Speech delivered by Business Council chief executive Jennifer Westacott at the Navitas Office Launch.
Ladies and gentlemen.
I would like to acknowledge the traditional owners of the land on which we are gathered, the Gadigal people of the Eora Nation, and pay my respect to their Elders—past and present.
I would also like to thank Tracey, Helen, Rod and Navitas for inviting me to launch this new building today.
This fantastic new facility will be home to:
- the Sydney Institute of Business and Technology (SIBT)
- Australian College of Applied Psychology, and
- Navitas Professional
- Navitas English, which provides English language training for international students.
In addition, the metro campuses of Western Sydney and La Trobe Universities, which Navitas operates on behalf of its partners, make this location a unique cross-institutional 'education hub'..
It’s also a fitting place to talk about one of my passions, the role of our education system in ensuring Australia’s future prosperity.
And to acknowledge Navitas’ position as a leader in global high education.
Since 1994, Navitas has delivered higher education in Australia. Today, it has locations throughout North America, Europe, Africa and Asia and caters to over 80,000 students.
Connection between business and the education sector
The education sector and the business community share an interest in a well-educated and competitive Australia.
That is why it is so important to have Navitas as a member of the Australian Business Council.
We can work together to identify the knowledge and skills Australians will need to be competitive and prosperous.
While we don’t know exactly what the jobs of the future will be, we do know a few things.
Our economy and our society are facing significant disruption.
We know that we’ll need a more skilled workforce than we’ve ever had.
We also know that people will change jobs many times across their working lives.
The greatest protection we have in this country to respond to these challenges, is our mass education system. It is also the great equaliser.
Our mass education system is a form of protection because allows people to re-train and re-equip themselves in the face of technological change.
Further, in my view, education and all the things that flow from it, creates the single biggest platform to reduce inequality.
So, there has never been a more important time for governments, business and educational institutions to come together and get it right.
We will need education that can provide the right knowledge and skills to young students to prepare them for the digital age.
And will enable established workers to re-skill and move to the next career opportunity.
Having education companies like Navitas as members of the Business Council, allows us to draw on our collective strengths to respond to these challenges.
Navitas has been crucial in our push to rethink the VET system.
I believe our VET system is unlikely to meet these challenges without urgent modernisation.
It also has to be put on the same footing as higher education.
It cannot be confined to a residual system that only teaches trades, as important as they are.
This will require investment.
But it will also require the sector to innovate and deliver products that challenge traditional models of teaching and learning.
We should remember that education is an important export industry for Australia. In 2016, it was our third largest export – so clearly we want the sector to remain globally competitive.
We should not spend our time on a debate about public versus private providers, or whether competition has a role in the VET sector.
Competition drives innovation.
The VET sector is not, and should not be, limited to the public provider.
We should have a vibrant sector of public, private and not for profit providers – working in partnership.
State governments need to be clear about the role they want TAFEs to play in that vibrant sector, and fund them appropriately.
But TAFEs and private providers, must look at their business models and how they can drive innovation.
The Smith Family Cadetship program
I want to turn to an example of the education sector and business sector working together.
The Smith Family/Business Council of Australia cadetship program seeks to help young people from disadvantaged backgrounds by offering cadetship positions.
The experience provides an essential step to assist them in the difficult transition from school to work.
Navitas played a key role in developing the formal learning component of the cadetship.
The formal learning modules, such as design thinking, innovation and entrepreneurship, financial literacy, and resilience at work, provide cadets with the skills needed to be competitive in the modern labour market.
Navitas has also offered a number of cadetships that will give young people invaluable experience in areas like Human Resources, Communications and Marketing, Customer Service and Learning & Teaching.
Collaboration between business and the education sector is essential in helping Australians transition to new ways of learning and working.
The great relationship between Navitas and the Business Council is is a clear example of this connection at work.
Education is our comparative advantage and Navitas will be our flagship.
So please join me in congratulating Navitas on this fantatistic new teaching and learning hub for what I am sure will be a time of growth and success.