Release type: Speech


Australian Council for Private Education and Training’s (ACPET) 2015 Asia Pacific International Education Forum

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Thank you for the invitation to join you here today.

I also bring the warm wishes of the Assistant Minister for Education and Training, Simon Birmingham, who is sorry he could not be here with you all today.

It is an exciting time for Australia’s education and vocational education sectors, as there has been rapid growth in demand for these services internationally.

It is difficult to imagine another region in the world where this demand can be more clearly observed than across the Asia Pacific region, given the rapid and ongoing economic transformation taking place.

Our challenge in taking advantage of the opportunities the growth in international education presents goes beyond simply keeping up with our traditional competitors; it is also about addressing as yet unknown competitors and challenges.

My colleague, the Minister for Education and Training, Christopher Pyne, will be discussing Australia’s continuing involvement in international education and its importance to the national economy in greater detail when he delivers his keynote address to the conference later this week.

Having just returned from an education delegation that he led to India this week, it will be interesting to hear Christopher’s observations on Australia’s involvement and contribution to education and training in one of our most important trading partners.

So, to not step on the toes of the Minister, I will instead speak on the important role that skills and training plays in shaping the lives of people, particularly young people, both in Australia and overseas.

The increased demand for international education services in Australia has developed over a number of years.

Last year, some 453,000 people chose Australia as the country they would like to study in, while tens of thousands more studied in Australian institutions based overseas.

Australia currently holds around a six per cent share of the global market of higher education students. Over the past year, this market share has grown by 15 percent, and another 20 per cent in the vocational education sector.

The growth indicates that there continues to be enormous and growing opportunities for Australian education.

In 2014 there were almost 150,000 international students enrolled in Vocational Education and Training courses in Australia, and just under 50,000 international students enrolled offshore.

Yet, by 2030 the global workforce is predicted to grow to around 3.5 billion. To meet this demand, the number of workers with intermediate and technical level skills will also need to increase, requiring a massive expansion and growth in the market for training.

Australia is well placed to support this growth and take advantage of it.

Countries around the world are looking to improve their Vocational Education and Training systems in order to give their workforces the skills and capacity that are needed in order to satisfy their aspirations for economic growth.

Again, Australia is playing its part. We are working hard to align skills programs with jobs, including emerging industries, as businesses seek to explore new markets and global opportunities.

The coming two decades will be both economically challenging and rewarding. Populations will age, manufacturing will continue to rapidly evolve, and services, long immune from radical economic disruptive forces, will be disrupted as never before.

If organisations and companies cannot find the right types of skilled labour to help them run, economic growth will surely slow or decline and unemployment will rise.

Transnational education and skills training presents an enormous opportunity for Australian training providers.

Globally, the number of internationally mobile students is expected to rise from 3.5 million in 2009 to 7 million by 2020, with at least half of this number expected to seek an English language education.

This opens up many opportunities for Australia to play to its strengths in vocational education and training.

The Australian Government is firmly focused on jobs, and the quality of our training system. This includes our highly valued Australian Apprenticeships system.

Apprentices get high quality, on the job training, and can earn while they learn in most occupations, as well as in traditional trades.

Australian Apprenticeship graduates receive a nationally recognised qualification that they can take with them anywhere in Australia. These qualifications are also highly valued overseas.

This offers excellent opportunities, particularly for young people. This is especially important given Australia’s ageing population will see a gradual decline in workplace participation in the years ahead.

Evidence suggests mature apprentices, aged 45 and over, are more likely to complete their apprenticeship. However, we also want the next generation to realise the benefits of training, and in doing so take up apprenticeships.

Apprenticeships help young people secure meaningful employment and move confidently from school to work.

We want more Australians, including young people, to realise the rewarding careers and unique opportunities that come from choosing a vocational education and training pathway.

Australia has a very important part to play in opening up training and employment opportunities for young people, not only domestically, but across the Asia Pacific and beyond as well.

Enhanced and improved education and training is the best way we can meet the employment challenges that constant economic changes has always brought.

I hope you enjoy your deliberations over the course of today’s Asia-Pacific International Forum, and I look forward to hearing the ideas that you come up with as part of this process.