Industry skills shortages are not news but they are an on-going concern for the wood trades. Since the cuts started in 2012-13 things have progressively worsened. Victoria cut $300 million from the TAFE colleges back then, despite rising enrolments. Many TAFE departments were decimated, teachers were sacked and some trade departments disappeared altogether.

Try getting training for your furniture polishers!

TAFE enrolments dropped as fees rose and class sizes got bigger. Pathways to further education are threatened and old-technology equipment is not being replaced. The industry associations had a great deal to say about the quality of TAFE training before 2012 – wonder what they think now?

And it gets worse, much worse. The Sydney Morning Herald reported last December that TAFE funding in NSW would be halved, forcing TAFE to compete with the scandal-ridden private sector for half of its funding this year.
For completely different reasons, a forestry industry skills shortage is looming, according to Rob de Fégeley, President of the Institute of Foresters of Australia. The industry has suffered from a bad public image for the past five years.

Rob said: “We haven’t explained the industry and what the exciting opportunities are for the young people to work in forest management”. Dr Antanas Spokevicius of the University of Melbourne agrees: “They don’t see that forestry is about sustainability”.

More local students are needed to study forestry at a post-graduate and master’s level. UniMelb’s Dr Chris Weston said international students were seeing the value of applied forestry subjects, but local students were not. “Our Australian students tend to be more interested in environmental applications.”

Mr. de Fégeley said: “The universities are aware of the decline of properly trained foresters and we’ve had a number of successful meetings with the Australian National University, the University of Melbourne and Lismore’s Southern Cross University. They are all keen to play a role.” Dr Weston hoped prospective students would see career potential off the back of the China Free Trade deal, which was likely to lead to a growth in our forestry industry.