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:
- “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.
- 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.
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”).