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National network of Indigenous welding schools would help close the gap: Weld Australia

Brendan Foster -

The peak body representing the welding industry in Australia has urged the Albanese government to set up a national network of Indigenous welding schools to create jobs for First Nations people.

Earlier this month, the Productivity Commission released a damning report on The National Agreement on Closing the Gap, claiming governments "failed to fully grasp the nature and scale of change" needed to meet the obligations they signed up to under the agreement.

The Commission also found governments were not adequately delivering on their commitment to the Agreement.

Weld Australia chief executive Geoff Crittenden said now was the perfect time for the federal government to do more to close the gap by investing in Indigenous welding schools.

"The Indigenous Welding Schools initiative not only aligns with the national socio-economic targets of the Closing the Gap agreement—enhancing education, employment, and community development for Indigenous Australians—but also offers a tangible solution to the pressing need for skilled labour in the welding industry," he said.

"For the past five years, Weld Australia has approached every government in a bid to secure funding to create a national network of Indigenous Welding Schools that use the latest augmented reality and advanced welding systems.

"We have been largely rebuffed by governments of all persuasions."

Mr Crittenden was confident the Albanese government was committed to closing the gap for Indigenous Australians.

He has written to the feds urging them to recognise the importance and value of the Indigenous welding schools concept.

Mr Crittenden believed the welding schools could help progress three of the 19 national socio-economic targets outlined in Closing the Gap: Students reach their full potential through further education pathways; Youth are engaged in employment or education; and Strong economic participation and development of people and their communities.

Indigenous educators and tradespeople would predominantly run the welding schools.

The program would combine the practical demands of the welding trade with a culturally appropriate curriculum, pastoral support and employment pathways so students are industry-ready to step into jobs.

After the course, the students would be certified to the internationally recognised welding competency standard ISO 9606.

Mr Crittenden said Indigenous workers could help alleviate some of the skills shortages facing many defence, infrastructure and resource projects with an extra 70,000 additional welders needed in the next 10 years.

Creating more jobs for First Nations people would also go a long way to closing the gap for Indigenous Australians.

"It represents a strategic investment in the future of industry and the empowerment of Indigenous communities, promising real skills for real jobs," he said.

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