Release type: Speech


Statement to Parliament on Significant Matters - National TAFE Day


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

Today is National TAFE Day, a day to celebrate the achievements of TAFE students, teachers, trainers and support staff and the contributions they make to our communities and this country.

I also want to acknowledge that it’s Adult Learners Week, which is a fantastic celebration of lifelong learning, about which I am very passionate.

I want to welcome two TAFE students from CIT who join us in the gallery this morning – Hayley Drummond and James Welch.

I'd also like to acknowledge others who are in the gallery, including the AEU and the TAFE teachers who are here, quite rightly, to hear how important TAFE is to this country.

The TAFE sector is one of our greatest national assets and vital if we are to address the worst skills shortages facing this country in decades, in order to meet the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead. 

That’s why the Albanese Government is putting TAFE back at the heart of Australia’s vocational education and training sector, after a decade of neglect by the previous of Government.

Following the momentum of the Jobs and Skills Summit we struck a $1billion agreement with States and Territories to deliver 180,000 Fee-Free TAFE and vocational education and training places in areas of high skills needs.

We are funding upgrades to TAFEs across Australia through a $50 million TAFE Technology Fund.

We have committed to at least 70 per cent of Commonwealth VET funding going to the TAFE sector and have sought agreement from States and Territories on this commitment.

We are negotiating a five-year National Skills Agreement with states and territories, making available over $13 billion over this period for investment in TAFE and VET, including Fee Free places.

The National Skills Agreement will establish TAFE Centres of Excellence for critical areas of the economy – including clean energy, sovereign capability, care and support and digital technology just to name a few.

The NSA will also build a national TAFE Leadership Network to support the quality of teaching and learning across TAFEs and it will provide investments in workforce capability.

This is because the Albanese Government values the TAFE workforce, its teachers, trainers, and support staff.

I acknowledge representatives of TAFE from across the country here with us in the gallery today. You understand the power of TAFE to provide opportunities and to transform lives.

The Albanese Government’s Fee-Free TAFE is a flagship initiative to help students seeking opportunities to meet cost of living challenges, and support key industries address skills shortages.

And the numbers speak for themselves.

In the first six-months, the target for 180,000 enrolments was well exceeded, with almost 215,000 Australians enrolling in a Fee-Free course.

That’s 215,000 people who are accessing skills and training in areas where skilled workers are needed.

Priority sectors under Fee-Free TAFE include Agriculture, Care, Construction, Defence, Early Childhood Education, Hospitality and Tourism, Sovereign Capability, and Technology and Digital.

Enrolments in Fee-Free TAFE have been strong across all priority sectors, with over 51,000 care sector course enrolments, over 16,700 technology and digital sector course enrolments, and almost 21,000 enrolments in the construction sector.

The data shows Fee-Free TAFE is supporting Australians that have struggled to break into the labour market, with enrolments including almost 51,000 job seekers, over 15,000 people with disability and almost 7,000 First Nations Australians.

Women make up over 60 per cent – with nearly 130,000 women taking on a qualification under this initiative.

More than a third of enrolments – over 34 per cent – are in inner and outer regional locations.

And we’re not stopping there.

We’re making funding available for a further 300,000 Fee-Free TAFE places starting January next year.

None of these gains would be possible without the dedication and professionalism of our TAFE teachers and trainers.

On this National TAFE Day, I want to pay tribute to these hard-working and passionate people.

A good teacher can instil a lifelong passion for an occupation or an industry.

And they’re at the forefront of our efforts to tackle skills shortages and responding to the great challenges.

You simply can't have a skilled workforce or a prospective workforce if you don't have skilled and knowledgeable teachers and trainers.

Speaker, TAFEs support students, in communities across Australia to gain knowledge and skills for life and work so they can reach their full potential.

TAFEs often provide a path back into education and training for people who have found it difficult at some point to engage effectively.

TAFEs are critical in providing the foundation skills – literacy, numeracy, and digital literacy – that empower people to engage in education, training work and life.

Whether it’s training people for a career or upskilling workers to help them adapt to changing labour markets. 

TAFEs are vital to preparing the next generation of skilled workers.

They are a focal point for students, local communities, local industries, unions, employers, local government, schools, and universities and they drive social and economic development across the country.