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New industry body to address telco skill needs

A new industry body is being set up to address the question of skills need in the telecommunications industry, especially in relation to the NBN roll-out.

The Australian Digital and Telecommunications Industry Association (ADTIA) aims to bring together representatives of telco carriers, major contractors such as Downer and Thiess, equipment suppliers and workforce supply companies in an attempt to identify skills and training issues facing the telecommunications workforce.

According to the new ADTIA co-chair, Hugh Ragg, these issues include the challenges to skill development and recognition posed by the growth of sub-contracting in the industry.

“Many telecommunications workers still do not have industry-recognised and current technical skills and are part of a mobile and transient workforce, which makes it difficult for them to undertake,” industry newsletter, Communications Day, quotes Ragg as saying.

Other issues the ADTIA says it hopes to address will be quality assurance, which Ragg claims is costing the industry millions of dollars through reworks, and safety processes – a major challenge for the NBN roll-out.

The CWU welcomes an increased focus by industry on these problems. But as the union has consistently pointed out, they are part and parcel of the pyramid contracting structure that has spread across the industry over the last decade and a half and which is now at the centre of the NBN construction model.

The fundamental question that ADTIA will have to address is whether this structure is compatible with the development of the skilled, stable, productive and safe workforce it wants to foster – or whether it is time for companies such as Downer and Thiess and Telstra and Optus to start to engage more permanent employees.

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