Ladies and gentlemen – it is a pleasure to be here with you to celebrate this year’s Australian Training Awards.
These awards showcase the diversity, talent and strength of our vocational education and training sector.
And as we will see over the course of this evening – there is indeed a great deal to celebrate!
Australia’s VET sector has a long and proud tradition.
Its impact is felt right throughout our national workforce and economy.
It is impossible to go about your daily business without being touched by VET in some way.
For example – every time we walk into a building, drive down a road, or sit down for a meal in a café – we are relying on the skills of someone who has been trained in the VET sector.
Not only does VET help to shape our world – and provide us with the goods and services we need and want – it attracts more people into it than we ever knew.
A couple of weeks ago I had the pleasure of launching a new report which showed for the first time how many people are studying in the VET sector.
The scale of participation is quite staggering.
In 2014, 3.9 million Australians were involved in VET study.
That is almost a quarter of all working aged Australians.
And that – I am sure you will be interested to hear – is more than double the number of people participating in the university sector.
These figures show that we are indeed a learning nation.
This is very good news.
For if we are to have a strong and prosperous economy – we need a skilled and flexible workforce.
But not only are we a learning nation – more of us are embracing lifelong learning.
People are moving in and out of the VET system at different ages, to learn new skills, refresh their skills or to move into a new career.
Interestingly – around 22 per cent of people doing VET are 45 years and over.
This shows that VET is not just for the young – but is relevant at all stages of our working lives.
For young people – it provides a great pathway into work.
For people looking to get back into work – it can help people build skills and confidence.
And for those in work – it can help open new doors and develop careers.
VET indeed has a lot to offer – and the evidence shows that more and more people are embracing it.
Ladies and gentlemen – earlier today I had the opportunity to meet with the finalists in the student categories from this year’s Awards.
I was very impressed by the enthusiasm and professionalism of the students I met.
Not only had they excelled in their studies – they were committed to further learning – and also had great ideas on how to make our training system even better.
I am sure that these finalists will be terrific ambassadors for the VET sector in the years ahead.
And over lunch – I also had the chance to meet with representatives from the business, practitioner and RTO categories.
It was a pleasure to hear of their commitment to helping people – especially young people – to develop the skills and confidence they need to thrive in the workplace.
I commend all of the finalists for their hard work and dedication which has seen them come this far.
Before we move onto the 2015 honours – it is my pleasure to present this year’s Lifetime Achievement Award.
The Lifetime Achievement Award is for an individual who has made a lasting contribution to the vocational education and training sector for 25 years or more.
This year the Award goes to Mr Peter Henneken.
Ladies and gentlemen – Peter has made an outstanding contribution to the national VET system over the last forty years.
Before Peter joins me on stage there will be a short film about Peter’s work and achievements.