Release type: Transcript


Doorstop - TAFE NSW Randwick


The Hon Brendan O'Connor MP
Minister for Skills and Training
The Hon Julie Collins MP
Minister for Housing
Minister for Homelessness
Minister for Small Business
The Hon Steve Whan MP
NSW Minister for Skills, TAFE and Tertiary Education

BRENDAN O'CONNOR, MINISTER FOR SKILLS AND TRAINING: It’s fantastic to be at Randwick TAFE today, to be here to make an announcement on investment in skills. When the Albanese Government was elected we were left with the deepest and widest skills shortage in decades. Across the economy, wherever you look, there were skill shortages in occupations in professions and trades, and we need to do better. And that's why the Albanese Government entered into an agreement with state and territory governments to ensure that we had investment in these skills areas. That's why we made an announcement to invest in Fee-Free TAFE. That goal of 180,000 was smashed. We managed to have 355,000 Australians enrol in Fee-Free TAFE across the country, including here in NSW, in 2023. And we've got a further 300,000 fee-free places going forward. And that's important because if we don't have the skills, we cannot transition the energy sector, we cannot have a Future Made in Australia, and we cannot provide the housing stock that's needed. And today I'm here with Minister Julie Collins and Minister Steve Whan to announce an investment in skills in the area of construction and housing. Without the investment in skills, without filling the skills gaps in the construction sector and the housing sector, we will not be able to build the homes that are needed for this country. So, I'm very happy to say a further investment of over $90 million to provide 20,000 places for people to enrol in fee-free places. Why is that critical? Well firstly, we've understood that if you don't remove cost barriers to education and training, people do not have the capacity to enrol in these courses. At a time when people are finding it tough, we need to make sure we provide cost-of-living relief, but also encourage people to acquire skills in areas of existing and future demand. Well, this announcement today will supply a further 20,000 places in areas of skills demand in the housing and construction sectors, and that's absolutely vital. What it will mean is that students will be able to enter into pre-apprenticeship programs. That's really giving a young person an opportunity to see whether they want to work in this sector of the economy and at the same time pick up skills, while they decide whether they want to further those skills by taking on an apprenticeship. And of course, we've also got 15,000 courses, full courses, for people to acquire accredited skills and then go into the sector, to make sure, as I say, we deliver the goals that Minister Collins has been focused upon since the election of the Albanese Government. And of course, this is a partnership. We're at Randwick TAFE, and the VET sector is very much a partnership between the Commonwealth and state and territory governments. And I appreciate the fact that Minister Whan is here. He and I have been working together to continue to supply skills to the NSW economy and I'm certainly working with all of my counterpart Ministers across the country to make sure we've got sufficient skills in all sectors and today in particular, we're focusing on housing and construction. Now I might just hand over to Minister Collins and if there's any questions, we can take them at the end of Minister Collins and Minister Whan's contribution. Thank you.

JULIE COLLINS, MINISTER FOR HOUSING: Thanks Minister O'Connor. It's terrific to be here in NSW at Randwick TAFE with Minister Steve Whan and Minister Brendan O'Connor. What today is about is about a further investment in skills and training, particularly targeted at construction. We need to build more homes, we need more tradies to build more homes. It's that straightforward. Right across our government, we're all putting our shoulder to the wheel to make sure we can deliver 1.2 million homes from 1 July, our ambitious national housing target. Right across government, we are focused on investing to get homes on the ground as quickly as we can. This is an additional investment on top of the investments we have already made in construction skills and training, particularly targeted at getting homes on the ground quickly. Working with other tiers of government, particularly state governments, to get homes on the ground. Our government has now invested more than $25 billion in additional investments into housing across the board since we came to office, over the next decade. This is a further investment to make sure that we are doing everything we can do as a federal government, working with the states and territories, addressing the areas of need to make sure that we have the Australians with the skills they need, the tradies to build the homes that Australia needs. I'll hand over to Minister Whan.

STEVE WHAN, NSW MINISTER FOR SKILLS, TAFE AND TERTIARY EDUCATION: Thanks very much. And I welcome my federal colleagues to Randwick TAFE and also thanks to the TAFE teachers here in NSW and the students for welcoming us into their class today. They do a fantastic job meeting our skills demand in the NSW economy. The NSW Government has an absolute focus on trying to overcome the shortage that we have in residential accommodation in NSW. We've seen significant planning reforms and building the skills to build those houses is a key part of that. Carpentry and electrotechnology are two of our most popular courses at TAFE and we need to keep working to boost the demand to make sure that we've got the teachers to teach them and to make the courses affordable for the people who want to undertake them. I've seen a figure for example, if we graduate 240 bricklayers, we can build just under 2,000 three bedroom houses a year, each year after. So, it's a really productive use of government funds to put it into this bottom end, make sure that we're getting the skills, make sure that we're helping to get the workforce in place to deliver the housing that we must have if we're going to deliver affordable housing for the Australian population. And I very much thank and welcome the Federal Government's assistance. It's been a very productive relationship in the skills sector. We've seen Minister O'Connor with the National Skills Agreement which has given us funding certainty. And now the announcement today about a boost of funding for our building trades is very welcome news for NSW as well.

