Are our apprentices being trained in all the right jobs? In this short piece Carolyn van Langenberg writes that many training opportunities in the ‘old’ jobs are disappearing; jobs that ‘out of touch’ politicians decide are no longer needed.
I have just listened to Jennifer Westacott, Chief Executive of the Business Council of Australia, on Radio National, Friday September 12 2014. She was talking about training, apprenticeship systems and workforce flexibility so that people may train for different trades during their lifetime for an economy in transition.
Basic skills were frequently mentioned, but primary school education was not mentioned once. Surely if you are arguing for improved numeracy and literacy you are discussing the 3Rs – reading, writing and arithmetic. Not once was teacher training discussed, basic, I would have thought, to everything she was describing.
It is true we need an improved apprenticeship system. We need a cultural shift to respect trades people and the acquisition of artisan skills. But conservative governments have ripped the guts out of the very institution that provided the place of education for the acquisition of those skills – TAFE. Ceramicists, shoe makers, hat makers, dress makers etc etc can no longer find or offer affordable courses in TAFE.
Politicians who are too often lawyers with a minimum of world experience have no imagination for the employment futures, something that obsesses them, of people with artisan skills. Nor do those same politicians understand how science, including medical science, works for people who have those same artisan skills.
The ceramic hips used to replace worn out human hips is the outstanding case to prove my point. Scientists used what an artisan had worked out and medical scientists applied the result to good effect.
In France, a village well regarded for its glove making was revived by the needs of pilots and astronauts, people who needed to keep their hands warm in gloves that could conduct fine movements when controls became computerised. The glove makers weren’t university graduates, although they were assisted by engineers with a sense of design. The glove makers were not regarded as robots trained by and for business. They are and continue to be skilled artisans.
Ms Westacott’s idea of an economy in transition is one moving from focusing on its national economy to one becoming global.
Climate change was not mentioned. And that, it seems to me, is where the focus should be – on the suite of sciences, applied arts, technologies and engineering skills required to move the economy from one dependent on fossil fuel burning sources of energy to sustainable sources.
Australia’s problems begin with the politicians’ over-estimation of business. Business is perceived by many of us as shonky, out-of-date, self-interested, ignorant and not ever acting in the national interest within the global context. The national interest must be maintained within the global context. Subsuming the national interest for global business denies us our future.
Bio: Carolyn van Langenberg is the author of the Fish Lips trilogy – Fish Lips, The Teetotaller’s Wake, and Blue Moon – as well as poetry and short stories published internationally.
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