Weld Australia Calls on Federal Government to Modernise Outdated Welder Training to Reflect Future Industry Needs

Weld Australia

The recently released Manufacturing and Engineering training package (MEM 2.0) is not only inadequate for the needs of industry, but imposes significant restrictions and burdens on apprentices, employers, and TAFEs.

As such, Weld Australia calls on the Federal Government to undertake an in-depth review of the TAFE welding curriculum.

According to Weld Australia’s Chief Executive Officer, Geoff Crittenden, “The latest version of the MEM training package differs very little from the 1998 and 2005 versions. In fact, many of the units and much of the content remains identical.”

“Not surprisingly then, MEM 2.0 bears no relation to what is actually required by industry. It ignores the huge technological advancements and changes that will continue to occur in Australia’s engineering and manufacturing industries.”

“The course still devotes time and energy to oxy-acetylene welding, which industry has not been used for about 20 years. Young welding apprentices enter the workforce without the requisite skills or knowledge. Generally speaking, TAFE graduates cannot read a welding procedure, set up a welding machine, or weld according to Australian Standards.”

“The future of Australian industry in a post-COVID-19 world cannot rely on regurgitating a curriculum that is 20 years old,” said Crittenden.

The only real differences in the MEM 2.0 training package are a significant increase in prerequisites, and the addition of over 2,000 hours of mandated workplace practice. Both of which will impose significant restrictions and burdens on students, industry and TAFE.

“With extended courses, completion rates are likely to drop, with students expected to complete a greater number of theory-based, non-practical units before having the opportunity to learn the hands-on practical skills in which they are most interested,” said Crittenden.

“MEM 2.0 mandates a workplace practice component of over 2,000 hours. This will place considerable burden on employers who have to ensure that students are able to meet this requirement. Over 90% of manufacturing firms in Australia are Small to Medium Enterprises (SMEs), with fewer than 19 employees. These businesses are unlikely to have the capacity to monitor the workplace practice requirements. They simply won’t employ apprentices.”

“Australia’s welding curriculum must concentrate on the skills that will be essential to the future of industry. These skills must be focused on advancements such as automation, robotics, artificial intelligence, big data, and advanced manufacturing processes. It is these skills that will see Australian industry continue its push into high-quality, complex, small-batch manufacturing.”

“The Federal Government must revise MEM so that the curriculum teaches skills such as programming, operating and maintaining robots, co-bots and welding machines integrated with artificial intelligence. It must include units that teach students how to analyse and leverage big data. It must delve into concepts such as Industry 4.0 and additive manufacturing.”

“The TAFE welding curriculum must be revised so that meets industry demand now, and into the future. It cannot be bogged down by excessive prerequisites, mandated workplace practice that employers simply can’t deliver, and training in skills that just aren’t relevant to industry anymore.”

“Our young people need to acquire complex, high order technical knowledge and skills. They need robust, deep and transferrable qualifications that provide a strong base for life-long learning and skill development. They need a TAFE system with curricula focused on the future,” said Crittenden.

/Public Release.