deputy Federal Labor leader and shadow education and training minister Jenny Macklin's comments last week that the Federal Government's proposed technical college for the Lismore/Ballina region was a misguided response to the skills shortage.

Ms Macklin said that if the government wanted to address skills shortages on the North Coast, it should invest the money where it was needed ? into Far North Coast TAFEs and local schools that already had vocational training programs.

"Despite the desperate need for skilled workers today, the Howard Government's technical colleges won't be fully in place until 2008 and the first apprentices won't even be fully trained until 2010," she said.

Mr Black agreed, saying the proposed technical college would not address the immediate or current skills shortage as it would take several years before students undertook programs to get into the workplace.

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