The Jobs and Skills Summit was held on 1 and 2 September at Parliament House in Canberra. In the ‘lead in’ there has been quite a bit of press from commentators and luminaries alike.

In the last issue of VDC News, Treasury’s issues paper underpinning the Summit was highlighted. Here’s a little of what is known so far in terms of the Summit’s outcomes and what the key issues for a number of bodies were.

The Summit covered a lot of ground

As the agenda for the Summit shows there was a lot of ground to cover over the two days. Focal points for those attending included maintaining full employment and growing productivity and looking at how job security and wages could be boosted through sustainable growth and through more effective approaches to wage bargaining. It also tried to explore ways to lift workforce participation and reduce barriers to employment and maximise opportunities and the potential of industries now and in the future (with a focus on clean energy and climate change). Promoting equal opportunity and pay for women was also on the agenda. Finally, and of most interest to those in VET, it tried to look at ways to deliver “a high-quality labour force through skills, training and migration.”

As Prime Minister Albanese pointed out in a speech to the National Press Club on 29 August, the Summit represents:

“the culmination of more than 100 pre-summit consultations that Ministers and government members have conducted all over the country, drawing on input from thousands of Australians looking at everything from improving economic participation for people with disability, to addressing our migration challenges, to boosting the numbers of Australians training in new technologies.”

What he is hoping for is “the beginning of a new culture of co-operation.” And maybe that process has started!

Employers and unions got together!

A joint paper released before the Summit by peak employer bodies, including the AiG, BCA and ACCI, and the ACTU, highlights the importance they place on skills development and training. In it they point out that investing in skilling and reskilling Australians is a priority they all share but they believe that to do this effectively VET needs to be reinvigorated, expanded, adapted and supported to meet workforce needs now and into the future through lifelong learning and including key areas such as foundational and digital skills.

They see the establishment of the new agency ‘Jobs and Skills Australia’ to be a priority. (VDC News highlighted this new agency in articles you can access here and here.) Investing in VET is important too, they believe, including a real and sustained funding increase and developing a “workforce development plan for our entire VET education system and ensure that trainers and assessors in our VET system have the skills, expertise and adaptability to support the broader workforce.”

An article in the Age on 4 September reported that Skills Minister Brendan O’Connor is seeking “to secure a new $3.7 billion, five-year agreement with states and territories to reform the vocational education sector” and “address the country’s skills shortage crisis.” According to the article this should involve “upgrading TAFE facilities, prioritising wrap-around supports for priority groups, supporting a quality teaching workforce and strengthening collaboration with industry and unions.” One of the key outcomes of the Summit was a $1bn+ commitment by the Commonwealth and state/territory governments to extend existing Free TAFE places.

What VET Provider bodies are saying

TAFE Director’s Australia’s CEO Jenny Dodd welcomed the commitment to TAFE being at the heart of Australia’s vocational education and training sector in a recent TDA Newsletter. She noted that improving opportunities for all was a dominant theme and that students had also been winners, with

“These fee-free places [providing] access to skills development for many who may not have been able to study. It sends an important message that all have opportunities to enrol in a TAFE course next year – to upskill or to gain a first qualification.”

The Independent Tertiary Education Council Australia’s (ITECA) message to the Jobs and Skills Summit is focused on the importance and significant role of independent training providers play in helping to skill and educate the Australian workforce. ITECA has also called for private training providers to also be involved in $1bn+ free place deal.

Community Colleges Australia’s (CCA) commentary prior to the Jobs and Skills Summit highlights that the “lack of ACE student engagement in VET is most acute with Indigenous (First Nations) learners; people with a disability; migrants, refugees and people from a non-English speaking background; and people from lower-socio-economic backgrounds more broadly.” It points to the roles community education can play, including the need to reaffirm the value of community education and to recognise the role VET and community education play in the development of foundational and vocational skills. CCA call both for a recognition of the role they play in rural and regional VET and for better funding.

Want to hear more?

Join Claire Fields as she unpacks the key outcomes from the summit for the VET sector in her VDC VET Chat on Wednesday 5 October 10.00am – 10.30am.

In this bite-sized session, Claire will delve into an overview of the Summit’s outcomes, the implications in the short-medium term for the VET Sector, and the longer-term implications.

Register here: VET Chat: Jobs and Skills Summit – What Did it Mean for VET?