Opposition scraps TAFE fees to end skills shortages

Published: 4 June 2018
Opposition scraps TAFE fees to end skills shortages

The Federal Opposition has promised to scrap upfront fees for 100,000 TAFE students as part of a $473 million package to boost apprenticeships and skills for young people. Details of the package were revealed by Opposition Leader, Bill Shorten, in his Budget Reply speech last week.

The package includes $100 million to upgrade TAFEs around the country, and 10,000 pre-apprentice programs for those who want to learn a trade.

"There is no excuse for a skills vacancy to last one day longer than the time it takes to train an Australian," he said.

"Many trades face skills shortages. But despite high unemployment in some areas, workers can't learn the skills that industries are crying out for.

“In the last five years, more than $3 billion has been cut from TAFE and training, and Australia has 140,000 fewer apprentices today than we did when the Liberals were first elected.

“TAFE courses have been cut, campuses have closed and TAFE teachers have lost their jobs.”

Shorten has promised an extra $708 million over 10 years, a move welcomed by Master Builders Australia (MBA).

The CEO of MBA, Denita Wawn, said Labor's plan to scrap upfront fees for 100,000 TAFE students is a very positive step as industry strives to attract more apprentices.

Wawn said the MBA will engage with Labor on the need to support an open and contestable national training system that provides students and employers with choices to access the most relevant training to secure a job.

“Master Builders has called for innovation in VET and welcomes Labor’s support for 10,000 pre-apprenticeship programs that promote the advantages of a trade qualification. We believe this is an important pathway to promoting a career in the building and construction industry,” she said.

TAFE was also the focus of the Victorian state budget with the Treasurer, Tim Pallas, announcing that thousands of Victorians would be trained for free in a bid to fill widening skills shortages.

Pallas said 30 TAFE and 18 pre-apprenticeship courses will be free from January next year.

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews pledged to give every Victorian the opportunity to get new skills and secure a good job.

The federal government is currently undertaking a national training review to update HVACR skills and address critical gaps across the industry to ensure the trade continues to meet industry needs.

Acknowledging current certifications and training for refrigeration and air conditioning are out of date, the government announced a review of the Electrotechnology Training Package which covers certifications for HVACR.

A discussion paper was released earlier this year seeking industry feedback, however, industry groups have been unable to reach consensus on a number of critical issues. As a result the review has effectively stalled.

Attempts are being made to undertake further consultation in coming months.

The future of Australia's HVACR industry depends on a well-trained workforce but businesses are struggling to meet staffing demands and are continuously trying to upskill, retrain and recruit from a workforce that is seriously lacking.

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