Release type: Speech


Address to ITECA Parliamentary Forum


The Hon Brendan O'Connor MP
Minister for Skills and Training


Thank you for inviting me to speak today.

I acknowledge the Traditional Owners of the land where we meet today, the Ngunnawal and Ngambri peoples and pay my respect to their Elders past and present.

I also acknowledge my parliamentary colleagues and our host Troy Williams, Chief Executive of ITECA.

Over the course of this last year, ITECA’s support for measures that ensure we have quality providers - both private and public - has been warmly welcomed.

The tertiary education sector is at its best when training and education providers, employers, unions, and governments are working in cooperation for the greater good.

Ours is a government that listens. We know that more perspectives lead to better decisions.

I want to thank ITECA for your engagement.

We value your time and your perspectives. And we have appreciated your contribution on a range of issues.

We are committed to restoring TAFE to its rightful place at the heart of VET and we are following through on that commitment.

You simply can’t have a strong skills sector without strong TAFE.

It was tried and it didn’t work.

I want to take this opportunity to avoid any confusion. 

Supporting TAFE is compatible with an important role for other provider types.

VET is remarkably diverse, and that diversity will continue to include community providers, enterprise providers, and private providers amongst many others.

Gladly some of that diversity is represented in this room today.

Our mission is to support a high-quality VET system. And we welcome ITECA’s backing that endeavour, including the recent support for integrity measures we’ve undertaken.

To truly support student choice, we need to have healthy and high-quality TAFE and independent providers, whilst regulating for the small minority of poor providers who tarnish the reputation of others, and the VET sector as a whole.

The new National Skills Agreement is a game-changing agreement. It is the first time in more than a decade that every State and Territory has signed up to a deal on this scale and duration.

The NSA is an entirely new, coordinated strategy with greater collaboration between TAFEs, RTOs, Universities, and across state borders and across national and State and Territory priorities. 

This agreement ensures funding is used more effectively to achieve opportunities for all Australians, and ensure social and economic inclusion, especially for those historically locked out of the labour market.

As I said, restoring TAFE to its rightful place at the heart of VET does not come at the expense of private providers. 

This is a rising tide that lifts all boats by restoring confidence in the whole sector. A sector where $9 billion in funding will support RTOs.

Since entering government, the Prime Minister has visited VET providers in every state.

That is because we want to elevate the status of the VET sector because they have good well-paid, high-skilled jobs and they're critical to our economy and society.

That’s more boilermakers, more chefs, more aged care workers, more childcare workers, and more Australians with the skills that they need, but also the skills that our economy needs.

When I spoke to this forum a year ago, I gave a commitment to supporting both public and private VET providers – and that support has continued.

And we have more that we can do together.

My department is keen to learn from ITECA to improve policy and systems across the sector.

By being on the National Career Institute’s Your Career External Reference Group, ITECA has shaped the development of the Your Career website and continues to inform and support the NCI’s digital platforms.

ITECA’s advice was to integrate the My Skills website into Your Career – bringing VET course and provider information to a broader audience.

ITECA has been invited to participate in implementing the VET Data Streamlining program through the External User Reference Group and through ongoing bilateral work with my Department.

ITECA has also been represented on the interim Consultative Forum for Jobs and Skills Australia.

Looking further ahead, ITECA is on the Steering Group guiding the development of a Blueprint for the VET workforce.

All this work means you will continue having a say on the long-term sustainability of the sector – and ensure the final approach supports the diversity of RTO types and settings, including private providers.

We are proud to be driving qualifications reform to ensure all VET qualifications are relevant, timely, portable and of high-quality.

We are improving foundation skills delivery to respond to the alarming statistic that one in five adults have skills gaps in literacy, numeracy, and digital literacy.

We have established Jobs and Skills Australia, to improve our capacity to plan the workforce needs of the future.

The ten Jobs and Skills Councils will help ensure that government decisions are informed by real economy insight.

And because more must be done to stop substandard and dodgy VET providers, we are strengthening VET integrity, lifting RTO standards and implementing stricter rules of entry to the sector.

We make no apology for that.

Everyone in the sector benefits when we identify and eliminate that small minority who tarnish the reputation of others by their very existence.

A high performing and world-class VET sector is crucial for achieving a fairer society and a stronger economy.

The government’s commitment to consultation and inclusion comes from an understanding that listening to a diversity of perspectives arrives at better answers.

Your efforts are helping Australia address one of the biggest economic challenges we face – the lack of skilled workers.

Let’s continue tackling it, together.