Business Council chief executive Jennifer Westacott will propose a new tertiary education and training system to prevent Australians falling through the cracks as technology continues to transform the economy.
Ms Westacott will launch the Business Council’s discussion paper, Future-proof: Protecting Australians through Education and Skills, which outlines a new tertiary model that would enable workers to more easily retrain and reskill over their lives.
The Business Council proposes a single tertiary funding system across higher education and vocational education and training (VET). This would eliminate the distorted incentives that currently push learners towards courses that aren’t suitable for them.
“Nobody knows what the future holds, so Australia needs to protect its people by ensuring they are the most skilled, the most trained and the most resilient people on earth,” Ms Westacott said ahead of a speech to the National Press Club in Canberra.
“I call this the new Australian protectionism – protecting Australians against change by equipping them with the skills they need, rather than resorting to trade barriers, industry subsidies and ad-hoc taxes that simply won’t work.
“We also need to get out in front on issues like tax competitiveness, infrastructure and energy affordability if we’re going to adapt and seize the opportunities of the future.
“Unfortunately, our current education and training system creates confused and distorted incentives and is unfair in its treatment of students.
“This biased funding model reinforces the myth that a university degree is inherently more valuable or more prestigious than a vocational qualification. That is simply not true.
“We are proposing a suite of measures, including a personalised Lifelong Skills Account for every Australian, enabling them to build on their qualifications and skills as industries transform.
“The system must be ‘joined-up’ so that workers and students can gain the tailored qualifications they need, when they need them, from the sector best equipped to provide them.
“Business employs 10 million of the 12 million working Australians. Ensuring they can realise their full potential isn’t just an economic imperative or a social obligation – it is a moral imperative.
“We need an education and training system which enables every Australian to thrive because when they do, so does the nation.”