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Australian Workforce and Productivity Agency



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SENATOR THE HON CHRIS EVANS Leader of the Government in the Senate Minister for Tertiary Education, Skills, Science and Research

MINISTERIAL STATEMENT

Australian Workforce and Productivity Agency

The launch of the Australian Workforce and Productivity Agency is a landmark day for Australia’s training system. Today we take the next step in cementing the Government’s partnership with industry to create the skilled workforce our nation needs.

Together, we are making sure Australians are given the best possible opportunity to get the high skilled jobs of the future.

I am pleased to be here with Phillip Bullock to officially launch the Australian Workforce and Productivity Agency and release its first discussion paper into Australia’s Skills and Workforce Development Needs.

The new agency replaces Skills Australia. It will have a broader role in workforce development, give industry a stronger voice and ensure the Government's investment in training delivers the skills that industry and the economy need, in the right place at the right time.

The aim of the new agency is to improve long-term workforce planning and development to address skills and labour shortages, and contribute to improvements in industry and workplace productivity.

Importantly, the agency will have the ability to advise the Government to direct funding to areas of critical industry need, and will be an authority on workforce development policy.

It will build on the strengths of Skills Australia, and collaborate with industry associations, Industry Skills Councils, unions and employers to ensure a shared, practical approach which meets sectoral, regional and small business industry needs.

The agency will have a stronger research, analysis and advisory role, enabling it to specifically address improvements in Australian workforce productivity.

The agency will advise the Government on the allocation of Commonwealth industry skills funding. It will set priorities for, and provide oversight of, the $700 million National Workforce Development Fund, which has been established to support industry develop and improve the skills of their employees.

The agency and the discussion paper we launch today will play an important role in ensuring the Government has the right policy settings and long term planning in place to meet the future training demands of the economy.

Through the work of the agency we are planning today for the jobs of tomorrow and putting the skills needs of Australians first.

One of the key messages in the discussion paper to Government is that high skilled jobs are projected to grow at around 1.6 times the rate of low skilled jobs. The jobs in tomorrow’s economy will be high paying and high skilled jobs.

I am pleased to announce that the agency board will be chaired by Phil Bullock and will include Heather Ridout, Peter Anderson, Ged Kearney, Keith Spence, Marie Persson, John Edwards, Gerald Burke and Dr Michael Keating AC.

In response to the modelling released today, the agency has recommended new areas of strategic priority, as identified by industry, which will drive the funding allocation of the NWDF.

Health care, social assistance, the mining sector and construction have been determined as top priority areas for workforce development over the next year.

Targeting funding to these industries will ensure industry has the skilled workforce to meet its needs.

Industry partnerships to meet the skills challenge - AWPA and NWDF

In the past, the training system has been supply driven rather than focussed on the skills needs of industry and the economy.

The agency answers the call from industry for greater involvement in tackling Australia’s skills and productivity challenges.

Industry will be able to constructively engage with the Commonwealth and state governments, providing advice on the current and future skill demands, as well as how best to meet them.

The agency will be recognised as an independent authority on workforce development policy, research and advice; and will direct skills funding to industry needs.

The agency is already working on a report to examine the peak construction workforce that will be required to deliver resource related projects over the coming years.

The Fund at work

The Government is delivering training partnerships through the National Workforce Development Fund and one of the most important roles of the agency is to target the Fund at key priority areas.

The Fund is directing $700 million in Commonwealth investment to meet the cost of training in industries that need to re-skill or up-skill their workers

Importantly, businesses are also investing in training their employees.

The statistics released today are evidence of the Fund’s success to date. As at 30 June 2012, more than $174 million in funding has been committed to 498 projects. Industry is investing $100 million taking the total investment to more than $274 million.

The NWDF is already funding training for more than 52,000 Australians and in total, 160,000 Australians will benefit. More than 60 per cent of projects involve small business.

From the 785 existing workers at Master Builders Australia being trained in 22 different qualifications, to the 40 new and existing workers at Morshead Home in Canberra being trained to care for aged Australians with mental health issues, the National Workforce Development Fund is delivering real outcomes for businesses across the nation.

Transforming the training sector

The Gillard Government understands the challenges we face to ensure that we have the skilled workforce to meet the needs of the economy.

This is why we have increased funding for training and education in every one of our budgets and made significant reforms.

These reforms will boost productivity and growth and provide employment opportunities for millions of Australians.

We are continuing to drive vital reform through our record investments over the next four years - $15.6 billion in skills and training, $38.8 billion to support universities as more students take up higher education and $9 billion for science, research and innovation.

We understand skills are not only a critical investment for the individual, but also for the economy.

For the individual, it means better employment and wage outcomes throughout their working lives.

For the economy, an investment in skills is an investment in higher productivity and growth.

COAG reform

One of the key pillars of the Government’s skills reform is the overhaul of the VET system.

The Prime Minister and state and territory leaders have signed up to a new national partnership agreement on skills reform.

Under the National Agreement, Governments will have to implement a National Training Entitlement, improve participation and qualification completions and assure the quality of training delivery and outcomes.

Under this agreement, the Government will invest $1.75 billion over five years.

This is on top of the $1.4 billion the Government already provides to the states and territories in annual funding.

The new funding will deliver a guaranteed entitlement to a training place for any Australian who wants to gain a first qualification up to the Certificate III level.

The new agreement with the states also makes available HECS-style loans for subsidised diploma and advanced diploma students.

We want to make sure Australians from all walks of life are able to maximise their potential to participate and share directly in our continuing prosperity.

The new national partnership will enable at least an additional 375,000 students to complete qualifications over the life of the agreement.

This reform package will ensure our national training system is able to respond to the needs of our economy, and will help to lift productivity and competitiveness.

Higher education

The higher education sector will play an increasingly important role over the next decade in meeting the skills challenge.

We know that roughly a third of our workforce in coming years will require a Bachelor’s degree or higher.

This is why in this year’s Budget we have continued our landmark investment in higher education.

Almost $40 billion will go to universities over the next four years and a record 770,000 students are expected to be enrolled by 2015 as a result of Labor’s economic reforms.

Our record investment, coupled with the uncapping of university places, has seen an additional 150,000 students studying at university since 2007.

In the same period, there has been a substantial growth in the number of undergraduate students from under-represented groups.

Tapping into the potential of all Australians is an economic imperative if we are going to meet industry’s need for high skilled workers.

The number of students studying in areas that the future economy will need are rising - the strongest growth has been in health, engineering, and natural and physical sciences.

Conclusion

Our skills challenge is one that we can meet. It is a good challenge to have but it is one which requires genuine partnerships between industry, unions and government.

Since coming to office, this Government has invested strongly in skills, training and education. That’s because we know that they help drive productivity and change people’s lives.

Nothing will do more to increase growth and productivity in the economy than having a highly skilled workforce.

Nothing will help families deal with the cost of living more than ensuring they have the skills to get the high paying jobs of the future.

For individuals, skills are the passport to a better job, a higher pay packet and a more rewarding working life.

For businesses, skilled workers are the critical ingredient for sustained success.

The Gillard Government skills reform agenda will allow us to meet skills shortages and ensure more Australians can access the training they need to be first in line for the jobs of today and tomorrow.

END

The Australia’s Skills and Workforce Development Needs discussion paper is available online at: http://www.awpa.gov.au/

A free, magazine-style NWDF iPad application has been launched today. Learn more about the NWDF, the benefits it brings for business, workers and the economy, and the opportunities available to join the partnership. Visit www.innovation.gov.au/NWDF to download the app.