The Victorian Government will ignore local investments in skills when considering tenders under a draft report released by the Victorian Competition and Efficiency Commission (VCEC).
Paul Davies, APESMA's Director National Planning & Development, said any government not actively pushing for more investment in local skills would ultimately pay more for its investments in infrastructure.
He said while much of the media reporting on the issue so far focused on devaluing the importance of local job creation in the government's purchasing policy, VCEC had also suggested watering down other factors in the policy such as an investment in skills.
“The skills crisis is back and governments cannot afford to water down any investment in skills,” Mr Davies said.
“Across Australia governments are paying too much for their infrastructure projects because there has been too little done to invest in the skills of our current workforce. That means every community and taxpayer in Australia is paying too much for the infrastructure they need, and under this policy its set to get even worse.
“Right now the Victorian Government's policy stipulates that ‘maximising skills and training outcomes' is a priority when handing over taxpayers' money. But that is now at risk.
“It is ridiculous to suggest that skills should be used only as a tie-breaker. How often have two companies put in exactly the same dollar figure for a tender?
“APESMA calls on the Victorian Government to immediately guarantee it will give Victorians a skills boost before handing out Victorian taxpayer's money.
“Victorians are a parochial bunch and given the choice between paying to boost the skills of a local versus paying to boost the skills of someone in another country they will always pick the Vic.”
Mr Davies said APESMA was pushing particularly hard for the Western Australian government to ensure engineering firms winning government support for large-scale projects conducted much of that work in the state to ensure the skills learnt from the project were not exported elsewhere.
“If governments don't start taking the skills of local residents seriously our skills crisis will be much longer and much more expensive for everyone,” Mr Davies said.
He said a recent survey conducted by the Australian National Engineering Taskforce of which APESMA is a member found 60.6 per cent of respondents identified an engineering skills shortage in their work section.