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Monday, 31 October 2011
Page: 11991

Mr CHEESEMAN (Corangamite) (11:37): I second the motion. Today I rise to hold the Baillieu government to account for their outrageous $48 million cut to the VCAL program. The VCAL program was established in 2002 to provide an alternative pathway for young Victorian students who wanted to continue in education but wanted to pursue an education that was better fitting their needs and their desires to go to TAFE to pursue a career and an apprenticeship. This $48 million cut will lead to VCAL coordinators, the mechanism for providing support for students in this sector, across the state being substantially reduced.

VCAL has played a very large part in training Victorian students, particularly those that wish to pursue an apprenticeship as a part of their vocational education opportunities. The Gillard government has recognised the importance of providing alternative pathways, particularly through record investment in our very innovative Trade Training Centres in Schools Program, which has led to trades training centres being funded across Victoria to help support young students who wish to this gain an opportunity in a trades related area. Indeed, in my own electorate we have provided some $5.5 million for the Coolac cluster of schools to help support those particular students, providing an opportunity for students that has not been there before.

I listened intently to the member for Murray's contribution and wish to point out that under Labor's trades training centres millions of dollars have been provided to schools within her electorate under this very innovative program. I note that the member for Wannon has also now entered the chamber. Labor has provided record investment across a number of sites to help students in the Wannon electorate access trades training.

This outrageous attack by the Baillieu government on the VCAL program will deny many Victorian students the opportunities that trades training centres and programs like VCAL provide. I want to place on the record that Australia does have a skills deficit. The VCAL program and the trades training program are critical for helping Victoria meet its training needs into the future. However, I am not surprised that the Baillieu government has slashed funding to this program—a program that has provided millions of dollars of assistance across south-west Victoria to help support students in their desires to pursue a vocational style career.

Labor federally and at a state level has a very proud record of providing educational opportunities for all students, whether they be students who wish to pursue a university career or, indeed, whether they be students who wish to explore a trades career. VCAL and Labor's trades training programs are critical in supporting them. I call on the Baillieu government to stop spinning and actually get out there and help support young students across Victoria in trades training. We have a skills shortage in our state and in many other parts of Australia. The VCAL program, working in conjunction with Labor's trades training agenda, is critical in providing all students every opportunity in school and then later on into a career.