Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Generation unprepared: The school and university leavers with ‘no skills to work at all’

OVER the past 18 months, Queensland mining employer Jack Trenamen has developed a formula that helps him predict the performance of his new apprentices.  The country kids who have worked on mum and dad’s farm from a young age will work hard and appreciate every dollar they get. “You can’t fault ‘em on work ethic,” he says, adding that it shows in their performance.

But the ones who come from more affluent areas, whether that be from the big cities where their parents are a bit more well off and happy to give them pocket money, or mining regions where jobs are available and salaries are competitive, are more difficult to engage. They’re also less likely to agree to get their hands dirty when it comes time to sweep the shed.

The contracting boss has seen exceptions, of course, but he’s also noted strong trends, and what he’s picked up is in line with the bigger picture — the grim picture that’s emerging of a generation of newcomers to the workforce unprepared for work.

“I’ve had countless experiences with kids who are just not ready,” he says.  “They haven’t picked up the skills that you learn by working and that’s often because they haven’t had to.  “They come in late, they don’t realise that they might have to do things they don’t want to, and they don’t appreciate the job. They think if they don’t like it here they can just pack up and get another job around the corner, keep chasing that almighty dollar without building their skills.”

Mr Trenamen might sound like another disgruntled boss whining about “kids these days”, but what he’s picked up is reflected in national trends.

Australian Bureau of Statistics show that school and university students are less likely to pick up part time work while they’re studying with only 31 per cent of 15 to 19-year-old students employed.

The figures are unsurprising to Australia Chamber of Commerce and Industry CEO Kate Carnell, who tells she could have predicted the findings based on conversations with employers like Jack.

She says while on paper young employees are more qualified than ever before, 20-somethings are showing up to work with degrees from universities that are “disconnected with the workforce”, and a lack of workplace experience.

“A number of our members consistently tell us they’re seeing students come out of university or training programs and they might have the academic or theoretical skills, but no skills to work at all. It makes them really hard to employ,” she says.

“General issues are not understanding that a job is about turning up on time every day, not just when you feel like, that it’s about taking direction, and basic things like you’ve got to be well presented and you’ve got to be pleasant.

“The number of young people not working while they’re in school is one of the problems.”

Ms Carnell says the declining need for kids to work is a symptom of a largely more affluent society, and while it offers young people the luxury of focusing on their studies, it also deprives them of the skills they will pick up in the work force before they take up a full time role.

Another part of the problem, Ms Carnell says, isn’t just a lack of enthusiasm for kids to get a job down at the local takeaway or supermarket, but parents encouraging them not to while they focus on their studies.

As well as the lack of work experience young employees bring to their career-starting roles, bosses are also quick to point the finger at the education system.

Mr Trenamen suggests schools teach workplace skills from year 10, and encourage kids to get into the workforce. It’s an argument Professor Johanna Wyn, director of the Youth Research Centre at the University of Melbourne has heard before.

While she believes there is a disconnect between what kids are learning at school, university and TAFE and “the real world”, she says it’s unfair to put pressure on educational institutions to be “all things to all people”.  “It’s not that the universities are teaching the wrong thing, but more that young people are encouraged to get an education, follow that to a job they believe they want to do, and the assumption that it’s going to be an automatic match with what’s required in the labour market,” Professor Wyn says.

“It would be fabulous if young people were gaining really strong skills that they should be learning, but it’s really hard for educators to catch up. Instead of turning it around and blaming schools, we should look at other path ways. “There are some really good models of how communities can wrap more around schools and bring educators and employers together.”

Brett Schimming is the CEO of Construction Skills Queensland, an industry body that works with schools and young career seekers together with employers providing skilling programs to bridge that gap and equip kids to get in to jobs.

“What we do know is that if you simply are going to employ a young person and expect them to know what to do on day one, you are more than likely not going to have success and it doesn’t end well for anyone,” he says.

“We’ve learnt that it’s 50/50 in terms of effort, so we like to increase the chances of matching the right people to the right jobs, and matching people who are each willing to give their 50 per cent and work together.”

The key thing small businesses are looking for is that attitude and they get challenged by how best to find that person because they’ve had experience where they’ve hired people and it hasn’t worked out.”

Apprenticeship Support Australia, which covers the recruitment of more than 300,000 apprentices, is another group trying to meet businesses and new workers halfway.

Last month the federal government-funded group announced a “job-fit test” that would gauge Gen Y job seekers’ work ethic, skills and job readiness before they are approved for an apprenticeship.  The performance test was devised in response to the drop out rate of apprentices falling to a shocking 50 per cent, the Herald Sun reported.

