Media & Speeches

Australian workers need a world-class post-secondary education and skills system

The Business Council today warned Australia’s education and skills system is at risk of failure without urgently needed reform. In releasing its reform plan Future-proof: Australia’s future post-secondary education and skills the Business Council today set out a clear blueprint for how to deliver a world class education and skills system for all Australians.

“Failure of our post-secondary education and skills system will lead to greater need for skilled migration and more jobs leaving Australian shores, it will leave Australians today and future generations ill equipped for the future,” Business Council chief executive Jennifer Westacott said.

“We can’t hold back technological disruption and global economic change but we can protect the skills and capabilities of Australian workers by giving them access to the best post-secondary education and skills system in the world.

Future-proof is a comprehensive reform plan, one that puts learners first and which can help keep Australia and Australian workers globally competitive.

“Our blueprint  has been designed after a comprehensive consultation process with stakeholders. All contributors were clear – Australia’s system needs reform today.

“Our education and skills system must adapt to the challenges of the 21st century, if we don’t act now we risk leaving Australian workers exposed.

“The current funding system creates perverse incentives, our culture undervalues the importance of vocational education, and learners don’t have access to the information they need to make good decisions.

“We welcome the Labor Party’s acknowledgment that a review is needed, and we look forward to working with all political leaders to get this right.

After consultations the Business Council’s Future-proof paper proposes a system with five core components:

  • Maintaining the unique character of each sector – Vocational education and training as an industry-led sector based around competency-based training and applied learning, and Higher Education in providing advanced qualifications, learning for the sake of learning, academic inquiry, and world-class research.
  • Better market information so learners know what jobs are available, what they might earn, what courses are available and how much it will cost them.
  • Putting the learner in charge by giving every Australian a capped lifelong skills account that can be used to pay for courses at approved providers.
  • A culture of lifelong learning that encourages people to use qualifications to build a strong foundation, and then dip in and out of short, accredited modules to effectively create their own ‘credentials’ that allow them to upskill and retrain throughout their lives.
  • A shared governance model clarifying the roles and responsibilities of each level of government and industry.

“Achieving these things will mean we must be ambitious. Big reform can be done incrementally when there is shared a purpose.

“The time for diagnosing this problem is over, it is time to get to work on urgent reform of our post-secondary education and skills system,” said Jennifer Westacott.  

Read the Business Council’s full Future-proof: Australia’s future post-secondary education and skills system report here.