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Federal and state skills ministers meet

Manufacturing News

Federal, State and Territory Skills and Training Ministers met in Brisbane last week to progress key skills sector reforms and vocational education workforce challenges, aimed at strengthening the quality of vocational education and training and tackling the nations skills shortages now and over the longer term. This an edited version of their communique.

National Skills Agreements and Reform Opportunities

As of January 2023, the Commonwealth, State and Territory governments began delivery of 180,000 extra Fee-Free TAFE and vocational education places made available under the 12-month Skills Agreement.

The places available are in areas of national priority, such as care sectors, digital and technology, tourism and hospitality, construction and agriculture. First Nations Australians, young people (17-24), people with disabilities, and women studying in non-traditional fields are a priority.

Skills Ministers discussed reform opportunities under the proposed five-year National Skills Agreement (NSA) to be negotiated in 2023 and commence in January 2024, and will provide States and Territories with longer term funding security.

Discussions were framed by the Vision and Guiding Principles for a new NSA which were endorsed by National Cabinet prior to the Jobs and Skills Summit in September 2022, and strengthened by priorities agreed to by Skills Ministers in November 2022.

Ministers received a tour of the new Robotics Lab and Cyber Security training facilities at TAFE South Bank, Queensland campus and lunch prepared by students, demonstrating the variety of career paths available through quality vocational education and training.

The Commonwealth, States and Territories are also working together on projects to be funded under the TAFE Technology Fund, investing in upgrading essential TAFE infrastructure.

Job and Skills Australia Establishment

Skills Ministers discussed progress to establish the permanent Jobs and Skills Australia (JSA), as a national leader in data analysis and labour market insights.

Feedback received through submissions in the public consultation process will continue to inform the development of legislation, engagement protocols and operational elements.

In 2023, JSA will develop the evidence base needed to respond to changing skills and labour needs in the economy, through a new national study of adult literacy and numeracy and a capacity study on the emerging workforce needs for Australia’s transition to a clean energy economy.

The clean energy study will support workforce planning to build a strong and vibrant clean energy sector and deliver energy transition and the transformation to a net zero economy by 2050.

Ministers discussed the importance of their shared interest in JSA to ensure that analysis considers State and Territory intelligence and serves the nation’s priorities.

Industry Engagement Reforms and Jobs and Skills Councils

Skills Ministers reaffirmed their commitment to work together to support the implementation of industry engagement reforms, including the establishment of Jobs and Skills Councils (JSCs).

This is a fundamental improvement in industry engagement with the VET sector and will work to deliver better outcomes for employers, workers, learners and the economy.

Skills Ministers endorsed the Jobs and Skills Councils Integrity Framework. Skills Ministers have a key role as the stewards of the VET sector in driving the quality and integrity of JSCs.

The Integrity Framework will be made publicly available on the Department of Employment and Workplace Relations website.

Skills Ministers agreed to convey to the Jobs and Skills Councils the expectation that they ensure their boards recognise the need to reflect gender balance and the diversity of the Australian population, and the Commonwealth Department review the Program Guidelines for JSCs related to governance (clause 9 of the guidelines) to reflect these expectations going forward.

Skills Ministers endorsed temporary oversight of the Training and Assessment (TAE) and Foundation Skills (FSK) Training Packages by the Commonwealth Department of Employment and Workplace Relations.

The Commonwealth will work with States and Territories, and VET industry stakeholders to consider longer-term arrangements for the critically important vocational education sector, both in the context of broader skills reforms and the new industry engagement arrangements.

VET Data Reforms

VET data reforms aim to provide more timely information-rich data on the VET sector and address the current lag of publication of this data.

Skills Ministers endorsed proposed changes to the National Vocational Education and Training Regulator (NVETR) Act, to support timely updates to VET data arrangements in order to remain responsive to the needs of jurisdictions and data users.
Quality Reforms

Skills Ministers discussed the progress and next steps for measures to support and improve quality across the VET sector, including revisions to the Standards for Registered Training Organisations, and acknowledged the deep engagement and valuable feedback received from the sector.

Skills Ministers agreed to a new commencement date of 1 January 2025 for the revised Standards which will enable the Standards and related regulatory requirements to be further tested with the sector to ensure the sector is prepared for strengthened Standards and the revised approach supports uniformly high quality training delivery as soon as possible.

Training Package Content

Skills Ministers expressed their shared concern regarding the Responsible Service of Alcohol units of competency and noted that work is being expeditiously progressed to amend those products to ensure courses do not include any material that is potentially unlawful or offensive.

Skills Ministers agreed that industry will be required to further review the unit in consultation with community groups, industry stakeholders and training providers.

Ministers also commissioned the development of cultural competency resources for training product developers.

Picture: Federal Minister for Skills and Training, Brendan O’Connor

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