ANOTHER YEAR OF LIBERAL FAILURE IN SKILLS AND APPRENTICESHIPS

15 Dec 2017

The Turnbull government, with Assistant Minister Karen Andrews at the helm, continues to provide no leadership in skills and apprenticeships, an area crucial to the nation’s future prosperity.

SENATOR THE HON DOUG CAMERON

SHADOW MINISTER FOR HOUSING AND HOMELESSNESS

SHADOW MINISTER FOR SKILLS, TAFE AND APPRENTICESHIPS

SENATOR FOR NEW SOUTH WALES

ANOTHER YEAR OF LIBERAL FAILURE IN SKILLS AND APPRENTICESHIPS

The Turnbull government, with Assistant Minister Karen Andrews at the helm, continues to provide no leadership in skills and apprenticeships, an area crucial to the nation’s future prosperity.

The most egregious example was when Assistant Minister went to India during National Skills Week and praised the Indian training system, while the Australian system continued its slide down the rankings.

In the latest IMD world talent ranking Australia fell three places to 19th out of 67 nations – putting us behind New Zealand, USA, Singapore, Hong Kong and most Western European countries.

The most recent OECD report on Skills and Global Value Chains shows Australia is poorly positioned in terms of skills to capitalise on opportunities in global value chains.

With apprenticeships and traineeships falling by over 140,000 since the Liberals came to government, you would expect some urgency and leadership. Instead the critical portfolio area has been left to an Assistant Minister clearly out of their depth and more suited to reciting talking points than driving forward policy change.

The big Budget announcement that the government would create 300,000 new apprenticeships over 4 years is in tatters. Apprenticeships currently make up less than 3 percent of all jobs. For the target to be reached, apprenticeships would need to be 30 percent of the expected 900,000 new jobs created over the period.

The Skilling Australians Fund that is meant to pay for that improbable number has been widely derided as self-defeating. The Fund relies entirely on visa fees paid by employers of foreign workers – a design flaw that seems obvious to everyone but the government. Yet the Assistant Minister still trots out the 300,000 figure whenever she thinks it won’t be checked or challenged.

The apprenticeship system has been left in limbo as the government’s ham-fisted attempts to negotiate a new national agreement flounder.

There is no trust for the government or the Assistant Minister because all we’ve seen since the Liberals were elected is cuts and neglect for the vocational education and training (VET) system.

Overall the amount of government support for apprentices, TAFE and VET has been cut by $3 billion under the Liberals and Nationals.

Since 2013 there has been 20 per cent drop in the number of government-funded hours of vocational education and training.

The government has abolished the Industry Skills Fund and has dismantled the cooperative approach to skills involving unions, employers and government.

Since coming to government the Liberals have presided over a huge exercise in cost shifting from government and business to indivduals, as the VET-Fee system blows out.

There is clear evidence of systemic failure as market and competition policy has failed to produce the policy outcomes it promised. The response form the Liberals has been to double down on this failed ideologically-biased policy.

In contrast, Labor’s plan for jobs and skills development will see increased investment in TAFE and increased quality traineeships and apprenticeships.

Labor will restore the $637 million cut by the Turnbull government from VET funding in the 2017 Budget.

Labor will make TAFE the centrepiece of our training system by guaranteeing at least two-thirds of all government VET funding goes to TAFE and by investing $100 million in revitalising campuses across the country.

Labor will ensure that one in ten jobs on all Commonwealth priority projects are apprentices and trainees, and Labor will expand pre-apprentice programs for young jobseekers and invest in Advanced Entry Adult Apprenticeships for workers in transition.

2018 is the time for a new leadership and a government that invests in skills, TAFE and apprenticeships.

FRIDAY, 15 DECEMBER 2017