Release type: Speech


Australian Training Awards 2017

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I’m delighted to host this national celebration of the exceptional achievements of those in our vocational education and training system.

Now in its 24th year, the Australian Training Awards recognise excellence, accomplishment and success in VET.

Of course, as you all know, success doesn’t just happen on its own.

As I recently heard one vocational student say: “success means hard work and determination[1]”.

I couldn’t put it better myself.

Hard work, determination and talent all shine brightly in tonight’s finalists, who come from right across Australia, and exemplify the quality of our VET sector.

Tonight, we will crown 18 national winners – students, practitioners, registered training organisations and businesses.

But with more than four million Australians enrolled in nationally recognised training courses across more than 4000 training providers, I think it’s safe to say if you’re one of the 78 finalists here tonight, you have already achieved a tremendous result.

You should already be very proud to represent your state, territory, and local community, on the national stage. So from me – well done.


You might recall at last year’s Australian Training Awards, I launched the VET Alumni – a network of VET graduates, training providers, teachers, businesses and schools so passionate about VET that they sing its praises at every opportunity.

Hopefully you’ve seen some of them appear on television, social media, in newspapers and at various events, speaking about their inspirational business and career stories. 

Their stories have so far reached more than eight million Australians[2].

Stories such as Shane Dealy’s, who this time three years ago was an apprentice carpenter working for his Dad in Canberra.

Now, Shane is a fully qualified carpenter, a building certifier, an Australian Apprenticeships Ambassador and a national VET Alumni member.

He’s represented his trade, his country, and the Australian VET sector on international delegations to India and the United States, where he’s proudly spoken of the career he has gained through his Australian Apprenticeship, and the quality of training he received.

I also note that 13 of the Skillaroos representing Australia at the International WorldSkills Competition in Abu Dhabi this year were in fact Australian Apprenticeships Ambassadors and VET Alumni members, including silver and bronze medal recipients, Ryan Grieger and Lily Campbell.

Australian Apprenticeships Ambassador Gaby Ware put in a stellar effort to take home the Best in Nation for hairdressing. A fantastic effort all round. 

So thank you all for your spirited and tireless efforts in advocating for an education system that can provide so many opportunities.

Your enthusiasm is contagious, and you’re inspiring others to experience what you have achieved – quality training resulting in a career you love.

This evening’s celebration will mark a new group of ambassadors joining the VET Alumni.

To the finalists here tonight, I encourage all of you to take on a role as national ambassadors for VET.

Not only will you open yourself up to a network of like-minded individuals, but you’ll have the opportunity to influence and motivate others.


Talking about the benefits of VET isn’t just a feel-good exercise.

We are the foot-soldiers in a wide-ranging plan to get the word out there to the community.

It’s an ongoing concern for me that, despite all the many benefits offered by VET, it’s still not top of mind for many people making career decisions. 

Over the last 10 years, research commissioned by the government, and the sector itself, has shown that among the Australian public, perceptions surrounding VET continue to be out of step with the reality of the sector and its achievements. 

Many parents automatically assume university is the best option for their children after leaving school rather than undertake VET.

Others are convinced that VET is only for traditional trades like plumbing and carpentry.

If we don’t dispel those myths, if we don’t break down those misperceptions, we risk talented people, brimming with potential, missing out on rewarding training and careers … and we risk not developing all the skills that Australia needs to face its economic challenges.

I am committed to addressing this.


So tonight, I am delighted to launch a new, high profile initiative to raise the status of VET.

It’s called real skills for real careers.

It will be a long-term, sustained program of activity to unify and promote the sector.

Real skills for real careers captures what VET is all about, and what it has to offer.

It reflects that VET is industry led, and is in line with our mission to deliver courses that offer students outstanding employment prospects through the guidance of leading-practice industry specialists.

Real skills for real careers will unite us in how we describe and promote what a VET qualification can deliver.

While I’ll certainly continue to do my part to extol the virtues of VET, I know that people don’t always want to listen to politicians. Shocking, but true.

