3 June 2015
Transcript - #2015065, 2015

Interview with Ben Fordham, 2GB, Sydney

SUBJECTS: Generation Y workers, apprenticeships

BEN FORDHAM:

Bruce Billson is the Small Business Minister and the energiser bunny of the Abbott Government, he joins me on the line, Bruce Billson, good afternoon. 

MINISTER BILLSON:

Ben, great to be with you and your listeners.

BEN FORDHAM:

You’re everywhere at the moment, thank you very much for coming on.

MINISTER BILLSON:

Good to be with you.

BEN FORDHAM:

Is there an issue with Gen Y?

MINISTER BILLSON:

I do not think there is, although let us remember when you and I were youngsters we were thought to be trouble as well. 

That saying ‘Back in my day those youngsters they just wouldn’t get off the couch, wouldn’t stop playing their Atari’ For your younger listeners – that used to be a PlayStation.  That goes around and I think it reflects what happens generally in transitions in society. 

The thing that is different now for young people – what a world of possibilities before them. 

Some like that ambiguity, some are inspired by it, I know some are overwhelmed by it and that is why I think all of us have got a role to play to open the door, to say here is what I do, and here is why.  Here is what I love about it, and help people get a sense of what they might be about and what might keep a sparkle in their eyes.

BEN FORDHAM:

Alright, you’ve got a very ‘glass half full’ approach to the whole thing.

MINISTER BILLSON:

Yeah and check out the glass as well, that is pretty spectacular!

BEN FORDHAM:

But look, I’ve got in my team here on the Sydney Live program at 2GB, Gen Y’s, and they are seriously impressive young people and I come across a heap of people who I would put into that category who are aged between 20 and 35. 

However Minister, this feedback does seem to pop up a lot these days and I have heard it from a lot of people whose opinions I value who run small businesses. I have heard it from my mum who runs a small business. 

There does seem to be an increasing number of people from that age group who are complacent about the opportunity that they’ve been given or they want to achieve everything in the first week or the first month.

MINISTER BILLSON:

Yeah and I think those observations are quite real. 

I mean, I bump into some young people that actually want to start where we might hope to finish. 

BEN FORDHAM:

Are you talking about Wyatt Roy?

MINISTER BILLSON:

Now he will finish well. But we have got the most educated, talented, gifted group of young people all wanting to strut their stuff and show their full capacity. 

Yet you and I know that you have got to start somewhere. 

And I remember emptying parking meters in the rain and being one of the ugliest meter maids you have ever seen in your life, but I knew I had to start somewhere and that got me into a field of endeavour that I was interested in because I had spoken to and asked about it with friends that were in that space. 

I said, well what do you do?  What do you enjoy about it?  So I think we can help young people understand what the options are, recognise that there is maybe an impatience to achieve all that they can sooner, but also point out to them that careers and life are a journey.

A mate of mine, Mark Skaife, he is a great motor mechanic who became a spectacular racing car driver and a broadcaster and an entrepreneur.  That is his journey.  He did not start where he is now, he had to work up to it and I think that is a message that is good for everybody.

BEN FORDHAM:

I just wonder where that message comes from.  I mean, is it something that comes from home where your mum and dad have got to drill that into you, to say ‘Come on, get out there, let’s start a paper run’?.

I know plenty of parents who pushed some of my mates into a paper run.  We had a lawn mowing business, my brother and I, that was in our neighbourhood and it was started because mum and dad eventually said, righto, get out there and earn yourself some dollars and we had to make up flyers. 

But if it’s not coming from your mum and dad, does it come from school?  Because I worry about what is being taught sometimes in school, that it is not really, I mean, if we were going to get people job ready for when they leave school you would make it a requirement that you have got to get a part-time job when you are at school.

MINISTER BILLSON:

I reckon that would help, and you are talking about work place know-how. 

That is about how to get along and get things done, working with other people, problem solving by using technology and being able to communicate and get your best thoughts across in a way that other people can understand. 

We can start that at a young age and we have all got a role to play and the broader support network of young people can say ‘Hey have you thought about this - why don’t you spend a week in work placement?’ 

Even in the Budget, Ben, we have got money there to make 6,000 work placements available because the Work for the Dole is mainly in public sector organisations.  Yet small business and the private sector is a great place for people to have a career and giving people a chance to get a taste for that. 

Even the trades - you know, we have got to get over this idea that only going to university is the answer when there are brilliantly gifted vocationally talented people who will end up earning more than you and I can imagine because they are tradespeople.  That qualification can take them anywhere, they can start their own business, they can build from that into bigger things. I think we have all got a role to play.

BEN FORDHAM:

Let’s go back to where we started and that is the apprenticeship system where more than half of the 70,000 young trainees are dropping out every year, what do you say to those 35,000 young people who have got a great opportunity and for one reason or another, have decided to throw it away?

MINISTER BILLSON:

I reckon it is about checking out, making sure it is right for you.  We have put about $200 million a year into something called the Australian Apprenticeships Support Network. 

Now, it is essentially a dating service for apprentices.  It is about making sure apprentices are recruited for a career and a trade trajectory that is suited to them. 

We support the apprentice to make sure they learn well and train well and are retained in the businesses, because it is not just the cost of the tuition and training, it is the time and support that the host employers provide. 

So, if you and I were small business builders and we had given an apprentice a chance helping to develop, say, Jane the apprentice to be a carpenter takes us away from running our business – there is a cost to that as well.  So getting the right person, who understands what is ahead of them and then to support them throughout their apprenticeship, and say just because your mate is pulling more money now, pulling beers at the pub – not that there is anything wrong with that – but down the track, you will have more possibilities, more opportunity. 

Stick at it.  It is not all about tomorrow, it is about what happens the year after that and you have got more options.  Make the most of it.

BEN FORDHAM:

I described you as the energiser bunny of the Abbott Government.  We are talking to Bruce Billson the Small Business Minister.  You are going places Minister; do you get that feeling too?

MINISTER BILLSON:

Look, I am worried about peaking early Ben. I have been in public life for 19 years so you know - it is nice to say that things are happening.  I am wondering what happened to the last 19 years.

BEN FORDHAM:

Haha!  I remember once upon a time saying that my belief is that Scott Morrison is the most effective communicator in Australian politics, and I think that you’re not far behind.  You’re very, very good at your job and I’m enjoying listening to your interviews whether they are on my show or elsewhere. 

We will let you get back to your very important work and we will talk soon.

MINISTER BILLSON:

Thanks Ben good to speak with you and your listeners.