The Hon. D.W. RIDGWAY (Leader of the Opposition) ( 14:34 :20 ): I seek leave to make a brief explanation before asking the Minister for Employment, Higher Education and Skills a question about the WorkReady program.

Leave granted.

The Hon. D.W. RIDGWAY: I refer again to the TAFE WorkReady website, which states the following:

WorkReady aims to ensure that public investment and training is aligned to strategic industry sectors and growth areas, such as agriculture, fishing, resources, construction, electrical and electronic engineering, childcare and aged care.

However, when you look further down the website you discover there is a selection of allocated training places within particular areas of training. They are: Diploma of Screen and Media, 120 places; Certificate II in Retail Make-up and Skin Care, 110 places; Diploma of Interior Design and Decoration, 100 places; Certificate III in Painting and Decorating, unlimited places; Certificate III in Retail Baking (Cake and Pastry), unlimited places; Certificate III in Watch and Clock Service and Repair, unlimited places; and, sadly, Certificate III in Agriculture, only 20 places. My question to the minister is: does she describe retail baking, watch and clock service repair, interior design and decoration and retail make-up and skin care as strategic industry sectors and growth areas, and more important than agriculture?

The Hon. G.E. GAGO (Minister for Employment, Higher Education and Skills, Minister for Science and Information Economy, Minister for the Status of Women, Minister for Business Services and Consumers) ( 14:35 :48 ): I thank the honourable member for his most important question. Indeed, as our economy is changing we are faced with the winding back of our car manufacturing industry while new industries are emerging, and this requires us to refocus our investment by ensuring that we provide training and skills development and employment support to help people gain employment.

With WorkReady, we have made a number of significant changes that focus our efforts. In particular, we are very much focused on employment outcomes. These are important qualifications and competency skills and our priority is, as I said, to focus on employment outcomes for people. We are particularly focused on providing, or targeting public funds—taxpayers' hard-earned money—to those people who are currently unemployed to be trained and to assist them in finding employment. We've very much shifted the focus from upskilling—although there are still some upskilling components to WorkReady—but there has been a significant shift to those entry-level courses; the sorts of qualifications that people need for entry level into various occupations.

We spend a great deal of time consulting extensively with the industry. Across all, there were 900 subsidised areas on our training list. These have been consolidated to 700. We received over 1,500 submissions and, as I said, we liaised very closely with the industry to identify those competencies and those qualifications that were considered to be particularly the high emphasis on entry level to occupations; we focus very much on that.

As I said, there is still some upskilling, but basically the principles of WorkReady are that, if you are currently employed, already employed—and I'm not talking about retrenched workers but if you are already employed—and you wish to undertake training, gain further qualifications to gain a promotion and upskill in the occupation that you're currently in, what WorkReady says is the major benefit of that level of training shifts to the individual.

Often, with increased qualifications, they are then able to access increased remuneration. Of course, the other recipient of that is the employer who gains higher levels of skilled workers in the workforce. We say that in light of that, as upskilling occurs, there needs to be a greater level of co‑investment from both the employer, industry and the individual. As I said, the list was put together after extensive consultation with the industry.

The Hon. D.W. Ridgway interjecting:


The Hon. G.E. GAGO: As I said, extensive consultation. There is a wide range of industries that require competencies and skills. As I said, we consulted extensively and we were able to gain insight into where we needed to focus those efforts. As I said to the industry at the time, we have worked through this, and TASC has assisted us to undertake those activities.

We said to the industry at the time that we have put together the best fit based on the information that we have received across all sectors, that we accept that we still may not have got it completely right and that we were very pleased to continue to liaise with sectors and make modifications where need be. I understand there have already been a couple of areas that have been identified as being overlooked and they have been added back in.

In relation to agriculture, food and fisheries and aquaculture, these are very important sectors to us. The government funding in the VET sector will adequately support industry demand. We don't just make these things up. We look at these things very carefully. We believe that they will adequately support the industry demand for skilled workers in key agriculture, food and fishery occupations.

I have given these figures in this place before. The modelling undertaken by TASC said that the demand for skilled workers in these areas requires the completion of 2,500 to 5,000 relevant VET courses over five years between 2017 and 2018 or between 500 and 1,000 completions per year. Taking into account modelling done by TASC, the current take-up rates—

Members interjecting:

The Hon. G.E. GAGO: If they stop interjecting, sir, I will be able to get to the end of my answer. We are on target to ensure that the industry demand for skilled workers in key agriculture, food and fishery occupations is met over the next five years. We keep monitoring these things year by year and we make any adjustments as the sector might need them.


news questions