MODERN Australian farms require a much higher skilled workforce than in the past, with new farm systems and cutting-edge technologies implemented on-farm, right across the nation, every day. “The commitment yesterday by the Labor Party to fund 450,000 skilled training places is a positive one for rural Australians, with agriculture facing unprecedented demand for skilled labour,” National Farmers’ Federation (NFF) President, David Crombie said. “For a strong Australian economy, the focus of any skills initiative needs to ensure that all Australians who have the capacity to work are given the opportunity to develop the required skills. “With modern farming constantly evolving, we are pleased that the NFF’s call for training systems to be driven by business and industry has been recognised. “Training in Australia must be reflective of industry skill needs, rather than the popularity of the courses by students. It is therefore a positive move by Labor to direct the Industry Skills Councils to be much more responsive to industry requirements. “The NFF would however look to work with the Labor Party, if elected, on several key issues within their skills and training policy platform, including the intention to place absolute quotas on the different Certificate levels. We believe that this may create problems where there is high demand for training at the Certificate II and III levels. “The NFF also is concerned about the additional administration proposed by Labor’s scheme, particularly on small business owners such as farmers. This will have to be closely monitored as it may act to actively discourage their participation. Mr Crombie commented that most businesses are already aware of where their skill need is greatest and seek to immediately upgrade their skills, without requiring a business skills analysis or a consultation of their workers. “A commitment must also be made by Labor to maintain the Institute for Trade Skills Excellence which encourages Australians to take up a trade in the first place. It is all well and good to have training places available, but first there must be incentives for the prospective student to enrol. The Institute has proven to be very successful in this objective. “The NFF also calls on the Labor Party to guarantee that at least one of the seven ‘Skills Australia’ Board members will be a representative for regional and rural Australia. Agriculture has unique skills and training issues and needs a strong voice at the table of any training body that advises Government. “Currently a lack of consistency exists between the Skilling Australia initiatives and its policy towards Vocational Education and Training (VET) in schools. The NFF encourages the Labor Party to ensure that funding, to be made available to schools, is based on the skills needs of, and in consultation with local businesses and industry.” [ENDS] The NFF’s http://www.nff.org.au/read/2442828448.html[2007 Federal Election Policy Platform] is available here.