What skills ministers need to do now: Claire Field has a list


The creation of Jobs and Skills Australia is good but there are plenty of other issues to address

This week the government will introduce legislation into the Federal Parliament to create Jobs and Skills Australia. It will be of keen interest to many and is significant for Australia’s future.

However, in the Australian VET system it is states and territories, not the federal government, which have constitutional responsibility for VET. That is why so many of us in the sector were keen to read the communique issued after last week’s Skills Ministers’ meeting, to learn how ministers were progressing with previously agreed VET priorities.

Regrettably, the communique contained no specifics, despite Labor in opposition signalling their support for a number of reforms being progressed under the direction of skills ministers, such as changes to VET industry advisory arrangements.

While these reforms are not headline grabbing, they are important for VET providers and thus for employers and students.

If, for example, the proposed Industry Clusters are not ready to go on 1 January 2023 as planned – what will happen to the staff currently employed in the Skills Service Organisations which are being replaced in these reforms, and who will be responsible for updating national training packages?

Fifty training packages are currently undergoing review/yet to be finalised. When and how will responsibility for them be handed over to the new Industry Cluster organisations and indeed which organisations were successful in the Commonwealth’s tender process for the Industry Clusters?

With evidence that some TAFE Institutes are struggling to keep their courses up to date (and no doubt some private and community providers too) – what will providers do if the planned reforms are delayed? And what will delays mean for students and for employers already dealing with significant skill shortages?

Chisholm Institute’s on-line arm is now subject to weekly visits by Victorian government officials because they have not kept their courses updated and students have been badly affected. TAFE NSW is going to tender for help to update its courses, after previous outsourcing attempts produced unusable resources and again, students were badly affected.

These are only the examples that make it into the media – other providers are undoubtedly facing similar challenges.

Many in the VET sector will welcome the creation of Jobs and Skills Australia – I do.

What is also needed though is more progress and greater transparency from Skills Ministers on the VET sector’s other important reforms.

 Claire Field is an adviser to the tertiary education sector