National Farmers' Federation

Human capital is more than just bums in lecture theatres

THE National Farmers’ Federation (NFF) offered its ‘real world’ input on Labor’s ‘education revolution’ proposal, launched by Opposition Leader Kevin Rudd in Melbourne today.
“Improving Australia’s human capital demands more than just encouraging students into University,” NFF CEO Ben Fargher said. “While there is no doubt this is an important element, it’s not the be-all and end-all. Genuine solutions require meeting the holistic needs of industry to deliver products and/or services.
“It is imperative that policies on immigration, workplace relations, labour hire arrangements and employment participation are complementary in achieving growth in human capital. The biggest challenge faced by many industries, particularly agriculture, is chronic labour shortage.
“Australian farmers, who are into their fifth year of drought, already struggle to find workers to carry out varying levels of skilled tasks. Once the drought breaks, agriculture is going to have enormous difficulty filling its need for labour.
“Resolving issues of skills shortages is more than just encouraging Australians into University or completing secondary education. It is imperative that we also consider policies that support vocational jobs in those industries that represent the bulk of employment on farms and in regional communities.
“Statistical improvements or comparisons alone are not a true reflection of Australia’s efforts to improve its human capital. Regardless of our statistical standing with other OECD countries, Australia must address our unique ‘real world’ needs today by providing holistic solutions to labour shortages.
“Education and Training is, of course, just one component of dealing with skills shortages.
“NFF’s Labour Shortage Action Plan identifies several areas that need to be holistically addressed to combat Australia’s labour shortages, including industrial relations, employment participation, and population strategy.
“While we are encouraged to see both major political parties placing Education and Training as a priority for the 2007 election, it will be the holistic management of this strategic imperative that will, ultimately, underpin Australia’s prosperity moving forward.
“The NFF looks forward to detailed engagement with both Labor and the Australian Government as they develop their policies to meet the vocational skills and training needs of rural and regional Australia.”

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