Universities will be encouraged to forge links with vocational education institutions to meet Australia’s skills needs, Deputy Prime Minister Julia Gillard says.
Ms Gillard announced the establishment of a new federal body to build links between the two sectors as well as plans to expand the role of Skills Australia and improve TAFE retention rates.
She told the Big Skills Conference in Sydney the government would commission the Australian Qualifications Framework Council to improve communication between universities and the Vocational Education and Training (VET) sectors.
She said improving the connection between the different skills groups would make the systems more student focused.
“In the construction arena for example, university based architects, engineers and climate experts will have to create new synergies with instructors in plumbing, carpentry, electronics and other skilled trades,” Ms Gillard told the conference.
“Ultimately we need the two systems to work together to produce integrated responses to national needs in knowledge, skill development and social inclusion.”
said the government advisory body Skills Australia would be expanded to provide advice to the government about the effectiveness of the university and VET systems to meet Australia’s skills needs.
“Skills Australia will have access to the level of research and employment market intelligence it needs to make a real impact on future VET provision.”
Ms Gillard said regulation in the VET sector was currently fragmented between jurisdictions with variations in performance auditing and monitoring.
“To counter this, the government will work with the states and territories to develop strong and cohesive national regulatory arrangements for VET,” she said.
“It is important that this work progresses alongside the establishment of the proposed higher education regulator.”
TAFE retention rates needed to improve, she said.
“The sector as a whole needs to focus squarely on the unacceptable rates of completion of VET courses and apprenticeships,” she said.
Ms Gillard said manufacturing, tourism, finance and mining were going through a painful period but it was critical for Australia to strengthen its skills base.
“Even in this period of gloom we must recognise that our future economic strength is going to depend on developing the right skills needed to underpin the next wave of prosperity.”
March 5, 2009