Release type: Speech


Annual VET Policy and Compliance Summit 2020: Address on Government measures to strengthen VET in 2020


The Hon Steve Irons MP
Assistant Minister for Vocational Education, Training and Apprenticeships

Check against delivery 

It is my pleasure to join you today, to speak about what this year — 2020 — has in store for the vocational education and training sector.

I would like to thank Insources Group, and congratulate your CEO, Javier Amaro, for hosting this summit and offering this important opportunity to network and share ideas.

I also want to acknowledge Andrew Laming.  Andrew is a passionate advocate for the sector and a hard working MP.

Thank you also to Saxon Rice, the Chief Commissioner at ASQA, who will speak after me.  I want to thank her for her good work, stepping up to lead the organisation at this time of considerable change.

The summit topic reflects our Government’s focus: ‘Transforming VET and supporting quality outcomes for employers and learners’.

2020 is already a big year for VET — a year of action and a year of transformation.

We are delivering the Australian Government’s extensive VET improvement program with the aim of raising VET to its rightful place — as an educational pathway that is just as valued as university studies.

This summit brings together like-minded individuals, from CEOs of RTOs, through to managers, consultants, and VET quality and compliance professionals.

What you all share is a commitment to quality in the VET sector.

You are also making a vital contribution to Australia’s economy and to national wellbeing. 

Individual capability and local communities are both strengthened through the transformative power of skills training and education.

Just as training is an investment in the future of an individual, a strong VET sector builds the resilience of our economy.

It helps Australian businesses of all sizes to manage change and bounce back in challenging times such as during bushfire recovery because they know they have workers with the right skills at their fingertips.

While we already have a world-class VET system, we need to stay ahead of the curve.

We all need to keep up with changes in our workplaces, in our society, and in technology.

As the nature of work in Australia changes, we need flexible and applied ways of learning so Australian workers are ready for all the opportunities of today and tomorrow.

I know this from personal experience.

The world is very different now than when I completed my qualification as an electrician.

Workplaces and what they need from workers have changed.

Sadly, it is also true that how VET and apprenticeships were valued has changed, with many people thinking the only way to get ahead is to go to university.

I would like to say, again from personal experience, that is not the case.

VET can take you so many places and lead to rewarding and varied careers, including as Minister with responsibility for VET and apprenticeships in the Commonwealth Government!

These days, businesses, providers and students recognise how quickly work and careers are changing and they know that they need to be ready for this.

This means workers must be training to be flexible. They must be able to train and retrain so they can embrace changing opportunities.

Businesses need to be confident that they can easily secure the skilled workers they need so they can expand or innovate.

This is where our ambitious but achievable $585 million package of improvements for the sector — called Delivering Skills for Today and Tomorrow — comes in.

Our approach recognises the importance of building on the current VET system, based around the state and territory networks and the complementary capabilities of independent and government training providers.

This is an approach that is strongly supported by the Council of Australian Governments, which will be helping us realise these improvements, especially through the COAG Skills Council.

As you are probably aware, the National Skills Commission is one of the flagship initiatives in the package.

We undertook a national co‑design process for the Commission last year and appointed Adam Boyton as the Interim Commissioner.

The Commission formally starts on 1 July with a mandate to drive long-term improvements to the VET sector.

The Commission will undertake research and analysis of future skills needs across industry to address national labour market priorities, including those arising from developing technologies.

Our Skills Organisation Pilots are trialling new ways to make the training system more responsive to the needs of industry, in the human services care, digital technologies and mining sectors.

We have selected these sectors because they are experiencing rapid growth and will be big contributors to our national economy.

These pilots provide a crucial opportunity for these industries to trial new approaches to training development and delivery, and to tailor training to the needs of employers and the economy as a whole.

As the world of work continues to change, ensuring people can access up to date, easy to understand information is only becoming more important.

That’s why we established the National Careers Institute.

We have charged the Institute with ensuring Australians have access to high quality career information and support regardless of their age or stage.

The Institute will also administer a partnership grants program, with grants of up to $350,000 per year for education providers, employment providers, industry and local government.

This will support collaborative projects that improve careers information and address service and pathway gaps by enhancing partnerships between industry, employers, schools and tertiary providers.

Applications for funding will open in the next couple of months.

Last year we also announced Scott Cam as the inaugural National Careers Ambassador to promote the work of the Institute and highlight the advantages of the VET system in supporting people to train, retrain and upskill.

With the Ambassador, the Institute will also share the success stories of the Australian VET Alumni and the widely-respected Australian Apprenticeships Ambassadors Program.

The Alumni bring the benefits of VET home to people through their relatable, personal experiences and strengthen awareness of the success and rewards VET can provide to both individuals and organisations.

I know how important employers are in the VET system, particularly in helping people build rewarding careers.

That’s why during 2019 National Skills Week, I launched an Employer Engagement Program to promotes the benefits of hiring and training people with VET qualifications. 

Qantas, Hays, PwC and Lend Lease are already on board and demonstrating their commitment to careers for VET graduates.

I look forward to getting more employers signing up this year to join us in sharing the advantages a VET qualification provides in pursuing a rewarding career and productive workforce.

While in its establishment phase, the Institute is committed to engaging with a wide range of stakeholders. 

I strongly encourage you to work with the government as we design these important parts of the VET system.