Real-life skills to ensure businesses have the workforce they need to grow

Posted on: 2018-11-29 01:45:00

The Sydney Institute of TAFE campus
The government has announced an independent review of vocational education and training to be conducted by Steven Joyce, a former New Zealand minister. Photograph: April Fonti/AAP

Scott Morrison has announced a shakeup of vocational education and training to ensure that more young people have real-life skills to match structural changes in the economy.

The prime minister made the announcement at the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry’s annual dinner on Wednesday, along with a promise to set up 10 new tax clinics to provide free advice to small businesses in tax disputes.

An independent review will be conducted by Steven Joyce, the former New Zealand minister for tertiary education, skills and employment, and an architect of significant reforms to the apprenticeship and industry training system.

Labor and Centre Alliance have been calling for a more comprehensive review of tertiary education, responding to concerns in the business community that too many young people are drifting into university education when a vocational education might be more suitable and useful.

Morrison said providing a skilled workforce to small businesses “depends on vocational education and training” and the review would focus on ensuring businesses had the skills they need to grow.

The sector must be able to “respond to future demands for higher skills, changing industry composition and structural change, especially in rural and regional Australia and people working longer and in varied roles across their working lives”, he said.

Morrison said the review would be conducted “very promptly to make sure we’re training the right people for the right jobs in the years ahead”.

On Thursday Labor’s skills spokesman, Doug Cameron, said he had “no confidence” in the vocational education review, citing a collapse of 140,000 apprenticeships since the Coalition took office.

“Apprentices should be worried, tradespeople should be worried, because they are talking about flexibility and that will mean your trade certificates will be devalued,” he told reporters in Canberra.

“This incompetent government that has been cutting funding, destroying the [vocational education] system … [and has] no credibility and why we would need a New Zealand Tory to deal with that system is beyond me.”

Earlier Morrison committed that “every single cent” of the $1.5bn skilling Australians fund established in the 2017 budget would be spent on vocational education, even though the Victorian and Queensland state governments have not signed up to the scheme.

The Coalition will also expand eligibility for the adult apprenticeship support scheme to Australians aged 21 to 24. The scheme is now only available to people over 25.

Morrison said he “understands the concerns” of small business dealing with the tax office and he expected there would be “at least 200 stories” among the gathered business leaders “that won’t be that flattering to the ATO”.

An ABC Four Corners report in April suggested the tax office was targeting vulnerable non-compliant small businesses, including by seizing their funds, to meet revenue targets.

Morrison said it could be “intimidating and confronting” for small business owners to be the subject of an audit or dispute.

He announced the creation of 10 new tax clinics in conjunction with universities to provide free advice to small businesses dealing with tax disputes: “These tax clinics will ensure small businesses in need can access specialist advice from tax practitioners and students in the field on a pro bono basis.”

The Coalition will also establish a small business tax division in the administrative appeals tribunal, to include case managers for small businesses in tax disputes and a fast-tracked process for decisions within 28 days.

Paul Karp
Source: The Guardian

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