SKILLS FOR ALL AUSTRALIANS

Today’s Skills for all Australians announcement by Prime Minister Julia Gillard is a positive step in the right direction if we are to meet the nation’s workforce challenges.

Removing barriers to Vocational Education and Training, enhancing information on the VET sector, addressing the large pool of unskilled labour and injecting extra funding into the VET System are welcome initiatives.

The Commonwealth and States should negotiate the proposed funding model in good faith to ensure that all Australians benefit from a world-class VET sector.

Plans to address the lack of data on privately funded industry training are particularly welcome. This is an overdue development that should help reveal the full extent of the cost and value of training undertaken in Australia.

There are some missing links in the announcement, however, with a lack of clarity on the mechanism for ensuring a more demanddriven VET sector from an employer point of view.

One way of achieving this is to make sure that courses of study are going to be linked to real jobs. This is where employer participation is crucial; otherwise the system could become a gravy train for training providers with very limited employment outcomes as has occurred in the past.

Another missing element is the mechanism to materially improve the quality of the VET teaching output and its assurance.

While the increasingly demand-driven nature of the system is crucial from a consumer point of view, a strong national regulator with appropriate powers is required. Until the quality of training outcomes is assured, the VET system will not achieve its full potential.

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