JOURNALIST: So, you're looking for an extra 20,000 workers in the construction sector. Is that enough to meet demand?

O’CONNOR: No, that's additional to what's happening. Let's remember already we've had 25,000 come out of the Fee-Free TAFE that's already taken effect last year. And of course, there is a lag time between investment and skill acquisition. If you've got a long-term course, you need to start early. And that's why I started by saying we did inherit a skills shortage across the economy and we're looking to respond to it quickly. 24 or 25,000 thereabouts under the Fee-Free TAFE for 2023. That's additional to the existing investment that was already in the education and training sector. And of course, we've got a further 300,000 places and a significant proportion of those will also be in the construction sector. So, this announcement today is additional to the previous investment that's still seeing people acquire skills in the trades, in the building sector and the housing sector. We're going to see more from the 300,000 that we've announced and that's happening this year, next year and beyond. And of course, this announcement today is a further addition. Why we're making this announcement is we are very aware of the need to fill the skills gaps in the sectors of the economy, including housing and construction. Without doing that we cannot realise our ambitious goals to deliver what we need to for this economy and for the Australian people. So, as I say, this is an additional investment. There are other forms of investment that's also ensuring that more apprentices, more occupations in the building sector are being filled by the investment of education and training. But we were very conscious of the need to add to that investment and today's announcement, I think, will provide great confidence to the housing and construction sector that more investment’s being made. We'll have more skilled workers entering that sector as we go forward.

JOURNALIST: The State of the Housing System report has cast doubt on the government's ability to reach its target of 1.2 million homes. How much do you think that the extra workers put forward today is going to help this?

O’CONNOR: Well, there's a direct link between investing in education and training in given sectors of the economy and realising our ambitious goals. And they are ambitious goals, but they are realisable, they're achievable if we do the things we have to do. What was unfortunate about the previous federal government is they had no strategic investment in education and training. There was no understanding that you have to assess the existing and future demand of the labour market, and then make sure that your investment in education and training matches that demand. Well, creating Jobs and Skills Australia, identifying existing and future areas of demand, investing in those areas, working with the housing and construction sector, working with businesses, working with unions, working with TAFEs to make sure we deliver the skills. We can achieve these goals, and we can achieve them if we get all these parts together. And I think today is a further example of a government working with state governments, investing in areas of existing and future demand so we will see the housing plans that we have already foreshadowed, being achieved. And that's why we're very happy with today's announcement.

JOURNALIST: So, putting construction workers to the front of the migration line, with the shortage of houses currently, where do those workers go?

O’CONNOR: Firstly, overwhelmingly, as I've just mentioned, 20,000 places are going to be filled by locals acquiring skills in demand. But what we've also understood is that there are people here on visas that have skills, that could work in sectors of the economy, that are not being recognised. What a waste of someone who's got a skill to help build a home and all they get to do is drive an Uber. Now, that's hard work, that's an important service. But I say to you that if we can find a faster way of assessing and determining people's skills that are on visas in this country and help ensure that we build our housing stock, then why would we not be doing that? So, that investment we've made in this announcement is making sure we accelerate how we assess people's capabilities and competence to take on certain occupations, including in the construction sector. That's a very clever way, I would argue, to make sure we build the skills base of every sector that's got shortages. Again, overwhelmingly, these are Australians filling the 20,000 places. But if we have people on visas that are here, that have skills that could help us realise our objectives in the construction sector, then of course we're going to assess them quicker and have them work on sites. It makes perfect sense, and I don't think Australians would think that we should do anything other than that, because that's in our national interest.

JOURNALIST: Minister Collins, has migration put pressure on housing and rent?

COLLINS: What we know is that we haven't built enough housing stock in Australia for some years. What we know is that the number of homes in Australia, compared to the OECD average, is lower. We haven't built enough homes for a long time. This is about us having an ambitious national target. It's about us investing now more than $25 billion in new investments in housing, over the next decade. This is about us working right across government, working with other tiers of government to ensure that we build more homes for Australians. Today's announcement is specifically about making sure we've got more tradies to build the more homes.

JOURNALIST: Can you explain how that would be a major focus?

COLLINS: Well, obviously, we need to get more homes as quickly as we can. As we've heard from the Skills Minister, this is about adding to our existing investments already in skills for tradies right across the board. This is about additional focus to make sure that we have the workers we need now and into the future to build the homes we need.