House debates

Monday, 11 September 2023

Private Members' Business

Vocational Education and Training

10:45 am

Photo of Dan RepacholiDan Repacholi (Hunter, Australian Labor Party) Share this | Hansard source

Tradies are cool, and it's great to see this Labor government making sure there are more and more of us graduating from the TAFE system. The opportunities that come with a trade really are endless. Just look at my story. I didn't take the usual path before coming into this place. I left school at the age of 15 and got myself an apprenticeship. I eventually became qualified in a trade as a fitter and turner. Looking back, I would not have changed a single thing in my path of life. I love the skills that I learned in my trade, the work that I used to do, the experiences I had and the mates that I made. I'm a proud tradie. My decision to get a trade gave me practical real-world skills that I still use to this day and helped to make me the person that I am today. It really did set me up for life.

I'm also proud to be a member of a government that understands the value of a trade and is focused on making sure that as many young people as possible have the chance to get a trade themselves. Young people should be able to choose the pathway they want to take in life, and this government is helping them to make this happen by providing fee-free TAFE. When we got to government, our TAFE system was a shambles. The numbers of those graduating in a trade were on a steady decline, and this started to show with a huge shortage of tradies all over Australia. But I suppose that is what happens when you leave a system in the hands of those that have never worked a hard day in a trade in their lives for 10 years.

We have only been in government for one year, but the recovery of TAFE in this country is well underway. Already, our fee-free TAFE policy has proven to be a massive success. In the first six months alone, we have seen more than 214,300 people enrol in a program at TAFE. Our 2023 target was to have 180,000 enrolments, but in just six months we've already smashed our target by more than 35,000 places. That's more than the number of people that sold out a Newcastle Knights game last night. That is nearly 215,000 people with access to life-changing opportunities. It is 215,000 people with a chance to set themselves up for a life with a solid qualification that can lead to a secure job that they can build a good life around. This is the power of a trade, or any other qualification gained through TAFE, and this is the power that this government is making more accessible through our fee-free TAFE policy.

This policy also helped those sectors that were crying out for more workers who are qualified. One of those sectors is the care sector. Those in this sector helped to hold this country together during the pandemic. But they need more hands on the job. This is also a sector that is only going to continue to grow as the population continues to age. Our fee-free TAFE policy really did deliver for this sector, with 23.8 per cent of total enrolments being for courses like health care, aged care and disability care. Our construction sector is also going to keep growing as more and more people live in our country and more and more houses need to be built. This sector attracted 9.8 per cent of enrolments. Technology is the future of our world, so it's great to see that courses focused on digital technology received 7.8 per cent of enrolments. Another sector in desperate need of more workers is the childcare sector, which will have the benefit of attracting 5.5 per cent of total enrolments. TAFE is really for everyone.

The offer has been taken up by all kinds of people from all over Australia. It has benefited young people, jobseekers, people with disabilities, First Nations Australians and people from culturally and linguistically diverse communities. It is great to see that women make up 60.2 per cent of the enrolments, with nearly 130,000 women taking on a qualification under this program. Already this policy has offered so much to so many, but it does not stop there. A further 300,000 fee-free TAFE places over three years from 2024 will happen. We are making sure that the sectors that our country relies on have the qualified workers that they need. We are making sure that Australians can get the qualifications that they need to set themselves up for life.


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