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Address to the Institute of Technology Annual Prize Night



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SPEECH FOR MINISTER BALDWIN SYDNEY INSTITUTE OF TECHNOLOGY ANNUAL PRIZE NIGHT FRIDAY, 29 MAY 1992

I was very pleased to be asked to speak at this Prize Giving tonight. This occasion is an important time for each of you and is a means of recognising your high achievements last year.

As I am sure you are aware, pre-vocational education at your institution covers a very wide spectrum. Many of you will be completing courses which will assist you in gaining employment. Others will be hoping to get a place

at university or college having upgraded your TEE scores or honed up your English skills.

At first glance it seemed difficult to know quite how to bridge the gap between the different types Of study which you have undertaken and to have something relevant and challenging to say to each of you. However, all of you are

in the process of creating an educational pathway for yourself and it is this that I would like to focus on tonight.

The Federal Government has been stressing the importance of lifelong education and training - lifelong learning - for some time now. And we have sought support for this view from educational institutions,

systems, industry, unions and the community at large. This requires a change in attitude whereby education, especially vocational education, is valued and skills acquisition is viewed as an ongoing process of benefit both to the individual and to society generally.

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Education and training can and indeed must play a central role in meeting our national objectives of generating jobs, improving productivity, and increasing Australia's wealth.

Each of you is at a particular stage along an educational pathway. You should not see the place where you are now as an end in itself but as a step along the road.

Before you all groan loudly at the thought of further formal study for ever and ever, I should point out that we do not view education and training as only that which is taught in institutions such as this. Much of what you learn and the training you receive will be on-the-job.

We are moving to a system of competency-based training whereby, people who demonstrate competency in a particular area, regardless of how they gained the competency, can progress to the next level. This means

that learning which comes in a myriad of ways but does not necessarily produce a piece of paper at the end of it, can be used both to gain access to formal education and training and to compete more successfully in the job

market.

The Federal Government in conjunction with our State counterparts, education and training sectors and others, is trying to make the pathways easier for individuals to access and to ensure that barriers to access and participation are removed. On completion of a basic level course in an area such as work skills or literacy, people should be able to move into mainstream TAPE courses

and progress through certificate, associate diploma and diploma levels as necessary.

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We are moving quickly to bring about reform in this area using the report of the Employment and Skills Formation Council, the Carmichael Report, as a basis for change. The report focusses principally on the issue of entry- level

training arrangements - that is, skills training for young people entering the workforce. It argues for a new structure of entry level training in this country.

The new system will be simpler and more coherent; and will be based on demonstrated competence rather than time served. It will build on the strengths of our current training arrangements, while discarding their

inefficiencies and rigidities. It will be flexible in its organisation; expanding options rather than closing them off; and will be owned and substantially delivered by industry itself, with TAPE and other training institutions playing a responsive and supportive role.

Implementation of the Carmichael Report will mean that trainees, on completion of their training, will receive a recognised certificate of vocational competence testifying

both to their skill credentials and their standards of attainment. This certificate would have wide currency within their chosen industry, as a base for advancement to higher levels of responsibility or skill. It would also be portable to other industries, within a coherent structure of

standards and credentials. Mobility and progression would thereby be encouraged rather than thwarted.

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Skills would be developed rather than lost. And job satisfaction and earnings potential would increase accordingly.

This is an attractive picture, and one which needs to be translated quickly into practice. The Government is committed to reform of entry-level training arrangements,

with these and similar objectives in mind. The Commonwealth is now in the process of discussing these recommendations with State and Territory Governments.

It is our hope that all Governments will move quickly to positively respond to the proposals.

Likewise, at the other end of the TAPE spectrum, there is a considerable amount of discussion going on about credit transfer and articulation between TAPE and universities. I know that a large percentage of those gathered tonight

have gained or hope to gain entrance to university courses. This is to be applauded and, especially on the university side, there needs to be more acceptance of the quality of TAPE courses and graduates and greater

recognition of the possibility of significant academic achievement taking place outside of universities.

New South Wales TAPE has been a national leader in this area, negotiating agreements with the universities on the credit to be granted to TAPE students across a range of courses.

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These agreements will assist TAPE graduates in gaining due recognition for their hard work and achievements. However, we must remember that this is complementary to the heartland of TAPE. We must never lose sight of the

role that TAPE occupies in our society, in the opportunities it affords and the high quality entry-level vocational education and training so desperately needed by industry.

What I am saying is that although transfer from TAPE to university is important, TAPE courses must clearly have their own integrity. There is a danger in seeing TAPE as the poor relation of higher education where you only go if

you cannot get into university, and then only to upgrade your skills so you can gain university entrance. TAPE is not just a staging post en route to a higher status option. It is viable in its own right and has an essential role to

play in the economic development of Australia.

The Commonwealth Government has tried to give due attention to each of our education sectors and to ensure that they have the necessary leadership and resources to play their part in underpinning our national strategy of

micro economic reform. Both schools and universities have set in place far-reaching reforms and agreements designed to bring them confidently into the 21st century.

