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$12.6bn plan to “transform” Australian VET

A $12.6 billion five-year National Skills Agreement will expand and transform access to Australia’s VET sector, the government has said.

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The announcement will largely impact domestic settings in Australia. Focusing on the need to “train Australians for the jobs of today as well as the jobs of tomorrow”, government referred to the plan as a “landmark agreement [that] will kickstart real change”.

Prime minister Anthony Albanese said that the NSA is “consistent with so much of what my government does – bringing people together from all over the country to address the common challenges faced by all of us”.

“This important National Skills Agreement, alongside our very successful Fee-Free TAFE places, will mean more boilermakers, more chefs, more aged care workers, more child care workers, and more Australians with the skills that they need, but also the skills that our economy needs,” he said, announcing the plan.

The agreement will take effect from January and will place TAFE “at the heart of the VET sector”.

Minister for Skills and Training, Brendan O’Connor, emphasised that a “high performing and world-class VET sector is crucial for achieving a fairer society and a stronger economy”.

“The TAFE sector has endured periods of underfunding, impacts of deregulation, loose rules of VET market entry, a lack of national cohesion and an obsession for competition at the expense of collaboration,” he said.

O’Connor’s department has recently announced an integrity unit to combat non-compliance in the VET sector.

Reforms under the NSA include the establishment of a TAFE Centres of Excellence network, bringing together TAFEs, universities, Jobs and Skills Councils and industry nationally.

A new National Stewardship model will coordinate strategic investment in skills across the economy, and support delivery of skills needed in national priority areas, as well as providing states and territories with flexibility to meet local industry skills needs.

Priority skills government wants to develop include for “critical and emerging” industries such as Clean energy and Net Zero, manufacturing, national security, food security, construction, care and support services and in digital and technology.

“Baseline funding for TAFE means certainty”

The CEO of TAFE Directors Australia, Jenny Dodd, said the “truly national agreement” will revitalise skills and training.

“Baseline funding for TAFE means certainty, and the ability to plan with confidence to meet a host of new opportunities across emerging industries and priority occupations,” she said.

“With the establishment of Jobs and Skills Australia and 10 new Jobs and Skills Councils, the national agreement puts in place the architecture that will help guide all the parties in the VET system to meeting an unprecedented range of training opportunities.

“TAFEs across Australia stand ready to work with all stakeholders to ensure that the significant investment in the VET system delivers people with up-to-date and adaptable skills that equip them for lifelong careers.”

The government announcement comes after a Grattan Institute report suggested that international students were being given “false promises” on career outcomes and visa pathways. For some in Australia the agreement will be an indication that Canberra wants to foster and support Australian talent to fill skills shortages.

After State and Territory funding contributions, the VET sector could see a total of $30+ billion available.

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