Motion on Vocational Education and Training


I move that this House:

  1. acknowledges that the Government's Fee-Free TAFE policy has been hugely successful, with more than 214,300 enrolments so far in the first six months, nearly 35,000 places more than the 2023 target of 180,000;

  2. notes that:
    (a) the care sector will benefit significantly, with courses across health care, aged care and disability care attracting 23.8 per cent of total enrolments, with construction attracting 9.8 per cent, technology and digital attracting 7.8 per cent, and early childhood education and care attracting 5.5 per cent of enrolments;
    (b) demographic data also shows Fee-Free TAFE is supporting priority groups including young people, job seekers, people with disability, first nations Australians and culturally and linguistically diverse communities; and
    (c) women make up 60.2 per cent of enrolments, with nearly 130,000 women taking on a qualification under the program; and

  3. further notes that:
    (a) Fee-Free TAFE is a policy delivered in partnership with state and territory governments;
    (b) funding is available for a further 300,000 Fee-Free TAFE places over three years from 2024; and
    (c) Fee-Free TAFE is another example of the Government working for Australians by delivering a better future.

I rise today very proud to be a member of a government that has successfully inserted energy, funds and people back into our TAFE sector. When we took government, one of the first things we did was have a Jobs and Skills Summit. This summit included people from across the spectrum—from business, from education, from all sectors, from around Australia—to come together with government, with those opposite invited. What did they identify? They identified a massive skills deficit, where the list of skills shortage areas had gone from 153 to 286. In fact, the OECD said that we had the second most severe labour shortage in the developed world. Match that with projections that nine out of 10 new jobs in the next five years will require a postschool qualification.

So what did this government do? This government got busy. This government talked to territories and states and together came up with a National Agreement for Skills and Workforce Development for 2023. We signed to deliver $1 billion in 12 months, working with the states to create 180,000 places in 2023, with the emphasis on our job shortage areas—the care economy, agriculture, hospitality and tourism, construction and technology. The result has been incredible. In fact, we've exceeded that 180,000-place target, with 215,000 Australians enrolled into TAFE in 2023, into courses that are going to fill those job shortages.

This is what a government that works for Australia gets on and does. So we've exceeded that target this year, and the break-up of numbers of people who have gone into the program is as interesting as the big number in itself. In the first six months, with the target of the enrolments exceeded, when you have a look at the people studying, women make up 60 per cent, with nearly 130,000 women taking on a qualification under the program. More than a third of the enrolments, over 34 per cent, are in inner and outer regional locations, exactly the cohorts that we needed, exactly the potential and the talent this country needed to tap.

We're not stopping there. We're making funding available for a further 300,000 Fee-Free TAFE places starting in January next year. The Fee-Free TAFE and VET agreement was only possible because of genuine partnership on skills and training with state and territory governments, established after the Jobs and Skills Summit. Working together with the state and territory governments to rebuild TAFE across this country, to redress our skills shortages with our domestic students, to ensure that Australians aren't being left behind and that business has its skill requirements met without having to press the emergency button is absolutely critical. It ensures that our young people and people wanting to retrain have access to the training that we need as a country. As well as this being interest based, the government has targeted those areas where the shortages are, to ensure that we're attracting people into the skill space as we need them.

It has been clear to me in the nine years that I have been here that the previous government absolutely neglected this space. They were happy to claim there was a skills shortage and create some visas. We need both things happening in this country, and this government is determined to ensure that our domestic students have just as much training as they need to ensure that they can get access to good full-time jobs. If it were left to those opposite, this wouldn't be happening. If we hadn't won government, this wouldn't be happening. Do you know how I know that? Because the Deputy Leader of the Opposition has called Fee-Free TAFE 'wasteful' spending. Despite the massive enrolments, despite the commitment shown by Australians to get themselves into these courses, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition says it is wasteful spending. That's proof enough for me.

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