Mr Blair Boyer MP

COVID-19 has disrupted life in Australia in a way not seen since World War II.

Because of this there are very obvious and immediate needs that must be met in terms of the skills shortages created by – amongst other things – the closure of our borders.

No sector has escaped the effects of the pandemic and that includes members of the Master Builders Association.

At times like these it is easy to fixate solely on the here and now, but the truth is that COVID-19 also presents an opportunity to look forward and plan for the future. 

This is unusual; let me tell you why. 

The next State election is just weeks away.

History tells us that, for better or worse, they are usually won or lost on the basis of which major party delivers the most compelling vision for the next four years.

But this election will be different.  South Australian businesses, including the building and construction sector, are crying out for a long-term vision, something beyond the next electoral cycle.  

Peter Malinauskas and our Labor team are ready with that vision.   Last year we released a suite of policies that included our commitment to build 5 new technical colleges: three in metropolitan Adelaide and two in regional South Australia.  They will be brand new buildings with the latest equipment and state-of-the-art technology. They will be run in conjunction with nearby high schools to make sure students complete their SACE as well as getting trade qualifications.

After consultation with the MBA, Labor is also committed to investigating how we can deliver driver training at our technical colleges, understanding that the lack of a licence is a huge impediment for many people finding work in the building and construction industry. 

Many people talk about the days of trade schools with fond memories, but we can do even better. Labor will bring the practical outcomes of trade schools together with the new technologies that are now part of every workplace, and make sure that young people graduate from school so they have the power to make choices for their future.

The other perennial election issue is the future of TAFE.   There is no question that our public training provider’s brand has taken a hit over the last few years.   But at a time when youth unemployment is still high and we are desperately seeking to maximise local job content on large-scale infrastructure projects, there is an important place for a public training provider to support South Australians into those roles.    But Labor knows that success will only come if public, not-for-profit and private training providers work together. 

We know that your industry is crying out for skilled workers.   We know that there are fantastic, well paid and rewarding careers in your industry.  We know that government’s role is to make sure that skilled workforce is there when you need it so you can continue to build the homes of the future.  

Labor takes seriously the education of the next generation of builders and tradies, of small business owners and of future employers of apprentices.  The pandemic has exposed Australia’s over-dependence on bringing in skilled workers from overseas and been a sharp reminder of the importance of investing in a robust and high quality vocational training sector to train young South Australians for South Australian jobs.