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Labor commits to WA apprenticeship lift

AAP logoAAP 8/11/2016 Greg Roberts

WA Labor has guaranteed it will increase the number of apprenticeships offered and ensure large infrastructure projects use more local businesses as new figures show a massive fall in the number of apprentice jobs last year.

The number of new construction industry apprenticeships in WA fell 25 per cent in 2015-16, according to the State Construction Training Fund.

Government-owned utility Western Power employed no new apprentices last year, down from 12 last year and 56 three years ago.

The Water Corporation provided five apprenticeships compared to 41 in 2009.

Opposition leader Mark McGowan said large fee increases in the TAFE system due to state and federal budget cuts for training were also contributing to double digit percentage declines in student numbers.

Despite the building industry and economy performing poorly, he said when there was a future upswing WA was on track to have a skills shortage.

When that occurred during the mining boom thousands of workers were imported from interstate and overseas.

"The training system is vital for our state's future," Mr McGowan told reporters.

"We have to ensure Western Australians have the skills and training and are ready to take up the opportunities for those jobs when the upswing comes.

"We will ensure more apprenticeships in government trading enterprises ... Western Power and the Water Corppration should be more employing apprentices.

Unemployment is at decade highs of above six per cent in WA, above the national average.

On Tuesday, local rail workers worried about their jobs presented a petition with nearly 3000 signatures in state parliament calling for the government to stop shipping manufacturing work overseas.

About $3.1 billion of new trains for Perth's public transport network were due to be built overseas but should be made in WA to stimulate local industry,, Australian Manufacturing Workers Union WA state secretary Steve McCartney said.

The decision to have the bridge that will go over the Swan River to the new Perth Stadium built in Malaysia had contributed to local engineering firm Phillips collapsing, he said.

Factories were closing all over Perth's Kwinana industrial strip, where youth unemployment for people under 27 was 25 per cent and 12.5 per cent overall, Mr McCartney said.

Opposition planning spokeswoman Rita Saffioti guaranteed that if elected Labor would have a more aggressive approach to improving local content for infrastructure projects and backing the manufacturing industry, although how that would be enforced is unclear yet.

She said despite it being cheaper to import products from overseas, the economic multiplier benefits of keeping the jobs and income in WA along with the payroll and land tax revenue companies paid outweighed that.

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