Federal Labor announces plans for a national skills agency

The Federal Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese has announced plans for a new national skills agency that would undertake skills forecasts and develop workforce plans.

In a speech last week in Perth, Mr Albanese (pictured) outlined the first of what is intended to be a number of vision statements aimed at resetting Labor’s policy agenda.

In the speech, the Opposition Leader outlined the establishment of Jobs and Skills Australia, “a new national partnership to drive improved outcomes in the vocational education and training sector and to strengthen workforce planning, particularly in the growing sectors of our economy.”

He likened this proposed agency to Singapore’s Skills Future, and said “It will be legislated, just as Infrastructure Australia was in 2008,” with functions including workforce and skills analysis; capacity studies; specific plans for targeted groups such as the regions, over-55 workers, and youth; and reviewing the adequacy of the training and vocational system.

The new agency would also have a statutory obligation to “undertake workforce forecasting and assessing skills requirements for those services where government is the major funder, and where demand is forecast to expand – including the human services of NDIS, aged care and health.”

Mr Albanese’s speech also made a specific reference to, “ensuring that women can reap the full benefits of participation in the workforce.”

CCA Comment

“It is important that the Opposition Leader focussed on jobs and training in his first policy vision speech. Combined with the current Government’s increased focus on skills and training initiatives, it is now clear that vocational education, training and future skills for Australia will continue to be a high priority for all major parties going forward. This can only be good for post-secondary education,” said Dr Don Perlgut, CEO of Community Colleges Australia (CCA).

“Much media coverage focussed on Albanese’s phrase that, ‘we must first and foremost be in the business of creating wealth, as well as ensuring it is distributed fairly.’ This is a neat connection to the past – he invoked former Prime Ministers Hawke and Keating, as well as mentioned ‘distribution of wealth’ – but included a new concept of wealth creation,” said Dr Perlgut.

“CCA is pleased that a national consensus seems to be forming – as much of a consensus as might be possible in the circumstances – that improving Australia’s post-secondary education system remains a high priority for our nation,” said Dr Perlgut.

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