Skills crisis not our responsibility: Telecom

Telecom is rejecting claims it is responsible for a growing telecommunications skills crisis. It is not Telecom's role to ensure ade- quate levels of trained telecommunications workers, says spokeswoman Lisa-Marie Richan.

Telecom is rejecting claims it is responsible for a growing telecommunications skills crisis. It is not Telecom's role to ensure ade- quate levels of trained telecommunications workers, says spokeswoman Lisa-Marie Richan.

Richan was responding to a recent article in Metal, the magazine of the New Zealand Engineering, Manufacturing and Printing Union. Union industrial officer for telecommunications Mark Browney claims Telecom's "lack of investment in training" has led to a crisis situation, with a lack of skilled workers for cable jointing, telephone exchange repair and cell site building.

Of 5000 telecommunications technicians nationwide, he says, only 62 are trainees. "The average length of service is 22 years - the average age is 40," he says, "[so] you don't have to do much maths to see what's coming fast."

Richan questions why Telecom should be held responsible. "Telecom is no longer the whole industry - there are a least half a dozen other contractors as well as [Telecom-owned subsidiary] ConnecTel. It's like telling Westpac to train more tellers because BNZ have a shortage."

ConnecTel itself has to meet quality standards, she says, "and it's their own risk if they don't. Last year they spent $1.5 million on training over 1000 staff."

Brownsey says Telecom, as the network operator, "has the right to contract out but it also bears responsibility along with contractors to provide skilled workers".

Telecom is the only customer - apart from a small amount of business with Saturn - and so it can drive down the rates paid to a level where contractors can't afford trainees, he says. "In any other industry, you could go and ply your trade with another company - but these contractors can't."

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