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In schools, for example, there has been a major improvement in retention rates to the end of secondary school, from only 36 percent in 1982 to 71 percent at present. In relation to universities, 165,000 places were created for Australian students between 1983 and 1991. It

is expected that over 85,000 places will have been created between 1988 and 1994. In addition, a comprehensive set of labour market programs have been developed, targeted

to those most in need, sensitive to the needs of individual job seekers, and designed to produce the skills which job seekers and employers require.

The Government is justifiably proud of these achievements but there is still more to be done. The vocational education and training sector, has been the 'poor cousin' of our education and training system, and is

not yet up to the standard of our international competitors. This sector has suffered from neglect, image problems, State Governments struggling to find adequate funding and rigid barriers separating it from the

university sector.

The labour market has reflected this, with a rise of 43 percent since 1983 in the number of 15-24 year olds with university degrees. The numbers of those with trade qualifications has fallen by 11 percent over the same period. A continuation of these trends would lead to a serious mismatch between the skills available in the labour market and the skills required to maintain a competitive workforce across the broad spectrum of

occupations.

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The Commonwealth Government is seeking in partnership with other players in this arena, to bring about lasting and constructive change to the way vocational education and training is carried out in this country. It must produce adaptable, creative and multi- skilled personnel who can find employment readily because employers are satisfied that they know and understand their products or their services.

The Commonwealth has recognised that change is not costless. It must back its vision for a re-shaped education and training system in this country with a commitment to provision of sufficient resources.

We have put increased funding into counter-cyclical measures in TAPE, that is, providing places aimed at assisting the unemployed who cannot otherwise gain entry into mainstream TAPE courses or employment. In the Prime Minister's February Statement some $40m was

allocated to this purpose. This is in addition to the $49m allocated in March last year. New South Wales received a total of $29.865m of this funding.

Likewise the Government provided an additional $115m for 1992 for additional places, mainly in TAPE, to help alleviate the high unmet demand for further education and training. We realise, however, that this is just part of

the solution to a major and ongoing problem. For this reason, we have been negotiating with State Governments about the future arrangements for TAPE, both financial

and administrative.

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In the February Economic Statement, the Commonwealth set out its offer to the States to assume full funding responsibility for vocational education and training across Australia and to develop a new system of institutes of vocational education, building on the existing TAFE

sector. This is a generous offer. It commits the Commonwealth to establishing an assured and stable basis of triennial funding. It promises a total of $720 million over the next three years on top of existing

financial allocations.

State governments are guaranteed a role as joint and equal partners in training policy and planning processes, as well as continuing sole responsibility for operational management of training. Within agreed national

standards and principles, the States would be fully responsible for decisions on the detailed allocation of resources, on accreditation and registration matters, and

student assessment. They would remain vital and active players in implementing the training reform agenda.

The Commonwealth's proposal has been welcomed by organisations such as the ACTU, the Business Council of Australia and the Metal Trades Industry Association, as well as the TAFE system itself. It is motivated by a

genuine desire on behalf of the Commonwealth to provide the level of national financial and political commitment necessary to ensure the success of the training reform agenda.

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I was disappointed that the recent Premiers Conference was unable to reach agreement in this area. I look forward to a speedy resolution at the June meeting so that policy and planning for next year can be commenced.

The Commonwealth would not want to see the young people of Australia disadvantaged because their issues got lost in a wider political tussle.

The agenda is defined, the basic directions set. The hard thinking has been done and the conceptual framework laid. The task before us now is one of implementation - of performance on the ground. We must all work together

to build the basis of a stronger nation that will carry us into the 21st century; enable us to compete successfully in the international arena; and ensure the continuation of the

lifestyle we currently enjoy.

Perhaps it is now time for me to challenge you to re-think your employment future? I don't mean, what job you do next week or next year, but in five years time or ten years time. What skills might you need then? You will most

certainly need to be flexible and adaptable in the skills you acquire and how you apply them.

Technology is changing very rapidly and you will need to be across the changes that affect your area of expertise. You may have to move into new areas that you have not specifically trained for and undertake further training.

What you have now, and what we are acknowledging tonight, are building blocks. You can put them together in a variety of ways for different purposes and you almost certainly will need to add to them as time goes on.

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This may be a new way of thinking for many of you. However, it is important that you begin to put what you are doing now in a broader context and plan out the career that lies ahead of you. The skills of our people are a vital national resource that needs to be appreciated and developed. Such appreciation and development is not solely the prerogative of governments. We can lead the way and make funding available but we cannot do the

training for you or value it on your behalf.

You must see yourselves as a valuable resource and ensure that you undertake the development necessary to build up that resource. You are potentially this country's greatest area of competitive advantage. Our competitive edge tomorrow depends on the quality of the graduates we produce today - graduates such as yourselves, who must be willing to take the opportunities provided for you, to make careful choices about your future and to work to build a more productive nation.

I congratulate you on your achievements thus far. You can be justifiably proud of them. I wish you well in your future careers or study. Not only are you working to secure your own future, you are contributing to the

national good and building the skills base of this country. It is important that your attitude is positive and one of hope for the future. Largely the future is in your hands. I am sure you will all be very capable of meeting the

challenge.

Thank you.