House debates

Thursday, 14 May 2020


National Skills Commissioner Bill 2020; Second Reading

10:19 am

Photo of Sussan LeySussan Ley (Farrer, Liberal Party, Minister for the Environment) Share this | | Hansard source

I move:

That this bill be now read a second time

Today I'm introducing the National Skills Commissioner Bill to establish the statutory position of the National Skills Commissioner (Commissioner). The Commissioner will be a critical new part of Australia's economic infrastructure, providing independent expert advice and national leadership on the Australian labour market, current and future skills needs, and workforce development issues.

The Vocational Education and Training (VET) system is the engine room of Australia's future growth. It is the place where every year over four million Australians go to learn new skills, gain nationally recognised qualifications and springboard to their first or their next job. It is the place that employers turn to ensure their employees receive high-quality training, to enable them to do their existing jobs better or to perform new roles.

Now, more than ever, Australia needs the training system we have to be the best it has ever been. Australia's economy is changing rapidly and millions of Australians need to reskill and upskill in growth areas. It will be the Australian people, our human capital, that will lead Australia's recovery from the COVID-19 health and economic crisis, supported by our world-class VET system.

The bill I am introducing today will create a new independent National Skills Commissioner who will lead thinking on Australia's skills and workforce needs.

The Commissioner will consolidate and strengthen labour market and skills needs analysis, to provide an independent and trusted source of information about what is happening in the Australian labour market now and into the future. This research and analysis will draw on emerging data sources and cutting-edge analytic techniques to ensure Australia's labour market analysis capability is world leading.

This analysis will help close skills gaps and provide confidence to employers, students, tertiary educators and Australian governments that we are investing in the right skills at the right time. This is essential to prepare Australians for the workforce opportunities of today and tomorrow.

In addition, the Commissioner will examine the cost drivers and develop and maintain a set of efficient prices for VET courses to improve transparency, consistency and accessibility for students. Currently, VET prices and subsidies vary considerably around Australia, with students paying different prices for the same course and facing varying levels of quality.

I emphasise that an efficient price does not mean the lowest price. At the core of any purchasing decision is a decision about value for money, and VET is no different. In establishing efficient prices, the National Skills Commissioner will consider both the cost of delivering the qualification and the outcomes for the student. If the price for a course is higher, but that course consistently delivers students who are employed quickly with higher salaries, then it is safe to say it is value for money.

Central to the commissioner's work will be a focus on quality, to determine the price that delivers the skills that employers need and sets students up for a valuable career.

Finally, the commissioner will lead research and analysis to examine the effectiveness of the VET system and advise on the public and private returns on government investment. This means better understanding VET student outcomes, such as whether a student got a job and what they are now earning, as well as public benefits such as building a strong care workforce. This will enable Australian governments to direct investment towards high-quality courses that give students the best chance of getting a job, while strengthening our economy and society.

The COVID-19 pandemic has raised the importance and increased the urgency of this work, reinforcing the importance of our existing commitment to reform the VET system. It builds on our $585 million Delivering Skills for Today and Tomorrow skills package, and contributes to COAG's agreed vision for VET to be responsive, dynamic and trusted as a sector.

Together with the National Vocational Education and Training Regulator Amendment (Governance and Other Matters) Bill 2020, this bill delivers some of the key elements of the 2019 expert review of Australia's VET system, led by the Hon. Steven Joyce.

The role of the National Skills Commissioner is underpinned by the principles of independence, transparency and accountability. It will support a stronger, more agile VET system, enabling us to navigate economic recovery, lift productivity and lay the foundations for a prosperous future.

I commend the bill to the House.

Debate adjourned.