Academic journal article The Economic and Labour Relations Review : ELRR

Modern Awards and Skill Development through Apprenticeships and Traineeships

Academic journal article The Economic and Labour Relations Review : ELRR

Modern Awards and Skill Development through Apprenticeships and Traineeships

Article excerpt

Introduction

A central plank of the Rudd-Gillard Labor Government's Education Revolution is boosting participation in vocational education and training (VET). Halving the number of working age Australians without a post-school qualification (Bradley et al. 2008: xiv) will require a combination of initial vocational training for those entering the workforce and continuing vocational training for those already in the workforce (Skills Australia 2010). The apprenticeship model of initial vocational training, where a contract of training is combined with a contract of employment, has fared better in Australia than in other English-speaking countries. Apprentice numbers in the traditional trade callings, such as engineering, automotive, construction and electrical, declined in real and percentage terms in the 1990s but recovered in the first decade of this century (Toner 2003; NCVER 2010). Apprenticeships in these callings are today still typically indentured contracts lasting between three and four years full-time. On-the-job training and work experience are usually combined with off-the-job training at a Registered Training Organisation. Traineeships, an alternative form of work-based training, grew sharply in numbers and prominence during the 1990s (Cully and Curtain 2001a). Traineeships involve a shorter period of training, generally less than two years, and are geared mainly towards occupations in the growing service sector. Traineeships often, though not necessarily, place less emphasis on off-the-job training. Even if the apprenticeship and traineeship systems are working well, more will be required of them to achieve the Government's ambitious targets.

During the award restructuring process in the late 1980s, vocational training was at the centre of industrial relations policy but it has receded in the twenty years since. In the award modernisation proceedings recently concluded, training matters were relegated to the bottom of a very crowded agenda. This article investigates the place of initial vocational training in modern awards and questions what impact, if any, the coverage of training matters in modern awards is likely to have on skills acquisition. The article has three parts. The first part documents the place of training during award reforms over the last twenty years. The second part comprises a review of the training literature, conducted to determine what employment-related conditions are likely to support positive training outcomes. Principally, these are conditions relating to pay, allowances, reimbursements for training expenses, and working hours for apprentices and trainees and the recognition of qualifications gained through an apprenticeship or traineeship. In the third part, a selection of the main awards relevant to vocational training are analysed for how well these matters are dealt with. In relation to initial vocational training, the main issues appear to be consistency rather than any overarching pattern of deficiency in conditions. The lack of recognition given to qualifications in the service sectors of the economy, however, is a widespread deficiency in modern awards.

Training and Awards: from Award Restructuring to Award Modernisation

On 1 January 2010, 122 modern awards commenced operation, replacing over 4,000 pre-reform awards and other instruments and ensuring awards will remain a cornerstone of industrial regulation in Australia (Minister for Employment, Education and Workplace Relations 2009). Award modernisation occurred twenty years after the award restructuring process. Australian unions, led by the (then) Australian Metal Workers Union, initiated training reform as part of the award restructuring process in the late 1980s. Under the 'metals restructuring model', inter-dependent changes were made to classification arrangements, initial and further vocational training, work organisation and wage determination (Buchanan 2002; Hampson 2004). Among the aims were to promote flexibility and teamwork and to develop joint pay scales linking manual and professional workers (Buchanan 2002). …

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