Release type: Speech

Date:

Address to the National Audit and Registration Agency Breakfast.

National Audit and Registration Agency Breakfast , Melbourne, 10 September 2008

Acknowledgements

Thank you Patrick for that introduction.

Firstly, I would like to acknowledge the traditional owners of the land on which we meet this morning, the Wurundjeri people.

The Hon Jacinta Allan MP, Victorian Minister for Skills and Workforce Participation.

INTRODUCTION

It gives me great pleasure to be here this morning to officially launch the National Audit and Registration Agency.

As I look around this room I’m encouraged by the number of people not only from the training sector, but representatives from industry across the board that are obviously committed to the development of a high quality national training system.

The Rudd Government is committed to the reform of vocational education and training to ensure that individuals and industry are placed at the centre of the system.

The development of a single national body to audit and register training providers is an important milestone on this reform path.

If Australia is to meet the skills challenges of the 21st Century then we need to make it easier for training providers to pursue their core mission—training and development—across jurisdictions.

For the first time in the education and training space in Australia, providers who are active across state and territory borders will have greater flexibility in how they are registered and audited in vocational education and training.

A national agency will allow training providers operating across two or more Australian states or territories to deal with a single national registration body in respect of both the Australian Quality Training Framework and the Education Services for Overseas Students Act.

This initiative signals a very firm commitment from governments across Australia that we want to reduce red tape for business.

It will reduce bureaucracy for providers, help ensure greater national consistency and standards, and make the training system more flexible and transparent for providers, industry and students.

VET REFORM

While a national accreditation system is an important first step, there is still much to be done to reform and improve Australia’s vocational education and training sector.

We have a pressing need to keep pace with the demand for skills and labour in a rapidly changing global and national environment.

And it is Australia’s vocational education and training sector that shoulders much of the responsibility for delivering the skilled workers that business and industry needs to compete effectively. A highly skilled workforce is the key to increasing Australia’s productivity and improving our capacity to compete internationally.

Improving skills is also important for individuals— as it gives people the opportunity to participate and develop their full potential—both personally and professionally.

This is why we are committed to an Education Revolution, and the revolution in training has well and truly started.

EXPANSION OF THE PRODUCTIVITY PLACES PROGRAM

Following the outstanding success of the Productivity Places Program, I am pleased to announce today that the Rudd Government will invest an additional $45.5 million this financial year to provide an extra 15,000 training places for job seekers.

This investment is on top of the $174 million already invested in the program for 2008/09 and takes the Rudd Government’s commitment to the Productivity Places Program to a total of 645,000 training places over five years.

Since starting in April, there has been an overwhelming response to the Productivity Places Program, with all of the 44,000 training places made available to job seekers for 2008 fully subscribed.

Currently 36,000 job seekers are in training and 6,000 have completed their qualification and are now in jobs or looking for work.

Encouragingly, when we look at the employment results from the program so far, of the 2882 participants who have completed training that were referred by employment service providers, 680 have gained a placement – 673 into jobs and 7 into further education. This is an outstanding result.

The additional 15,000 training places announced today will be available straight away to job seekers referred to the program by Employment Service Providers.

Qualifications on offer will all be at the Certificate III level, the entry level qualification in many occupations in skills shortage. This emphasises the our commitment to making higher level qualifications available to help drive increases in productivity across industry.

Training for existing workers is currently being rolled out through pilot programs across the States and Territories, with South Australia also signing up to partner with the Commonwealth in delivering training for 1,800 workers this week.

COAG REFORM AGENDA

The Rudd Government is also continuing to negotiate a national reform agenda for vocational education and training with State and Territory Governments through the Productivity Working Group and COAG.

Through these processes, all Australian Governments have agreed to exacting targets. By 2020 we aim to:

  • halve the proportion of 20-to-64 years olds without Certificate III or higher qualifications; and
  • double the number of diploma and advanced diploma completions.

Our starting point must be to come to grips with the patterns of change in the economy so we can pinpoint where the new jobs are emerging.

To guide us through this we’ve established a new body, Skills Australia, and reinvigorated Industry Skills Councils.

The reform agenda being pursued by the Productivity Working Group is guided by six broad objectives:

    • Allowing student and employer demand to drive changes in course provision,
    • Improving competition between providers to enable those best able to meet demand to do so,
    • Providing greater transparency to allow students to make informed choices and governments to make better investment decisions,
    • Encouraging public and private investment through appropriate regulatory change, financial incentives and government programs,
    • Providing quality guarantees through an appropriate framework, in this case the Australian Quality Training Framework (AQTF) and
    • Ensuring that these factors do not create financial barriers to participation and that major equity concerns are met.

We need to create an effective and properly designed VET system that will allocate resources in the most intelligent way while at the same time will address quality and equity issues.

By embracing innovation and reform will we develop the new infrastructure and capabilities required for our economic security and continued prosperity.

Late last month, I announced that the Australian Government will be supporting the Victorian Government’s ambitious package of reforms aimed at dramatically increasing the number of people able to access training and upgrade their skills.

I am pleased the Australian Government is able to support Victoria in the introduction of an income-contingent loan scheme for government subsidised diploma and advanced diploma students.

I have supported these reforms and will support similar efforts in other states and territories where they meet the criteria for success, agreed as part of the COAG agenda.

CONCLUSION

So, as you can see there is much to be done, but it is important to celebrate the achievements that have already been made, which is why I’m so pleased to support the establishment of the National Accreditation and Registration Agency.

At this stage, South Australia, Queensland, Tasmania and the ACT have delegated their regulatory functions to the Agency. This is good news for RTOs operating in those jurisdictions

Through the Ministerial Council for Vocational and Technical Education, I will be urging the remaining jurisdictions to realise the benefits and savings provided by the national model and finalise their delegations.

Governments must ensure the rules and systems do not stifle, but rather encourage business growth and creativity.

The agency’s operations will support this objective and lead regulation best practice in the vocational education and training sector

Ladies and Gentlemen, thank you for the opportunity today to officially launch the National Accreditation and Registration Agency. I commend the work of the agency to you, and look forward to hearing of future developments as more and more training providers take up the advantages offered by this new body.