Public Accounts and Estimates Committee: budget estimates 2015-16

Ms GRALEY (Narre Warren South) — It is a pleasure today to speak on the Public Accounts and Estimates Committee (PAEC) inquiry into budget estimates 2016–17 report.

I want to comment again on the contribution by the Minister for Training and Skills. I want to preface my comments by informing the house that I recently had the pleasure of attending the Victorian Training Awards 2016 with the minister, and I take the opportunity to put on the record my congratulations to the inaugural recipient of the Lynne Kosky Memorial Lifetime Achievement Award, Mr Bruce Mackenzie, PSM, who is very well known to all of us in the education sector and who has dedicated his career to the vocational education and training (VET) sector. He chaired the recent independent VET funding review to restore the quality, stability and sustainability of the Victorian training system and of course to restore the TAFE institutions that were closed down by those opposite. I notice on his CV that he was instrumental in offering weekend training for Holmesglen Institute, and as a big supporter of making our educational institutions more open and accessible I commend him for leading the way there.

To return to the minister’s appearance at PAEC, he has really been a very innovative and reforming minister, and he has really taken to his role with gusto, I must say. I have heard the shadow minister in this chamber attempting to rewrite her party’s dismal and destructive treatment of the VET sector, and I just want to remind the shadow minister that it was actually the minister from her party — he wrote that note and had a mea culpa about it — who made the drastic cuts to TAFE sector. We have had to undertake a major repair job in this area.

Returning to the minister’s contribution, he was right on the money when he said:

… the purpose of VET in any system, particularly in our system, should be to supply the skills that our workforce needs, provide productivity for industry, support job growth and provide pathways to further study.

A few weeks ago we landed our Skills First document. It is an excellent document about how the TAFE area in the education state is going to be restored and regenerated. But most of all, as the minister indicated at PAEC, it is about matching training with jobs. If you go to the minister’s contribution, he did talk about this — and I remind those opposite:

We inherited a system which did not have any substantive institutional information running through to government about industry needs …

He went on to say:

… the amount of overtraining we do in some areas — tens of thousands of people where there are never any jobs — and undertraining in some areas.

This sector needed a very forensic look. The minister has done that with Bruce Mackenzie and of course with the support of the Victorian skills commissioner, and this Skills First document and the vision for the TAFE sector that is outlined in this document is really on course to making sure the students that enrol in our VET sector can go to good quality providers. They know that they will get a qualification, and that qualification should match them up with getting a job in industries that are calling out for people to put their hands up and come and work for them.

I do need to draw to the attention of the house that there are some really specific allocations in this Skills First budget that the minister also made reference to at PAEC, where he was concerned that certain people were not getting the advantage of skills training. This package actually does target disadvantaged learners. Also, many on this side of the house and particularly women in the Parliament, certainly women in the Labor caucus, wanted to make sure that women returning to work were given that extra assistance so that they could get retrained and get back to work so that they could not only make a contribution to their family income and their family’s lifestyle but also have that incredible experience of getting a further education that will enable them to maybe return to work in a better job than they left when they went off to have children.

This PAEC report sets the tone for where the minister is going, and this Skills First package really does say to VET students that they can go to their TAFE college with confidence, get the training that they need and know that that will be leading to a really good job in the future.

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