State and Territory skills ministers meeting with federal Minister for Skills and Training Brendan O’Connor in Darwin progressed negotiations towards a new National Skills Agreement (NSA) to support a modern and responsive skills sector.
The talks built on the success of Fee-Free TAFE which has delivered over 146,000 enrolments in the first quarter of this year, according to a joint statement.
Skills Ministers agreed to take action to achieve better outcomes for students and deliver more access and equity to the Vocational Education and Training (VET) system through a number of priority reform initiatives. The following is an extract of the Ministers joint statement.
A new 5-year National Skills Agreement
Skills Ministers continued discussion about reform opportunities under the proposed 5-year NSA to address the urgency and opportunity of skills needed by employers and current and future skills for the economy.
Commencing in January 2024, the NSA will provide States and Territories with access to additional Commonwealth investment of $4.1 billion over 5 years from 2024.
This includes a Commonwealth investment in TAFE which contributes an additional $400 million for a further 300,000 TAFE and vocational education places to become fee-free.
Skills Ministers agreed to progress numerous matters including shared stewardship of the national VET system, establishing nationally networked TAFE Centres of Excellence, enhancing VET data and evidence, fee-Free TAFE and progressing gender equality.
Closing the Gap
To achieve a fairer and more effective system, which works towards Closing the Gap, Ministers agreed that measures to support First Nations students must be a priority in the proposed NSA.
This means a VET system which will support First Nations people and communities, through greater participation, increased attainment and completion of VET qualifications to obtain culturally safe and meaningful employment.
Skills Ministers held a roundtable with representatives from Indigenous Registered Training Organisations delivering training in remote areas of the Northern Territory, to discuss challenges, successful approaches and to gain insights regarding meaningful support for First Nations people from the VET sector.
Success of Fee-Free TAFE in 2023
Skills Ministers noted the strong uptake of the 180,000 Fee-Free TAFE and vocational education places, available under the 12-month Skills Agreement since January 2023.
In the first quarter of this year, Ministers noted there have already been more than 146,000 enrolments in priority skills need areas. Fee-free TAFE will continue to help students with cost-of-living pressures and secure a future workforce.
Education pathways and the Universities Accord
Skills Ministers provided input to the Australian Universities Accord, a 12-month review of Australia’s higher education system.
The Australian Universities Accord is an opportunity to facilitate a national discussion and build consensus around a better integrated tertiary education system.
Professor Mary O’Kane, Chair of the Accord Panel, provided Skills Ministers with an update on the Accord process, including key themes identified in consultations to date and explored opportunities with Ministers to support greater alignment between the VET and higher education systems.
National VET Completion Project
In February 2023, Skills Ministers endorsed a project to be led by South Australia to improve VET completions, with future directions to be driven by collective national leadership.
Skills Ministers discussed the National VET Completions project, which includes the establishment of a National Taskforce to provide recommendations to Governments on improving VET completions in the context of national skills reform.
The taskforce is undertaking consultation and engagement to better understand major factors impacting completion rates and key intervention points, and identify practical solutions, as well as exploring national and international best practice models.
VET Information Standard and NCVER Strategic Plan
Skills Ministers noted the progress on the VET Data Streamlining program which aims to modernise the way VET student activity data is collected, managed, and used.
Skills Ministers noted progress to date on the program’s work to develop the VET Information Standard Release 1.0, and plan for the VET Information Standard to be released later in 2023.
Skills Ministers also agreed that the NCVER develop a five-year strategic plan to ensure NCVER continues to be aligned with the broader skills reform agenda.
NT VET Initiatives
Skills Ministers noted the success of the Northern Territory’s recent professional development training and work placements program for students from Timor-Leste in agriculture, hospitality, aged care and construction sectors, underpinned by a 4-year Strategic Partnership Agreement.