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Address to Group Training Australia Conference, Adelaide

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Group Training Australia Conference, Adelaide

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It is a pleasure to be here today for your national conference.

Just as skills are vital for the growth of the economy, they also have the power to transform lives.

The Government has been hard at work in vocational education and training to ensure that this

important sector remains key to our world-class education system and a key pillar of our


Australia’s VET sector is well placed to meet the challenges of the future. We have introduced

reforms that are strengthening the quality of the sector, particularly in the former government’s

VET FEE-HELP scheme which saw exponential growth with little quality provisions, which has

taken up a lot of my time in my 49 days in this portfolio.

We have also worked to place industry at the centre of the training package development

process, to ensure that we can move with the times and understand what Australian businesses

need from future workers.

Australia’s greatest resource in the 21st century is its skilled workforce.

Vocational education and training is essential to the future of our nation because Australia’s

greatest resource in the 21st century is not iron ore, sheep or gold. It is our people. No matter the

sector or the service, our people are our strongest asset and ensuring the greatest possible

opportunity is our path to prosperity.


With a highly trained workforce, we can keep up with the demands placed on us in a globalised

world. We will also have the capability to build an economy open to innovation and open to

seizing new markets and opportunities.

With more than 3.9 million people engaging in vocational education and training each year - that

is almost one in four working age Australians, more than three times the number than in higher

education - government, industry, providers, and GTOs need to work together to ensure these

3.9 million people become our next fitters and turners, IT workers, builders, or childcare


We also need to keep in mind that 20 per cent of those engaged in training are aged over 45 -

looking to gain new skills and possibly switch careers.

Since being sworn in as Minister for Vocational Education and Skills in February, I have focused

my efforts on understanding the opportunities and challenges currently facing VET in Australia.

I have spoken to many people passionate about VET and the opportunities it provides -

including TAFEs and private VET providers, industry, GTOs, businesses, and individuals. All

are united on one point: skills and training is of vital importance to Australia’s future.

I am pleased to be here today to speak to you in the room, and to also answer your questions and

have a chance to ask my own of you. Group Training Australia does great work, helping

employers to skill up young Australians for new jobs, as well as those changing their career path.

Getting an apprenticeship has changed since my Dad’s day, in fact it has changed since my

friends undertook and completed apprenticeships. When people my age and older finished

school, training or university, we scanned the newspaper and replied to advertisements, and in

many cases, apprentices were signed up straight from school, and they definitely did not have all

the support available to them today from the support networks we have now.

The Turnbull Government is strongly committed to the Australian Apprenticeship system.

Apprenticeships underpin a sizable part of Australia’s productive economy and are essential to

producing the trade, technical and business skills our economy needs today and into the future.

Most importantly, apprenticeships are strongly supported by industry and employers because

they offer relevant workplace learning that cannot be replicated in a classroom.

They are crucial to ensuring that employers have the skilled workforce that they require.

Apprenticeships are really at the forefront of innovation in workplace training, any education that

gives you the opportunity to learn in the workplace ensures that the student or apprentice is up- to-date with the latest technology.

In its Skills Outlook 2015, the OECD identified Australia as a leading country for

apprenticeships; we score particularly well for students engaged in VET in secondary school,

many through an apprenticeship.

While we had an impressive scorecard, we want even more Australians to realise the benefits of

VET and apprenticeships, and we want to ensure that the VET system moves with the times and

remains directly relevant to industry and employer needs.

Apprentice completion outcomes in Australia are strong compared to other areas of education

and training - more than double the average completion rate for individuals in general VET

programmes (57.3 per cent vs 28 per cent) and above the level of four-year university Bachelor

completions (45.1 per cent).

It is important that apprenticeships are recognised as just as valuable as a university education.

Because it is a fact, apprenticeships deliver excellent employment outcomes. Of those who

worked in a trade apprenticeship or traineeship 91 per cent of those that completed their

qualification, and even 72.6 per cent who didn’t complete their training, were employed shortly


To build on this, the Government provides up to $200 million per annum to fund the Australian

Apprenticeship Support Network, which began operating nationally on 1 July 2015.

