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Update from Assistant Minister Andrews on Skills Reform

Since I became Assistant Minister, I have met with many of the key stakeholders in
this sector through roundtable discussions, forums and site visits. I have also
had the opportunity to meet with many students undertaking vocational education
and apprentices involved in training.

These consultations have identified the importance of strong industry engagement and
responsiveness to changing skills needs, national coherence across the sector,
effective regulation and funding interventions, and emphasised a clear role for
modern apprenticeships as a premier training pathway for highly skilled jobs.

Encouragingly, all of the stakeholders I have met with have positive things to say about their
experience, and latest figures show those who complete their course or training
have extremely good employment prospects. However we know we have to do more to
spread that message through the community.

We have a strong VET system that is critical to developing the skills of the Australian
workforce. It serves existing workers and those looking for work, across a huge
range of industry sectors.

During 2015 there were around 4.5 million students in the Australian VET system – including
government supported students, and private fee-for-service students making
their own investments in training. That’s roughly 25 per cent of Australians
aged between 15 and 64 and is a clear demonstration of how VET underpins our economic productivity.

But it’s an ongoing concern for me, and I know others too are concerned, that despite the
successes, and high satisfaction of students and employers, the status of VET
is still not what it should be.

I promote VET at every opportunity, so that anyone, of any age understands the value of VET when they’re considering their next steps in work or education.

I have teamed up with the excellent VET Alumni and the internationally recognised Australian Apprenticeship Ambassadors on this. Both groups inspire people with their experiences of the VET sector, and the rewarding careers and amazing opportunities that VET leads to. I encourage you to book one for your next event. The National Career Education Strategy will also raise the sector’s profile, particularly among secondary students.

Enhancing the VET system and lifting the profile of training is a priority for the Australian
Government.

Since 2013 the clear and consistent message has been: Australia has a strong VET system,
but that it needs reform. We must maximise VET’s potential to support economic
growth and generate strong employment outcomes.

Substantial reforms since 2014 have improved quality. For example: enhanced standards for RTOs and a stronger role for ASQA has boosted confidence in the quality of qualifications.

The system is now more responsive to industry needs and the changing nature of work. We established the industry-led Australian Industry and Skills Committee (AISC) and its
network of Industry Reference Committees and Skills Service Organisations to focus the VET sector on meeting industry’s skills needs.

We moved quickly to implement the VET Student Loans program. Now, loans are for high
quality training in areas where there’s demonstrated demand from industry. The
new scheme is better for students and employers. And better for the taxpayer
too, I might add.

We’ve helped students make more informed choices. We’ve significantly improved www.myskills.gov.au. We’ve introduced Total VET Activity data reporting along with the Unique Student Identifier, and launched the VET Alumni program. These are just some of our reforms and I encourage you to follow the link for the full suite of VET reforms.

We have strengthened support for apprentices and employers through the Australian Apprenticeship Support Network – particularly to support employers to engage an apprentice and
to support an apprentice to access advice and mentoring, complemented by financial assistance through Trade Support Loans.

But I think we all know that there is more to do on the reform front to make our VET system
the best it can be.

My discussions with diverse representatives from the sector have confirmed my view that industry is absolutely key when developing these ongoing reforms.

Those at the coalface of apprenticeships and other skills training understand what is
necessary to develop the skills we need now and in the future.

We know the requirements of employers are changing. We know jobs and the economy are changing. So it is vital that vocational skills and training has the capacity to change
also, to generate relevant apprenticeships so that we have a pool of people with
the right skills for the economy.

As the flagship of the vocational education system, apprenticeships are my key
priority and we are focused on reversing the decline that began in 2012. After
my discussions with you, we have introduced reforms, particularly when it comes
to giving industry a stronger voice to ensure apprentices are being taught the
skills employers are looking for to fill the jobs of today and the future.

The alternative delivery pilots for apprenticeships, which also include exploring the potential for higher level apprenticeships, are very promising. As are approaches to strengthen pre-apprenticeships and pathways into commencing, and completing an apprenticeship.

The Government’s reinvigorated engagement with industry and employers is already
making a difference to the quality and relevance of VET, and the consultations
with the sector have provided a wealth of information to inform considerations
on the future of the national VET system.

Thank you to all who contribute to the strength of our VET sector, and for your ongoing
commitment.

You can rest assured that I share your commitment to building our skills and training system.
My work, including further consultation continues, and I thank you for your
frank input and feedback.

You know as well as I do that we have to continually explore ways to improve it, to make it
stronger, so that we have skilled workers today and tomorrow.
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