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Monday, 14 March 2005
Page: 35

Mr FAWCETT (2:40 PM) —My question is addressed to the Minister for Vocational and Technical Education. Would the minister inform the House of the government’s action to increase the number of skilled people in training?

Mr HARDGRAVE (Minister for Vocational and Technical Education and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister) —I thank the member for Wakefield for his question. I know he is getting on with the job in his part of northern Adelaide, and I appreciate the work he does so well. Members of the House would be wise to read the excellent article penned by the Treasurer in today’s Australian, which outlines very clearly how Australia’s growing economy and our ageing population have of course led to the enormous increase in demand for skilled workers. It is now a case of jobs looking for people, not people looking for jobs, the way it was under the previous government.

The good news is that more than 90 per cent of those people who complete an apprenticeship have ongoing employment within three months of that completion. There is strong growth in commencements in the 12 months to September 2004. The number of people actually commencing trades and trades related apprenticeships increased by 19 per cent, which is good news. Overall Commonwealth funding to the vocational education and training sector has increased to its current level of $2.1 billion a year. That is a real increase of 57½ per cent since 1996. Election commitments that will be delivered on time, in full, in the budget—I do not suppose the Treasurer will mind me mentioning that; I will not go too far—are worth an additional $1.06 billion over the next three years.

We are addressing the skills needs in trades such as the automotive mechanical trade, building and construction, plumbing, electrical trades and commercial cookery. The initiatives include the establishment of 24 Australian technical colleges, the establishment of the Australian Institute for Trade Skill Excellence, the $800 tool kit for new apprentices in skills shortage occupations and the Commonwealth trade learning scholarships upon successfully completing the first and second years of an apprenticeship—that is $500 per year over those two years. There is funding of 5,000 additional places over three years in the New Apprenticeships Access Program, which means we will see 10,000 of those disadvantaged people in our community gaining access to apprenticeships, and over $100 million to establish an Australian network of industry careers advisers. These commitments complement the work that this government has done progressively and aggressively over the past nine years. This has already led to a significant increase in the numbers of those in the trades, but we will keep working hard to keep making that happen.