Release type: Speech


Speech - Jobs and Skills Summit


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

Subjects: Skills and training for the future labour market.

Good morning and welcome to the second day of the Summit.

I would like to acknowledge the Traditional Owners of the land where we meet today, the Ngunnawal people, and pay my respect to their Elders past and present.
Yesterday, we heard powerful presentations across a range of topics, including the Megatrends that provide challenges and opportunities for our economy and society.
This morning we turn our focus to the role of skills and training, and how the Vocational Education Sector can more effectively provide the skills that workers and employers need now and in future
Common ground and the outcomes already achieved at this Summit give cause for optimism that further ground will be made today.

The National Cabinet on Wednesday demonstrated that we have begun a new era of Commonwealth/State cooperation on skills and training. The announcement of over $1 billion co-funded for the National Skills Agreement that will deliver 180,000 fee free TAFE places in 2023, was a good start.

A further commitment by all governments to guiding principles that will underpin a 5-year National Skills Agreement from 2024, has the potential to deliver lasting national reform.
At the same time as 9 government’s were doing this, the BCA, AI Group, ACCI, and the ACTU developed for this summit The ‘Statement of Common Interests on Skills and Training’.
Even though the two processes were entirely different, there is remarkable similarity in the principles and aims for VET agreed to by Australian government leaders, and those agreed to by the ACTU and industry groups.
It is in the national interest for the VET sector to be supported by cooperation and agreements of this magnitude. 
It is my pleasure to welcome our wise and diverse group of panellists for our discussion on ‘Skills and Training for the Future Labour Market’.
In the interests of time, I have asked each panellist to introduce themselves, and open with a short statement of views.
Firstly, can I thank all the panellists, and all of the contributors on this very important issue.
I know everyone's very keen to have a significant critical discussion on skilled migration pathways, it is absolutely critical. And Clare O'Neil and Andrew Giles have done a power of work in that area and we're soon to move to that.
But I also want to make it very clear that it never has been a binary choice. And for this government, investing in our workforce, investing in our future workforce, is as important to us as ensuring we have effective skilled migration pathways. It's that important.
So can I thank the panellists and the contributors over the two days focusing on some of the more immediate issues, and I thank the premiers and chief ministers too, in terms of their support for the investment in TAFE. That's been critical, but also we need to focus on the structural, systemic and even cultural challenges to reform our VET sector, and our higher education sector generally.
What was interesting, as I said from the outset, was that the nine governments got together and found common ground for reform. So too did the employer bodies and the ACTU. The common statement of principles by industry, and the guiding principles that will inform the long term government agreement, have common themes. And some of them are foundation skills. We need to do much better there to make sure that people access the labour market and that employers have the skills available: numeracy, literacy, digital literacy, so that working people have secure jobs and can have career progression, because they have those foundational skills.
That's a common theme and that's something that government will be working with other governments and industry on, because it's that critical.
We'll also be, of course, focusing on the creation, the architecture, the governance of Jobs and Skills Australia. Again, an absolutely vital, independent body informed by industry and experts and state and territory governments who are the deliverers of much, of course, of the skills to our labour market and prospective labour market. And that in itself is another key issue. I assure you, it's the priority of the Albanese government. It was not a coincidence it was the first piece of legislation introduced into this parliament.
There are so many other areas we could touch upon. But we do know we have to work on the fundamentals to reform the VET sector and higher education. I know Jason Clare is focused on that. Focused on ensuring, for example, we have the teachers and trainers to skill our workforce.
If you talk about a skill shortage in our economy, you have to start by ensuring we have the skills in the VET and higher education sector to teach and train the future workforce and retrain the existing workforce. And Jason Clare and I will be working together. Tony Burke presiding over employment services fully understands that they have an obligation, and we need to dedicate those resources, to ensuring that job seekers can access foundational skills. And of course, the states and territories are absolutely vital to the school sector that they of course deliver.
So when we talk about foundational skills, it's not an employer requirement, or the obligation on an employer. It's not an obligation just on the federal government. It's an obligation on all governments and employers and, of course, the training and education sectors. So I'll stop there. I want to thank everybody for this very important discussion today.
I look forward to further engagement with all of you that have a keen interest in reforming these sectors.
And I now hand over to my colleagues to have a very important, very significant discussion about the skilled migration pathways.
Thank you very much.