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Thursday, 10 November 2016
Page: 2483

Day, Mr Bob, AO

Senator CAMERON (New South Wales) (14:00): My question is to the Minister for Education and Training, Senator Birmingham. I refer to the government's grant of $1.84 million to the North East Vocational College for former Senator Day's pet project the student builders pilot. Why did the government grant almost half a million dollars more than the $1.4 million requested by Senator Day?

Senator BIRMINGHAM (South AustraliaMinister for Education and Training) (14:00): I thank Senator Cameron for his question and his continued interest in the alternative apprenticeship pilot programs. I can advise the Senate and Senator Cameron that that is because the project as funded and agreed under the terms and guidelines of the program that was approved by the department differs from what was originally proposed. It differs in a number of ways. One of those, for example, is that there was a proposal originally that students would pay their fees via the VET FEE-HELP scheme. That is not part of the program that has been approved and part of the project's scope. So it is those types of differences that resulted in different costings occurring at the end.

The PRESIDENT: Senator Cameron, a supplementary question?

Senator CAMERON (New South Wales) (14:01): Given the $1.84 million student builder pilot will benefit only 20 participants at a cost of $92,000 each and an equivalent grant received by the National Electrical and Communications Association will benefit approximately 300 apprentices at a cost of $7,000 each, how can the minister justify using taxpayers' money— (Time expired)

Senator BIRMINGHAM (South AustraliaMinister for Education and Training) (14:02): The question is: how can I justify why it is that we are investing in alternative delivery models for apprenticeship pilots.

The PRESIDENT: Order! Senator Birmingham, just a moment. Can I check with the clerk: was the clock set correctly? Yes, it was set correctly. Minister, you have the call.

Senator BIRMINGHAM: As I said, the question is: how can I justify why it is the government is investing in alternative pilot programs for apprenticeships? As I have told the Senate on a few occasions, it is because we saw between 2012 and 2013 a 38 per cent decline in commencements of Australian Apprenticeships. We saw a decline, as a result of the enacted policies of the then Gillard government, in apprenticeship commencements, which has flowed right through to apprenticeship numbers. Hence we are trialling different alternative delivery models to see whether there are new ways of stimulating growth in apprenticeship opportunities. They are different models; therefore, to actually deal with what Senator Cameron's question might have been had he got to it, because they are different models they involve different numbers of students, they involve different approaches. Each of them with properly assessed in accordance with the program guidelines to then ensure future policy is well informed. (Time expired)

The PRESIDENT: Senator Cameron, a final supplementary question.

Senator CAMERON (New South Wales) (14:03): How can the minister justify using taxpayers' money for former Senator Day's pet project at a cost per participant 13 times more than that of other programs funded by the government?

Senator BIRMINGHAM (South AustraliaMinister for Education and Training) (14:03): As I just said, each of the five different pilot programs are different programs. They have different approaches are applied to them. They are piloting different models of alternative delivery. They undertake different approaches. Some of them are trialling alternative variations on the way apprentices are trained. Others are trialling, as this does, a completely alternative approach, in a way, to the training of apprentices.

I told Senator Cameron at the end of question time yesterday that appropriate qualifications are delivered, appropriate trade licences are met. In the end—

Senator Cameron: What about a trade certificate?

Senator BIRMINGHAM: Senator Cameron, I refer you to my answer at the end of question time yesterday that, of course, all licensing requirements are met for those graduates who meet the qualifications under this program. They will receive two certificates. They will receive a couple of qualifications that will then be recognised in terms of their licensing requirements within the South Australian government, all of which has been detailed quite clearly in the program guidelines. (Time expired)