It’s a pleasure to be here with you today at the Australian Hairdressing Industry Conference.
Hairdressing and hairstyling are services that nearly everyone uses at some point in their lives – whether they’re a toddler, a retiree, or somewhere in between.
I am just one of the many enthusiastic consumers of your services.
Yours is a profession of highly skilled practitioners who take great pride in the quality of their work and are continually striving for excellence.
When I’m out promoting the value of vocational education and particularly apprenticeships, one of things I say is that if you work hard and hone your skills, you can eventually start your own business and that’s many of you here today.
You might say that this high achieving industry is a victim of its own success.
There simply aren’t enough hairdressers with the right skills to meet consumer demand.
That’s been true for quite some time – as those in the audience who are salon owners will know all too well. And it’s why hairdressing finds itself on the Short-term Skilled Occupation List.
It’s an issue that’s been raised with me by members of your industry as I’ve travelled the country since become Assistant Minister for Vocational Education and Skills.
Labour market research tells us that at many salons, vacancies are taking months to fill .
That research and analysis from the Department of Employment , based on surveys with employers, shows there have been consistently small fields of applicants for hairdresser vacancies over the past ten years.
Of those applying for jobs, few are regarded as suitable – often because they don’t have the experience or the technical skills that employers are looking for .
Employers have said they’re looking for people with capabilities in all aspects of hairdressing, such as styling – including special occasion styles – colouring and cutting, and hair extensions.
For barber positions, they want people with skills including scissor haircuts, tapering, using a cut throat razor and beard trimming .
Apprenticeships leading to a Certificate III are one of the best pathways to obtaining those very skills – the real, hands-on experience employers and salon owners are so desperately looking for.
Unfortunately, apprenticeship and traineeship numbers in hairdressing have fallen over the past five years, hitting a low point in September last year .
Commencements fell by 33 per cent and completions fell by 30 per cent.
This is reflected in a decline in apprentice numbers more broadly, which threatens the capacity of some major industries to meet their expected growth — not to mention the thousands of job opportunities that could be lost to Australians.
As Assistant Minister for Vocational Education and Skills, I take that very seriously.
The Government has heard your concerns and we are acting.
The centrepiece of our efforts is the new ongoing Skilling Australians Fund.
Announced in this year’s Budget, the fund commits an estimated $1.5 billion over four years and will underpin a new agreement with the states and territories.
Spending from the Fund will be prioritised to achieve better outcomes in the number of apprentice and trainees.
In the first instance, priority will be given to projects that support apprenticeships and traineeships in the following areas:
• high demand occupations that rely on skilled migration
• trade apprenticeships
• future growth industries
• rural and regional areas
Over the first four years, the Fund – when matched by funding from the states and territories – will support 300,000 additional apprenticeships and traineeships, pre-apprenticeships and higher apprenticeships.
In establishing the Fund, the Commonwealth is seeking a commitment to firstly halt the decline in apprentices and trainees, second – restore numbers to the 2012 peak and thirdly – grow numbers to ensure we meet future demand.
In the longer term, states and territories will be expected to deliver growth in Australian apprenticeships and traineeships to achieve historic levels and beyond.
It will be far superior to the previous National Partnership Agreement on Skills Reform in these important ways –
• It’s permanent, so it gives certainty.
• It’s better resourced – The states and territories will be around $240 million better off over the next four years than they were under the first four years of the current agreement.
• It’s targeted, so it will give people skills that Australian employers actually need, both now and for the jobs of the future.
The way we’ve set up this new Fund introduces a new approach to Commonwealth support for state and territory training systems.
States will match Commonwealth investment and bid for funding, which will be granted to proposals that align with set criteria.
The Fund will only support state and territory-led projects that deliver on the aims of the Fund.
I expect states and territories to engage with industry and employers on their priorities for projects.
I strongly encourage you to be involved with your local state government to make your needs known.
I’m looking forward to negotiating this new agreement with my state and territory colleagues so that we can start seeing real change happening on the ground.
Of course, getting people to sign up to an apprenticeship is the first step, getting them to complete their training is the we can’t rest on our laurels once we get people into the training pathways to the jobs our economy needs.
We need people to stick with their apprenticeships and see them through to the end.
Our new $60 million Industry Specialist Mentoring for Australian Apprenticeships program will provide 45,000 mentoring places.
It will complement the existing in-training support services already available through the Australian Apprenticeship Support Network.
It will allow apprentices to draw on the expertise and support of people already skilled in their sector, who understand the nuances of the profession.
In this way we can be sure apprentices receive the targeted support they need to complete their training.
Finally, we are also seeking to improve the quality of the training packages that support delivery by our registered training organisations.
Currently, the Wholesale, Retail and Personal Services Industry Reference Committee (IRC) is responsible for feeding priorities into the review and development of training packages covering not only the hairdressing industry, but also the broader retail sector.
To give your industry a greater voice in the development of training packages, a separate Personal Services IRC is being formed.
This new approach will provide a greater opportunity the hairdressing industry to directly influence the training, skills and knowledge delivered to students.
I am pleased to inform you that the Personal Services IRC is in the final stages of being formed and will be established by the end of June.
To conclude, I’d like to reflect on an individual story of how a VET qualification can grow businesses and change lives.
I suspect many of you will know Jeanette Allen.
From the age of 15, Jeanette knew she wanted to be a hairdresser. To realise this dream she undertook an Australian Apprenticeship.
Through her apprenticeship, Jeanette learnt not only the technical skills required for the profession, but she learnt them in the context of the workplace in an integrated learning environment, which set her up for real success.
But Jeanette’s story didn’t end with her apprenticeship.
Within six years she was the manager of a salon. Within 10 years she owned and operated two sites, employing 15 staff.
Later she became an influential leader in the sector, providing an important voice between industry and the government, and making a valuable contribution to the shape of how training was conducted.
None of this would have been possible without an apprenticeship as her foundation.
This goes to the heart of why I’m so passionate about apprenticeships.
People get real skills and real fulfilment in work they love. They grow and develop and can then fly the flag for their industry so others follow in their footsteps.
That’s good for that person’s wellbeing, good for business, and good for our economy.
The Government’s unprecedented commitment to skilling Australians – be they hairdressers, carpenters or fitters and turners – will make a real difference.
Our efforts are recognition of the excellent work you are doing.