Demand for action

IF the Federal Government has not announced serious new job opportunities for the Latrobe Valley by September it faces a vocal union backlash.

That was the warning from Gippsland Trades and Labor Council on Thursday following the launch of another report on the Latrobe Valley’s future, this time by State Higher Education and Skills Minister Peter Hall.

The report, a profile of the Valley known as ‘State of the Valley’ will inform the State Government’s $5 million Latrobe Valley Industry and Employment Roadmap, due to be released around July.

While GTLC secretary John Parker said the union group sought to work with both levels of government to secure new jobs and opportunities for the region, including as a member of the Latrobe Valley Transition Committee – which has its own report due to go before governments at the end of the month – he warned action was expected soon.

The region’s proliferation of reports was recognised by Mr Hall in an address to Valley stakeholders on Thursday but he said the latest “pulled together lots of pieces of work going on here, there and everywhere”.

The State of the Valley was a “significant, important resource document” including information from “60-odd reports” which preceded it, he said.

Speaking to The Express after the launch Mr Hall said the work was “part of an assignment given under funding for Skilling the Valley”, an initiative which has also seen the employment of four industry LINK officers who would identify emerging skills needs and prepare for the training needs of “in transition” or displaced workers.

When asked if it was difficult to predict skills needs amid prevailing local uncertainty, Mr Hall acknowledged it was.

“It is frustrating, to a degree; that uncertainty always makes it hard…if you know what’s ahead of you, you can better plan for it,” he said.

“When you are not sure what’s ahead it makes it more difficult in precise planning.”

The minister said the State of the Valley report provided “the best information on which to make that planning, for what is – to a certain degree – an unknown future”.

Despite the uncertainty, Mr Hall maintained the report would “prepare the Latrobe Valley and ensure it is well placed to make the best use of opportunities when they arise.”

Mr Parker told The Express he expected the skilling initiative announced Thursday would “feed into” a key direction identified by the Latrobe Valley Transition Committee – also known as ‘Skilling the Valley’ – and he dismissed suggestions of duplication.

Further analysis of why about half of all local apprentices and trainees have “dropped out” of their training was vital though, Mr Parker said.

“Whoever has advised the government has not looked at why this is happening and our view is this is because some of the private providers are just not up to standard and are just delivering training for training’s sake…they (the State Government) have given the axe to TAFE instead of some of the bodgy training providers and I will be saying that to the Latrobe Valley Transition Committee,” he said.

Mr Parker said the GTLC was confident the upcoming Roadmap could deliver tangible outcomes and said the LVTC, with support from both levels of government, represented something “quite unique” compared with the division experienced in other struggling regions including the Murray-Darling Basin.

Of the GTLC’s role on the LVTC, Mr Parker said “we not only hope for (tangible outcomes), we demand it.”

“We will sit and talk positive and be part of constructive dialogue but at the end of the day, if we think they won’t support us, we will be out on the streets shouting,” he said.

With both the LVTC report and Roadmap due for release in the next two months, Mr Parker said the GTLC expected “some positive announcements and strategies for the short, medium and long-term on what they (the Federal Government) will do for the Gippsland area by the end of September”.

“We will allow them to get their act together and after that we expect those announcements,” he said.