Reports over the weekend that a skills shortage for builders has prompted the Immigration Department to roll out the welcome mat to foreign construction workers will do nothing to address the long term effects of critical skills shortages or reduce unemployment rates.

Foreign carpenters, electricians, plumbers and brick layers will be encouraged to apply for working visas without an employer sponsoring them over the next year.

Unions NSW Secretary Mark Morey said bringing in skilled labour is not the answer and what is needed is a long hard look at the structure of apprenticeships and an overhaul of state and federal government reforms that cut TAFE funding and shifted costs to students.

“The Baird government has failed to deal with the fundamental problem facing NSW TAFE which is that vocational education is now unaffordable for many students and those who can afford it are not getting the kind of quality teaching and training they deserve because the resources just aren’t there.”

According to the NSW Department of Industry, NSW has lost half its students in the past three years, down from 539,146 students in 2012 to 255,781 in 2015 and more than 3000 teachers have been axed since 2012.

“Our world class TAFE system provides an important pathway to skills and employment for young and old people alike. It allows us to re-skill and gain new qualifications no matter where we are in our working life.

“At a time when our economy is softening and traditional jobs and workplaces are ever changing we need to invest in people’s ability to gain the skills needed to survive and thrive.

“Unions are calling on the government to cap the amount of funding being stripped from TAFE and handed to private providers and commit to investing in our TAFEs that are proven to provide the quality education needed for the jobs of the future.”

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