Minister Blocks The Voices Of Students and Workers, Unions and Professional Bodies

In announcing new arrangements for training product development today, Assistant Minister for Education and Training, Simon Birmingham, has completely blocked the voices of students and workers, unions and professional bodies.

The Minister has stated that “…it is employers who best know what skills and competencies they need in their current and future employees.”

Labor has always been committed to having employers and industry participate in the development of training products, but this continues the Government’s agenda of narrowing advice in the skills and training sector,” Sharon Bird said.

“For 30 years there has been collaboration on the development of training packages and the expertise and experience that has been developed was a significant national asset. 

“The current system of Industry Skills Councils brought the voices of industry, unions and professional organisations to the table to ensure that all stakeholders’ views and concerns were considered.

“The current VET Advisory Board has proven to be far too narrow and has come under some controversy which creates serious concern for the composition of the proposed new Australian Industry and Skills Committee.

“With the new competitive tendering of the Skills Service Organisations, I am also very concerned that what we will see with these new arrangements is the development of training products being left in the hands of the lowest cost provider with no concern given to the long term prospects for students and workers. 

The Minister’s policy document states:

“All Australians should be able to rely on training that gives them a bright future regardless of the changes in the economy and the way work is organised. Not only do workers need technical competencies they also need a deep appreciation of the industry they work in so they can help solve problems and boost the productivity of the workplace. 

Workers also need career and vocational competencies to navigate their working life. Most workers will have many employers over their career, and increasingly, many technical specialists will be engaged in sessional work across many work-sites. Embedding a new culture of entrepreneurship through our training is also crucial to helping Australia explore new business opportunities.”

Despite these fine words, there is nothing in the proposed structure to guarantee the interests and concerns of students and workers will be given their rightful priority in this new process.

Once again it just looks like the Abbott Government finding a new way to knock union and student representatives off national VET bodies.

The Minister’s needs to immediately address the following questions:

  • Who will be on the Australian Industry and Skills Committee or the Industry Reference Committees?
  • What funding is attached to these Committees and to Skills Service Organisations?

Will he guarantee that students and workers, unions and professional bodies be included on any of the abovementioned committees?