Release type: Transcript


Press conference Melbourne - Victorian Skills Agreement


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

SALLY CURTAIN: Good morning.  Welcome this morning to Kangan Institute's Automotive Centre of Excellence, my name is Sally Curtain, I'm the Chief Executive here.
This morning I would like to begin by acknowledging the Traditional Owners of the land on which we meet, and pay my respects to elders past, present and all First Nations people here. 
We're delighted to welcome Brendan O'Connor, the Federal Minister for Skills and Training, possibly for the second time here, and the honourable Gayle Tierney, Minister for Higher Education Skills and Training, who is a regular here at ACE; we counted, it's your fifth time here this year, so we're putting in an office for you. 
Anyway, we are delighted to host you both here to take you through these amazing world class facilities, and our teachers and students are always excited to know that you're coming to hear about what's coming down the pipeline for us.  I think that's effectively at the heart of today's announcements. 
A couple of things about us: we're the premier automotive training provider in the country, we are internationally renowned, we have partnerships with Gujarat in India, with Maruti Suzuki, and over the past few years, the apprentice - automotive apprentices have grown by 15 per cent since 2019.  So amazing growth, huge demand.  We have an outpost in Bendigo, where we also have amazing technology and offerings for our regional Victorian industry partners, and almost every automotive industry partner you could imagine partners with us here. 
So, with that in mind, I would now like to hand over to Minister O'Connor.  Thank you very much. 
BRENDAN O'CONNOR, MINISTER FOR SKILLS AND TRAINING: Well, thank you very much for that warm welcome, Sally, it's great to be at Kangan Institute, to be here with Minister Tierney and to announce a very important agreement between the Commonwealth and the Victorian Government. 
As I think many know, the country's suffering skills shortages across the economy, across the labour market, and at the Jobs and Skills Summit convened in September this year, the Prime Minister, with Premiers and Chief Ministers, announced an agreement to ensure that we had 180,000 fee free TAFE and VET places for 2023. 
That was an important announcement.  But a lot of hard work had to take place after that announcement, that headline announcement, to ensure that we invested in areas of acute skill shortages. And to do that, there had to be very significant work between the Commonwealth and all state and territory governments. 
I'm very proud to say that the Victorian Government, given the fact that it's a leader in VET in this country, has worked very hard with the Commonwealth Government, the two departments working together, ministerial offices and others, working to ensure that we could allocate these 55,000 places for 2023, that's an additional 55,000 fee free places at a cost of $250 million, in areas that are in massive demand. 
Wherever you look across the economy, whatever profession, whatever occupation, you see significant shortages.  The National Skills Commission Report last year showed that within 12 months we saw the occupations on the shortage list grow from 153 to 286 occupations.  That really speaks to an economy that is a very tight labour market, and one that is in dire need of a supply of skills.  And for that reason, these announcements, announcements made between the Federal and State Government in this case, means that we can supply the skills to an economy to respond to those shortages. 
It means that workers will have skills that are in demand which will ensure they'll have better employment opportunities, more secure employment, better career progression, because their skills are in demand.  It means that businesses that are crying out for skills will be able to find the skills that they need for their businesses, not just to survive, but thrive.  And for our economy, it means that we can ensure that we have a knowledgeable and skilful workforce which will ensure that we have a strong economy, an efficient economy, one that would put downward pressure on the price of goods and services, and at the same time ensure that we see economic growth, and that is of course, a very good thing. 
This announcement today provides many opportunities for Victorians to access the VET sector.  That will mean that they can acquire skills, as I say, that are in demand.  It means that we can realise our ambition to respond to this very significant challenge.  It can only be done in partnership; firstly, in partnership between the Federal Government and in this case the Victorian Government; it can only happen in partnership between governments and industry.  And I'm very pleased to be here at this remarkable Institute that has state-of-the-art training facilities, an excellent place, with remarkable teachers, and I think very lucky students and apprentices who get the opportunity to be here. 
It's a great place to be to make this announcement, and I do believe that this very significant decision and announcement today will be   it is the first significant step to responding to the challenges we have as a nation. 
There are more things to be done, I might add, and I just want to finish on this: we have also committed to establishing and initiating a National Skills Agreement commencing January 2024.  That will be a five year agreement between the Commonwealth and state and territory governments. 
