Release type: Transcript


Interview - Weekend Today with Jayne Azzopardi


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


Topics: National Skills Week, Labour Shortages.

JAYNE AZZOPARDI, HOST: Well, Australians are this morning being urged to upskill in a bid to fill critical job shortages right around the country. So, what are the top occupations in demand? We're joined now by Minister for Skills and Training, Brendan O'Connor in Melbourne. Good morning to you, Minister. Which industries are facing the biggest shortages and what's causing that?

BRENDAN O'CONNOR, MINISTER FOR SKILLS AND TRAINING: We've actually got many shortages across the economy. Wherever you look, professions and trades in every sector have some areas of demand and that's probably been made worse because of the pandemic. So, we're kicking off National Skills Week this week, which showcases those great opportunities in the trades, in the care economy, for jobs that are in demand. The great thing about taking a vocational education and training pathway to the labour market is there are so many opportunities for young people to acquire skills that are in need now and that will be needed in the future. So the Albanese government's message, is really to look at what pathway you want to choose and if you want to choose the apprenticeship and traineeship, there are plenty of opportunities. Half of the jobs that are in demand require vocational education and training.

JAYNE AZZOPARDI: So, it's almost a year since your government had its jobs summit to try and find solutions to partly this problem. Do you think you're doing enough?

BRENDAN O'CONNOR: Well, we've got more to do, but we've done well so far in that when we announced 180,000 Fee-Free VET and TAFE places, we've removed the cost barriers to courses that are in demand. Those places have pretty much been filled, Jayne, and that's a great thing, because workers need skills in demand, businesses are crying out for the skills that they haven't been able to find and it's critical for our economy. But we have more to do.

And I'm negotiating now with states and territories to add a further 300,000 Fee-Free TAFE and VET places because there are so many areas that need a supply of skills. Whether it's the energy sector that's going through a transformation, our care economy, disability care, aged care, the health sector generally, and many other places. And what people don't fully understand is there's still real shortages in the traditional trades, motor mechanics, sparkies, plumbers, boilermakers, wherever you look. So, our message really is that university is a great pathway to labour market, but so too is the VET pathway. And National Skills Week will showcase the opportunities. You've got great career progression, great employment security, particularly when you acquire skills that are in demand. And that's the case with respect to many of these jobs.

JAYNE AZZOPARDI: But if we've got this many vacancies across this many industries and we also have a really low unemployment rate, where are all these workers going to come from?

BRENDAN O'CONNOR: It's a combination, it's not a binary choice. We're investing in education and training in areas of demand. I mean, the beauty of Fee-Free TAFE has been, we're focusing in areas that are needed to supply skills. That's the first thing. We also are working on skilled migration pathways, but my focus is educating and training young people and for that matter, mature age workers in areas of demand. That's why we're going to continue to increase the Fee-Free TAFE and VET places in those areas where if you acquire the skills, you've got great opportunities in the labour market. So, my message to people who want to have a good job, secure employment, good wages, is there are plenty of opportunities in the trades areas, in aged care and disability care. And I think it's really important that young people think about what skills they want, because it's much better to be passionate about what you do when you go to work and also what skills are in need. And if you get that combination right of loving what you do and then also filling an area of demand, you've got great employment opportunities. So, that's why I'm so happy to be announcing the National Skills Week this week. We've obviously got great opportunities to provide not only the skills to businesses, but to workers, to students. And critically, for our economy, if we ensure that we've got a skilled and knowledgeable labour market, then we will ensure that our economy will continue to grow. And that's really important for everybody, because that means that our capacity as a country to look after ourselves is much greater.

JAYNE AZZOPARDI: All right, Minister Brendan O'Connor, thank you so much for your time today.