House debates

Tuesday, 17 October 2023


Vocational Education and Training

7:35 pm

Photo of Louise Miller-FrostLouise Miller-Frost (Boothby, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I was thrilled to hear this morning that the Prime Minister and the Minister for Skills and Training announced a five-year skills agreement to unlock billions for skills and training. The shortage of skilled labour was an issue I heard about from all sectors of the business community when I was campaigning prior to the 2022 election. It is no wonder, because the last National Skills Agreement was in 2012, over a decade prior. This government knows that skills and training are the key to unlocking a great future for this country, for our economy, for business and, of course, for Australian workers who want well-paid, secure jobs. So this landmark five-year National Skills Agreement, starting in January next year, will embed national cooperation and strategic investment in our vocational education and training sector. This includes $12.6 billion in federal funding to expand and transform access to the VET sector. It includes an extra $2.4 billion in flexible funding to deliver skills for critical and emerging industries, including the clean energy and net zero transformation industry; Australia's sovereign capability, including advanced manufacturing skills, national security, food security and construction; care and support services; and ensuring Australia's digital and technological capability.

There is up to an additional $1.3 billion of Commonwealth funding to implement agreed reforms, including $325 million to establish nationally networked TAFE centres of excellence and strengthen collaboration between TAFEs, universities and industry; $100 million to support, grow and retain a quality VET workforce; $155 million to establish a national TAFE leadership network to promote a cutting-edge curriculum; $214 million for Closing the Gap initiatives, to be designed in partnership with First Nations people and led by them; $250 million to improve VET completions, including for women and others who face completion challenges; $142 million to improve foundation skills training capacity, quality and accessibility; and a further $116 million to improve VET evidence and data. This new investment is on top of the $414 million already committed for the delivery of another 300,000 fee-free TAFE places from 2024.

Australians know that education transforms lives, and they want a bit of it for themselves. In my electorate of Boothby, TAFE at Tonsley, one of the largest TAFEs in SA, tells me that the previous fee-free TAFE program has been taken up with great enthusiasm. We know it was oversubscribed across the country. There has been great interest in areas of high need, such as IT, enrolled nursing and aged care. More than 60 per cent of students entering via fee-free TAFE are women. Fee-free TAFE gives students the opportunity to try a course without the barrier of fees. Some are school leavers and young people starting out. Some have been unemployed and are looking to upskill to be more work-ready. Others are people already working and looking for a change in career. The Tonsley Innovation Precinct is also home to the engineering and science campus of Flinders University and the Line Zero Factory of the Future and will soon be home to a technical college—all onsite, with over 150 innovative, high-tech modern manufacturing businesses. The entire precinct is powered completely by renewable energy produced onsite, and excess energy is fed into the southern hemisphere's largest hydrogen electrolyser, which already exports hydrogen to heavy industry based in Whyalla every week.

What better place to have students, surrounded by not only a range of education and training opportunities, working together, but also exciting new businesses—perhaps their future employers—building the industries of the future? This is a government that understands the importance of skills and training to the future of the country, the success of businesses, the growth of the economy and the quality of life for Australians. This National Skills Agreement, the first in over a decade, lays out the pathway to that prosperous future. Education transforms lives. This country needs skilled workers, and Australians want well-paid, secure jobs. This is a government delivering on all three.