What really cuts through is hearing from people speaking honestly and authentically from their own first-hand experience.

So I’ve teamed up with graduates of the VET sector whose real-life stories and experiences of career success will be at the vanguard of the strategy.

The first place you’ll see their faces is across an improved My Skills website.

While the My Skills website will continue to enable Australians to find the VET qualifications and training providers that best suit their needs, it will now present the information alongside easy-to-navigate pages about all the careers and industries you can be trained in.

The new website will have five new entry points:

  • for people starting, advancing or changing their career;
  • for parents and career advisors who may be guiding a young person through career choices;
  • and for employers looking for information on up-skilling their staff.

We’ll also be getting the word out through a range of business and philanthropic organisations that reach into young people’s lives on a daily basis, through sport, community programs or mentoring.

I’m pleased to announce that my department has progressed partnerships with the following organisations:

  • AFL SportsReady
  • Career Industry Council of Australia
  • Foundation for Young Australians
  • GO Foundation
  • Year 13
  • Student Edge
  • Tradeswomen Australia, and
  • SALT (Supporting and Linking Tradeswomen)

Over the course of next year, our real skills for real careers partners will help spread the word about the benefits of VET through a range of communication products, including digital content, promotional events, and social media … all avenues directed at young people and their influencers.

We’ll be telling Australians that VET is an education highway that offers its users choice – with multiple entry, exit, merging and re-entry points.

We’ll also let them know that VET is adaptable, and tailors courses to people’s learning requirements.

We’ll tell people that VET operates hand-in-hand with industry – so that students finish their training job-ready with skills that employers need.

And we’ll tell them that, yes, VET is about more than trades – it can, and does, deliver skills for workplaces that are evolving and becoming more technologically advanced.

And we’ll also make sure people are aware of the importance of Australian Apprenticeships … because even in this age of technology-driven change, we still need houses to be built; food to be grown; infrastructure to be built; and natural ecosystems to be preserved. 

So, if you stand ready with me to champion our cause, there’s a lot of work ahead of us.

As I said in the quote at the beginning of my speech, ‘success means hard work and determination’.

That quote is in fact from Hanna Darmody, a Vocational Student of the Year Finalist who features in our new real skills for real careers video.

Hanna appears alongside other VET heroes in the video – all previous finalists from the Australian Training Awards and all members of the VET Alumni.

All of them are telling their real stories and experiences with honesty and authenticity.


So please allow me to officially launch our new video ….


Please join me in welcoming to the stage, our VET heroes –

  • Rachel Bacon – 2012 Queensland Australian Apprentice of the Year and 2014 Vocational Student of the Year
  • Jessica Wooley – 2015 SA Australian Apprentice of the Year
  • Matthew Morrissey – 2016 ACT Australian Apprentice of the Year finalist
  • Shane Dealy – 2016 Australian Apprentice of the Year
  • Jessica Baczynski – 2014 ACT Australian Apprentice of the Year
  • Indi Clarke – 2016 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Student of the Year
  • Tyrone Pynor – 2016 New South Wales Australian School-based Apprentice of the Year
  • Daniel O’Brien – 2015 Queensland Australian School-based Apprentice of the Year
  • Hanna Darmody – 2015 ACT Vocational Student of the Year, and;
  • Dawn Ivinson – 2016 Northern Territory Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Student of the Year

Please thank them for giving up their time to feature in our VET Information Strategy campaign. 


In conclusion, I wish all of you continued success in your chosen career paths.

Congratulations on your achievements so far, and enjoy the celebrations – you deserve it!

[1] This is a quote from Hannah Darmody, Vocational Student of the Year finalist, who features in the Real Skills for Real Careers video. The speech will reveal that connection later, before the video is introduced.

[2] This figure is calculated by the Department and is based on the readership of news articles featuring VET Alumni members, viewership of television programs featuring VET Alumni members, social media analytics of posts featuring VET Alumni members on relevant social media channels and audience attendance numbers at appearances by the VET Alumni and the Australian Apprenticeships Ambassadors since the VET Alumni was launched in November 2016.