The Country Mayors Association (CMA) hosted a Skills Forum recently in response to the dire situation of attracting skilled staff to councils and communities.
“Covid has highlighted Australia’s dependence on skilled migration and the need to refocus on training and education,” said Mayor of Parkes Cr Ken Keith OAM and Chair of the CMA. “We have seen a decline, particularly in regional towns, in the delivery of courses, particularly face-to-face, by TAFE and private providers.
“Course enrolments have decreased significantly by 12.7% from 2016-2021 and more importantly, only 29% of people enrolled completed their courses in 2021. One of the main issues is the lack of apprenticeships and traineeships in rural towns,” said Mayor Keith.
The forum was addressed by the National Commissioner for Rural Education Fiona Nash, as well as the director of policy for the McKell Institute, Edward Cavanagh, CEO of Parkes CUC Cr Jacob Cass, Cr Rick Firman OAM and CEO of Riverina Joint Organisation, and Julie Briggs, who outlined the Riverina’s skills shortage project.
A round table discussion seeking suggestions for positive change was held. Ideas included: specifically isolating data from metro areas to compare to regional, rural and remote local government areas; to allow flexibility for reduced class sizes and course offerings and more support and incentives for businesses to train trainees within TAFE’s community service obligation; to encourage state government to train their own trainees and apprentices rather than taking from local government and the private sector; to advocate for the aged workforce to return to work and provide training and mentoring; that the CMA membership support the McKell Institute and its endeavours to increase skills and retain skills in country NSW; and to engage with Minister Henskens and his advisors to discuss problems facing regional and rural NSW.