In a speech delivered at the National Vocational Education and Training Research Conference, Minister for Employment, Skills, Small and Family Business, Michaelia Cash, announced that the federal government sees the vocational education and training (VET) sector as important to the economy as universities.
Noting that the government wishes to transform the delivery of skills and funding for training, Cash clarified how the funding of $500 million for a “Skills Package” will be spent.
The funding will provide careers guidance, foundation skills training and more apprentices for in demand jobs.
In her speech, Cash cited figures that show that those with VET qualifications can make as much money as those with university degrees. Cash noted that this funding for the VET sector will enable the workforce to evolve.
Furthermore, as employees and businesses require their staff to undergo mid-career training in service of re-training or up-skilling, the VET sector is the educational provider of choice, with one quarter of VET students over 45 and two thirds over 25.
However, according to the Joyce Report into the VET sector, training providers need to better connect with industry and there is a lack of clear, consistent funding.
With the $500 million in funding, the government will establish a National Skills Commission, pilot Skills Organisations in priorities industries, including digital technologies, found a National Careers Institute with a National Careers Ambassador, expand the Australian Apprentice Wage Subsidy Trial, and create 10 Industry Training Hubs in regional areas.
“Demand for skills is shifting from manufacturing to the services sector and emerging industries like advanced manufacturing, ICT and cyber-security. Our vocational education system needs an upgrade to ensure it remains world-class, modern and flexible,” said Cash.
The Ai Group welcomed Cash’s comments, with chief executive, Innes Willox, highlighting the role that the VET sector plays in providing a skilled workforce for future industry needs.
“If the Australian economy is to continue to prosper and remain internationally competitive, it is vital to have access to a highly skilled and qualified workforce. With the rapid advance of technology and digitalisation, a higher level of skills for the workforce is more important than ever,” said Willox.
Willox noted, however, that there is further work to be done in aligning educational outcomes with the needs of industry, and the assistance industry requires to develop workforce plans to manage digitalisation.