This is a terrific occasion — an inaugural gathering of people dedicated to advancing vocational education and training in schools.
I note that we have teachers, trainers, industry representatives, work placement providers, training package developers and members of education authorities here in the room.
You are doing the creative thinking, the advocating, the innovating and the teaching to work towards our goal of giving more young people the opportunity to find and follow their career passions.
But university is not for everyone — and nor should it be.
It cannot possibly cater to everyone’s aspirations and talents. And it cannot, by itself, serve the huge and diverse needs of our economy.
Research tells us that around 69% of students intend to go to university.
But in 2014, for example, only 40% of those who completed year 12 went straight to university the following year.
That’s quite a mismatch.
We don’t have hard data on why a significant cohort of students say they intend to go to university but then don’t end up there – perhaps they didn’t get the marks, or they realised a uni degree wasn’t going to get them the skills they needed for the job they wanted.
Perhaps they were influenced by well-meaning family members and peers who assumed university was the best option.
Maybe VET wasn’t on their radar.
I would like students, families and parents to value vocational and technical education in the same way they value university degrees.
You are playing a crucial role in making this happen.
Your efforts are helping make sure our young people are aware of the range of pathways to further education, training or work, which begins during schooling.
You’re helping school students get a head start in developing the skills that industry needs and the skills of the future.
That’s better for students themselves, better for businesses and better for our economy.
You should all be proud of the progress already being made —
We’re seeing impressive growth in the number of young people undertaking a VET program as part of their senior secondary schooling.
In NSW, the number of secondary students doing VET increased by more than 47% from 2006 to 2015 .
Many of these students are accessing VET through the Trade Training in Schools program.
This program recognises that there are many skills that simply cannot be taught effectively by sitting at a desk in front of a whiteboard.
Since 2008, approximately $1.4 billion has been provided to establish Trade Training Centres and Trades Skills Centres.
The money has been spent on buildings and equipment so that students can, for example, use hand and power tools to cut, shape, bend and join sheet metal.
I’ve had the pleasure of seeing first-hand how high school students are now learning in “classrooms” featuring welding bays, car hoists, commercial kitchen facilities and much more.
We’re also hearing that students are using the VET in Schools program in a number of different ways – in ways that suit them.
For example, some who’ve completed hospitality programs are using their newfound skills to finance their university studies through part time work in that field.
Some students in Victoria have used the scored assessment of VET in VCE to add to their ATAR score without choosing an additional academic subject.
Some students are going on to post-school VET programs.
And others are going straight into rewarding full-time employment, including apprenticeships in areas such as building and construction or hospitality.
All of this points to VET increasingly being seen as a great, adaptable education destination in itself, or as a crucial step in a longer journey.
And while I’m extremely pleased that VET is being seen more and more as viable option for transitioning to work from school, we all know that there is more to do.
We must make sure we’re getting students into the sorts of learning environments that benefit them and benefit our diverse range of industries.
If students don’t have a good understanding of what careers are available, and what skills are required in those fields, they can’t choose the right educational programs – be they VET or university or otherwise.
That’s why the Government has committed $3 million toward a new National Career Education Strategy to help students be ‘work ready’ and prepared for life beyond school.
The Strategy will build on existing career education frameworks and focus on problem solving, critical thinking, creativity and innovation, and use of technology – all important for jobs of the future.
We’ll continue to work closely with states and territories, Catholic and independent school sectors, industry, parents and career practitioners to develop the Strategy.
Another way in which we’re trying to inspire more students to take up an apprenticeship is through the Australian Apprenticeship Ambassadors initiative.
We have world class apprenticeships on offer in this country but, frankly, not enough people are doing them.
The Ambassadors are part of a strategy to turn this around.
They include men and women accomplished in carpentry, hairdressing, landscaping, aged care and a host of other skills so that we can spread the word to people of all ages and backgrounds that completing nationally recognised training through an Australian Apprenticeship offers skills for life.
It was a credit to everyone involved that the United Nations added this program to its technical and vocational Promising Practices Database, which showcases initiatives from around the world that are improving VET practices .
If you haven’t already, take a look at the Australian Apprenticeships website to see the ambassador videos, case studies and news stories.
Another way we’re supporting apprenticeships and traineeships is with our new Skilling Australians Fund.
It commits an estimated $1.5 billion over four years and will underpin a new agreement with the states and territories.
Importantly, it will be permanent.
In the first instance, spending from the Skilling Australians Fund will be prioritised towards apprenticeships and traineeships, for occupations in high demand and areas with identified future growth, as well as rural and regional Australia.
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.
I will be asking the states and territories to engage with industry and employers on their priorities for projects.
These are all important initiatives, but government can only do so much.
It’s people like you who really take the work forward.
Thank you for doing your part to raise the status of vocational education in Australia.
You are heling open young people’s eyes and minds to the huge array of careers and skills it offers.
You’re also helping deliver on our shared vision of strengthening, broadening and deepening education in this country so that everyone benefits, and young people get the chance to reach their full potential.