“We welcome the Opposition Leader’s recognition that vocational education and training is not a second-best alternative to a university degree – both types of qualification should be valued equally,” Business Council chief executive Jennifer Westacott said today following Opposition Leader Bill Shorten’s speech to the National Press Club in Canberra.
“Governments have for years focused too narrowly on schools and universities when there is a golden opportunity to make our VET system the envy of the world. This will require a bipartisan effort and industry cooperation.
“While we disagree with some of Mr Shorten’s ideas, we stand ready to work with all politicians, industry groups, unions or providers who want to ensure all Australians can access world-class training that unlocks the opportunities of the future economy.
“The VET sector is a crucial piece of Australia’s economic and social infrastructure. It prepares workers for the rapid economic change and helps to keep Australians competitive in a global market.
“We recognise the role of strong TAFE providers alongside effective and accountable private providers.
“Tradespeople are big economic contributors. They often start businesses, take risks, employ Australians and form the backbone of regional communities. However, without an effective apprenticeship system, we risk losing a generation of tradespeople.
“Mr Shorten’s eagerness to reinvigorate the apprenticeship system is welcome. We encourage the government to affirm its commitment by using the next National Partnership to reform the system and improve on both commencements and completions.
“A successful apprenticeship system must maintain focus on getting Australians into employment and enabling them to develop new skills as industries change, rather than meeting well-intentioned quotas,” Ms Westacott said.
The Business Council welcomes the proposal for a national skills summit.