More Action, Less Talk Needed On Skills

As National Skills Week gets underway, Sharon Bird has called on Minister for Industry Ian MacFarlane to fight for funding and programs in the skills area, rather than just make grand speeches.

This part of the Minister’s portfolio was decimated in the Budget with massive cuts to skills programs - all the Minister’s motherhood statements won’t make up for the damage that’s been done.

“While the Minister talks big on skills, his actions tell a different story,” Sharon Bird said.

“The vocational education and training sector is a crucial plank in our economy because it supports the skilled and productive workers Australia relies upon across a range of industries. The VET sector will be even more important as Australia builds an economic base that is diversified, flexible and dynamic and can support the transformation of existing industries and the growth of new industries,”

Ian Macfarlane, Media Release, Launch of National Skills Week, 21 August 2014

“The Abbott Government ripped $2 billion from skills in their unfair Budget – they slashed programs that provided apprenticeship opportunities and support,” Sharon Bird said.   

“They completely abolished programs that worked with companies to upskill their existing workers to make them competitive.

“Despite the Minister’s claim about his new programs, these are available to a much smaller group of businesses and individuals and have been allocated significantly less funding.

“Additionally, the Minister’s establishment of the new VET Advisory Board, and its composition,  do nothing to ensure that decisions on the future of our vocational and education system are based on broad and deep experience – there are no representatives from public providers and no worker representation.

“In Government Labor worked with industry, business and unions to ensure that the advice we received drew from varied expertise and perspective.  The Abbott Government has no interest in wide consultation with people with decades of experience.

“Rather than just making speeches full of rhetoric and sending out long-winded press releases, the Minister needs to address the massive and damaging cuts to the skills budget and genuinely consult with the sector,” Sharon Bird concluded.