So there are programs that help, and employers, educators and industry bodies alike believe there should be more, but back at ACCI Ms Carnell says the simplest way to learn skills is for young people to get into the work force as soon as they can.

“Young people are always conscious of the reputation their generation has, and they should work to break that,” she says.
“It really, really makes a difference as an employer if you get a CV from a young person and see they’ve been employed during school or university. It’s a huge tick.”


WA premier softens stance on Uber

THE West Australian government is softening its stance on ride-sharing service Uber, but won't drop prosecutions against drivers accused of breaking the law, Premier Colin Barnett says.

"Uber has come into the market - it is not meeting the legal requirements of a taxi service, we all know that - but it is popular," Mr Barnett said on Tuesday in his first news conference after returning from holidays.

"There is a segment in the community that uses Uber and likes the service they provide, so we will look at ways in which we might be able to accommodate that.  "It will mean some changes probably on their part. "I'm not about restricting choice for consumers."

Mr Barnett said the prosecutions would run their course in court.

He said he was concerned that during his absence, the Department of Transport invited tenders for covert surveillance of Uber drivers to ensure compliance with taxi and transport legislation.

"I've got to say I was a little bit concerned when I heard about that decision made by the department."

Transport Minister Dean Nalder will release a paper on taxi transport in the next week or so, Mr Barnett said, and he hoped it would result in an improved offering for customers.  "At the moment, the law doesn't allow that and people are breaching the law."


Muslims shrink from aggressive confrontation

Anti-racism protesters have been warned to stay away from an anti-Islam rally in Melbourne after a social media post by one of the nationalist group's leaders glorified the murder of a teenager.

A video posted to the Facebook page of far-right group the United Patriots Front showed CCTV footage of the killing of anti-racism activist Carlos Javier Palomino, who was stabbed in the heart by a neo-nazi on a packed train in Spain in 2007.

The video was posted ahead of the group's protest against Islam and Sharia Law at Parliament House on Saturday, which is being promoted as the "biggest patriot rally in Australian history", and is scheduled to follow a rally by Reclaim Australia earlier in the day.

Neil Erikson, an administrator of the United Patriots Front, promoted the video as showing "one patriot versus a thousand unwashed filth", in which he praises the man convicted of killing the 16-year-old and stabbing another man in the chest.

Narrating over the footage he describes the moments after the deadly attack - when horrified commuters fled the train and platform - as "bloody awesome".

"Look they're like ants running away from one patriot. We have the power. There he is by himself, he won the battle. One patriot versus a thousand left wing unwashed scum. Bring on July 18, Melbourne, Parliament House, 1pm."

The disturbing video, which has since been removed, has prompted a call to abandon a counter rally organised by No Room For Racism which has been planned to thwart the UPF demonstration.

Mo El-Leissy, an Islamic community worker and trained imam, issued a warning to stay away from Saturday's rally, saying the video incited violence.

"It has raised the level of concern in the community about having Muslims especially attend the counter rally, knowing that these people glorify violence against anti-racism campaigners, but also have quite adverse views towards Islamic people," he told ABC Radio on Tuesday morning.

"These are people that do border on Nazism and Fascism and we just think it's not appropriate for us to be face to face with these people."

But Yarra councillor Stephen Jolly confirmed the counter rally would go ahead as planned, saying Mr El-Leissy's views were not shared by the vast majority of anti-racism protesters. "It's definitely on," Mr Jolly said.

"There's going to be large numbers of people, not just the usual suspects, but people from the Islamic community who are on the front line of this Islamophobia."

Mr Jolly said he met with police on Monday to discuss security measures at the rally and was reassured of protesters' safety.

"That meeting strengthened my belief that this will be a peaceful rally and that there will be no face-to-face contact between the thousands of people who turn up to the anti-racist rally and the tiny handful of neo-Nazis who will be kept well away," he said.  "It will be a very safe. My 17-year-old daughter will be coming with me."

Premier Daniel Andrews on Tuesday defended people's right to express their views as long as they were lawful and done so with a sense of decency.  "People can put a lawful view, people can protest but it needs to be peaceful, and lawful and orderly," Mr Andrews said.

The Premier said Victoria proudly has the best set of anti-discrimination and vilification laws in the world.

The United Patriot Front broke away from Reclaim Australia earlier this year and while it is a relatively small group it is considered far more extreme in its racist views.

Anti-extremist protesters from No Room For Racism faced off against the UPF at a protest outside Richmond Town Hall in May. That clash saw about 70 supporters of the far-right group outnumbered by hundreds of counter protesters, and one man was charged with weapons offences after being caught carrying a knife.


Fancy footwork from the ALP in Queensland State Budget

Sounds a lot like the heavily "fiddled" Gillard budget of 2011

Treasurer Curtis Pitt has set out a debt reduction plan, which will see the public servant super fund help pay down the state's debt, while potentially also funding future commitments.

