Apprentices and skills funding in limbo

Opinion 2The Turnbull government is stuck in limbo on the crucial issue of funding for skills and apprenticeships. The prosperity and productivity of the nation depends on the transfer and acquisition of skills, yet the Turnbull and Abbott Governments have consistently cut, ignored and relegated skills and apprenticeships as a policy priority.

It is now three months since the national partnership agreement on skills expired.

There is currently no funding agreement in place to replace it. The proposed agreement and funding mechanism, the Skilling Australians Fund, has been widely derided as unworkable, inadequate and insecure.

The Skilling Australians Fund relies entirely on fees paid by skilled overseas workers.

The contradiction of relying on fees paid by foreign workers filling skills gaps for Australia’s skills development seems lost on the Turnbull government.

The government’s claim that the Fund will create an additional 300,000 apprenticeships and traineeships is unrealistic. The rate of apprenticeships will have to rise from 2.2% of current jobs to 30% for all new jobs to meet this target.

The government has refused to answer questions put to it at Estimates relating to the Fund, in contravention of the Senate standing orders, clearly because it has not resolved key issues and inconsistencies in its current policy. It is policy on the run, with no strategic plan and no secure funding.

It is simply not good enough.

The failure to reach agreement with the States and territories highlights the confusion and lack of strategic direction from the Turnbull/Abbott government.
The lack of a plan for the skills required for our growing naval and defence manufacturing sector is particularly concerning. It is time for change. The Turnbull government has failed.

Labor will make TAFE the centrepiece of our training system again, ensuring that at least two-thirds of all Commonwealth VET funding goes to TAFE. Labor will invest $100 million to revitalise TAFE campuses in regional and outer metropolitan areas.

Labor will guarantee funding and reverse the $637 million cut from skills and TAFE in the 2017 Budget. We will ensure that at least one in ten jobs on major Commonwealth funded projects is done by an apprentice. Labor will invest in skills for young workers through our Training for Transition, program and in skilling up older workers via the Advanced Entry Adult Apprenticeships, Apprentice Ready schemes.

And Labor will take a cooperative approach, working with employers and employees, the states and territories, educators and providers, to ensure that is the skills system is addressing the needs of Australians into the future.

Doug Cameron MP

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