Skill shortages are high on the agenda

SKILL shortages were one of the items high on the agenda at the second meeting of the Regional Development Council in Coffs Harbour on Friday.

The meeting saw Regional Development ministers and their representatives from all states meet under the chairmanship of the Federal Minister for Transport and Regional Services, Warren Truss.

Mr Truss said Friday's meeting had set an agenda which would be followed by standing committees and regional development boards.

He said some regional communities were struggling and in decline, but other regional communities were trying to deal with rapid growth, like those towns dealing with the influx of 'seachange' and 'treechange' residents.

Among other regional issues are how to attract significant new industries as well as the needs of indigenous communities.

NSW Regional Development Minister David Campbell said yesterday that Friday's meeting had been constructive and co-operative and there had been a commitment from the Commonwealth to work with the states on a range of issues.

Mr Campbell said Regional Development ministers wanted to see more of a regional focus from the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) in looking at solutions to skills shortages over the next 12-18 months.

"We want COAG to not just look at the capitals but the importance to small regional communities of the skills issue," Mr Campbell said.

"There's no quick fix but there is a range of things that can be done, particularly in the trades area.

"We have taken the focus away from the trades area ? now we need to encourage people to consider a future as a tradesperson and encourage women into trades.

"A lot of employers complain about a shortage of skills but don't employ people in training positions.

"The states and the Commonwealth can work to make training transportable across the states and territories. That would be a victory for common sense. Co-operation between the Commonwealth and the States can be as intangible as sending a united message that it's fine to do a trade."

Mr Campbell will return to the Coffs Coast again on November 3, when he arrives for a tour of Macksville and Nambucca bringing with him from Sydney a group of about 20 investors and builders from Sydney interested in investing in the area.

The next meeting of the Regional Development Council will be held in 2006 in the Northern Territory.

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