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Skills Shortage SELF-FULFILLING PROPHECY? Unfortunately this does not apply since curriculum changes over the past 10 years.

There is ample factual evidence demonstrating we in Australia have one of the world’s most sophisticated curriculums, delivered for the most part by very experienced teachers in quality facilities.

To suggest Australian apprentices are not as well trained as their international counterparts is ludicrous. I am constantly advised from many chef colleagues that actually the complete opposite is the case – moreover many chefs are highly suspicious of Asian qualifications as not a reliable indication of cookery competencies.

The issues that the media keep pointing to are simply the problems that have been created by employers.

The real issues include the burnout of apprentices who are more often than not used as cheap labour instead of being genuinely trained. Evidence of this is daily seen in consistent poaching by employers in advertisements for second or third year apprentices to really replace qualified cooks or chefs, combined with apprentices who are often expected to run kitchens or substantial sections of a kitchen by themselves.

The notion of bringing in workers from overseas is basically a drive to lower wages in an industry that’s already underpaid relative to other trades, especially given the laborious working conditions and antisocial hours normally expected from a cook/chef.

Employers should realise the curriculum is industry designed and driven and not institute determined.

We should and need to welcome migrant cooks and chefs who add a great deal to the multicultural menu that is the Australian food industry today, however not at the expense of Australians who wish to become a chef. Nor should we subscribe to increasing migration as a means to place downward pressure on salaries.

Are the cuts in Tafe funding, calls for increased migration, and comments to remove penalty rates all related to the real agenda to drive down wages?

One effective way to drive down wages would be to increase migrant intakes, and one way to achieve this is by pointing to a substantial shortage of skilled cooks. Cutting TAFE funding creates an even bigger shortage in the labour market making it easier to prove the shortage that will justify increasing the intake of overseas cooks and chefs.

It is interesting to note that Australian apprentice cooks have twice won the world crown and first place in the Culinary Olympics, and only this month again we were one of only four countries to receive gold in the Olympics.