Release type: Speech


Skilled Group - Apprentice/Trainee of the Year Awards


Senator the Hon Jacinta Collins
Parliamentary Secretary for School Education and Workplace Relations

Palladium Ballroom, Crown Towers Hotel, Southbank Melbourne

7.00 – 10.30 pm, Thursday 31 March 2011

  • Firstly, can I pay my respects to the Kulin (pronounced Coolin) nation people, the traditional owners of the land we are meeting on.
  • I would also like to acknowledge Vicki McFadden and Mick McMahon, Chairperson and Chief Executive of SKILLED Group, and members of the SKILLED Group Board.
  • I also want to acknowledge my Parliamentary Colleague Senator Steve Hutchins who is here tonight.
  • Minister Evans was unable to attend this evening, but he thanks SKILLED group for the opportunity to be part of this special awards ceremony.
  • I want to say a few words about apprenticeships and why they matter, and then a few words about the challenges ahead.
Need for Apprentices
  • We all know that skilled workers are vital if Australia is to remain internationally competitive and for us they are the centre of attention this evening.
  • The countries that skill their workers and encourage a workplace culture of continuous skilling through on-the-job training, are the countries that prosper.
  • The Gillard Government is investing generously in the Apprenticeships system and is determined to keep the system relevant and responsive to apprentices like you, and to employers, and work collaboratively with the training institutions.
  • There are now more than 440 000 men and women in Australian Apprenticeships and, perhaps surprisingly, not all of them are young.
  • In fact, less than 13 per cent are 17 or younger.
  • With a total of 42 per cent of apprentices now aged over 25, we are seeing a changing face of the typical Australian apprentice.
  • In fact one in four Australian apprentices are now aged 35 or over.
  • Furthermore, those most likely to complete their apprenticeship are over the age of 45.
  • The last 10 years has seen a trend for employed and mature-age people to take up Apprenticeships.
  • Apprenticeships were once seen as a starting point, but increasingly, they are becoming a turning point in one’s career.
  • I am delighted that we have record numbers of people in Australian Apprenticeships and in training — all within a year or two of the global financial crisis.
  • Programs like Apprentice Kickstart helped to avert a drop-off in apprenticeships during the financial crisis, and of course employers did their best to hold on to people, and should be congratulated for it.
  • But, as you know, there is still more to do.
Resources Sector
  • As we know, our resources sector is one area of our economy with unmet demand for skilled workers.
  • When it was released last year, the National Resources Sector Taskforce report made a compelling case for innovation in the training system.
  • In announcing the Government’s response, Minister Evans signalled support for a competency based apprenticeship model that will allow existing workers to achieve a trades qualification in under three years.
Apprenticeships for the 21st Century – Expert Panel Report
  • It is good to know that the Australian Apprenticeships system is strong and internationally regarded.
  • But the system has long been criticised for being inflexible, outdated, complex and slow to respond to industry needs.
  • I can assure you the Government is planning reforms.
  • Last year, the Government appointed an independent Expert Panel to review the system. It recently provided us with their report, AShared Responsibility—Apprenticeships for the 21st Century.
  • The Government will not be accepting every single recommendation, as we are conscious of increasing the financial or regulatory burden on employers.
  • However the report supports common criticisms and we do need a simplified and more nationally consistent system of relevant, high quality training both on and off the job.
  • If we want more than 50 per cent of Australian Apprentices to finish – like all of you here this evening – compared to the 75 per cent of students in higher education who successfully complete — we have to make changes.
Need for reform
  • In considering the Expert Panel report, the Government will engage with stakeholders on how we can build a system for the 21st Century;
  • The standard apprenticeship as a four-year time-served contract is based on a labour model from centuries past.
  • Currently, there is limited opportunity for individuals to move ahead at a faster rate once they have completed a competency.
  • There has not been widespread acceptance of competency based training.
  • The Expert Panel report is an opportunity to rethink our Australian Apprenticeships system, where change is overdue.
  • It will bring lasting reform – a simplified system that responds to industry needs, and economic needs.
  • The Government is currently considering our reform options - including targeted incentive payments, workplace training initiatives and competency based progression – to boost completion numbers.
  • While focusing on improving our system, it is also important that we do not forget its great strengths in giving individuals skills for a career.
  • That is what tonight is about, and I SINCERELY CONGRATULATE all the award winners and nominees.
  • I am here, on behalf of the Government, to praise your hard work, your commitment and your professionalism.
  • You are real role models – pin-ups if you like - for the apprenticeship system.
  • I also want to congratulate all the terrific employers who support our apprenticeships to excel in their chosen fields.