With the Federal Government discovering and dealing with the skills crisis at about the same speed as its evolving greenhouse policy, it’s D-Day for the future of one of its few election promises – the troubled industry skills councils.

An announcement is expected from the government this afternoon on the future of the councils as one of the ten it set up in 2004 was pulled back from the brink of administration last night. The Agri-food Industry Skills Council had resolved to call in administrators to avoid trading while insolvent, but they received some last-minute comfort from the Department of Education, Science and Training and have held off on this move, expecting clarification today.

The AFR reports that the voluntary councils made up of union and industry representatives have been receiving about $15 million a year in federal funding, but that funding was not guaranteed to continue beyond December depending on an evaluation.

The skills crisis limps along with not much more than a regular tub-thump from the feds, spending on training rising nowhere near the explosion in demand, barely keeping pace with the education inflation index.

The second-last of Canberra’s promised 25 new technical colleges (TAFEs without unionised teachers) was announced this morning but they won’t all be up and running until 2008. The government expects to have 2,000 students enrolled in them next year, but several states are scornful having missed out on the opportunity seized by the Victorian government to run the things for Canberra. Ideology about unionism can create mistakes and lost opportunities on both sides.