Australia went in no time at all from worrying about high unemployment rates due to COVID, to facing a big skills shortage.
Essentially, we got used to the UberEats model of filling jobs.
If we were hungry for a new job, we just ordered it with UberEats.
We put it on these skilled occupations list and in no time at all a new highly skilled, qualified worker was delivered at our doorstep.
That was a very convenient way of growing the economy.
Now, during COVID, we could not get workers in because the borders were closed.
So, we raided the pantry for quite a bit.
This means we really just filled all the jobs, as much as we could, with the people that were available in the pantry.
That worked for a while, so we actually drove the unemployment rate down quite a bit.
I leave it to the economists to argue whether 4% or 5% levels of unemployment should be considered full unemployment in the Australian context.
But we are now already in many industries - hospitality and tourism come to mind at first - in a situation where we cannot fill jobs, where businesses cannot grow, simply because there is no skilled labor available.
My big call out here, to Australia as a whole, is that we need to start to learn how to cook for ourselves.
If the UberEats app isn't working, we simply need to cook for ourselves.
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That is fine; we will never be able to cook enough that we can fill the demand for all the jobs.
However, it is very crucial that very quickly Australians get used to filling the jobs that we need right now to drive up the economy, to boost our recovery efforts.
That means that we particularly need people in middle-skill jobs.
These are the trade jobs, the manufacturing jobs.
And because we have no migration at the moment to fill those jobs, it is actually a very unique opportunity for lower-skilled Australians, people who work in so-called low-skilled or unskilled labor to upskill by getting into a TAFE.
This is an opportunity for them to gain a qualification, that then allows them to work in these middle-skilled jobs, that we so desperately need to actually fulfill and build all those infrastructure programs that are budgeted for, that the government put money aside for.
But at the moment there's no way we could fill all those jobs, so we do need to upskill our low-skilled workers into middle-skilled workers very fast.
TAFE is the key to doing this.
Therefore TAFE in my eyes should be universally free, no questions asked.
Give free public transport to all the TAFE students as well.
Take all the barriers away, all the hurdles away that people might experience when entering TAFE.
Right now is a crucial time in Australia’s history to upskill our low-skilled workers so we get the middle-skilled workforce strengthened.