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Wednesday, 16 August 2000
Page: 19069

Mrs DRAPER (10:31 AM) —I rise today to speak in support of the Vocational Education and Training Funding Amendment Bill 2000. This bill supplements funding for vocational education and training provided to the Australian National Training Authority for distribution to the states and territories in the year 2000. It also appropriates funds for vocational education and training for the year 2001. Over 1½ million Australians participate in formal vocational education and training. The minister has advised the House in his second reading speech that by the end of this year there will be an additional 160,000 training places provided nationally over the planned 1997 level.

This government is clearly committed to strengthening Australia's vocational education and training system and has committed $1.7 billion to this area. This commitment includes $2 billion over four years for the New Apprenticeships system. Funding includes $342 million for New Apprenticeships centres—of which South Australia has 11—$1.5 billion for incentives for employers to take on new apprentices, $65 million to provide information and strategic intervention programs, and $79 million for the New Apprenticeship Access Program, which helps young people bring their skills up to apprenticeship entry level. The sum of $3.9 billion over four years has also been provided for TAFE and off-the-job vocational training. New apprenticeships have proved to be highly successful, and many businesses in my electorate of Makin are now utilising the New Apprenticeships system.

Skill shortages are now being addressed because apprenticeships are tailored to meet industry needs and provide training in an ever increasing variety of occupations. New apprenticeships will also be boosted by further initiatives, including group training targeted initiatives, enhanced educative service arrangements, a strategic intervention program and the wage top-up scheme. More young people than at any time in the past 10 years now have training contracts or apprenticeships with employers. I am also pleased to say that there has been a huge increase in women's participation in new apprenticeships since 1996. The growth in women's participation from December 1996 to December 1999 has been 147.8 per cent. This was an increase from 27,800 to 83,700 females participating in new apprenticeships.

When I was first elected, one of the major concerns of small business in my electorate was that there were considerable skill shortages in the traditional trades, and many tradespeople feel that there still are. Many tradespeople are very concerned that their trade and many years of acquired skills and experience will be lost when they retire. Many times I have heard from tradespeople in the small businesses in my electorate how important it is that young people are taught these skills and encouraged into apprenticeships so that these skills are not lost in time all through the generations. I am very pleased that this government is working to address this very issue and is taking the lead in helping to reverse skill shortages and boost job opportunities for our young people.

The new apprenticeship centres support business growth and create employment through increasing skill levels in our work force through the vocational education and training system. The new apprenticeship centres provide a central streamlined service for employers and individuals who want to access new apprenticeships. The central service has been very successful in providing information and marketing, promoting and administering these new initiatives. I urge business to consider using these facilities if they are thinking of hiring a new apprentice or trainee.

The Commonwealth provided $354.3 million in financial incentives to employers and new apprentices to support new apprentices in the 1999-2000 financial year. Financial incentives encourage trades people and small business to give young people the opportunity to learn unique skills and pass on their skills and knowledge to the younger generation whilst easing the financial burden and on-costs associated with training and teaching someone with very little or no experience.

One initiative which has recently been announced by the minister as a result of the National Industry Skills Forum recommendations to the federal government is the expansion of the National Industry Skills Forum process. The building and construction industry and the food, trades and rural industries are currently experiencing difficulties with skill shortages and it is important that this be addressed. Seventy per cent of apprentices are young people and they are getting training and jobs out of it. There are record numbers of young people training in a variety of careers, such as information technology, telecommunications, tourism and hospitality, as well as the more traditional areas such as manufacturing, engineering and construction.

An important component of the new apprenticeship system is the Jobs Pathway Program. The Para Hills High School and the Salisbury East High School are two schools in my electorate involved in the Jobs Pathway Program, which has proven to be highly successful. This program helps school leavers to obtain new apprenticeships, vocational education and training in schools, and ultimately a job. The Jobs Pathway Program provides links with existing support mechanisms and smooths the transition for school leavers going from school into the workforce. Examples of support mechanisms include career guidance and vocational work placement activities. The government is leading the way in vocational education and training. The funding which will be provided to the states will ensure that the Commonwealth will still have an influence on vocational education policy, particularly in relation to new apprenticeships. I commend the bill to the House.