We are looking to improve, where we can, the VET sector, so it's fit for purpose, and I know that state and territory governments agree with the Federal Government that we have a good sector, but we can even do better, and we look forward to those negotiations, working together with Minister Tierney and other Ministers in order to make sure that we have a sector that is delivering to students, delivering to business, and ultimately delivering to the nation's economy.  So, again, a very important decision today. 
I was looking through the shortage lists in Victoria, and there are many, and I just wanted to say these places will assist in supplying the skills.  If you look at the allocation of the 55,000, almost 27,000 will be dedicated to the care sector.  That's an extraordinary supply of skills in the sector that is really in need of a very significant supply of labour and skills.  Whether it be disability care, aged care, whether it be early childhood education, these places will provide opportunities to fill those gaps.  But we're also looking at allocating over 6,000 places in construction, 6,000 places in tech and the digital sector, 1,900 places for agriculture, and many other areas that are also experiencing shortages. 
I do notice there is a barista shortage in Victoria, which I find really hard to believe, but it was explained to me that the reason why we have a barista shortage is because all the Melbourne baristas have gone across the country to teach other parts of Australia how to make good coffee.  So, that is on the list, and I understand that we've got a barista course also, and barista places allocated in Victoria, so we can continue to be of course the best state that makes coffee in Australia. 
Thanks very much. 
Thank you, and good morning, everyone.  I also would like to acknowledge being on the lands of the Wurundjeri people and pay my deepest respects to their elders, both past, present and emerging, and of course, I would like to acknowledge Minister O'Connor, it's great to be back working with you as the Victorian Minister for Skills and Training and Higher Education.  A lot of good work was done just prior to our election, and I look forward to the work that we will continue to do over the next couple of years.
I also of course wish to acknowledge Sally Curtain, fantastic CEO that we have at Bendigo TAFE and Kangan Institute.  And what a wonderful place to actually launch and announce the National Skills Agreement. 
For some of you, you know that the Australian Training Awards were held in Adelaide during the caretaker period, and unfortunately, I wasn't able to attend because of that.  But, for the seventh year in a row a Victorian TAFE has taken out the best TAFE largest provider in the entire country, and on this occasion, it was Bendigo TAFE, Kangan Institute.  So, congratulations, Sally, and your team.  Thank you. 
So, the exciting thing about this agreement is that it backs in a whole lot of work that the Victorian Government has been doing in vocational education and training for the last few years. 
Of course, we introduced free TAFE in 2019.  So, we were really excited when Labor won the federal election, because it made an election commitment to the Australian public that it was going to expand free TAFE.  It understood that it was a successful program, and it also understood that this was a significant way in which we can fill that pipeline of skilled workers that our economy so desperately needs. 
This agreement backs in more Victorians to be able to access free TAFE   55,000.  And, of course, you would have noticed during the election we also made a commitment that we were going to change the eligibility rules around free TAFE, which means that more and more Victorians will be able to enrol in free TAFE and undertake those courses that will lead to fantastic careers. 
And as Minister O'Connor mentioned, there are a number of courses that will be available, particularly in the care sector, the health and allied health sector, construction, hospitality, tourism; there are so many courses that are available for Victorians.  125,000 Victorians have already undertaken free TAFE courses.  They've saved something like $320 million in tuition fees. 
This announcement means that more Victorians will be able to do that.  It means that we can build on the successes we've had already with people returning to vocational education and training.  It means that more women can participate in vocational education and training and get the jobs that they need. 
It also means that we can build on the increases that we've seen in terms of CALD community members returning to VET, Indigenous First Nations people coming back into the VET system, and of course people with disabilities, and I've got to, of course, make mention of our election announcement of a $36 million Disability and Inclusion Centre that we will be building at the Gordon Institute in Geelong that will also assist in relation to free TAFE and TAFE courses more generally. 
But this is an agreement that, as the Minister said, provides the footing to put us in the best possible place to ensure that we do have a response mechanism to the skills shortages that we have in this country. And that is why this agreement is so important because it enables us to move even more quickly into recovery, to forecast where the skills are now that are needed, but also into the future. 
So, I applaud the Commonwealth for making sure that we continue to work with the initiatives that the Victorian Government has had in place for some time now, and I look forward to further negotiations for the replacement agreement that will come into effect in January 2024.  Thank you.