The Master Builders Association (MBA) has welcomed an Irish Government proposal for Irish apprentices to complete their training in Western Australia.
The planned initiative emerged after Ireland’s junior Minister for Training and Skills, Ciarán Cannon, met the Western Australian Minister for Training and Workforce Development, Peter Collier last month.
Mr Collier was in Dublin as part of a recruitment drive by the State Government.
Minister Cannon has now revealed more detail and said that the the foreign affairs departments of Ireland and Australia are to progress the talks.
“We agreed that we should mutually explore the possibility of putting in place an inter-governmental memorandum of understanding between both countries, that would provide an overarching framework of support for cooperation in order to facilitate meeting the needs of Australia’s business and Irish workers,” Mr Cannon said.
“It was clearly agreed that this should be at government-to-government level and will need to be conducted through official diplomatic channels involving the ministries for foreign affairs in both States,” he added.
He told the Irish Echo that the Department of Education and Skills had secured support from the Department of Foreign Affairs in Dublin to progress the initiative.
Shortly, Minister Collier is expected to present the expo’s findings and potential future strategies to the MBA in Western Australia.
The peak body for the construction industry in the state has said it supports the apprenticeship proposal. MBA Director Michael McLean said the building industry could not cope solely with local labour.
“We’re fortunate in some ways that the residential and commercial sector’s been down at the moment and that is masking the demand for labour in the future. It’s the civil engineering and resource sectors that are really booming and that’s actually sucking a little bit of labour to its areas,” he said.
There are signs that fewer people are taking up apprenticeships in the state, he added.
“In some ways [that is] because some young people are side-stepping the apprenticeship training and just trying to find unskilled work in the north-west. Secondly, because of the downturn in the residential and the commercial sectors, it’s deterring some people from entering those sectors of our industry.”
Mr McLean said the MBA would ‘absolutely’ welcome an apprenticeship initiative with Ireland.
“The good thing about attracting labour from Ireland is that the cultural differences are very minimal. Having English-speaking migrants with a fantastic track record of people from Ireland who have already assimilated very effectively in a variety of trades [is positive]… you couldn’t ask for a better source of labour.”
Registered Migration Agent John McQuaid, who writes the Irish Echo‘s Visability column, said it was the Australian Government and unions that will need convincing.
“Bear in mind the current Labor government have just committed $3bn in the last budget to fast-track trades skills training for Australians,” said Mr McQuaid.
“I believe it will be a hard argument to persuade this government that training overseas apprentices provides benefit to Australia … expect a major backlash from unions,” he added.