Release type: Transcript


Interview - ABC Adelaide Mornings with Paul Gough


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

PAUL GOUGH, HOST: And joining us on the programme now is Minister for Skills and Training, Brendan O'Connor, who is visiting Adelaide. Good morning.


HOST: And a good day to be here, given that today's results day, a lot of students are getting their ATARs, having undergone SACE exams and finding out what's going on. 

MINISTER O’CONNOR: Yes, big day, big day for them.

HOST: Tell me about why you're here today.

MINISTER O'CONNOR: Well, look, I'm often here, of course, talking to the South Australian Government and industry about ensuring we continue to deliver Fee-Free TAFE so that we can remove cost barriers so people can access skill sets in areas of demand. And that's really the case when you look at the VET sector. We need to make sure we have a sufficient supply of skills for the South Australian economy. 

That means people going to university, but it also means going to TAFEs and the VET sector. And on this day, when young people are considering their future and obviously, in some ways considering what the results will mean for them in Year 12, I'm reminding people that there's great pathways to the labour market through TAFE and the VET sector, great jobs, well paid, secure work, very much in demand and it's a very viable option. And I think for too long we've often thought it was a default position or a lesser choice. It's not. It's a comparable choice to the pathway of a university and it's a good thing for people to be talking about today.

HOST: And some of the career paths that people can take within TAFE, things like cyber security, obviously, the traditional trades, IT, there's lots of different areas and of course, with a lot of talk about AUKUS subs, training within that field. How can a young person that might be interested, has read it in the paper and say, what can I do? How can I get to there through TAFE?

MINISTER O'CONNOR: Well, look, I think the first thing to say is the South Australian Government and the Albanese Government put in place Fee-Free TAFE all of this year and we certainly provided almost 300,000 places to date, removing the cost barriers, so making it easier, particularly at a time where people are struggling with cost of living pressures, to access courses in areas of demand and it is in areas of demand. And that's whether it's the traditional trades - and if you think about the AUKUS project, the initiative there, the first phase that will go on for some years will be the construction phase and that will require traditional tradespeople and we are in need of more electricians, more bricklayers, more carpenters and so on.

So, these are areas that will always be in demand. Yes, as that defence initiative continues, it will evolve into much, very much more. But really, there are opportunities in the market today and if you just take the Diploma of IT in South Australia, in TAFE, people now can access that course and not have to find $6,500, by us taking away some of those cost barriers to accessing education and training. And we do so in the areas of demand so that people are encouraged to equip themselves with the skills that are very much needed in the labour market today.

HOST: And what do you see, which industry is in the most need? There's the biggest demand?

MINISTER O'CONNOR: Well, that's a really difficult question to answer because we've got one of the most significant skills shortages we've seen in many years. I mean, the upside to that is a low unemployment rate, you've got a very tight labour market. But there are traditional trades, there are professions, occupations. So, if you look at the care economy, the demand for skills and labour over time is growing exponentially as our population ages and we need to supply an enormous amount of labour and skills into that sector. 

But so too, you look at the traditional trades still needing more tradies. We still need people in the growing areas of IT, even in hospitality, tourism, the traditional areas are really in need of skilled workers. And I'm talking to the hospitality industry today as well, because, as I say, wherever you look, there are supply needs. And that's why we've announced a further 300,000 Fee-Free TAFE places starting from next year. So, for students that are getting results today, whether they're the highest of marks or not, they can say, well, I can take the university pathway, but I can also take a pathway to a TAFE and get into the care economy, nursing, IT, cyber security, the traditional trades, wherever, as I say, there are so many opportunities and half of the skills that are supplied to our labour market emanate from the VET sector, not universities, it's about a 50-50 split. 

So, people have to understand they've got many options and if they're not entirely happy with their results, they still have pathways that will get them into highly skilled, well paid, secure jobs.

HOST: Brendan O'Connor, thank you very much for your time today and hope you have a good day and bringing attention to the fact that TAFE is an option. Thank you.

MINISTER O'CONNOR: Thank you very much, Paul.

HOST: Brendan O'Connor, Minister for Skills and Training.