It’s a pleasure to be with you today at the start of this year’s 2018 Apprentice Employment Network Skills Conference.
Today we have a varied group of stakeholders here, from group training organisations, policy makers, to members of the Australian Apprenticeship Support Network, business and industry.
Apprenticeship delivery has so many facets, and it takes every one working in unison to make an apprenticeship a success.
That is why it’s so great to see all of you here, ready to engage to create the best sector we can.
Australian Apprenticeships are a foundation of the trade professions, industry growth and Australia’s economic wellbeing.
When we get that right businesses prosper, people enjoy fulfilling careers and economies grow.
Group Training Organisations make a considerable contribution to apprenticeships and the vocational education and training sector.
The Group Training Organisations employ around 23,000 apprentices and trainees and place them across 100,000 host employers, nation-wide.
This is an important role that you all perform from, recruiting, employing and supporting apprentices and host employers, that creates greater certainty for all parties throughout the duration of an apprenticeship.
You create employment opportunities for apprentices and help them throughout their apprenticeships, including accessing jobs support and further training, and ease the administrative burden for employers by managing all aspects of their training contracts.
The services GTOs provide to the community contribute to the promotion of VET and encourage employment growth.
This is what we all strive to do.
From the Australian Government’s perspective, we are dedicated to ensuring that every aspect of the training system is geared to equipping Australians with the skills they need to succeed, and businesses with the job-ready, qualified workforce they need to thrive.
This year marks 20 years of continual Commonwealth support for apprenticeships and trainees.
In 1998, Australian Apprenticeships Centres were established as the entry point for apprenticeships across the country.
These centres managed sign-ups, claims for Commonwealth incentives, and worked with stakeholders to administer training contracts.
From that point onwards we’ve provided ongoing support, in various forms.
We’ve seen the introduction of part-time apprenticeships, Australian School-based Apprenticeships, the emergence of group training and greater national consistency across the sector.
The Australian Apprenticeship Support Network, introduced in July 2015, targets support to employers and apprentices through quality pre commencement advice and in-training support throughout an apprenticeship.
The Turnbull Government provides up to $190 million a year to support the Apprenticeship Network to operate at more than 400 locations across the nation, including in remote and rural areas.
This ensures the Apprenticeship Network delivers support where it’s needed most.
The Government has also supported the Apprenticeship Employment Network through the Multi-Industry Project. This Project is a school-based and pre-apprenticeship support project to gives students the chance to trial a range of vocational occupations over 6-12 months.
Each participant gets hands on experience in three to four different industries and acquires knowledge on relevant legislation, regulations, environmental issues, literacy and numeracy skills, occupational pathways and career opportunities.
The Multi-Industry Project is being delivered in Victoria, New South Wales, Tasmania and has recently started in the Australian Capital Territory.
By the time it concludes at the end of the year it will likely have supported around 2,000 young Australians and to date the project has led to 218 new apprenticeships.
Earlier this year the Government launched the Industry Specialist Mentoring for Australian Apprentices program. This program provides support to Australian Apprentices in the first two years of their training to ensure they have every opportunity to complete.
The Skilling Australians Fund is now operational.
As of last Thursday, South Australia, New South Wales, Tasmania, Northern Territory and the Australian Capital Territory have signed the Skilling Australians Fund National Partnerships Agreement.
This positive step backs apprentices and trainees and ensures the skills needs are addressed now and in the future.
Through the Skilling Australians Fund there has been $1.5 billion in Commonwealth funds provided to support apprentices and the vocational education and training sector.
This investment is designed to arrest and reverse the declining number of apprenticeship commencements and completions experienced since 2012.
It is a collaborative effort between the Commonwealth, state and territory governments.
States will match Commonwealth funding dollar for dollar to deliver up to 300,000 more apprenticeships, traineeships, pre- and higher-level apprenticeships and traineeships.
The Turnbull Government is also recognising work already underway by the states and territories over the past 12 months to deliver on our apprenticeship goal.
The SAF provides a commitment of around $250 million for programs, which have been running over 2017-18.
Working together, we will continue to identify projects and programs for investment in areas of skills shortage and need.
This will create benefits for people seeking careers in areas critical to Australia’s economy in vital industries like construction, hospitality and aged care.
While many of these initiatives mentioned previously, provide support for people at the start of their careers we also want to support older Australians too.
As we’re living longer, it’s important that we have provisions in place that allow people to continue on in the workplace.
To help older Australians adapt to changing workplaces, and remain productive for as long as they want to, the Australian Government announced the More Choices for a Longer Life Package as part of the 2018-19 Federal Budget.
This Package will provide $17.4 million to establish the Skills Checkpoint for Older Workers Program.
The Program will support eligible Australians aged 45 70 to remain engaged with the workforce or to re enter it.
Up to 5,000 participants each year may be entitled to receive customised advice and guidance on transitioning into new roles within their current industry, or pathways to new careers, including referral to relevant education and training options.
To complement this Program, from 1 January 2019, participants who complete assessments through Skills Checkpoint may be eligible to receive up to $2,000, matched by their employers or themselves, to contribute towards identified training to help them advance in their current industry or take up a new employment pathway.
We still need to address the question of how to attract students and apprentices to VET.
One of the critical issues VET faces is the declining interest in VET qualification or apprenticeships and apprentice numbers reflect that.
As a way to address this challenge, I launched the VET Information Strategy (The Strategy) in late November 2017.
The Strategy is the first Australian Government-led, long-term communications and stakeholder engagement program to raise the status of VET as an equal choice pathway.
This is achieved by showcasing its multiple training and career opportunities, as well as providing improved information about the benefits of VET Australia-wide.
The Strategy is built around the idea of real skills for real careers – it’s a unifying call to arms for the sector.
This core common message promotes a collaborative approach by stakeholders and corporate and community partners in elevating the status of VET.
Real skills for real careers has been specifically designed to be readily remembered and used across a range of situations and in a variety of ways.
Importantly, it reflects the underlying value of VET and the careers that come from training, they are real and rewarding.
And I would like to encourage all of you to adopt it.
We’re asking everyone across the sector to include the real skills for real careers tagline on their websites, brochures – all their communication products.
Place it on your publications and brochures, print and digital, or use the Government’s pre-prepared real skills for real careers resources and put your logo on it – it’s that simple.
You can find the real skills for real careers resources on our enhanced myskills webpage.
I want all stakeholders to utilise and share this message through their communication channels as part of our group effort to elevate the status of VET and apprenticeships.
The Australian Apprenticeship Ambassadors stand ready to assist you in achieving this goal
Now in its seventh year, the Australian Apprenticeships Ambassadors program promotes the benefits of apprenticeships and traineeships to Australians of all ages, as well as influencers of youth and industry.
As you can see, there are a wide range of initiatives the Turnbull Government is pursuing to maintain the strength our VET sector, and to promote the virtues and benefits it brings to students and businesses alike.
I sincerely hope you all enjoy the day, have productive conversations and I look forward to seeing the positive work that the sector continues to undertake.