Having already announced its plan to shift $4.1 billion off the general government debt books onto that of the government-owned corporations, Mr Pitt plans on saving the state another $3.4 billion by changing the way it funds entitlements, particularly long-service leave, for public servants.

Since the 1990s, the government has funded long service leave as a central investment allocation. Mr Pitt said it would now, under advice from Treasury, fund long service leave on an "as required basis".

The government will also take a contribution holiday from the Defined Benefit Scheme, which it claims will reduce the state debt by $2 billion over five years.

Mr Pitt said the scheme would remain "fully funded" at "more than 100 per cent" by even the most conservative estimates.

With a current scheme surplus of $10 billion, Mr Pitt said there was "no danger" of the scheme not being able to meet its responsibilities.

The government is trumpeting its plan to pay down general government debt  - the amount the government has borrowed over the years to cover the cost of doing business - by more than $9 billion over the forwards, without cutting services or selling assets.

But hidden within the Treasurer's speech was a line regarding the "next steps".  "Over the next six months, we will work with Treasury to examine ways for Queenslanders to invest in Queensland," he said.

"This due diligence work may include enabling the defined benefit scheme to invest in growing Queensland infrastructure through our energy GOCs.

"The defined benefit fund currently invests Queensland money in a range of interstate and overseas infrastructure, including Thames Water in the UK and the Ohio University car parking system in the US.

"The fund is also currently carrying historically high levels of cash that could responsibly invested in Queensland to deliver much needed employment and economic growth."

In his budget press conference, Mr Pitt categorically denied it was an asset sale – adding that there was nothing to say it would go ahead.  "This is all about ensuring that we are being very diligent with the way that we carry Queensland forward," he said.

"What we will be doing is undertaking due diligence as part of our energy GOC merger process.

"The first step of course, was the re-gearing of those businesses.  We will be looking at what the best fit for the network versus generation companies would be and we'll be able to provide an update at the mid-year review."

The government's rationale is that the money within the defined benefits scheme is still government money, despite being set aside for public servants, as they don't utilise it until they leave the public service.

It contends that as the fund belongs to the government, it can use it to invest in government-owned corporations – essentially borrowing from it – to fund future capital needs and infrastructure.

But with nothing more than a sketch of a plan at this stage, there was no detail to scrutinise.

Instead, Mr Pitt and the government want the public to focus on its general government debt reduction plan and service funding as the take away from a budget low on sweeteners or cost of living relief.

The government's $1.975 billion in election promises is to be paid from $2.315 billion in "reprioritisations".  Ministers have had to find more than $1.12 billion in savings from their portfolios, with the majority coming from cuts in consultancies, contractors and advertising.

Mr Pitt said that would be done without cuts to services, or redundancies, be they forced or voluntary.

Total government debt for this financial year has been set at $74.113 billion, with $35.885 billion coming from the general government sector and $35.962 billion coming from the GOCs.

It is forecast to increase, predicted to hit $78.802 billion over the forwards.


Clive Palmer's swan song?

He failed to make a mark but has only half acknowledged it so far.  Next election he will go down like his now vanished "Titanic" replica

CLIVE Palmer has apologised to Queensland voters for losing control over his party’s former Senator Glenn Lazarus and for failing to wield influence in federal parliament.

Mr Palmer’s party has started seeking candidates for the next election and has warned potential applicants they will be forced to pay back any money spent on their campaign if they win a seat and later leave the party.

In a sign that he is worried Senator Lazarus’ independence could cost the Palmer United Party votes at the next election, Mr Palmer attacked his former ally in the letter to voters.

He said he wanted to “apologise to all voters in Queensland for the fact that our Queensland Senator, elected only because of Palmer United Party votes, has let you down by withdrawing from the political battlefield when it got too hot for him.”

The PUP leader conceded his party was no longer influential in the Senate after the departure of Senator Lazarus and Tasmanian Jacqui Lambie.

“We had planned as a team to use our balance of power in the Senate to bring about real change for Queensland but Glenn Lazarus put an end to that and betrayed all those who voted for our party,” Mr Palmer said in the letter.

It was printed on Mr Palmer’s official letterhead as MP for the Sunshine Coast seat of Fairfax but was distributed elsewhere in Queensland.

It is not clear if the mail-out was taxpayer funded.

Senator Lazarus’ new party was last week registered by the Australian Electoral Commission.

He is setting up a regional office in Cairns this week and will soon begin planning other candidates for the next election.

Senator Lambie has also had her own party registered and wants to run candidates in every state.

Mr Palmer’s spokesman did not return calls.


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