SUBJECTS: Job-ready graduates, Youth unemployment
Peter Stefanovic: Well, joining me now is the Education Minister Dan Tehan. Minister, good morning to you. Thanks for joining us this morning. So, why should one student have to pay for another?
Dan Tehan: Well, this isn’t about one student paying for another. One of the things that we’ll be announcing today is that we’re going to be aligning the cost of a degree with the contribution that the student and the Government makes. So, we’ll be ensuring that when it comes to the cost, that the contribution both the Government and the student makes aligns with that cost, and then the additional step the Government is taking is that we are going to put more money in from, from the Commonwealth Government, in those areas where we know there will be skill shortages into the future, where we know there will be jobs demand, so we incentivise students to study in those areas – teaching, nursing, clinical psychology, IT, engineering. All those areas where we know there will be jobs into the future, and we want students to have the skills to be able to take up those jobs.
Stefanovic: But, you’ve got law and commerce fees that are up 28 per cent, humanities up 113 per cent. I mean, that’s a massive disincentive for those students who might want to explore and take up those subjects.
Tehan: Well, no, we still want people to do commerce or do law. But, what I would suggest to those people who are, might want to undertake commerce is, thinking, think about doing IT as part of your degree, because that will help your employability at the end of your, your degree. So, this is all done at the unit level, and we want students to be thinking about, how can we ensure that we’ve got the skills, so that we can get a job at the end of our degree. And, we need that. We’re about to face the biggest economic disruption since the Great Depression. We have to make sure that our young people have the skills in the areas where we know the jobs will be, as we come out of this coronavirus pandemic and the economic shock that has hit our nation with. It’s absolutely vital, and that is why we want the focus being on those skills.
Stefanovic: But, what if you, if you want to follow commerce, and you’re not interested in IT? Or, you’re not interested in some of those sectors where prices will be reduced? Do you just got to cop it?
Tehan: Well, if you’re a current student, you’re grandfathered. If you’re, if you’re starting next year, then what you’ll be able to know is that your contribution and the Government contribution equals the cost of that degree, that, that the cost of your degree is below similar costs in countries like the US or the United Kingdom, and that the Government is providing, through the FEE-HELP loan, the very best loan scheme in the world. And, you don’t start paying back a cent of the cost of your, your degree, until you start earning more than $46,000. So, you’re still, obviously, if you want to go down that commerce path and not do any of those other subjects in those other areas, what we’re offering you is still the best FEE-HELP loan scheme in the world, and a degree cost which is below comparative countries like the UK and the US.
Stefanovic: Well, Minister, you hold a Bachelor of Arts. How would you feel about having to pay a whole lot more?
Tehan: Well, one of the things that, when I look back is, I wish that I had have done a language through my Arts degree. I think that would have really helped my employability because, in the end, I was a graduate at the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. But, the fact that I went and worked overseas in a country – I went and worked in Denmark – helped me. But, if I had have had a language, it would have really supported my entry into the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. So, I actually think my experience is an example of why we’re very keen to encourage people to get the skills that we’re going to need for the jobs for the future.
Stefanovic: The problem you’re going to have, though, is, you’ve got those unemployment figures, those horrendous unemployment figures, that dropped yesterday. You’ve got 16 per cent youth unemployment. You’ve got more people leaving Year 12 now, and the prospect of finding a job is going to be more and more difficult. So, how on earth do you expect them to be able to pay for it?
Tehan: So, we want them to be able to get a job. If they can get jobs, they’ll be able to pay for it, and that’s why we want them getting the skills in the areas where we know the jobs will be. It’s incredibly important that we skill our young people to be able to grow the jobs that we’re going to need as we come out of this, as we restore our economy to where it was, and make it even stronger. And, that is what this is all about. This is about jobs. This is about getting our young people with the skills that they’ll need to take those jobs on, because that is, that is going to determine how we respond to this coronavirus pandemic, and the economic shock that it’s had on this nation.
Stefanovic: And, if they can’t find a job?
Tehan: Well, we’re going to, obviously, there’s higher education, there’s vocational education. One of the things I’ll be saying today is we need to make sure that the calibration between vocational and higher education is better in this nation. Because, one of the other things that we’re going to see, the jobs of the future are going to require you to have some higher education skills, some vocational education skills. So, we’ve got to make sure that our, our whole tertiary sector is working for young Australians. And, also, we’ve got to reopen our economy, obviously in a safe COVID-19 way, so we can also offer young Australians jobs. So, they, they are the ones who take up those casual jobs, as well, so the sooner we can get our economy reopened, as well, the better for young people.
Stefanovic: You’re also increasing places by some 100,000 over the next ten years. But, isn’t it true that back in 2017, your Government announced a plan, a 10-year plan, to cut places by 200,000? So, aren’t you still behind?
Tehan: No. We’ve, over the last few years, put record funding into higher education. Now, none of us saw, obviously, the coronavirus pandemic hitting like it has. That’s why we responded so quickly with the short course offering, which I announced on Easter Sunday. Now, what we’ve seen there is, we’ve got 50 higher education providers offering 350 courses in these same areas of national priorities, and, we think, approximately 20,000 students have already taken up those short courses. So, we want to continue to respond in that way, to meet the demand that we’re going to see come on to our higher education system. And, I want to continue to work with business, and industry, and with the higher education sector, to make sure we’re delivering those skills that will be needed into the future.
Stefanovic: Okay. Federal Education Minister Dan Tehan, appreciate your time this morning. Thanks for joining us. We’ve got to go because we’ve got to take the live now …
Tehan: … Pleasure.