The Albanese Government is prepared to invest an additional $3.7 billion for a five-year National Skills Agreement (NSA) to be negotiated with states and territories, in addition to $400m to support another 300,000 TAFE and vocational education and training (VET) Fee-Free places.
This investment shows the commitment of the Albanese Government to working in partnership with states and territories to ensure Australia’s VET sector, with TAFE at the heart, provides high-quality, responsive and accessible education and training, equipping Australians with the skills they need for well-paid, secure work and filling skill gaps for employers.
Subject to successful negotiation of the NSA, this will take total Commonwealth investment in state and territory training systems to $12.8 billion over five years.
After a decade of discord, our Government is pursuing a collaborative approach with states and territories and is inviting them to participate in national stewardship to address agreed national priorities and VET reform areas through the five-year NSA commencing January 2024.
Subject to successful negotiations, funds will be available in line with the vision and guiding principles agreed at National Cabinet prior to the Jobs and Skills Summit, to support major reform areas including:
- Foundation skills: coordinated effort to ensure that Australian adults lacking language, literacy, numeracy and digital skills can gain essential skills for work, career progression and successful completion of a vocational education training course or an apprenticeship. Lack of foundation skills is estimated to impact three million Australians.
- 300,000 Fee-Fee TAFE courses: in essential sectors such as care and support (aged, disability, veterans and early childhood and education), clean economy, manufacturing and sovereign capability (including defence industries), construction, agriculture, hospitality, tourism, cybersecurity and technology.
- Closing the Gap for First Nations students and apprentices - working closely with First Nations people, their communities and training providers to support skill development that works for them and supports their career opportunities.
- Women’s participation and gender equality – coordinated effort to support women to successfully enrol and complete VET courses and apprenticeships, with an emphasis on accessing skills in better paid occupations including trades traditionally dominated by men. Men will also be encouraged to participate and gain skills in fields where women have been historically over-represented, such as care.
- Completion rates and support for students who face barriers: coordinated national effort to lift completion rates and improve outcomes for VET students and apprentices, with a focus on students facing barriers and historically underrepresented in the workforce, including those with a disability.
- Centres of Excellence: TAFE Centres of Excellence to partner with industry, universities, and governments to address critical challenges in our economy such as transition to a clean economy, manufacturing and sovereign capability and care and support.
- TAFE at the heart: supporting high-quality vocational education and training, curriculum development, research and innovation through leadership networks and collaboration.
- VET Workforce capability: to be developed in partnership with the sector a VET Workforce Blueprint will strengthen the sector and support a high-quality VET workforce, which teaches up to date industry relevant curriculum.
Strides have already been made through the Albanese Government’s partnership approach, with delivery of a 12-month agreement that has created 180,000 Fee-Free TAFE and Vocational Education Training places this year.
Australia is facing an acute skill shortage, with the number of occupations experiencing a skills shortage almost doubling from 153 in 2021 to 286 in 2022. Furthermore, 60 per cent of total employment growth is in jobs for which VET is the primary pathway.
It is vital the Commonwealth, State and Territory governments work together to create a higher quality, more dynamic and more resilient VET sector to deliver our future workforce and provide hundreds of thousands of Australians access to high-quality training.
All governments have committed to working in partnership to negotiate the NSA to be in place by 1 January 2024.