The Network delivers services in more than 400 locations and has helped 270,575 employers,

apprentices and prospective employers since it began.

The network’s tailored services help match the right apprentice to the right apprenticeship, and

provide more support to employers and apprentices to improve completion rates.

We also help employers through the Australian Apprenticeship Incentive Programme. In

2015?16 more than 68,000 employers are expected to be helped through incentives to employ


Our Trade Support Loans are helping apprentices to finish their training, by providing access to

as much as $20,000 towards the costs of their training and associated costs, such as tools and

living expenses.

It is important for all of us to continue to raise the status of training in Australia. We want our

young people to feel just as good about securing an apprenticeship as they would about any other

post-secondary school pathway.

The Government is doing its part with our Australian Apprenticeships Ambassadors which helps

to highlight real apprenticeship and traineeship success stories.

The programme currently has 176 Ambassadors. Some of whom are from the Group Training

Today’s Skills; Tomorrow’s Leaders programme. Our ambassadors are sharing their stories with

their communities, friends and families and promoting Australian Apprenticeships as a valuable

pathway to a career.

Australian Training Award 2015 finalist, Tevita Supilani Ma’ilei offers a striking example of the

benefits of training. When Supi found himself at a cross roads it was a GTO that offered him a

way to secure the future for his family. Newly married with a young child, he decided that his

job as a heavy truck operator would not provide the necessary security. He felt he had two

choices - go back to university and finish the last year of his accounting and law degree, or

become a qualified tradesperson.

Fast forward four years and Supi is now a qualified carpenter. With the support of the Australian

Training Company, BAL Building, and the Canberra Institute of Technology, Supi excelled in

his Australian Apprenticeship.

Supi now has a permanent role with BAL Building and a strong basis for a very promising


This is just one example of how an Australian Apprenticeship, every day, every week, every

month and every year leads to real jobs for graduates.

Our Government recognises the valuable contribution GTOs make to this system.

I would like to thank Group Training Australia for its leadership, representing a network of

around 150 GTOs nation-wide, from cities, to regional and remote areas.

Collectively, the national network of GTOs employ around 25,000 apprentices and trainees, and

over 100,000 businesses have used a GTO.

As you would know Group Training is the largest employer network of apprentices and trainees

in Australia and your approach to boost retention and completion is getting results.

You make a particularly big difference in rural, regional, and remote Australia.

Rural Industry Training & Extension - RITE — a GTO and Registered Training Organisation

based in Charters Towers is responsible for one of the largest regions in the world, extending

across Queensland, the Northern Territory, Western Australia and South Australia.

This is an area roughly the same size as Western Europe. It’s not uncommon for field staff to be

away for months at a time delivering agricultural training to clients, many in indigenous


Six trainers traverse the country in mobile training units comprising a truck and trailer and

everything the trainer needs including horses and motorbikes and can cover up to 80,000

kilometres in a year.

Instead of training at a campus or having the participants go off-site, RITE goes on-site and

looks for something of value to do in the community, everything from building market gardens,

sheds, and barbecues for the community, as well as bore maintenance on the lands’ tribal areas.

Their presence in virtually every major region and community across this area helps to secure

jobs by offering skills development, and keeping businesses engaged with the training system.

The challenge for GTOs is to continue to adapt to changes and opportunities in the skills market

so their services remain relevant to those in training and considering training.

Today’s discussions, I know, will look at this issue. Your approach, working at the grass roots

level to understand what apprentices and what local businesses need, means that you are well

placed to understand what is needed both now, and into the future. I am confident that you are up

to this challenge.

The Government and Group Training Australia share a common vision to continue to improve

and strengthen training, and to ensure that it remains modern and relevant well into the future.

I look forward to taking your questions, and would like hear any ideas or suggestions you have to

make our training system better, to keep what is good, and improve what we need to.

Thank you