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TIERNEY (Minister for Training and Skills) (16:35:41) — It is with great pleasure I rise to speak on behalf of the government on this motion. What a great opportunity to remind the house of the many investments this government is making to support many pathways through training and skills. The Andrews Labor government is providing practical support to students and employers to keep the skills they need for our economy on track —
Mr Ondarchie — Eyes up!
Ms TIERNEY — Excuse me! You have just spoken for a long time. Can I at least have the opportunity to speak?
The ACTING PRESIDENT (Mr Elasmar) — Order! Through the Chair, please.
Mr Ondarchie interjected.
The ACTING PRESIDENT (Mr Elasmar) — Mr Ondarchie! The minister to continue.
Ms TIERNEY — Thank you, Acting President. As a government we identified an obvious way in which we can help support young people to benefit from the unprecedented investment that is being made across the state, and that is the major projects skills guarantee. The major projects skills guarantee ensures that Victorian workers benefit from the multibillion-dollar pipeline of major projects the Andrews Labor government is delivering, giving young jobseekers and workers looking to re-skill the experience and the opportunities they need to kickstart their careers. This is a good, clear demonstration of how government projects can deliver public good beyond the lasting investment in infrastructure. This creative thinking is changing people’s lives by generating these extra opportunities. We are making sure that everyone gets a slice of the cake.
The fact of the matter is we are ensuring that support is provided for young people completing their training. We know how important it is for them to stay on track and get their qualification. The Andrews Labor government has invested in 25 apprentice support officers based at a number of TAFEs right across this state. They mentor and help young apprentices with family, work and training issues that could affect their apprenticeship. This year’s budget provided $8.2 million to boost the apprentice support office workers to make sure that apprentices under the age of 25 get the support that they need to finish the training that they are undertaking. We funded this program after it was cut by those opposite, and what a disgrace that was. In further recognition of the importance of trainees and apprentices completing their qualifications, the 2016–17 Victorian state budget made wages paid by employers to displaced apprentices or trainees exempt from payroll tax, and since July 2016 wages paid by employers to a displaced apprentice or trainee have been exempt from payroll tax.
In relation to group training organisations (GTOs), the list of our support continues. The government has committed $9.3 million over three years to support the employment of apprentices and trainees through the GTOs. GTOs play a crucial role in supporting people to develop the skills they need —
Mr Ondarchie — On a point of order, Acting President, the minister is simply reading from a document today rather than making a contribution by way of a speech on order of the day 2. I suggest that for the efficient operation of the house maybe she could just table the document rather than reading it to us.
The ACTING PRESIDENT (Mr Elasmar) — Mr Ondarchie, I have been watching the minister very carefully. She has been referring to dates and numbers in her notes, but she has not been reading. I ask the minister to continue.
Ms TIERNEY — The fact of the matter is that we have contributed $9.3 million over three years for the GTOs to employ apprentices and trainees. They do play a very important role in our vocational education and training (VET) system; I do applaud the work that they do in our Victorian system. This money will assist more than 17 000 apprentices and trainees across the state, as the GTOs do play a critical role in helping them find regular, stable employment in this state.
In terms of government projects, we are providing the support that is needed to apprentices and trainees. We are providing pastoral care and support. We are supporting employers who are in the mix, and we are also supporting group training organisations. So we are providing support in a whole range of areas, something that the previous government just refused to do. This government understands that you need to build the training system that supports students, employers and training organisations. You do not go about that by ripping the guts out of the vocational education and training system, which was exactly what the previous government did. They completely stripped the TAFE system to the point where it was not just on its knees but virtually on its ankles, and it was through us making commitments to the TAFE sector and having a reform agenda that we are turning that around.
But we are not resting on our laurels. We understand that a quality system needs to keep up-to-date with changing times. We are creating the skilled workforce for the future to boost prosperity and grow our economy, with a new task force to drive apprenticeships and traineeships. The Victorian skills commissioner, Neil Coulson, is chairing that task force. There are a number of people who are on that task force —
Honourable members interjecting.
Ms TIERNEY — I cannot even hear myself think.
The ACTING PRESIDENT (Mr Elasmar) — Order! I agree with you, Minister. The minister is entitled to be heard in silence.
Ms TIERNEY — Such is our commitment to apprenticeships and traineeships that I asked the Victorian Skills Commissioner, Neil Coulson, to formulate a task force, and we have had wide representation on that task force. During the work of the task force deliberations they met and consulted with a range of organisations right across the sector. I am very much looking forward to receiving that report, which is imminent. I asked the Victorian Skills Commissioner to develop that task force because it is this government that is concerned about apprenticeships and traineeships in this state, and I wanted him to specifically look at the barriers that are there that prevent apprentices from actually accessing their apprenticeships or indeed completing their apprenticeships. As I said, I will be very much looking forward to receiving those recommendations on how we can ensure that we continue to support every player in this space and drive apprenticeships and traineeships.
