Chrissy Arthur: Well, the Minister for Vocational Education and Skills, Luke Hartsuyker, is in Central Queensland today; he’ll be touring CQ University-CQ TAFE campus at Gladstone, he’ll be meeting students and teachers there and viewing some of the newer facilities before heading inland.
Minister, thank you for your time this morning - what’s the purpose of your trip to Central Queensland today?
Luke Hartsuyker: Well, I’m in Central Queensland at the request of our local member, Ken O'Dowd, who is a keen supporter of job creation and understands the importance of training, that we should have a workforce skilled up for the future. So, we’ve got a pretty packed program and I’m certainly looking forward to today.
Chrissy Arthur: Okay, what are some of the things you will be doing in Gladstone and you will be inspecting today?
Luke Hartsuyker: Well, we’ll be going to Purcell's Engineering, who have received an Industry Skills funding grant, going on to Boyne Smelters and having a visit to CQU campus, where they are a very innovative university and I’m keen to touch base with Scott Bowman, the Vice Chancellor, and talk to some of the students and staff about the innovative ways in which that campus is meeting the needs of the local community in innovative ways. So it’s a really exciting day we’ve got planned for Gladstone, and then later in the day we move off to Emerald.
Chrissy Arthur: I understand something like one-third of job seekers in the Flynn electorate are actually aged under 30 – or that’s what it was late last year anyway. Of course you’re aware of- about the mining downturn and I think 10,000 jobs, something like that have gone in that sector. Do you think that there are enough resources being put into vocational training and skilling to meet some of those challenges?
Luke Hartsuyker: Well, I think that there are good resources in that field, but the key is that we target very well for training to the needs of industry and the needs of students, and that’s everything very much that I’m focused on. It’s important we have a vocational training sector that adapts to the needs of the industry, that anticipates skill needs going forward and is able to meet those changes to skill needs. I think that’s an important part, spending the money that we have very efficiently and effectively, and that’s very much on the [indistinct] agenda is to the Federal Government working together with the states to deliver an efficient and effective vocational education sector so that we can provide the skills that are needed for the jobs of the future.
Chrissy Arthur: Okay.
Luke Hartsuyker: Innovation is very much a cornerstone of what the Government is about, and having a good VET sector and allowing people to retrain for older workers and to offer young workers, or young potential workers a great opportunity by way of different courses to get them into the employment of their wishes is very much a part of that.
Chrissy Arthur: Can I ask you just on that, back in 2013 there was an election commitment made of course. It was, I think, multimillion dollars were promised for an energy training centre at Gladstone. Now that funding was axed by the Federal Government; that was designed to skill people up to work in the gas sector. Do you think with what’s happened in the mining sector, has that been shown to be a bit of a mistake, to not be on the front foot and not funding skilling people up to work in the LNG sector?
Luke Hartsuyker: Well, look the Government’s spending around- Federal Government’s spending around $6 billion a year in skills, so it’s a massive investment. I think the key thing is to ensure that our skills training meets the needs of industry, and that’s very much the focus of my visit is talking to employers, talking to the students, really … with Ken O’Dowd, getting the insights firsthand, on the ground in Central Queensland here as to what’s working, what can we do better and ensure that our dollars are spent wisely. There is a lot of money being spent in the sector; we want to ensure that we target those areas of need to give the best possible outcome.
Chrissy Arthur: Now, you might have heard the Australian of the Year David Morrison talk on Monday night. He talked about yes, the opportunities that do exist in Australia. He also talked about the fact that too many Australians were in fact missing out on opportunities and reaching their full potential – do you think that’s the case for vocational training and the skilling up of people? Are there people missing out?
Luke Hartsuyker: Well right across our employment programs there’s very much a focus on those who are most disadvantaged who are seeking work, and minorities such as migrants and refugees, and also indigenous job seekers. So from a all of- and a total government perspective, we’ve got a very strong focus in the employment sector on ensuring that those people who are most disadvantaged are helped into work. From a skilling perspective, what we want to ensure is that by getting the training right, it makes all candidates for employment more employable, more effective in the workplace. So I think by looking at it from both points of view, from supporting those most in need and also ensuring that the training is very well targeted, we can get better outcomes.
Chrissy Arthur: And do you expect – will you be making any announcements specifically for Central Queensland today in Gladstone or Emerald?
Luke Hartsuyker: I won’t be here to make a specific announcement. The purpose of my visit today, at the request of Ken O’Dowd, is to come and talk to local employers, talk to local training providers and to talk to local students and really get a handle on what’s happening on the ground here in Central Queensland. Ken talks to me a lot in Canberra; he’s a fearless advocate for employment outcomes for the people that he represents. He often visits my office; he’s a regular visitor and a very strong advocate indeed.
Chrissy Arthur: And anything on the agenda at Emerald that we should be aware of as well?
Luke Hartsuyker: Look, we have a number of visits in Emerald; we’re going out to Central Highlands Auto and to David Lowery Diesel Repairs. It’s good, I think, to talk to the apprentices in their workplace and apart from telling us what a great boss they have, they’ll also tell us what’s working in their training and what we could do better, and that’s part of my job as Minister is to really hear from people on the ground what we need to do better and how we can make the changes to better suit their needs.
Chrissy Arthur: And no rethinking on that Gladstone energy training centre that was promised a couple of years ago and then the funding axed on that?
Luke Hartsuyker: Well, the bottom line is that Gladstone’s very much a city in transition, and we’re moving from a vast construction investment boom that Gladstone had, now into the operational phase. I think the key is that we don’t want to be looking through the rear view mirror and looking at projects that were [indistinct] three years ago. What we want to be doing is keeping a close eye on the skills needs for Gladstone going forward, talking to Ken who’s talking about the great tourism opportunities that will be opening up not far from Gladstone. So, I mean there are hospitality skills that will be needed going forward to service that development. So Gladstone, I see as a place of great opportunity, it’s certainly a vibrant local community despite the fact that it is coming off a massive investment boom. All investment booms must come to an end, and it’s a matter of us having the training systems that support the ongoing prosperity of Gladstone and the wider Central Queensland region.
Chrissy Arthur: Minister, thanks for your time.
Luke Hartsuyker: My pleasure.
Chrissy Arthur: That’s Luke Hartsuyker, the Minister for Vocational Education and Training in Gladstone, and a little later today he’ll be in Emerald as well.