LEAD REMARKS at the working breakfast on youth employment & quality apprenticeships
Thank you chair for the opportunity to speak this morning.
I would like to highlight some of the strategies Australia has implemented since 2015 to improve youth employment outcomes, and work towards the G20 youth goal.
While we have seen some improvements to labour market conditions for young Australians, youth unemployment remains higher than was the case before the Global Financial Crisis.
The Australian Government believes that the best way to improve opportunities for young people is to build a strong economy that enables employers to be more productive, more competitive and more innovative.
To help youth connect with these opportunities, the Government is prioritising actions to improve transitions into employment and address disengagement.
Our strategy to improve youth outcomes includes a strong focus on supporting apprentices and their employers.
While our current apprenticeships model is sound, we know there is work to do to improve the system and position it for the future.
Australian apprenticeship commencements and completions began declining in 2012. Improving these is a key focus for the Australian Government.
We are working to achieve this through:
Investing in tailored support services to help employers recruit and retain apprentices,
and assist apprentices to complete their training;
Providing loans that assist eligible trade apprentices with the day-to-day costs of
living, learning and completing an apprenticeship;
Providing substantial incentive payments to employers who take on an apprentice in key
Establishing a fund which will support state and territory governments to implement projects
focused on improving apprenticeships and traineeships in high demand occupations.
The Australian Government is also committed to improving pathways into apprenticeships.
This includes strengthening pre-apprenticeship training and school-based apprenticeships and improving career guidance.
As an innovative measure, we are currently piloting new arrangements which allow young people, including unemployed youth, to trial a range of vocational occupations.
Raising the status of apprenticeships and highlighting their value is also a key focus.
In Australia, apprenticeships are sometimes seen as a second class option after higher education.
Our strategy to address these perceptions includes the Australian Apprenticeship Ambassadors program, which has been included in UNESCO’s ‘promising practices’ database.
The program recruits prominent figures and high-performing former apprentices as ambassadors, then organises events where they showcase the apprenticeship system.
As well as improving participation in apprenticeships, Australia is also taking steps to improve the relevance of training to employers’ needs.
As part of our broader vocational education and training reform agenda, the Government introduced new arrangements for developing what we call ‘training packages’ in 2016.
Ensuring that training packages are of a high quality is essential as they specify the skills and knowledge required to perform effectively in the workplace, and form the basis for most programmes delivered through the vocational education system.
Industry now has a formal role in policy direction and decision-making through the establishment of committees made up of people with deep experience of particular sectors which drive the process of training package development.
This strengthened industry leadership has resulted in improvements to the speed with which training packages are updated, and better collaboration across industry sectors.
The new arrangements are also allowing for greater agility in the system, including the ability to evolve and adapt with the changing nature of work.
Since 2015 we have also invested in a range of new employment programs focused on unemployed and disengaged youth.
As an innovative new measure, we are currently rolling out a program which will assist disadvantaged young job seekers to gain practical work experience.
This program includes pre-employment training and a voluntary internship with an employer, as well as access to a wage subsidy for employers who hire an eligible young job seeker.
Australia’s new apprenticeship and youth employment measures will contribute to our efforts to achieve the G20 goal.
We will set out the steps we are taking in our updated G20 Employment Plan.
Like other G20 countries, we will continue to monitor our progress and take further steps if necessary to ensure that young people are not left behind.
Thank you again for the opportunity to highlight Australia’s apprenticeship and youth employment priorities.
I’m looking forward to the remainder of our meeting today.
SESSION 1: SHAPING THE FUTURE OF WORK
Thank you Chair for the opportunity to speak.
While we are continuing to address elevated rates of unemployment and underemployment, we also need to look ahead, and prepare for new developments.
We should be preparing now for the workforce of the future and help people meet the challenges that change will inevitably bring.
In Australia, we are engaging with major industries and employers to determine what their workforce needs will be not just in two or three years, but over the next decade.
This co-operation between industry and Government means we can start putting in place the necessary training programs that will provide thousands of new employment opportunities.
