Release type: Speech


Launch of Skills Australia report on VET


Senator the Hon Chris Evans
Minister for Tertiary Education, Skills, Jobs and Workplace Relations

Skills for prosperity – a roadmap for vocational education and training
Sydney Institute
Ultimo Campus


  • David Riordan – Director of the Sydney Institute
  • Phillip Bullock – Chair of Skills Australia
  • Skills Australia Board members and staff

I would first like to acknowledge the Gadigal people of the Eora nations, their elders past and present on whose land we are meeting today.

Thank you for asking me here today. It’s a great pleasure to be here to launchSkills Australia’s report – Skills for prosperity – a roadmap for vocational education and training.

As Phil has outlined, this report is comprehensive in its assessment of the current Vocational Education and Training system and wide ranging in its recommendations for reform.

I commend the Board members and staff of Skills Australia for their efforts.

The report clearly articulates the importance of the VET system as the vehicle through which Australians of all ages are able to learn new skills so they can better access job opportunities.

Labor has always understood the importance of Vocational Education and Training. Since coming into office our Government has made a record investment in the system.

In the three years 2008 to 2010 the Commonwealth invested a total of $10.9 billion in VET through both ongoing and capital funding. This compares with $6.8 billion for the Commonwealth’s expenditure on VET over the three years 2005 to 2007.

The $10.9 billion spent over the last three years includes more than $700 million on capital works to improve facilities.

Just this morning I opened a new $11.5 million centre in the South West of Sydney that will see people trained in various construction related trades.

These investments have transformed the learning environment for thousands of students across Australia.

From automotive engineering workshops to high-tech classrooms, these projects have provided cutting-edge technology and 21st century education tools to train the next generation of skilled workers.

They are a great investment in our future.

Quality in VET is also critical and in the last few months we passed legislation to introduce the National VET Regulator to ensure consistent high quality training outcomes. From 1 July 2011 the Commonwealth will take on the responsibility of regulating VET providers in a number of States, with the view to having a national system established in the following 12 months.

As the Government looks to boost workforce participation and skills training we understand the need to also invest in smart, innovative polices to ensure all Australians share the benefits of our prosperity.

Skills Challenge

On a daily basis, the media reports on the skills challenge confronting the nation as we enter a period of strong economic growth.

It has to be said that as challenges go this is a great challenge to have.

As we embrace the opportunities which arise from our strengthening economy, the Government is determined to ensure Australian workers are given the first opportunities to fill the skilled jobs of the future.

The construction and resources sectors have a voracious need for highly-skilled and highly specialised workers – for engineers, geologists, human resources managers, IT specialists, welders, builders, electricians...and the list goes on.

If you look at the projections from Skills Australia about the kinds of jobs that will be emerging in the next five to 30 years, they are highly skilled, requiring high levels of training and education.

In Australia higher-skill jobs are growing at two and a half times the rate of other jobs.

These are the jobs that require either a VET or university qualification.

That’s why the Gillard Government introduced major reforms in higher education.

As a result of these historic reforms, enrolments at our nation’s universities are now at an all time high.

Recent data shows an estimated 50,000 additional undergraduate students are enrolled at Australian universities compared to 2009.

Labor has opened the doors of Australia’s universities to ensure everyone who is eligible has the opportunity to gain the qualifications they need to access the high-paid, high skilled jobs of the future.

Our universities will now be demand driven and able to respond directly to student needs.

The Government has clearly demonstrated its appetite for reform to improve education and skills outcomes.

The Skills Australia report that we are launching today makes a very important contribution to the reform task which lies ahead in the VET system.

Demand driven system

I am pleased to see the report has offered a strong endorsement of the industry-based, demand-driven approach to skills training already adopted by the Gillard Government.

Last year the Government invested $50 million in the Enterprise Based Productivity Places Program.

This program enables small, medium and large businesses to identify and target their skills needs through training purchased on their terms from RTOs.

An incredibly wide range of skills are being delivered under the program in which together, the Government and industry are funding training that is directly linked to the skills needs of each person and the business where they are employed.

Consequently, more than 8000 people are being trained in 285 different qualifications across all industry sectors – from building and construction, to photovoltaic systems to harvesting and haulage.

Almost 50 per cent of those currently in training work for small businesses and more than 50 per cent live in regional and remote areas.

The program has been very successful in addressing the great diversity of skills needs across the economy in both metropolitan and regional areas.

