Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts, December 2009
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The key focus of this Strategy is to encourage and work with industry to build demand for and uptake of state and national training programs so that the water sector can take full advantage of the pre-existing opportunities available through existing government programs.
The findings of a national audit of labour and skills shortages in the water sector have been reported to the meeting of the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) in July 2008. The audit, undertaken by the International Centre of Excellence in Water Resources Management, reported current and emerging labour and skills shortages in the Australian water sector, with estimates of magnitude and composition. The audit predicted a significant emerging skills gap with nearly half of those employed in the water sector in 2018 needed to be recruited over the next ten years, many of whom will require tertiary training. Key skills shortages are in science and engineering, management, technical and trades areas and this is expected to continue into the foreseeable future.
On 7 December 2009, COAG agreed to redouble its efforts to accelerate the pace of reform under the National Water Initiative, committing to a National Water Skills Strategy to address skills shortages in the water industry. In support of the strategy, the Australian Government has agreed to fund the following initiatives from the Raising National Water Standards program of the National Water Commission:
- Initiative 1: Up to $500,000 for a Pilot Program to trial development of training in water management skills for remote and indigenous communities. This initiative will ensure that the necessary technical skills are available in remote communities to operate and maintain the infrastructure and other facilities to be provided through a separate $50 million allocation from Water for the Future in support of the COAG Strategy on Water and Wastewater Services in Remote Communities (including indigenous communities).
- Initiative 2: Up to $250,000 for the development of skills and training standards for operators of potable water treatment facilities. This initiative aims to address the problem that no nationally agreed minimum skills and training standards currently exist for operators of potable water treatment facilities, which raises a potentially serious public health risk situation for the community.
- Initiative 3: Funding on a 3-for-1 matching basis of up to $250,000 to support the H2Oz water industry marketing campaign (the water industry’s own initiative aimed at addressing the skills shortage); and funding of up to $100,000 to enable the Australian Water Association on behalf of the Water Industry Skills Taskforce (and with support from the National Water Commission) to develop a business plan to implement the COAG National Water Skills Strategy.