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Tuesday, 16 June 2020
Page: 4631

Ms SHARKIE (Mayo) (17:17): In the past decade, TAFE and similar training organisations have been the poor cousins when it comes to investing in post-secondary education in Australia. As the education spokesperson for Centre Alliance, this leaves me and, I'm sure, many of those who are involved in the sector deeply concerned, particularly as our young people navigate a post-COVID-19 world.

Just yesterday, I listened to the education minister talking about the huge surge in interest in university applications and about how many applicants the minister believes won't receive a place, which will leave many young people languishing next year with few job prospects. With no opportunity for a gap year and with poor job prospects, it seems those with a marginal interest in attending university have decided that study might be better than unemployment. There has been a considerable amount of marketing of university as a job training pathway, and higher education continues to rise in importance. However, direct employment outcomes do not always follow a degree. During my time working in the youth sector and in other sectors, I have met many young people with degrees who couldn't find a job in their chosen field. What we need to do, though, is to ensure that young people realise that there are many pathways to success and that the support is there to access those pathways. One pathway is certainly TAFE.

Latest figures show that Australia had 1.5 million university students enrolled in 2019. There were 4.1 million students in vocational education and training, including around 260,000 apprentices and trainees, 230,000 school based students and more than a million students in government funded courses provided through institutes such as TAFE. In South Australia alone, there were 70,000 TAFE enrolments last year, with students taking part in over 630 courses across 290 sites.

I would like to talk briefly about the TAFE sites in my electorate of Mayo in Mount Barker, in Victor Harbor and on Kangaroo Island. Around 2½ thousand people across my electorate are involved in TAFE training in some form. All three campuses work exceptionally hard, with very limited resources, facilities and equipment—and I can't underline enough how limited their resources really are. Even barista equipment is in dire need of upgrade. Given these limited resources, I am amazed at how much TAFE is able to do with so little, but significant additional investment is clearly very much needed. Training on Kangaroo Island is not delivered through a dedicated campus. Rather, courses are delivered directly to industry, agriculture and community sites, including at one of the local pubs, and students are supported with online training materials.

Just last week I received some very welcome news from the TAFE manager in my region about a certificate III in individual support—that's in ageing and disability—that has just commenced on Kangaroo Island. It took a considerable amount of time and effort for that certificate to be available. I understand that 14 students are signed up to gain that qualification, and I'm advised that all of them, provided that they pass, will be able to walk straight into a job on the island, given the significant need for the invaluable skills they are learning. I would like to commend all of those students for taking that step and seeking to gain that certificate. There is an urgent need for carers on the island, and this course will help meet that demand.

Indeed, there is an urgent need for carers throughout Mayo, the electorate with the oldest median age in South Australia. So it would seem quite logical that we would have that great need. We need to have some really significant investment in vocational training in my electorate so that locals are able to get that certificate III in caring, in ageing, and then provide support to those who are in need in our community. It's been estimated that the aged-care workforce will need to grow from 366,000 to nearly one million by 2050 to meet the needs of the increasing numbers of older Australians accessing aged care. But I don't think we are planning for this. Mount Barker and the surrounding regions contain more than 30 residential aged-care and disability facilities. Victor Harbor and its surrounding region contain another 15 residential aged-care and disability facilities. Yet getting into a course locally is so difficult.

The move towards individualised and specialised service provision through the individual care plans in the National Disability Insurance Scheme has created an unparalleled shortage of new workers, and we need to ensure that our vocational education providers, such as TAFE, have the resources to meet the demand. Another pressing need in my local area is investment in building and construction and in hospitality. An extensive refurbishment of the existing skills labs at the Victor Harbor and Mount Barker campuses would significantly expand TAFE's capacity to deliver training in these key areas.

There are just under 11,000 businesses operating in Mayo; 99.6 per cent of them are categorised as small businesses, and nearly one in five of them are in the construction sector. TAFE SA Mount Barker has just begun a multi-trades program for high school students who are interested in trade pathways, focusing on building and construction. Twelve students are currently participating in the program, and already one student has been signed up for an apprenticeship. Noah started work as a first-year apprentice bricklayer last week and he will continue trade training through TAFE. Good luck, Noah. We need you. We need really good bricklayers, tilers and builders. I was pleased to learn that TAFE SA is rolling out much-needed training in forklift and telehandler tickets and licensing on Kangaroo Island across June and July. I'm advised that these short two-week courses are fully subscribed and are being run with the support of local businesses and organisations, including Kangaroo Island Council, Kangaroo Island Business and Brand Alliance, Ag KI, Mitre 10, Capula, Junction Australia and the Ozone Hotel.

Besides construction, more than 10 per cent of small businesses in Mayo are involved in retail, food and accommodation. The Adelaide Hills, Fleurieu and Kangaroo Island are well-known destinations for food, wine, hospitality and tourism. All of them are in my electorate. And my electorate is home to over a hundred recognised wineries and cellar doors, complemented by increasing numbers of restaurants, cafes, microbreweries, hotels and accommodation facilities. Demand for skills and labour across the tourism and hospitality sector continues to grow in our region. The changing nature of the industry, moving away from seasonal peaks to year-round activity, provides increasing genuine career pathways and ongoing employment opportunities.

Our construction and tourism sectors have been hit hard by COVID restrictions, world market conditions and, of course, the bushfires, but we will bounce back. Figures from Global Apprenticeship Network Australia show the number of advertised apprenticeship positions fell by 73 per cent between January and April this year, largely due to the downturn in the economy thanks to COVID. There were 468 jobs advertised in April 2020 compared to 1,212 in April last year, but there were strong signs of business confidence returning, with the number of apprenticeship vacancies increasing by 150 per cent in May, to 678 positions. The biggest proportional increase was in hospitality, travel and tourism.

Having toured the TAFE campuses in my electorate, I know much of the work that needs to be done at the Mount Barker site involves bringing the construction, automotive, community services, hospitality, business and IT facilities up to modern standards. The Victor Harbor campus is also desperately in need of upgrades to facilities for forklift licencing and training in tourism, hospitality and community services. Both campuses are located in rapidly growing areas. Mount Barker will be the second largest city in SA in the next 30 years with a population of more than 56,000 by 2036. The size of both campuses and the age of their facilities will significantly restrict the quantity and quality of courses that they can offer our young people if we don't act now. This is why, before the federal election last year, I made a commitment to the people of Mayo that I would advocate strongly for investment in our TAFE campuses. Young kids in regional areas, such as my electorate, want to study regionally, and one of the places they can do that is TAFE. But our TAFEs have not had the investment that they need.

University isn't the only pathway to success, as I mentioned before. We need young people to study in areas that they love right across the spectrum, from aged care, through to mechanics and carpenters and in the construction industry. We want young people to stay in our regions, and they want to stay in our regions. We want young people to stay in South Australia, and we need to make sure that the avenues for training are there for them. So I call on the major parties to make it a priority to invest in quality training and education and, particularly, to invest in TAFE and vocational education in the regions, as well as to provide greater opportunity for young people from the regions to access university.