Young workers are missing out because of 457 visas: CFMEU
EMMA Champion realises she is lucky to have completed an apprenticeship in the construction industry.
The 23-year-old carpenter admits she is ‘daddy’s little girl’ and that it was his influence that got her interested in the building industry.
“Dad is a welder and a handyman – one of those blokes who can do anything,” she said.
Her dad’s best mate got her a carpentry apprenticeship in the residential sector, and she went on to finish it in commercial.
But Emma also knows that not every young person looking for a job in her industry will have the same good fortune.
In fact, doors keep closing for young people wanting to enter the building trades.
Between December 2012 and March 2013, trades apprenticeship numbers have dropped from 67,500 to 53,400.
Employers in the construction industry claim that skills shortages have forced them to look overseas, making use of the 457 visa system to bring in short-term skilled labour. In the 12 months to February 2013, Australian construction industry employment grew by only 1.1%, but the number of 457 visa holders employers had working in the industry actually increased by 25% to 14,080.
But it seems incongruous that employers are complaining of skills shortages while refusing to invest in skills and training in their own backyard by providing opportunities to young people to do apprenticeships.
The plight of young people in the building industry is the focus of a new campaign by the Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union. Emma and two other young people – Aaron Menzies and John So – are the faces of the campaign, and will feature on billboards at strategic locations in Victoria, Perth and Sydney.
The focus on apprentices is part of the CFMEU’s Let’s Spread It Around campaign, which aims to ensure that the benefits of the mining boom are distributed evenly around Australia.
The billboard ads will be supported by a social media campaign calling on Members of Parliament to support legislation which regulates 457 visas better and makes companies train apprentices as a condition of being granted permission to bring in 457 visa workers.
CFMEU National Assistant Secretary Dave Noonan said that the campaign highlights the growing concern in the community that young Australians are missing out on training and employment opportunities while companies are engaging greater numbers of temporary overseas workers.
“In the resources sector, as well as in commercial construction, young Australians can’t get a start or can’t get an apprenticeship, yet every year employers sponsor greater numbers of temporary foreign workers because they are too greedy to invest in training opportunities for our kids.”
Emma Champion wants the public to write to their local federal politicians if they agree that training for young Australians should be the priority.
“I was shocked to learn that employers can hire 457 visa workers to do trades work with no obligation to even offer the jobs to Australian permanent residents first.”
“We need to let our politicians know that they need to stick up for us and our futures.”
Meanwhile, a Senate inquiry heard today from unions about concerns that the 457 visa system has been abused by employers and this has led to exploitation of foreign workers brought in under the visa.
In its submission, the CFMEU said workers should have a legislated right of appeal if they miss out on jobs filled by foreign workers on 457 visas.
Parliament is expected to vote soon on a Bill which will seek to better regulate 457 visas.
The CFMEU is calling on all parties to support changes to legislation which will make companies prove that they can’t find a qualified worker and take on apprentices if they are seeking to bring in more than 10 workers on 457 visas.
Take action by sending an email to your Member of Parliament to demand government action to ensure companies train more apprentices and use fewer 457 visa workers.
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