Key Points in Skills Reform from the Federal, State, and Territory Skills Ministers’ Summit
Recently, Federal, State, and Territory Skills and Training Ministers convened to discuss and propel significant reforms in the realm of vocational education and training (VET). The meeting held on 30 June 2023 aimed to drive the development of a new National Skills Agreement (NSA) while ensuring that the reforms undertaken contribute to the growth of a high-performing economy. Here is a summary of the key outcomes from the meeting.
A New 5-Year National Skills Agreement
During the gathering, Skills Ministers engaged in productive conversations about the structure and funding arrangements of the forthcoming National Skills Agreement, set to commence on 1 January 2024. Deliberations encompassed the allocation of Commonwealth investments over the next five years, providing States and Territories with the necessary flexibility, autonomy, and funding certainty to address national, state, and territory priorities. The NSA will embrace a collaborative approach to the stewardship of the VET sector, identifying and addressing national needs while recognising the importance of localised responses and flexibility within each jurisdiction.
Recognising the pivotal role of qualifications reform in supporting workforce development and fostering a resilient and productive economy, Skills Ministers reaffirmed their commitment to this endeavour. The meeting established a VET qualifications system that aims to be high-performing, user-friendly, and responsive to the needs of employers and learners, both now and in the future. Additionally, the reform agenda seeks to promote innovation, excellence in training delivery and assessment, safety, quality in training outcomes, and an adaptable workforce that can withstand structural changes. Another important aspect of the reform includes increasing employer participation in nationally recognised training. To ensure effective implementation, a time-limited tripartite Qualifications Reform Design Group will be formed, comprising members from various sectors and stakeholder groups. Their first milestone is to draft new rules for the development of units of competency and qualifications tailored to industry needs by the end of 2023.
Jobs and Skills Australia
Professor Peter Dawkins AO, Interim Director of Jobs and Skills Australia (JSA), provided an update to Skills Ministers on the progress of JSA’s work. This update included an overview of upcoming priorities and the 2023-24 workplan, which was developed in collaboration with tripartite partners. The new governance arrangements and expanded functions outlined in the Jobs and Skills Australia Amendment Bill 2023 were warmly received by Skills Ministers. These provisions open up avenues for independent data analysis, enabling JSA to provide valuable insights to both Skills Ministers and the nation as a whole pertaining to current, emerging, and future workforce, skills, and training needs.
Quality Skills Reforms: RTOs Standards and VET Workforce Blueprint Update
The meeting also addressed the progress of ongoing Quality Reforms, with a focus on potential amendments to the existing Standards for Registered Training Organisations (RTOs) 2015. Skills Ministers recognised the need to strengthen the Fit and Proper Person Requirements under the RTO Standards immediately to ensure integrity within the VET sector. Discussions also revolved around potential changes to the RTO Standards in alignment with the updated Training and Education Package aimed at bolstering the available VET workforce. A comprehensive suite of amendments will be evaluated separately, acknowledging the importance of thorough consideration.
TAFE Centres of Excellence
Skills Ministers engaged in fruitful dialogue concerning the development of nationally networked TAFE Centres of Excellence. These centres will form strategic partnerships with industry, universities, and governments to address critical challenges in our economy, such as the transition to a clean economy, manufacturing and sovereign capability, and region-specific priorities in care and support. In addition to bridging key skills gaps, these Centres will play a crucial role in building trust and confidence in the quality of the training sector.
The recent meeting of Federal, State, and Territory Skills Ministers exemplified a shared commitment to skills reform and advancing vocational education and training in Australia. By focusing on the establishment of a new National Skills Agreement, qualifications reform, the role of Jobs and Skills Australia, quality reforms, and the development of TAFE Centres of Excellence, the meeting set the stage for substantial progress in delivering the skills and workforce necessary for a thriving and dynamic economy.