There have been a number of things that have been said in this discussion about a decline in apprenticeships and traineeships. From the outset it is important to note that Mrs Peulich seeks to grab our attention with the headline that there is an alleged decline in apprenticeships and traineeships, but apprenticeships and traineeships are not the same thing, as Mrs Peulich should well know. In fact in 2016 the apprenticeship enrolments were at the second-highest point they have been in the past seven years.
Mr Ondarchie interjected.
Ms TIERNEY — Shall I repeat that for you, Mr Ondarchie? In fact in 2016 apprenticeship enrolments were at the second-highest point they have been over the past seven years and higher than in any year under the former Napthine-Baillieu governments. I can repeat that: in 2016 apprenticeship enrolments were higher than in any year under the Liberals. You do not hear that from those opposite, do you? No, you just get this constant bantering.
Mr Ondarchie interjected.
The ACTING PRESIDENT (Mr Elasmar) — Order! Mr Ondarchie, you had your turn.
Ms TIERNEY — Thank you, Acting President. And yes, we are currently seeing a decline in the number of traineeship enrolments, which is consistent with the national decline in traineeships. This is a fact that we do not seek to hide from. As government members have noted, the decline in traineeships is mainly due to fewer enrolments in low-value and low-quality traineeships offered by shonky private providers that exploited our most vulnerable students — a problem that this government is acutely aware of. It is why we established the blitz on low-quality training providers. It was the right thing to do by our students and it was the right thing to do by our taxpayers.
In terms of the Victorian Training Market Report: Half Year 2017 from June, of course those opposite will have you believe it is all doom and gloom. But the Victorian training market half-year report shows our Skills First program in action, displaying a positive impact on the training market. When focusing on those courses most likely to lead to improved job outcomes, Victoria had the largest number of students across all states and territories enrolled in Australian Qualifications Framework qualifications. Unlike other states and territories, Victoria is the only jurisdiction that shows an increase in government-funded training by public providers, including TAFEs, and we are up by over 10 per cent in contrast to New South Wales, which is down by 10 per cent.
Skills First prioritises funding for courses that align with industry needs, have strong job outcomes and are linked to government priorities. This report shows — and I will read the numbers — that commencements in apprenticeships at TAFEs are up by over 8 per cent, commencements of students studying in the fields of family violence at TAFE are up by 9 per cent, national disability insurance scheme courses are up by 11 per cent and commencements in infrastructure and rail are up by more than 3 per cent. But Skills First also aims to ensure that Victoria’s government-funded VET system is equitable and addresses disadvantage.
Public providers play an important role in supporting students that have additional needs, so we have Indigenous commencements up by 8 per cent, commencements for women up by almost 7 per cent, commencements for women from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds up by over 14 per cent and commencements for people with a disability up by 2.4 per cent. These are early days, but results like these indicate that we are heading in the right direction. We can see that Skills First is working. It is working for TAFEs, it is working for students and most importantly it is working for people to get the right skills that they need to get a job.
So can we really take this motion seriously? Did the Liberals establish a major project skills guarantee to ensure that Victorian workers benefit from government projects? The answer is no. Did the Liberals abolish the former Victorian Skills Commission? The answer is yes. Did the Liberals provide a payroll exemption for employers to recognise the importance of apprentices and trainees? No, they did not. Did the Liberals cut apprenticeship support officers? Yes, they did. Did the Liberals provide half-price car registrations for apprentices in the construction industry? The answer is no, they did not. Did the Liberals gut our TAFE sector, resulting in course cuts and campus closures? You bet they did, and they did it savagely.
They do not like hearing any of this. Clearly they do not like hearing this. They do not want to listen to the facts. They do not want to know the numbers. They just do not like hearing the hypocrisy that is being called out in this chamber today, and all I can say is: you cannot hide from the truth. You were an abomination to the VET system, and you have actually got some serious problems in terms of the lives that you wrecked when you were in government when it comes to young people in this state, when it comes to retrenched workers in this state and when it comes to anyone that has got some aspiration to go and join a TAFE and take on a course that leads to a job. You have almost got blood on your hands in terms of what you have done to the VET sector in this state, and it is going to take a long time to turn things around. We are turning it around, and I am proud of what this government is doing — something that you did not do. You wanted to just trash TAFE and put TAFE and kids in the bin forever. You are a disgrace.