MS TIERNEY (Western Victoria—Minister for Training and Skills, Minister for Higher Education) (17:09): Can I start by endorsing the comments that Mr Barton has just put on the record. I thank you for your contribution. I also thank all of our Victorian teachers and VET trainers that we have in the system that work day in and day out because they understand how important their job is and how they change lives. I also would like to acknowledge the amazing visionary work of Minister Merlino in bringing this work to the house and for having the foresight in engaging John Firth to undertake this fantastic review. And of course I thank all the career educators that we have within our education system that provide that guiding advice to so many parents and students in the system—and of course parents and students who have been absolutely involved in the consultation process that has brought us to this point today. Thank you.
This is a bill that essentially is about really making sure that we have equal best choices in the system, and it is about making sure that we elevate the stature of vocational education and training. And what better place to do it than actually in the school system. We need to have a really good starting point for it. Now, we are doing a lot of work in the TAFE and VET system, but we really do need to have a look—and that is what Mr Firth has done—at the secondary system.
One could argue in so many ways that we have been brought up in a trajectory whereby there is a stream where you stream off into applied learning and then there is another stream for the more academically inclined. That by and large has been the so-called English model around the world. The European model, though, is a bit different and, I would argue, more mature in that it understands that hands-on learning, vocational learning, is innately just as important as an academic pathway and in fact that the pathway should not necessarily be divided and there should be a real push for excellence in vocational education and applied learning, where you would have a master class applied to vocational education and training and you would actually move between the vocational sector and the academic sector to the point where you would have technical applied universities or education centres. So I think we can learn a lot from that way of bringing about and delivering skills and theory to not just the individual but of course the contributions that we need to make to make our economies more dynamic.
Of course this is the start of what I would consider to be where we need to be in elevating the stature of vocational education and applied education, and again I thank all of those that actually get that. Of course we will be wanting to see the implementation as it goes ahead and wanting to embrace those students that come through the secondary school system into the post-secondary system, and that is why we have spent so much time, effort and resources on establishing things like the Victorian Skills Authority—so that we do have genuine evidence bases to develop policy and of course the evidence to highlight current and the forecasting of skills shortages, which then can be relayed back into the secondary schools so that they can also prepare people and plan for assisting with people’s futures. So we are very excited in seeing that young people will be coming through the secondary school system fairly shortly and will be coming into the post-secondary sector fully informed and educated on what their options are.
One of the things that the Macklin report called for was a more joined-up post-secondary system, and one of those things that was absolutely embraced was the ability for all stakeholders to be involved in the Victorian Skills Authority. That was because we understand that young people, people who are training providers and people who are in industry need to have seats around the table and be involved on a daily basis in the way that we go about training our young people and indeed older people who are looking for changes in careers. So we have done that.
The other thing that we have done is establish Apprenticeships Victoria. At the end of last year we established that, and I have got to say that has just been an absolute breath of fresh air. I think most people could actually argue that there has been a time, for a long time now, when apprenticeships were not considered to be as important as they should have been and that we have been paying the price. In the last couple of years we actually have been putting in an enormous amount of resources, but, again, we are elevating the stature of apprenticeships by doing things like setting up Apprenticeships Victoria, by having apprenticeship support officers and by issuing, free to the graduate, trade papers. There are a whole range of other things that we are doing, including providing an ability for young apprentices who have been retrenched or are having difficulties to contact AV so that they can actually get another employer or another contract or indeed go on and do a different type of study. There are a whole range of things that we have been doing in this area. I am really pleased and very proud of what we are doing.
Today now marks another significant milestone in the ability for young Victorians in particular to really get on a pathway that will take them on a road where they will have so many choices. They will have choices about what trade they undertake or whether they actually take on a higher apprenticeship—something that Mr Ondarchie does not seem to understand that this government is undertaking—and we are doing that in the blue-collar area as well as the social services. We have got the ability for young people to really seriously think about setting up their own businesses where they can employ other apprentices into the future.
This is a vision that this government has, that only a Labor government would have. We have brought it to the table, and we are executing it. What we are doing is making sure that every single Victorian that really wants to understand what is available—whether they have got opportunities in the VET sector or in other sectors—is able to access it. It will be of high quality and indeed will not cut options off for anyone. In fact it actually enhances options—life choice options but also further education, training and employment options. So today we stand here very proud as a Labor Victorian government that is about delivering and making sure that vocational education and training is there for every kid here in Victoria now and into the future, and I commend the bill to the house.
Motion agreed to.
Read second time.