Release type: Transcript


Media conference - Eagle Farm TAFE, Brisbane


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


BRENDAN O'CONNOR, MINISTER FOR SKILLS AND TRAINING: Well, I'm in Brisbane today to make an announcement with my friend and ministerial colleague Di Farmer. 

We're here today to announce additional Fee-Free TAFE places for 2024. But I want to just set a little bit of a scene as to where we've come from. After the Jobs and Skills Summit was convened by the Prime Minister last year, the federal and state and territory governments made the decision to invest in 180,000 Fee-Free TAFE and VET places for 2023. And I'm very happy to indicate that that initiative has been very successful and it's been successful because it has been very popular for students to enrol in areas of demand for our economy. By removing these fees, by removing cost barriers, we have encouraged people to enrol in courses that will provide skills that are very much in demand in Queensland and across the country. 

And I also want to indicate that whilst our forecast was for 180,000 places or courses, that number nationally has now reached 296,107 as of the 30th of September this year. So the target has absolutely been smashed in terms of people's interest and enrolment and indeed, in relation to Queensland, I know Minister Farmer can speak to this of course, but we've also seen a very significant amount of enrolments. The original forecast was 37,000, that's now standing at 65,000 enrolments in Queensland in Fee-Free TAFE and VET places. And what that means is that we are having many, many, well, hundreds of thousands of students enrolling in areas of demand, acquiring skills that are needed for many sectors of our economy. 

When the Albanese Government was elected, we inherited not only a trillion dollars of public debt, but we were bequeathed the deepest and broadest skills shortage in 50 years. It didn't matter what sector of the economy you looked at, what profession, what trade, we had shortages and we needed to move very quickly and that's why we made this initiative as quickly as we possibly could. And without the collaboration of the State and Territory Governments with the Federal Government, this could not have been achieved. And also the advice and work of industries engaging with government to make sure we deliver in those areas of demand. 

So, today this is about increasing the investment in Fee-Free TAFE and VET places for Queensland. The Commonwealth is providing $85 million additional investment starting from January next year to ensure that we see thousands of Queenslanders enrol in courses that are allowing people to acquire skills that are in demand and that are needed for the Queensland economy. And that's the beauty of this. This investment is removing cost barriers, encouraging people to enrol in areas of demand, which is good for workers because their skills are needed, great for businesses who are crying out for these types of skills and critical for the Queensland economy. But as I said from the outset, without the engagement and the genuine collaboration between the Federal and Queensland Governments, this could not happen. 

The final thing I just wanted to say before, there might be some questions and before Minister Farmer speaks, I just wanted to say, alongside that, we've also entered into an historic agreement, a five-year National Skills Agreement with all State and Territory Governments. This is the first National Skills Agreement in more than a decade, providing a vehicle for much needed reform for the VET sector, including higher apprenticeships, high-level apprenticeships, including Centres of Excellence, which will bring universities and TAFEs much closer together because we need to see our tertiary sectors working hand in hand to deliver the skills to a very fast changing labour market. So, I'm looking forward to implementing the reforms of the National Skills Agreement, working with Minister Farmer and other counterpart ministers across the country to do what is needed for students and workers and businesses and our national economy. I'm happy to stop there and ask if there's any questions before I hand over to Minister Farmer. All good? Thanks very much.

QUEENSLAND MINISTER FOR TRAINING AND SKILLS DEVELOPMENT, DI FARMER: Today's announcement of a partnership, a new partnership with the Federal Government to provide Fee-Free TAFE places to Queenslanders is about addressing cost of living, it's about addressing critical workforce needs, and it's about making sure that Queenslanders, no matter who they are or where they are in this state, have the same open opportunity as the next person. 

We’ve offered Fee-Free TAFE training initiatives in Queensland since 2016, but in this year it was an outstanding partnership with the Federal Government, matching each other's funding, $100 million initially for 37,000 places, but we managed to stretch it to 65,000 Queenslanders who were able to benefit. And over the next three years, the Federal Government will commit $85 million. Queensland will provide $100 million just next year alone to match that funding. So, we will be supporting just under 45,000 Queenslanders at the minimum, to take up Fee-Free TAFE. We know in Queensland, we're projected to grow jobs by about 207,000 and almost 20 per cent of those new jobs are going to be in health and health care. We need people who are trained to fill those jobs and we know through our funding of Fee-Free Diploma in Nursing, 3,500 enrolled nurses will be trained to enter the health workforce.

We are seeing people taking up these Fee-Free TAFE initiatives who are the first in their family to ever do post-secondary school training. We are seeing people who have been unemployed, sometimes for decades, who are getting training so that they can get the right job for them. We are seeing people who spent their lives looking after children, haven't been able to afford training, people who are starting in their middle years to take up training so that they can re-enter the workforce. These are opportunities that these people would not have if we were not providing Fee-Free TAFE.

The Diploma of Nursing will save a participant $24,000. We're about to see the locksmith training upstairs – it's about $14,000 to run this degree. So, it is cost of living, it is providing those opportunities. But we know that workforce is the number one issue facing employers. So, we are training the workforce to meet the needs of employers now and in the future with industries like health and community care, but with new and emerging industries like the [Indistinct]. 

So, it's a very exciting partnership and I'm so grateful to the Federal Government for being as committed to skills and training as we are here in Queensland.