House debates

Tuesday, 2 August 2022

Questions without Notice

Skills and Training

2:08 pm

Sam Lim (Tangney, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

My question is to the Minister for Skills and Training. After a decade of inaction we are experiencing a skill shortage crisis in Australia. How will the Albanese Labor government address acute skills shortages?

Photo of Brendan O'ConnorBrendan O'Connor (Gorton, Australian Labor Party, Minister for Skills and Training) Share this | | Hansard source

Thank you very much to the member for asking a very important question, and congratulations to you on your election to this place, Member for Tangney—a remarkable result in Western Australia. Very well done, and you'll make a fine contribution to this place.

Can I say, wherever you look across the labour market there are skill shortages, whether that be in the care sector, teaching, engineering, advanced manufacturing, tourism, hospitality—so many areas—even the traditional trades, like bricklayers, and personal care services, like hairdressers. Wherever we look across the economy and the labour market there are skills shortages. It's true to say that the pandemic had something to contribute to that fact; there is no doubt about that. But so, too, did the failure of the previous government to invest in areas of emerging demand. So, too, did the previous government fail to invest in skills for the vacancies that exist now and areas of emerging demand.

For that reason, this government has hit the ground running. We are starting by creating Jobs and Skills Australia, bringing together employers and unions and state and territory governments and others to work on this challenge together. We're convening a jobs and skills summit within a month so that we can work with stakeholders, employers and others about delivering on the training that is needed in this country. It's one of the reasons why my colleagues are unclogging the visa applications. They are clogged up and we have not been able to fill the vacancies that employers are crying out to fill.

There's a lot for us to do. It's also why we're providing 465,000 fee-free TAFE places and an additional 45,000 TAFE places, particularly for those industries suffering acute shortages. It's also why we're making sure that we have 10,000 apprentices in the energy sector, which is an energy sector in transition. We will need those apprentices with new skills to deliver and to respond to the changes that are occurring.

Providing opportunities to improve one's lot through training and education is core business for Labor, and it always will be. As the Prime Minister said and we've said often here, we don't want to leave anyone behind and we don't want to hold anyone back. Investing in skills and training provides opportunities for people to enter the labour market and also to change and improve upon their skills and knowledge when necessary so that they can work in areas in demand.

It's also true to say that a more productive and smarter workforce means cheaper goods and services. So investing in skills in this area is good not only for workers and employers but for everyone who is tackling and struggling with cost-of-living pressures.