Release type: Transcript


Interview - FIVEaa Breakfast with David Penberthy & Will Goodings


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

WILL GOODINGS, HOST: If you're watching on the Foodland Supermarkets Facebook and YouTube livestream, you'll see that we've been joined in the studio by the federal Minister for Skills and Training, Brendan O'Connor, who's in town with about $2.2 million worth of cash for TAFE here in South Australia.

How's the money going to be spent, Minister?

BRENDAN O'CONNOR, MINISTER FOR SKILLS AND TRAINING: Well, we're going to invest it in providing mobile trailers and light vehicles so we can take the learning out to regional South Australia. Too many South Australians miss out because they have lack of access to training, whether it be an apprenticeship, acquiring skills in areas of demand, and we have skill shortages across the economy. So, this was a bid put by South Australia TAFE, it made sense to us that we could actually provide those facilities in a mobile fashion across regional South Australia. They won a competitive bid and they win that investment. I'm there this morning with the Minister for Education and Skills here, Blair Boyer, the federal member, Steve Georganas, just to congratulate the TAFE and meet some apprentices and talk to them about that.

And, of course, after that, I've got another announcement which is expanding the eligibility of the energy apprenticeship scheme so that we can broaden out occupations that do lead to reducing carbon emissions, but they don't come readily to mind. Bricklayers, carpenters and joiners, when they build five-star efficiency homes, they are actually also reducing our carbon emissions and they've been excluded by this apprenticeship program. So, we're expanding the eligibility, that will, I think, increase the likelihood of people enrolling in these apprenticeship schemes. And that is critical because we have thousands and thousands of electricians that we need to come into the labour market by 2030. 32,000, in fact, extra electricians, but also other occupations that will help us transition the economy. So, really good announcements. I'm happy to be in Adelaide. Some of my friends are in mourning, some are celebrating. Big night last night, obviously, for this great city. But anyway, it's also a great day today for Adelaide because they've got some really good investment.

DAVID PENBERTHY, HOST: These mobile TAFE vehicles sound great. And you think about, like, the history of South Australia, where I'm pretty sure the School of the Air started in South Australia, like the idea that how vast we are and I think as predominantly a city-based state, we often forget that.

MINISTER: That's right. You're right, the size of the state, density of population, you need support in the regions.

PENBERTHY: And it's quite a diverse list of things that young people can learn; cyber security, dentistry, hospitality, automotive skills. So, there's a lot of stuff on offer there that currently they'd have to come to the city if they wanted to learn that.

MINISTER: That's exactly right. So, as I said earlier, across the economy, we've got shortages, we've got areas of demand. In terms of Fee-Free TAFE, we focused in areas where people, if they acquire the skills, will get a job. And businesses are crying out for certain skills in cyber security, IT, all the professions, most of the traditional trades, we still need more people. And if we're going to make things in Australia, if we're going to transition the energy sector, if we don't get onto it now, because there's a big lag time between investing in education and training and getting qualified people, then we're going to fall behind.

GOODINGS: Given the opportunities that are out there for people to work trades at the moment, why do you think it's the case, according at least to the Productivity Commission's report in February, that we're seeing a reduced number of people year on year in training between the ages, I think, 15 and 19. That includes year 12 leavers, but also people going into education after school.

MINISTER: It peaks and troughs in the apprenticeship field. I've just commissioned a review to look at root and branch, the way we support apprentices. Some employers are fantastic with apprentices, some employers not so fantastic. Some employers don't get sufficient support. Apprentices are on low wages, so you've got to try and keep them in that apprenticeship. We're providing, like in this energy apprenticeship, $10,000. We’ve got to be very careful with taxpayers' money and how much do you provide someone undergoing training? There are certain skills you can't half do. You can go into a kitchen in a restaurant without finishing a cook course. I mean, it's not the best thing to do, but you're allowed to do it. You can't be a sparky without a ticket, you can't be a plumber without accreditation.

So, we have to get them to complete. So, we're looking at what's the best way to enrol, enlist these people into these apprenticeships and what's the best way to make sure they complete. Because they need completion to do the work. They're not allowed to get on the tools without the completion. So, you know, there's a lot of work to be done. But this incentive program, the $10,000, providing also support to employers, increases the likelihood of attracting people because they're great jobs. I mean, you get a trade these days, you get highly secure -

PENBERTHY: That was one of the reasons why we were keen to have you on, because we do a lot of work on the show about apprenticeships and we've got a lot of tradie listeners and strongly believe that there should be no sense of compulsion that everybody needs to go to university and there's plenty of people earning way more money than us Arts graduates.

MINISTER: I think that realisation is now dawning on people. Like, you'll get the PM turn up to more TAFEs than unis. Not because he doesn't care about unis. 50 per cent of the skills to our labour market comes from the vocational education sector, not unis, but the perception is sometimes it's a second option. Well, it isn't, frankly. Usually you’ve got lower debts, you start on the tools earlier, you get secure work. Work is everywhere and you really can have a great career in the trades and that's what we're encouraging people to do and hopefully this initiative will help.

GOODINGS: That's a great point.

PENBERTHY: Absolutely. Good stuff. Brendan O'Connor in town today, the Minister for Skills and Training. Thanks for joining us this morning.

MINISTER: Thanks very much guys.