Technical Vocational Education Trade Skills Scholarships (TVETS) Programme
Recent investments and developments in mining and petroleum (especially in the Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) project), agribusiness and consequent opportunistic industries and development initiatives has placed huge demands on specialised trade skills. Currently technical colleges do not have the capacity to meet the variety, quantity and quality of skilled graduates required. There is an imminent treat of the Papua New Guinea (PNG) skilled labour market being flooded by skilled workers from neighbouring countries which ominously threatens an outflow of benefits PNG nationals by right should trap. To responsibly redress this and to equip young school leavers the basic skills to meet diverse industry needs, the National Executive Council (NEC) decided (NEC141/2010), as an interim measure, to install the Technical Vocational Education Training Scholarship (TVETS) programme. TVETS targets school leavers between the ages of 18 and 26, to apply for specialised trades’ skills courses offered in Australian TAFE colleges in the state of Queensland.
The TVETS facility is now established within the Office of Higher Education (OHE). The first batch of 140 scholars will be selected to begin training in TAFE colleges in Townsville and Cairns, in far North Queensland, Australia by January 2011. TVETS will continue from 2011 until 2015 when it will be reviewed. Between these years, it is anticipated that up to 2000 PNG nationals can be trained in highly specialised skills.
The importance of TVETS in the nation’s development cannot be understated. A skilled labour force is a basic requirement for driving the engine of industrial and economic growth and to support the industrialization drive and the eventual attainment of the country’s middle level income status by 2050. TVETS is key to building up this type and pool of technical and entrepreneurial workforce. PNG needs to create a skilled workforce that can generate and create wealth and move people out of poverty in all districts. A country with a skilled population is the key to achieving its development goals as mentioned in PNG DSP2030 and V2050.
Hence, the main objective of TVETS is to contribute to equitable economic growth and poverty contraction in PNG through the development of a highly skilled technical workforce (men and women) who will be able to apply their professional and technical expertise, experiences and leadership skills in the workplace and in society. As the capacity to nurture and develop these skills are currently not available in-country, as an immediate strategy to meet imminent skilled workforce demands, TVETS aims to pursue these through TAFE colleges in Australia.
Current skills gaps
Recent newspaper reports have highlighted the need for specialised skilled Human Resources (HR) to work in the LNG project. Reports from the project indicate that in the construction phase of the LNG project up to 7500 skilled workers will be required with bulk of them being plumbers and wielders. This means two things:
- The project will create a black hole in skilled labour force in existing job market and industry as the current skilled HR will be sucked into the LNG project lured by higher wages and new learning opportunities that the project offers.
- More foreign skilled labour will be imported through major project contractors to fill in the voids as well in new job markets created by these investment projects.
The Labour Market Assessment (LMA) supply report (2008) highlights that the current Technical Colleges have the capacity to graduates less than 800 graduates each year. Of these graduates only 200 are in the trades’ skills currently demanded by the new projects and industry. The report also highlighted that the higher skills required by the LNG, infrastructure, and civil works in the 89 districts and manufacturing industries are limited or not being addressed. This creates a huge gap that immediately needs to be filled.