Thursday, 20 August 2015
Questions without Notice
Australian Skills Quality Authority
My question is to the Assistant Minister for Education and Training, Senator Birmingham. Can the minister advise the Senate about the findings of the Australian Skills Quality Authority strategic review of training for early childhood education and care and the government's response to those findings?
I thank Senator Lindgren for her question. As Senator Lindgren rightly acknowledged, the Australian Skills Quality Authority, ASQA, today released the Training for early childhood education and care in Australia report. It is a report that is of great concern. It did find, pleasingly, that 90 per cent of the 77 registered training organisations audited achieved full compliance, but equally it also found that around three-quarters of training organisations, both private and public training organisations, were offering childcare qualifications in significantly less time than that recommended by the Australian Qualifications Framework.
The government's response to this is clear, it is strong and it is immediate: we want to make sure that we give students confidence that they are getting quality training and parents confidence that those working in child care have quality qualifications and skills behind them. So we are working with ASQA to increase its audits on childcare training organisations and instructing ASQA to work with the Australian Children's Education and Care Quality Authority to ensure that they have audits of the highest standard and relevance to childcare education and workplace practices. We will also be asking the new Australian Industry and Skills Committee to urgently consider the adequacy of the workplace learning requirements of the relevant childcare training packages because in the end on-the-job training is often the best training possible.
We want to make sure that ASQA itself is using all of its powers. I will be issuing a directive to ASQA to make sure that they explain how they are using the powers they already have in relation to these short courses and in relation particularly to the recommendations under the Australian Qualifications Framework for short courses to be avoided and regarding the recommended length of diploma qualifications and certificate III qualifications. We have also given ASQA powers to impose penalties and infringement notices, and I will be directing ASQA to explain how those penalties can apply in these sorts of instances.
Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. Can the minister advise the Senate what further action the government is taking to lift the quality of training to ensure that it delivers real-life skills for jobs to students and businesses?
This is about protecting the interests of students just as it is about protecting the interests of parents and children in child care. We want to ensure that childcare providers actually have a say in terms of who the quality training organisations are because many childcare providers have told me already that they informally black-ban certain training organisations, which of course acts to the great disadvantage of students who might go to those training organisations.
We will support the childcare sector to develop a robust, independent preferred provider model. This model will ensure that students can actually see those training organisations who are well regarded by employers in the childcare sector and can make an informed choice to take their training through one of those organisations. These measures, of course, complement the tough new standards the government has introduced in relation to RTOs, new training package development models, our reforms to VET FEE-HELP and our increased funding to ASQA, all of which are helping to strengthen the quality in the sector. (Time expired)
They are necessary. This report demonstrates the problems in the sector. But sadly many of these problems and many of the other problems I and the government have been addressing over the last couple of years have been evident for some time. Of course, the previous government set up many of these systems but did so quite inadequately. It was Labor that supported training for training's sake, often to mask their poor record on employment. It was Labor that failed to support the structuring of training in a way that directly meets the needs of employers and business. It was Labor that put in place the regulatory structure that we have had to reform to fix these problems. It was Labor that established the VET FEE-HELP system that has been so greatly rorted to the tune of millions and millions of dollars, which we are addressing. It was Labor that failed to provide ASQA with the powers to provide infringement notices, which we have now put in place. All of these measures are about ensuring we have a stronger, higher quality training sector in future.