In a significant step towards fostering a high-performing economy, Federal, State, and Territory Skills and Training Ministers convened on 30 June 2023 to advance crucial reforms in vocational education and training (VET). At the heart of their discussions was the development of a brand-new National Skills Agreement (NSA) aimed at ensuring a skilled and capable workforce to meet the demands of a rapidly evolving job market.
A Forward-Looking National Skills Agreement
The National Skills Agreement (NSA), set to be implemented on 1 January 2024, outlines the framework for funding and stewardship arrangements for the next five years. This agreement empowers States and Territories with greater flexibility, autonomy, and funding certainty to cater to national, state, and territorial priorities in the VET sector. The focus will be on joint stewardship, which identifies and addresses national priorities while allowing for localised responses to regional needs.
Qualifications Reform: Shaping a Resilient Workforce
Recognising the critical role of qualifications in workforce development and economic resilience, the Skills Ministers reemphasised their commitment to qualifications reform. The VET qualifications system is envisioned to be high-performing, user-friendly, and responsive to both employer and learner needs, both now and in the future. The reform aims to foster innovation, excellence in training, safety, and quality in outcomes, creating a skilled workforce adaptable to changing industry trends. Additionally, the reform encourages employers to make use of nationally recognised training.
A dedicated Qualifications Reform Design Group will be established to drive this reform, comprising experienced individuals from the VET sector, unions, employers, government representatives, and education experts. The group will work closely with stakeholders, including Jobs and Skills Councils, TAFEs, RTOs, and students, to draft new rules for competency units and qualifications tailored to the diverse needs of industries. This marks the beginning of a comprehensive multi-year program dedicated to fulfilling the reform goals of the Skills Ministers.
Empowering Jobs and Skills Australia
Professor Peter Dawkins, AO, Interim Director of Jobs and Skills Australia (JSA), provided a notable update to the Skills Ministers on JSA’s accomplishments and upcoming priorities. This independent body plays a pivotal role in providing valuable data and analysis to the nation on current and emerging workforce needs, skills development, and training requirements. The recent governance arrangements and expanded functions, enshrined in the Jobs and Skills Australia Amendment Bill 2023, mark a significant opportunity for informed decision-making at both ministerial and national levels.
Uplifting Quality Reforms
An essential topic on the agenda was the progress of Quality Reforms, which included discussions on potential early changes to the current Standards for Registered Training Organisations (RTOs) 2015. A top priority is enhancing the Fit and Proper Person Requirements under the RTO Standards to uphold the integrity of the VET sector.
Moreover, the Skills Ministers explored potential amendments to the RTO Standards to align them with the updated Training and Education Package. These changes will further support the growth of the VET workforce, and a final suite of amendments will be considered separately.
Thriving TAFE Centres of Excellence
Underscoring the significance of regional priorities and industry partnerships, the Skills Ministers engaged in productive deliberations about developing nationally networked TAFE Centres of Excellence. These centres will collaborate with industries, universities, and governments to tackle critical challenges such as transitioning to a clean economy, strengthening manufacturing capabilities, enhancing care and support services, and addressing other regional needs.
Beyond addressing key skills shortages, these TAFE Centres of Excellence will play a vital role in establishing trust and confidence in the quality of training provided by the VET sector.
In conclusion, the recent meeting of Federal, State, and Territory Skills and Training Ministers marks a crucial step towards building a skilled and adaptable workforce. With the National Skills Agreement, qualifications reform, empowered Jobs and Skills Australia, quality RTO standards, and TAFE Centres of Excellence, the stage is set for a thriving vocational education and training sector that will drive economic prosperity for years to come.