Industry groups have welcomed the Government’s revamped $9 billion skills package, calling on the states and territories to agree to the changes in the interests of employers operating in the national economy, but warning that education providers also need to lift their standards.
Under the Federal Government’s five-year vocational education and training plan:
- An extra 375,000 students are designed to complete a certificate three qualification over the next five years.
- There will be HECS-style style loans for some TAFE students, meaning up to 60,000 students won’t have to pay upfront fees for vocational education and training.
- There will be a “national training entitlement” to Australians aged 15 and over, providing up to $7,800 in subsidies for each training place.
- A “My Skills” website will be established, to provide information on training and court providers.
- Separate state regulators will be replaced with a national one, as recommended by Skills Australia, called the Australian Skills Quality Authority.
Under the package, which is designed to plug skills shortages and boost productivity and employment, the Federal Government will provide $7.2 billion to the states over five years, plus $1.75 billion extra for the states to reform the sector.
It is yet to be agreed upon by the states, with the Council of Australian Government set to meet next month. Victoria and Western Australia have already reportedly raised concerns over elements of the package.
But Megan Lilly, director of education and training at the Australian Industry Group, has called on the states to get behind the package.
“Employers operate in a national economy, and the jurisdictional differences are frustrating and time-consuming and don’t add any value,” Lilly said.
She said that business will start to feel the benefits of the changes at implementation, but more significantly when there are graduates from a “reformed system”.
Lilly also welcomed the push to publish data from private and public registered training organisations, which will give a clearer picture of their records.
The Business Council of Australia also welcomed the “much-needed improvements to assuring the quality of VET credentials and teaching, and greater transparency around the performance of VET providers”.
“As the COAG Reform Council made clear in its most recent report, increased participation in vocational training is essential to meet COAG’s target of halving the proportion of the workforce without a post-school qualification.”