Release type: Media Release


Education and skills key to meeting 21st century challenges

A meeting of education ministers from Commonwealth nations provides an opportunity to learn from others and share the important work being done to boost Australia’s skills base, and how it could help communities strengthen their workforces around the world. 


Assistant Minister for Vocational Education and Skills, Karen Andrews, is attending the 20th Conference of Commonwealth Education Ministers in Fiji, which will examine the role of education in promoting resilient communities and economies. 


“Education has an incredibly important role to play in supporting prosperity through economic opportunity and greater social well-being,” Minister Andrews said. 


“It’s a driver of equity in Australia where women have the same opportunities as men to improve their skills and knowledge, and engage in lifelong learning. 


“Australia has a positive story to tell, thanks to our world-class vocational education and training (VET) system and tertiary sector, which gives graduates the skills they need to move directly into employment, thanks to our healthy engagement with industry and strong quality controls. 


“There is real interest from overseas countries in the major reforms the Turnbull Government is undertaking to strengthen and grow our VET sector that are in line with a key topic being discussed at the conference – meeting demands of the future through skills development to boost economic growth. 


“The reforms include the $1.5 billion Skilling Australians Fund to create 300,000 extra apprenticeships and traineeships, a $60 million Industry Specialist Mentoring for apprentices, and the real skills for real careers initiative to raise the status of VET as a valued pathway to a job and career,” Minister Andrews said. 


“In 2016, around 4.2 million Australians – or one in four people aged 15 to 64 – took part in VET.  Of these, 4 per cent of students identified as Indigenous Australians, 4.3 per cent of students identified as having a disability, and 17.3 per cent of VET enrolments were by students whose main language at home is not English, which is reflective of Australia’s multicultural society.  


“I’m sure there will be constructive discussion amongst Commonwealth nations about the best way we can train our communities and meet the rapidly changing needs of industries and employers. 


“The New Colombo Plan and the Australia Awards to support for scholarships in the region are an example of the Turnbull Government’s commitment to Commonwealth nation education objectives. 


“Together we can tackle the challenges in preparing our citizens for the jobs of the future.”