Vocational Education on the rise…despite crackdown

NSW Deputy Premier, John Barilaro, talks about the growing number of Vocational Education numbers.

Introduction: Vocation Education on the rise despite crackdown

Ross Greenwood:  Welcome back to Money News right around the country. We’ll take your calls very shortly in regards to that interview with the Treasurer, Scott Morrison, both on electricity pricing, plus also on the Commonwealth Bank. 131-873 is our number. If you’re going to jump on the line now, we’ll do it after the next break.

In the meantime, a regular on this program, and I’ll try and talk to him only because it gives some idea for parents, for young people, for older people. If you’re out of the workforce trying to get re-skilled, it gives you some sort of ascent as to where the government procedures are going around the nation. Now, the man we spoke to is John Barry Lowe, who is a deputy premier of New South Wales, also the Minister for Skills and Small Business.

The reason why we have to is because he’s right across all of those measures. But, we try and talk to you on a national basis as well. Doesn’t matter whether you’re in Melbourne, Canberra, whether in Brisbane, whether in South Australia, or whether in Thailand for that matter as well. It’s all still the same thing.

The important part about this is after the scandal in the vocational education training scheme, which is largely as a result of the funding model that the federal government put in place, the previous Labor government. That saw hundreds of millions of dollars wasted. Basically, thrown up against the wall. When it comes to these private, shonky operators whose companies have now collapsed leaving people high and dry, with significant debts as a result of the courses they’d signed up to, which didn’t necessarily lead them to work.

It really now comes to a total rethink in the way which people are to re-skill themselves, to find new skills if they are unemployed. Or, at the very beginning of their working life, get those skills to set them up for a career. John Barry Lowe, New South Wales Deputy Premier, on the line right now. Many thanks for your time John.

Interview with John Barry Lowe, Deputy Premier NSW

John Barry Lowe: Good evening, Ross.

Ross Greenwood:  This is absolutely vital. I mean, just one question for you, because you and I have often talked about TAFE and the role of TAFE right around Australia which seem to be a great model. The problem of government was, it largely carried the cost of TAFE. The federal governments indicated that it wants TAFE students to, say, for example, university students, to carry that burden. I know that you’ve recently launched a big campaign to really push why it is that a TAFE or vocational education is a viable alternative to university. That’s important. But the whole point of that is, why even walk away from that TAFE system anywhere in Australia?

John Barry Lowe: Yes. I think for the past five or six years, we’ve seen state after state, I think it started in South Australia then Victoria. We’ve started to follow suit, but we sort of pulled the break on it here in New South Wales. We’re opening up the market to a very contestable market that under the federal government, the National Partnership Agreement, that the states had signed up to was to offer more contestability. Which means more private providers seeking a chunk of the pie.

Of course, as you rightly touched on, the government help the debacle and that’s all I can call it. It was a debacle that sort of brought a shonky profit providers come to market. Over the last three or four years, we’re seeing a lot of disruption and a lot of trust lost that vocational education is a genuine power play. Governments, state governments right across the board, have to take some responsibility because we source and cost shifting from the state’s, go to feds because of that free help.

I know that’s ended. It means the states have to step up. Here in New South Wales, our budget is still worth about $2.2 billion, that’s with a B, in relation to skills training and TAFE picks up three-quarters of the funding. It represents about three-quarters of the market when it comes to training. But that’s not the same across, state by state. The public provider, is equality provider, it’s been here in New South Wales for over a 125 years. It’s trusted. It’s got the expertise. It’s got the people. Now, we started to bouncing in the which is great news.

Ross Greenwood:  But here’s the real issue, as you and I speak to a lot of employers and so forth. A lot of them say that they’re young people who aren’t that keen to work. In many cases, it’s older workers trying to get re-skilled. But we know that one of the biggest areas of unemployment right now is men and women in their 50’s who find themselves, whatever reason, even their late 40s, out of their career, replaced by a younger person. In flounder, trying to find the next thing to do. That’s largely where the vocational education system is really set up for, those people. But, of course, even then, trying to find that the work outcomes is absolutely vital as well.

John Barry Lowe: Yes, absolutely. If you look at the numbers across the nation, and specifically here in New South Wales. What we’ve seen is a large increase in what we call skill sets training and that is upskilling. That is someone that’s, for whatever reason, are looking for a career change. It could be that they’ve lost their job or the industry they’re part of has transformed. We know that industry and business with innovation technology is changing every day. They find themselves without the skills. One of the areas that we’ve focused on the past couple of years has been skill sets and up skilling the existing workforce.

We’re seeing some great results in doing that. That’s the reality but it’s got to be aligned. It’s going to be aligned to the jobs that are in the market. Again, in New South Wales we have what is known as the skills board that sets the qualifications that are the ones that will be funded by the government. There are about 750 training qualifications in New South Wales of the skill board fits. That’s aligned to where the jobs are in the market. If you go through vocational education, you’re using it as upskilling or it’s where you start your pathway in learning. What there’s almost a certainty at the end of your training if there’s a job at the end of it because they’re the jobs that we’re training for.

Ross Greenwood:  But isn’t this the bonkers part of it say, for example, I mean there are skilled jobs that are required out there. People are trying to train themselves up for the skilled jobs and yet Australia right now is still bringing in an army of people on four, five, seven, visas. We’re bringing an army of people in on short term visas to do all sorts of other jobs around the place. In other words, there are jobs out there that we have to import workers for. Yet some people genuinely struggle to find the work. There’s a gap there somewhere in the whole system.

John Barry Lowe: Yes, there is something broken. I mean, you’re right. If you look right across the nation in unemployment in the low fives across the nation here in New South Wales it’s running at 4.8% that’s adult unemployment. Youth unemployment is running from anywhere from 11% to 26% across the state. Yet we know there are jobs in the market. There are schools shortages across the board. Only a couple of weeks ago we had a story in the local press or in the Sydney Telegraph about shop creators for the North K’NEX program a large infrastructure program here in Sydney.

The salary is about $200,000 yet they are struggling to find people in western Sydney to become shop creators and yet we’ve got a youth unemployment issue. There is a disconnect somewhere in the system where people are falling through the gap, young people or others. This is the part that I think as governments we are struggling to find a way through when we know that we rely heavily on four, five, seven visa workers. Yes, the federal government has announced recently some changes here in clamping down on those four, five, seven, visas. But, at the same time, we’re trying to build our own workforce.

Often, I think governments when the economy’s flat we withdraw from the training space. We’re probably paying the price for it. Now that is the economy is growing here in New South Wales, it’s booming. Now we have the skill shortages it’s really the wrong time to start training and we should be already in the middle at the end of training and we playing catch up.

Ross Greenwood:  It’s always great to have you in the program. He talks common sense about these types of things but it is an issue because if you think about these four, five, seven visas come in we’ve got people in their 50’s unemployed, can’t find work, would take a lot of work in a variety of different areas. Then you get younger people also with youth unemployment rates that are very high as well.

John Berliner is frank enough to say at a government level they struggle for an answer. Maybe you’ve got a few for the governments in your state or indeed the federal government as well. John Berliner is a New South Wales Deputy Premier and also the skills minister. John we appreciate your time.

John Barry Lowe: Thank you, Ross.


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