House debates

Monday, 28 May 2007

Appropriation Bill (No. 1) 2007-2008

Second Reading

6:18 pm

Photo of Stuart HenryStuart Henry (Hasluck, Liberal Party) Share this | Hansard source

My apologies. The letter to the editor that I was quoting from went on to say:

Many of the existing manual arts and other skills teachers do not have industry-standard skills.

That was a letter from a Mr T Smith of Sorrento in WA. J Morrissey of Hawthorn in Victoria wrote:

Kevin Rudd’s rediscovery of the need for technical education is welcome but there is an incredible irony in this change of heart. It was Labor ideology which destroyed technical schools in the past 20 years and replaced them with one size fits all secondary colleges. This process cut the links with industry in the governance and direction of technical education in schools, and phased out teachers with trade experience. It was based on the delusion that a distinction was between high schools and ‘techs’ was elitist and that all students should be oriented towards university. Rudd denounced this delusion in his budget response as if he had reached some brilliant insight. Perhaps it was—for him.

I could not have said it better myself. They make excellent points. The quality of trainers and teachers has a direct impact on student achievements and outcomes. If schools cannot be appropriately staffed with qualified and experienced industry trainers, the injections of funds into this initiative will be a waste of taxpayers’ money.

In my first speech, in 2004, I noted that the challenge of how we skill and train ourselves and our people for the future world of work was an issue particularly close to my heart. It has therefore pleased me greatly to see the improvement in the number of people taking up vocational education and training. In 2006, around 1.6 million publicly funded students undertook vocational education and training. Approximately 405,000 people undertook an Australian Apprenticeship. Employment through group training is on the rise, with over 40,000 trainees and apprentices employed through this model. The statistics prove that the Howard government’s policies with respect to VET are working. This does not mean to say that there is still not more for us to do or that it cannot be done better. The ongoing concern with the quality of TAFE’s training and the need to create an effective alternative has been evidenced by the continued development of industry-specific training centres and private registered training organisations.

I believe that in addition to TAFE reforms there should be a continued focus on establishing more specialised industry based training centres, which, like the Australian technical colleges, have strong employer involvement. New initiatives such as FEE-HELP will assist private providers to compete with the TAFE sector and increase the numbers of students in training at private registered training organisations. With my background of over 18 years experience in an industry based association and training centre, I have witnessed firsthand the benefits these specialist training centres have offered to individuals, communities and businesses and the employment opportunities they have offered for young people. Unlike the current TAFE model, specialist private registered training organisations have the ability to keep their finger on the pulse of employer needs and can achieve better employment outcomes. With a direct involvement from industry, these registered training organisations have the flexibility and resources to deliver the sorts of training needed for industry to grow, develop and innovate, ensuring Australia’s future prosperity.

Similarly, the Australian technical colleges that are feeding the registered training organisation system should also be specialising in the key trades such as electrical, plumbing, automotive, construction, hospitality and other trade areas from some of the 40 qualifications listed on the skills shortage list. By specialising in an area, Australian technical colleges can become just that: specialists at training in their chosen trades creating topnotch tradespeople by addressing the needs of industry today and in the future.

With the rate of changing technology and growth in our economy, there is a need for government to actively manage our apprenticeship system. Around Australia, state Labor governments have taken their eyes off the ball in favour of union driven initiatives. Labor does not get it. Labor governments do not understand or appreciate that vocational training has to be developed to suit industry and employer needs, not based on some academic concept. There also needs to be further consideration of how we bridge the gap between trade and university qualifications. There is no reason why a qualified plumber, for example, cannot apply or should not be able to apply for a recognition of prior learning in order to obtain an engineering qualification. To date we have only tinkered around the edges of this issue, and I am pleased by the Realising Our Potential initiatives in this year’s budget, which recognise that the university and vocational education and training sectors are becoming increasingly interlinked.

I strongly support the proposal for a new trade diploma which will provide an excellent stepping stone from trade qualifications to university qualifications. By breaking down the barriers we will provide our students with a greater choice of qualifications and better quality training, giving Australians and employers better outcomes. With projects carried out by universities in conjunction with registered training organisations and government, I am sure we can create a model where these qualifications enjoy equal value in the eyes of students, training institutes and employers.

Taking a trade pathway should not be a barrier to university but rather another pathway. So, on trade qualifications—whether there are diplomas involved or licensed qualifications associated with that trade—it seems to me that, for those people who wish to take advantage of developing their skills and their qualifications beyond that, there should be pathways directly into university. Those qualifications should be recognised as entry-level qualifications to universities. This will provide the opportunity for those who decide, after having a trade career, to go on to expand their qualifications in such trades as engineering et cetera to do so without having to go back and do some academic based training to gain entry to university. The 2007-08 budget will continue to make a major impact regarding the skilling of our workforce by investing today’s wealth for the benefit of Australia’s tomorrow. The 2007-08 budget has my wholehearted support and I commend it to the House.


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