Politics and I tend to cross the street to avoid each other. Sometimes at a party someone will introduce us and an awkward silence ensues. I am thankful that many blogs out there have opinions both comedic and serious which I can filch so that I don't sound like an utter twat when people ask my opinion on the state of the nation. I can now pronounce the name Amanda Vanstone and can point out the funny little fella who runs the ship, although I have been known to get it wrong if there is a dwarf tossing show on the tele.
Generally my lack of caring is due to the fact that regardless of the party in power at the time, the Sun still rises and sets, and I still go to work and have good months and bad ones. Generally when the media is screaming about economic slumps and the fact that Australia will be a third world nation by next Monday, we seem to have more work than we can poke a stick at, yet when the same media trumpet news of a strong economy and a housing market beyond any but the three richest men in the world, we are standing around looking lost and a little helpless in our King Gees and Blundstones.
But now we have come out of that parallel Universe and are actually feeling the effects of a current news story. Australia's skill shortage.
I work for a small family owned mechanical engineering company. We do lots of exciting things with metal. No really, we do. Our machines are computer controlled (CNC) lathes and mills. Were not a huge company, and in fact after a family feud where my Father and Uncle went their separate ways we downsized to between 10 and 15 employees at any one time. Due to retirement, compo and a recent dismissal we have fewer staff than we require, and as usual every customer we have is suddenly in need of hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of work by last Tuesday. So I advertised in the Daily Telegraph.
The stunning lack of professionalism I was given by the idiots who run the employment adds had me close to committing murder, but that's another story.
So we ran an add for four days for an NC lathe operator, and for an NC mill operator. We had managed to pick up an apprentice a month or so back, but after taking a sick day a week tacked onto the weekend he left to become a chef at a pizza restaurant chain as it had a shorter training period and paid more in a shorter space of time. Of course if he had done his apprenticeship he would be capable of earning good money, had the opportunity to become a programmer or a full Engineer which would ultimately be a far better paid, and in my opinion a far more satisfying career choice.
Our four day add gained less than ten responses, only two of which actually work in this field, neither of whom have experience in CNC. One is English and the other is Welsh, and on a short term working visa.
Talking with customers, suppliers, competitors and friends in the industry we are far from alone. We have tried the approach of paying well above the award apprentice wage. We are generally fairly easygoing employers and work along with the guys on the shop floor. We've been here since my Grandfathers day, so we're no flash in the pan . Yet we can't for the life of us get qualified, or prepared to be qualified staff. Our stalwarts have been with us for decades and are in some cases close to retirement which will leave us with no one to teach any newcomers.
There is also the issue of cost. For example we pay in the region of 45 to 50 thousand dollars a year in workers compensation insurance. I wholeheartedly support insurance to compensate workers injured through workplace neglect. We have had two claims in the entire company history. If a claim is $10,000 for example, over the next year or few years that premium increases to cover that claim.
When I pay car insurance I pay against the day I have an accident, not for when someone else does.
Workers comp isn't insurance so much as it's a business loan from the Government. You pay when you have no claims, and you pay more when you do so as to support the claims of other companies and industries who have more accidents. Then of course the litigious nature that has grown in this country in the last decade or so gives everyone the impression that if they do something stupid and injure themselves, even when they have been given all the safety training and equipment, that they should be able to live off an income for the rest of their lives provided by Workers comp. Some claims are fair and equitable. Some are not.
We lost our second biggest customer last year to another country. Yes I said country, not company. A place that can have the finished product packaged and shipped to Australia for less than the cost of the brass we made the job from.
I have no solution, but sincerely hope someone in the Government wakes up and realises that a generation of immediate experience quick fix electronic gadget school leavers is going to see this industry moved entirely offshore to countries that know what a days work involves. I think that when my father retires the company will most likely be wound down and closed.
Anyone looking for a taxi driver?