Press conference, Adelaide
SUBJECTS: SA Skills Agreement.
LOUISE MILLER-FROST, MEMBER FOR BOOTHBY: Hi, everyone. My name is Louise Miller-Frost. I'm the Federal Member for Boothby. And I'm thrilled to be able to welcome Brendan O'Connor and Blair Boyer here to the Tonsley Innovation Precinct and particularly to TAFE SA for some exciting announcements, addressing our skill shortage and investing in our students. And I'll hand over to Brendan.
BRENDAN O'CONNOR, MINISTER FOR SKILLS AND TRAINING: Thank you very much, Louise. It's great to be in Adelaide. Can I acknowledge my ministerial counterpart, Minister Boyer, who has been working with the Federal Government to realise this agreement. I think most people understand that there's a real skill shortage across the country, including in South Australia. Now, it's good to see that the unemployment rate has fallen again, yesterday, but it also speaks to a very acute labour shortage and skill shortage.
The OECD has concluded that per capita, Australia has the second highest labour shortage in the developed world. And we need to attend to that in a myriad of ways, as many ways as possible. Firstly, by restoring the skilled migration pathways that have been really under pressure. And we're doing that by dedicating resources to the Department of Home Affairs to expedite and accelerate hundreds of thousands of skilled visa applications that were stuck in the system — we found that out, of course, upon election.
We're also investing in skills, which is of course the reason we're here today. And the first announcement of the Jobs and Skills Summit on the 1st September was indeed an announcement by the Prime Minister after an agreement with Premiers and Chief Ministers to dedicate 180,000 fee-free VET places for 2023. And that agreement, of course, has been further developed by discussing where those places will go in each state and territory.
And I want to thank the South Australian Government and in particular, Minister Boyer for his hard work in ensuring that this agreement has been realised. This will mean that South Australians, people from Adelaide and beyond, will be able to access more training places — 12,500 additional fee-free TAFE and VET places — so that we can start providing the skills to the labour market. Providing the skills that employers are crying out for. Providing the skills that working people need so that they can have secure work and career progression in the labour market.
It's also true that given the tight labour market, we have to be more, I think, open to ensuring that we provide access to the labour market for those cohorts of workers — job seekers who have hitherto missed out too often — whether they be people with disabilities, women who are returning to work and finding it difficult to find a job because they've been out of the labour market for primary care responsibilities. Quite often, older Australians who are not retirees, but are subject to discrimination. First Nations people who too often miss out. We want to see more effort here as a country — I'm sure that the Minister would agree and so too would Louise — that we need to do more in that regard as well.
But today's about investing in the VET sector in South Australia. And this decision, this agreement, will mean that thousands of people in this state, in this city, will have access to skills in areas of demand — whether it's construction or the care sector, whether it's tech, whether it's hospitality, tourism, whether it's in the sovereign capability area of defence — we need to make sure we have the right skills, supplying the right skills to our labour market.
We know that a knowledgeable and skilled workforce leads to a productive economy. A productive economy will grow. And that will of course, benefit everybody in this nation. Also a productive and efficient economy puts downward pressure on goods and services costs. And that's really important at a time of very high inflation. So this is a great announcement today. I'm very happy to be with Blair and Louise making this announcement because it means that we'll be able to ensure that employers do get what they need, and working people do get opportunities in the labour market. And now I might just hand over to Blair to follow up from that. Thank you.
BLAIR BOYER, SOUTH AUSTRALIAN MINISTER FOR EDUCATION, TRAINING AND SKILLS: Thank you, Brendan. It is fantastic to be here today with Minister O'Connor and Louise the Federal Member. I can't tell you how proud I am that in a very short number of months since a State Labor Government was elected in March this year — and even shorter number of months since the Federal Labor Government was elected — that we have really moved mountains here to make a really important and significant and, I might add, immediate impact and plan to addressing the very critical and intransigent skill shortage that we have across the nation, and of course here in South Australia as well.
And I want to commend Minister O'Connor first and foremost, for in those short number of months being able to put this agreement to the states around fee-free training places, the majority of which are going to be delivered of course by TAFE here in South Australia. We're going to have 12,500 places, but in a very short period of time Minister O'Connor and the Federal Labor Government have been able to put that agreement together. And I'm very excited and proud to hear only seven and a half months since the Malinauskas Labor Government came into power in South Australia, we are going to sign a second year agreement, which from the start of next year will see those fee-free places delivered here in South Australia. And of course we have a really difficult challenge in front of us around skill shortages, which are felt across the nation, including here in South Australia. I think most critically, they are felt in regional areas as well. And these fee-free places are going to make sure that South Australians no matter where they live, or are looking for work, get an opportunity to learn the skills and have the training they need to take those job opportunities.
I just want to echo what Minister O'Connor said too, about the opportunity that presents us now. The skills shortage is a challenge — the opportunity it presents though, with historically low unemployment, is that for one of the first time I think in a long time, our nation has a real opportunity to actually support those people who might have been long-term unemployed — in lots of cases, intergenerational unemployment, where their parents or grandparents may not have been gainfully employed as well — to actually support them into meaningful and paid work. Now, of course, to do that, we know that some of those people who have been unemployed for a long time and might come from a family where unemployment has been an issue for generations, they aren't necessarily ready to walk straight into a job. They don't just need the training, they also need the other support to be wrapped around them to make sure that they can, not just commence the training, not just afford the training — which the fee free places will take care of — but they also have the support around them to complete the training as well.
And one of the big challenges that faces Minister O’Connor and all other skills ministers, who are meeting here today for our roundtable, is how we improve that completion rate because it is lower than we would like it to be. And one of the secrets, I think, to actually fixing the skills crisis is not just this fantastic announcement today around fee-free places, but it’s trying to improve that completion rate. And I'm really confident the 12,500 places we are delivering here in South Australia, the bulk of which will be delivered by TAFE — which has a fantastic track record — and offering those other supports around the people who are trained at TAFE, to not just start the training but finish the training as well, and I hope make a real impact on that number of people who remain unemployed in South Australia and around the country. Now, I think we might now move and sign the document.