The Industry Skills Councils have described the program as “a watershed in how industry and the Australian government co-invest to build the nations human capital.”

Under this same industry partnership model the Government has also established the $200 million Critical Skills Investment Fund, targeting workforce development in the resources, construction, infrastructure and renewable energy sectors.

This involves industry partnering with Government to identify workforce needs and then co-invest in training.

Importantly, under this program there is a strong focus on training for employers and individuals located in regional Australia.

Expressions of interest are currently being assessed by the Fund’s advisory board with the most competitive being invited to submit full proposals.

Following advice from the Board, I expect to make announcements of successful proposals in coming months.

In our response to the National Resources Sector Employment Taskforce the Government has also signalled its willingness to explore new training solutions to meet the skills needs of more than 75 major resource projects scheduled to start in the next five years.

It includes the groundbreaking adult apprenticeship project.It’s targeted at workers who have experience but lack a full trade qualification.

It recognises the skills they have and trains them in the competencies they need to obtain a full trade qualification within as little as 18 months.

Importantly, once again it’s a joint venture between government and industry.

The Government and industry have each contributed $2 million and industry is guaranteeing jobs for those who successfully complete the program.

The Government is committed to working in partnership with industry and rewarding those employers who make the investment to train their workforce.

Reform challenge

To boost participation we need to give every Australian every opportunity to get the training they need to access higher skilled and well paid jobs.

VET is at the frontline when it comes to achieving higher workforce participation.

The VET system has the capacity to reach people who have only been marginally or intermittently connected to the world of work and formal education.

It has the ability to attract learners who have often had poor school experiences as well as those who are not ready for higher education.

Vocational education and training transforms lives.

Put simply - skills determine access to jobs.

You only need to look at the data to see that education and training is the passport to secure employment.

The research tells us that 83 per cent of all Australians with a Certificate III qualification or higher have a job at any given time.

Compare that with only 57 per cent of those who left school early.

This disparity will only increase in a global economy driven by demand for skilled workers.

Skilling Australians for the jobs of the future demands a flexible, responsive, quality vocational education and training sector.

A sector that delivers better quality, high-level training that meets the needs of employers and students, supports competitive industries and is better matched to future jobs growth.

A sector with greater transparency where funding is targeted to skills needs and where employers and students can choose high-performing organisations that meet their needs.

And critically, a sector that promotes and builds participation.

So that school leavers set their sights on further education or training.

So that people already in work can expand and upgrade their skills.

And those on the margins are given every chance to achieve the dignity of work.

In concluding I wanted to discuss the Government’s roadmap for reform.

In our first term in office this Labor Government invested heavily in all levels of our education system – in our schools, our TAFEs and our universities.

We also implemented major reform agendas in both school education and higher education.

We introduced a range of new transparency measures in our nation’s schools, started the My Schools website and laid the foundation for the National curriculum.

We also transformed the higher education landscape. We opened the doors of Australia’s universities and as a result of our historic reforms we have significantly increased enrolments.

A new generation of Australians will now enjoy the life changing opportunity to achieve a university qualification.

In this term in office, the Gillard Government will deliver fundamental reforms to our Vocational Education and Training system to give Australians skills for life.

Skills to overcome the barriers which see too many Australians locked out of our success.

Skills to get a new start, a better job, a higher pay packet.

Skills to enable Australians to achieve their full potential.

If we are to improve productivity and participation and meet the growing demand for skilled labour this reform is critical.

COAG is currently undertaking a review of the National Agreement for Skills and Workforce Development. This review, due to be completed in July this year, provides the starting point for the renegotiation of a new National Agreement from July 2012.

The Skills Australia report and the recently released report of the expert panel’s review of the Australian apprenticeship system provide strong direction for reform.

These reports are a solid foundation for the discussions between the Commonwealth and States due later this year.

The Gillard Government and I as Minister are is determined to achieve reform in VET and apprenticeships and ensure that every Australian has the opportunity to gain the skills they need.

This is what we need to do to meet the unique challenges of our nation’s patchwork economy and the growing demand for skilled labour.

In next week’s Budget you will see further evidence of our commitment to improve Australia’s skills training effort.

And in the year ahead you will see our determination to create a Vocational Education and Training system which supports a productive and highly skilled Australian workforce.

I now have great pleasure in launchingSkills for prosperity: a road map for vocational education and training. Thank you.