House debates

Monday, 24 June 2013

Statements on Indulgence

Education and Employment Committee

11:44 am

Photo of Mike SymonMike Symon (Deakin, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

On behalf of the Standing Committee on Education and Employment I wish to make a statement on the current committee inquiry into the role of the technical and further education system and its operation. On Thursday, 21 March 2013 the committee adopted an inquiry into the TAFE system referred to it by the minister for tertiary education. The committee received 172 submissions from interested individuals and organisations and in excess of 1,000 responses to a Unions Australia organised survey. The committee held an initial public hearing in Canberra with the Department of Industry, Innovation, Climate Change, Science, Research and Tertiary Education. A further hearing was conducted in Brisbane on 7 June 2013, at which key stakeholders, including TAFE Directors Australia, appeared and roundtable discussions were held with employer and industry associations, community organisations and unions.

TAFEs have played a critical role in the training and development of Australians for more than 100 years. For many Australians, TAFEs provide a critical pathway to training and skills, which are needed to access real employment. They also play a critical role in regions and in providing access for disadvantaged groups. As TAFE Directors Australia board member, Kaylene Harth, stated at the committee's hearing in Brisbane:

The quality of the qualification, the usefulness and applicability of the qualification once issued, is really its value in the workplace and how it helps position the individual in getting greater skills that can be applied in the workplace.

The inquiry comes at a time of significant change in the VET systems of states across Australia. All governments have agreed to reform the system through the National Agreement for Skills and Workforce Development and the National Partnership Agreement on Skills Reform to respond better to the changing needs of the Australian economy and the increasing need for highly skilled workers. The department noted that the continued role of the public provider—TAFE institutes—is central to our national training system.

This committee heard students, teachers and school administrators alike express concerns about their public providers being placed under enormous financial pressures and strains. Unfortunately, the committee has not had as much time as it would have liked to examine the topic, with the inquiry coming to the committee only a few months before the end of sittings of this parliament. This problem with time constraints, along with the heavy workload of bills referred to the committee for inquiry, has not allowed the committee to really get its teeth into this very important area of further education. I am of the strong opinion that the inquiry should be rereferred in the next parliament to this committee's successor so that it may receive the complete consideration that it deserves.

As this will be the last statement I will make as Chair of the Standing Committee on Education and Employment, I would like to take this opportunity to thank my committee colleagues for the commitment and enthusiasm they have shown in the committee's varied inquiries in this 43rd Parliament. I would particularly like to thank the deputy chair, the member for Grey, who has been on this committee as long as I have, and the former chair of the committee, the member for Kingston, Amanda Rishworth, for their dedicated work and tireless efforts. I would also like to thank the very hard-working and professional staff of the committee secretariat, who are in the chamber today, including the committee secretary, Glenn Worthington; the inquiry secretary, Siobhan Leyne; the previous inquiry secretary, Sara Edson; senior researcher Lauren Wilson; research officer Casey Mazzarella; administration officer Emily Costelloe; and a whole host of others who have helped committee do its job through this period of time. Each and every one has been an absolute pleasure to work with, and their services have proven to be invaluable.

Education and employment are vital to the economic prosperity, national productivity and social fabric of Australia. The committee's program of the 43rd Parliament has been challenging and rewarding, varied and complex, and it has made a valuable contribution to work this House. I thank the House.