Labor’s National Jobs and Skills Summit – March 17, 2017

Report by Don Perlgut

On Friday 17 March, CCA Chair David Fuller and I attended “Labor’s National Jobs and Skills Summit” in Canberra. Following an introductory speech by the Leader of the Opposition, Bill Shorten, the Summit had three separate sessions:

  • A vocational education training sector for the future, featuring panellists TAFE Directors Australia (TDA) CEO Martin Riordan, Jennifer Westacott (Business Council of Australia), Ged Kearney (ACTU), and Dr Damian Oliver (UTS).
  • Apprenticeships and traineeships for the future
  • A long-term vision for education and training

Media attended for Bill Shorten’s initial address, and then were excluded from the rest of the day, which was held under “Chatham House Rules”. A number of Labor front-benchers attended the Summit and spent the day listening to the invited speakers and attendees. These included:

  • Tanya Plibersek, Deputy Opposition Leader and Shadow Minister for Education
  • Kate Ellis, Shadow Minister TAFE and Vocational Education
  • Brendan O’Connor, Shadow Minister for Employment
  • Doug Cameron, Shadow Minister for Skills and Apprenticeships
  • Ed Husic, Shadow Minister for the Future of Work
  • Shayne Neumann, Shadow Minister for Immigration

As well as the two Canberra MPs: Andrew Leigh, Shadow Assistant Treasurer and Shadow Minister for Charities and Not-for-profits; and Gai Brodtmann.

Bill Shorten identified three objectives that Labor asked for help from the 100 participants:

Lifelong learning - ensuring all Australians have access through their working life to the education, skills and training they need for decent jobs, supporting a good standard of living. 2. We want your help preparing for the jobs of the future - making sure the Australian workforce is more responsive to the evolving skill needs of our economy. 3. Working together.

At the Summit, I made two points when I spoke during the first morning session:

  1. “It’s not all about TAFE”: While CCA applauds Labor’s policies in relation to education generally and vocational education and training specifically, community education providers deliver 5% of accredited Australian vocational education and training VET each year, and a significantly higher percentage of VET at Certificate levels I and II. Despite this presence in the VET space, Labor policies do not yet recognise or mention the community not-for-profit sector.
  2. Regional and rural VET: The community sector plays an important role in VET in regional and rural Australia, where VET participation rates run at least 50% higher than in capital cities. Community providers average about 10% of VET delivery in these areas, and more than 20% in Victoria.

In addition to CCA, attendees from the adult and community education sector included Jenny Macaffer, CEO of Adult Learning Australia and Ron Maxwell, CEO of VERTO.

Media coverage of the event included SBS (“Labor seeks ideas to tackle jobs challenge”), The Australian (“Skills and training will be a centrepiece policy: Shorten”) and Nine News (“Labor seeks ideas to tackle jobs challenge”).