Outcomes and opportunities from the Jobs and Skills Summit
The Jobs and Skills Summit covered a lot of areas in our economy, from how to meet our future workforce skills needs and its productivity, to the desire for increased participation and equity for groups including women and people with a disability. While there were many outcomes, here are a few that education and training providers should be aware of as they face the future.
In line with the aim of having a better skilled, better trained workforce, the Government will aim to work together to reform the framework for VET qualifications and micro‑credentials. The government wants micro‑credentials, including work‑based learning, placed in a proper framework and be able to be ‘stacked’ into full VET qualifications.
Opportunity: While VET is naturally cautious of more change, the reality is the existing framework is still publicly discussed as a problem, for reasons including its inflexibility to cope with the changes we are facing. It is possible reform will reinvigorate the sector and its image, and granular learning through micro-credentials will drive more business for providers.
One of the headline announcements from the Summit was that the Government and states and territories had agreed to a $1 billion one-year National Skills Agreement that will provide additional funding for fee-free TAFE in 2023. The delivery of 465,000 additional fee-free TAFE places will be accelerated, including 180,000 to be delivered next year.
Opportunity: This presents a significant opportunity for TAFEs in particular to continue to fulfil their social mission. Already, an expansion in fee-free places has had an impact in increasing access and equity, including among women returning to study. An agreement on places now adds momentum for the TAFE channel, and will support TAFE’s future proposition.
National Skills Agreement
The government and states and territories have committed to kick-starting skills sector reform and restarting discussions for a 5-year National Skills Agreement. For VET, the Jobs and Skills Summit also earmarked further work in developing a comprehensive blueprint with key stakeholders to support and grow a quality VET workforce.
Opportunity: Support for even more quality VET teachers, trainers and managers can only be a great thing for the VET sector. If these career paths and workforce opportunities grow in VET alongside vocational skills themselves, with each pollinating the other, we can expect the reputation of VET for professional skilling for the future to be maintained and grown.
Jobs and Skills Australia
The Government will legislate Jobs and Skills Australia as a priority, and establish a work plan in consultation with all jurisdictions and stakeholders. The aim of Jobs and Skills Australia will be to address workforce shortages and build long-term capacity in priority sectors. Part of that will be to commission a workforce capacity study on the clean energy workforce.
Opportunity: Jobs and Skills Australia is likely to play a role in mapping the potential and actual future of skills in different industries and regions, supporting increased confidence of providers in VET as they look at the outlook for their niches, or seek to grow new course offerings in areas of growth. Clean energy is just one skilling opportunity of many.
Government and industry are diving into the digital skills space, implementing a Digital and Tech Skills Compact with business and unions to deliver Digital Apprenticeships to support workers to earn and learn in entry level tech roles. It will also deliver 1000 digital traineeships in the Australian Public Service with a focus on underrepresented groups.
Opportunity: A clear gap in the digital skilling capabilities in Australia’s education system provides significant opportunities for VET providers. While tech companies and governments may be moving ahead with apprenticeships, digital skills are now part of almost every industry and role, giving vocational a lot of room to grow into digital areas over time.
Migration will play a bigger role in addressing skills shortages. The government is increasing the duration of post-study work rights by allowing two additional years of stay for recent graduates with select degrees in areas of skills shortage, and relaxing work restrictions for student and training visa holders until 30 June 2023 to help ease sills and labour shortages.
The government has also committed to other measures and reviews of the migration system, from increasing permanent migration (to 195,000 in 2022-23) to reviewing skilled migration lists and labour market testing. For the education sector, an interesting point was the flagged examination of the potential for industry sponsorship of skilled migrants.
Opportunity: Vocational educators will need to watch and act in this space. With an increased appetite to create work pathways for international cohorts of students to fill skills shortages, it is likely that vocational providers in these areas will have more to offer overseas students when they recruit in the future, leading to more course demand and outcome success stories.
Where to from here?
The 2022 Jobs and Skills Summit had big aims.
Bringing together unions, employers, civil society and governments for two days, its stated objective was to bring Australians together to work constructively on the challenges and opportunities facing the labour market and economy, including education and skills.
“Immediate actions will be taken to build a bigger, better trained, and more productive workforce – to help deliver secure jobs with growing wages, boost incomes and living standards and create more opportunities for more Australians,” the government said after the summit.
Many of the outcomes for education and training do not come as a big surprise. For example, the government’s move to continue with VET and skills sector reform, including through the delivery of genuine micro-credentials framework, are things the sector has been expecting and preparing for some time - and also provide significant opportunities for providers.
However, there are warnings for VET as well. Just one example are those joint moves to address the digital skills gap from government and industry, reflecting the problem we have had with delivering digital skills through our accredited training system, despite VET being the natural home of training for skills in technology when compared with higher education.
The Jobs and Skills Summit provides education and training providers with clarity around the direction the current Government is likely to go, including immediate priorities. In this respect, it gives providers the opportunity to adjust, plan and innovate for the future in new ways, to ensure VET continues to play its respected role at the heart of Australian skills.
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