Developing the skills employers and employees need for the modern workplace requires robust and effective policies.
Education and training policy requires a holistic approach.
The education system has transformed with more schools including preschools, more schools offering Vocational Education and Training (VET), upper levels of VET are now similar to lower levels of higher education, while traditional approaches to training and apprenticeships are changing.
These changes highlight the need for a cohesive and clear plan to fund and manage the system as a whole. The respective roles and responsibilities of federal and state governments need to be clearly identified. Duplication and overlap between jurisdictions must be addressed, and there is a strong need for
an integrated plan to promote stronger industry engagement.
Industry leadership and input is particularly important. With the community focused on quality concerns around programs such as VET FEE HELP, there is a need for renewed attention on the quality of education and training outcomes, recognising the good in the system as well as the bad.
We need to start with the basics. It is essential that students leave school with the literacy and numeracy skills they need to be productive in the workplace. Students should also understand that running their own business is an important and respected career path, and that skills in Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) will be critical in a significant proportion of future jobs and as one of the key drivers of innovation and entrepreneurship.
Apprenticeships and traineeships are vital. They ensure workers have the skills they need to secure good jobs and meet the needs of employers. This is an an opportunity to build the skills base of the economy in a cost-effective, demand driven, employment-led model of training. With the youth unemployment rate in Australia currently more than 12 percent - more than double the national average - apprenticeships and traineeships allow business, with government support, to help young people take the first steps to sustained employment, reducing the burden on the welfare system. Regrettably, the number of people undertaking an apprenticeship or traineeship in Australia has fallen from 516,000 to 295,300 by September 2015. This is more than 220,000 fewer workers developing critical skills and making that first step in a lifelong career.
With the number of students in higher education now well over one million, government needs to ensure that industry has a voice in the development of teaching and learning standards. Industry and government need to work with universities to ensure graduates are properly prepared, and have the right skills and experience to start in their chosen career.
Students should be well informed about career options and the needs of the modern workplace. Funding needs to be sustainable and consistent, with a balanced approach to contributions made by governments and students.