I was pleased to recently announce a new Skilling Australians Fund that will be managed through my portfolio of Vocational Education and Skills.
We are identifying what we call priority industries and occupations that will be targeted in a campaign to create 300,000 new apprentices over four years, which is a significant number for a country of our population.
The industries are those that we know are high growth or emerging and will provide ongoing employment opportunities.
It is the aim of the Skilling Australians Fund to prevent a skills shortage that could hamper the growth of these industries, and our economy.
We are also providing a pathway for those transitioning from old industries.
As an example, in Australia major car manufacturers and employers, Holden and Toyota, gave notice in 2014 that they would be shutting down their operations putting hundreds out of work, many who had worked in the car industry all their lives.
In the three years since the announcement was made, the Australian Government worked with Holden and Toyota who have set up the “Growth Fund: Skills and Training Initiative.”
It led to the re-training of affected workers and many have already moved into employment in new industries.
Promoting lifelong learning is particularly important to assisting people and communities to manage change caused by globalisation and disruption.
Australia is taking steps to improve access to quality education and training.
This will ensure our workforce is resilient, adaptable and able to meet current and future challenges.
Australia also offers assistance for students of all ages to meet the cost of training through income-contingent loans which are repaid through the tax system.
Further, our experiences show that non-traditional forms of work, including part-time and casual employment, can play a significant role in adjustment processes.
We should be optimistic about the future of work.
We can provide a strong message on inclusive growth at the Leaders’ Summit in July, by continuing to implement the commitments that G20 Labour and Employment Ministers formed since they first met in 2010.
Publication of the G20 Employment Plans at the time of the Leaders’ Summit will demonstrate the progress member governments are making on their commitments.
SESSION 2: REDUCING GENDER GAPS IN LABOUR FORCE PARTICIPATION AND PAY BY IMPROVING WOMEN’S JOB QUALITY
Thank you Chair for the opportunity to speak.
The G20 made an important step in 2014 when Leaders agreed to the goal to reduce the gender gap in participation rates in their economies by 25 per cent by 2025.
The G20 goal is a high priority for empowering women and boosting economic growth.
Progress by G20 members toward the ’25 by 25’ goal’ has been mixed.
We’ve had a few quick wins, but we need policies that match our shared desire to have impact and build momentum in this area.
Through our Employment Plans, G20 members should take into account labour force trends (such as demographic change) to outline a credible path to achieving the goal – with detailed measures to follow.
In Australia’s case, we have introduced a range of measures since 2014 to keep on track.
Australia is strengthening the incentives to participate through our tax and transfer system, while continuing to provide a safety net.
We are leveraging our employment services to enable disadvantaged women to transition to employment.
And we are introducing new measures to invest in affordable, accessible and flexible child care.
Australia’s workplace relations system provides a “floor” of employment conditions and assists men and women to balance work and family duties.
These include the right to request flexible working arrangements, unpaid parental leave and paid carer’s leave.
Australia’s Workplace Gender Equality Agency is helping to promote gender equality in Australian workplaces.
The agency collaborates with employers by providing advice, practical tools and education to help them improve their gender performance; and raising public awareness of the need for action, including through the ready availability of gender-based data and analysis.
We have a gender reporting framework for businesses which is proving to be an innovative way
of encouraging better working conditions.
In relation to earnings, a key influence is patterns of employment by industry and occupation.
A current priority is encouraging women and men to move into non-traditional occupations, partly in response to the industrial transformations occurring in our economies.
Internationally, Australia is also working with partners in the Asia Pacific to support quality
Recently we held a workshop in Bangkok discussing strategies to improve quality employment
opportunities for women, with a focus on low-skilled women and the informal sector.
These measures continue to address the Policy Priorities for Boosting Female Participation, Quality of Employment and Gender Equity agreed by Labour and Employment Ministers in 2014.
We encourage each G20 member to outline a credible pathway to achieving the G20 goal in our
respective Employment Plans – as a strong contribution to the Leaders’ Summit and to demonstrate the G20’s action on gender equality.