At the Skills Summit organised by the Federal Opposition in Canberra, the Australian Industry Group urged all parties to commit to fully funding a renewal of the Vocational Education and Training (VET) National Partnership Agreement.
“Ai Group calls for a non-partisan commitment to rebuild and reform the languishing Australian VET system,” Ai Group Chief Executive, Innes Willox, told the Summit.
“The first step in the process is to focus on our ailing apprenticeship system. This requires a re-commitment to the $1.75b National Partnership agreement between the Commonwealth and States.
“The current agreement expires in a little over three months on 30 June 2017. Failure to commit to a new agreement will effectively starve the VET system of funding. The VET system is a national economic priority and it can no longer be ignored.
“To turn around the ailing system, we need to make it easier for employers to hire apprentices and for aspiring apprentices to get new opportunities and create a genuine national system for apprenticeships.
“We also want our apprenticeship system to be ready for new and emerging industries and jobs and work well in serving current labour market demands. To do this it needs to be flexible in meeting the demands of new industries and to be able to provide for high-level apprenticeships.
“The number of Australians undertaking apprenticeships is falling. In June 2016 there were 282,900 apprentices and trainees in training, down 45 per cent on the 515,000 in June 2012.
Apprentices and trainees represent just 2.7 per cent of the total workforce, the lowest in a decade.
“We call on governments to reach a new National Partnership Agreement that has three main objectives in the administration of apprenticeships:
- Create a genuine national system;
- Increase the number of Australians starting an apprenticeship and moving into work; and
- Remove duplication between governments and better align their programs, services and funding.
“To achieve these objectives we need a national governance structure and approach to funding, as well as more effective regulation, information and support, data and pathways to apprenticeships.
“Once the policy settings are right we believe apprenticeships will once again provide skilled job opportunities for many people, particularly young people. For the sake of our future, we must do better,” Mr Willox said.