An introduction to the training context in Australia

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Wallace, M 1997, 'An introduction to the training context in Australia', Centre for Market Studies Working Paper, no. 15, University of Leicester, Leicester, UK.


In the past seven years there have been some marked changes in the training context in Australia. Many of these changes have occurred through specific interventionist policies of government to help make the Australian workforce more flexible, productive and internationally competitive. Individual enterprises have also had to meet the challenge of remaining competitive in times of fiscal downturn. This had led to both downsizing and maximising the productivity of existing employees: significant challenges to human resource systems within organisations. During the period of almost sixteen years of federal government (1981-1996) led by the Australian Labor Party, a large number of changes to the fabric of society have occurred, some brought about through social evolution, some through world economic factors and others through specific government intervention. These include: • Recessions of the early 80’s, late 80’s/early 90’s leading to increasing unemployment; • The collapse of the youth employment market, massive decline in availability of apprenticeships; • Increased retention of young people at school for the full five-six years of high school because of lack of jobs and broader curriculum offerings; • Reduction of protectionist tariffs, industry restructuring through technological change and change in work practices leading to downsizing of many enterprises (not only manufacturing but also white collar sectors such as banking); • The decline of manufacturing, growth of lower paid jobs in the service sector; • The decline of full time work, growth in part-time or casual work; • The increasing number of women in the labour market. The federal Labor government instituted a range of industrial reforms: including Award Restructuring, which simplified job classifications and broke down demarcations between jobs and the Australian Standards Framework, a hierarchy of skill levels/ qualifications, to which pay rates are linked. In concert with these reforms (which are still being realised in some industries) the National Training Reform Agenda was introduced. In the rhetoric of the government of the time this suite of reforms was intended to develop a more flexible pool of labour, which could contribute to increased productivity and international competitiveness. It also introduced Enterprise Bargaining between employers and employees, in which training could be a bargaining component.