Former government staffer Rachelle Miller accused Education and Youth Minister Alan Tudge of emotional and physical abuse during their relationship in 2017 – Copyright AFP PATRICIA DE MELO MOREIRA
If it were wrestling, you’d call it a “fatal four-way” – Skills vs youth vs education vs immigration is a standard global scenario in many countries. The usual story is that it’s fatal for at least one of the four elements involved. We’ve just had a Jobs and Skills summit, with some positive outcomes, but the core issue remains; our skills base.
This is how the meat grinder works – You don’t have enough trained people with the required skills, so you import skilled labor. You either don’t notice or don’t care that your own skills training is too expensive for your younger generations. Then, having totally screwed up the skill base required for your entire economy, you complain about “all these immigrants”.
This is one of Australia’s more annoying, and most avoidable, totally unnecessary, bugbears. We used to have free education up to tertiary levels. We didn’t have a skills problem. Now, we have ridiculously overpriced education and we do have a skills problem. Employers, unions, trades, and educators have been screaming about this for far too many years.
We’ve proven beyond doubt that a modern society needs more than lawyers and waiters to operate. We do more litigation in Sydney than they do in Los Angeles, a city 4 times the size. We also have coast-to-coast cafes. What we do not have is properly planned, financially sane, dependable, accessible skills base training in any shape or form.
What we have is much more like a raffle with far too few winners. For about the last decade, some bright bastards have been sabotaging and underfunding our very successful TAFE (Technical And Further Education) colleges. The TAFEs are all about skills training. At the same time, fees for university degrees have gone mad. To add serious injury to insult, the universities simply can’t provide the sheer volume and range of skills required. There just aren’t enough places. (To give some idea of the scale of demand, 180,000 new TAFE places are in progress to meet demand.)
Now, even if there were places for them, people probably can’t access the skills due to the fees. It’s a perfect storm of pure idiocy. Nobody able to do basic arithmetic should have been sufficiently stupid to get into this situation. We have a relatively small population, so we as a nation can easily afford to pay for the skills training.
There’s a reason for that. Privatization, the most destructive of all “ideologies”, has essentially sabotaged the skills base. These fees are murderous, unjustifiable, and absurd. Why should modern education cost so much more than pre-digital education? Costs have been systematically jacked up far beyond the real cost of delivering the services.
There’s a method to this actual madness. Education and training are among Australia’s biggest exports. It’s truly huge money. So everyone’s on board with this racket, costing the next generations of Australians a fortune. Meanwhile, it’s compromising and ruining our national skills base in the process.
Sound familiar, world? The unjustifiable fees are the key visible issue:
- Education and skills training delivers far higher values than an unskilled labor force could ever achieve.
- The skills deliver a lot of business capacity and for governments, far more revenue.
These maniacal fees, however, are a major deterrent. People are understandably wary of getting into 5 or 6 figure debt before they even enter the workforce. This fee structuring is basically a mortgage on your career.
It’s also a surefire recipe for debt default. Many people drop out, because they can’t handle the fees, personal reasons, or other problems. To that extent, call it 5 to 10% of enrolments as a purely ballpark figure, the fees are a built-in, self-defeating option for everybody involved.
There’s a book called “Poor Little Rich Country”, which pokes some pretty basic but accurate criticisms of Australia’s many self-inflicted problems. Education wasn’t in it, from memory, but it should be. This is an absurd situation. Nobody who’s ever been released from daycare should be able to believe that this mess is workable.
Immigration vs reality
Like most Western countries, Australia doesn’t exactly sparkle with recognition of the values of immigration. Nor is there much reason to think we really understand migration to Australia.
A few years ago, a woman with 4 kids migrated to Australia from Africa. She was given $10,000 and a place to live. At Sydney prices, she went broke in 2 years, a noble achievement on her part to survive so long with so little money. However – Does that look like we have a clue about the realities of migration?
Australia, like other countries, does encourage skilled migration. Sponsored migration for skilled migrants is also common. …And we still have a skills shortage? Skilled migrants can get good, well-paid jobs in Australia which are actually better than other Western nations. (Our basic working conditions are far superior to the US, for example.) The trouble is, inevitably, that the related skill sets may or may not be in place or even up to speed.
If you hire a skilled migrant, they have to have people to work with. Those people also have to have a range of skills. That’s where our skills base is an absolute mess. Skilled workers make very good money in Australia, but they’re highly stretched meeting demand and in many cases seriously overworked.
That very high level of demand naturally drives up the prices of those skills. Notice how costs to the public and the nation are always increasing under this ridiculous model.
Ironically and equally inevitably, some of those good jobs are training jobs. So there’s a lag time between hiring the trainers before you can get the skills.
The big long-term losers – Youth
Youth is on the wrong end of all these issues. They have to pay enormous amounts of money to get skills. They have to try to access training. They have to be able to survive living costs.
…And it gets worse for them as time goes on. It’s now, rather obscenely, accepted that the Millennials and Gen Z will never own their own homes. That means most of their incomes will go to rent, not building capital. Consider for half a second how their kids are likely to do in this environment.
Stop/start employment, now the norm for these generations, prevents them from taking out mortgages. How do you save for a deposit with occasional income and very high living costs? You don’t.
This is not a case of “user pays”. It’s a case of “user doesn’t and won’t have any money”. This is all cost-based, from absurd prices for an education that should cost less than a pretty basic phone to ridiculously high, parasitic, unjustifiable, living expenses.
The best description of the state of the younger generations is “Suicide Capitalism” or perhaps “Mass Extinction Capitalism”. As an economic model, it’s entirely self-destructive. It could never have worked even in theory, it hasn’t, and it won’t. This setup ensures a massive lack of real capital for future generations.
Nor is this idiocy likely to do the rich any favors. Multi-generational wealth is very much the exception historically, and that’s all about costs. As costs go up, real wealth devalues. A million bucks 20 years ago would have bought a lot more than a million does today.
So promoting ever-increasing costs and prices equates to the faster devaluation of wealth. Smart, it isn’t.