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Australian Education Union National TAFE Council Annual General Meeting

The Hon Brendan O’Connor MP

Australian Education Union National TAFE Council Annual General Meeting


I want to acknowledge the Wurundjeri People of the Kulin Nation, the Traditional Custodians of the land on which you’re meeting today and pay my respects to their Elders past and present.   

I extend that respect to all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in attendance.

Since coming to office almost two years ago, a key mission of our government has been putting TAFE back at the centre of the vocational education and training sector.

TAFE is one of our strongest national assets and has withstood significant headwinds over the past decades.

And even in the face of these challenges, it continues to stand as one of our most important institutions.

9 out of 10 future jobs will require a tertiary qualification – and about half of those qualifications will come through the VET sector.

The capability of the people in those jobs hinges on us having the best possible education and training workforce.

And teachers are key.  

Every time I visit a TAFE I’m inspired by the passion of its teachers and staff.

And I see firsthand how that passion enthuses their students.

The Prime Minister also understands the importance of TAFE and the importance of elevating the status and perception of the sector.

It’s why he continues to visit so many of our TAFEs right across the country.

When we formed government, we not only faced a trillion dollars of debt, but were also bequeathed the worst skills shortage in 50 years.

A skills shortage, as deep as it is wide, across the labour market.

A decade of Commonwealth dysfunction left TAFEs, and our VET sector playing catch-up.

And one of the greatest failures was understanding the importance of our VET workforce.

The Albanese Government, with State and Territory Governments, see a vital role for TAFE workers at the heart of the VET workforce.

We are establishing the National TAFE Network to support teaching and learning practice and further enhance the role of TAFE.

And it is our aim that TAFE Centres of Excellence will provide national leadership in the delivery of education and training.

But without sufficient teachers, education and training cannot deliver the skills our workers, business and economy need.

So, we’re doing more to attract more teachers to the sector.

With tripartite support from the sector, including your union, we recently made it easier for TAFEs and other RTO to access a greater range of people – many of them already qualified with teaching skills – to teach the next generation.

And to help upskill and reskill Australians.

People with secondary school teaching qualifications, industry experts and teachers-in-training can now use their skills in VET classrooms, as long as they are appropriately supported.

It’s just common sense.

These changes are designed to give much needed relief to TAFEs and RTOs who need more teachers and trainers, while we continue with broader work to support and grow the VET workforce, ensuring the long-term sustainability and quality of the sector.

Last year we signed a landmark National Skills Agreement with States and Territories – the first of its kind in more than a decade.

The agreement will see around $30 billion invested into VET over five years – with at least 70 per cent of Commonwealth funding going to TAFEs.

Together we can work productively towards national goals, as well as addressing the unique education and training needs of each State and Territory.

Through the NSA the Albanese Government has committed $100 million to support, grow and retain a quality VET workforce.

Skills Ministers from all States and Territories are progressing a VET Workforce Blueprint to identify how to attract and retain more teachers and assessors to the sector.

Supporting career development, while making appropriate succession plans.

And because we’re bringing the tertiary sectors closer together, Skills Ministers noted the need for the Blueprint to be linked with other education workforce strategies in development. 

I’m pleased to say that more than 355,000 Australians took up the chance to study through our Fee-Free TAFE initiative in 2023.

And we’re rolling out another 300,000 places over the next three years.

One of the more popular courses has been the Certificate IV in Assessment and Training.

A great sign of the growing pipeline for a strong future VET workforce.

We’re also making sure VET teachers, trainers and assessors earn more and keep more of what they earn.

For example, a VET teacher on $81,000 a year will keep an additional $804 in their pocket under Labor’s tax cuts plan, compared to what they would have kept under the Coalition.

I know I don’t need to reinforce the importance of the TAFE and VET workforce to all of you.

But I want you to know that the Prime Minister and I and the government are working to ensure the importance of TAFE and the VET workforce is understood by everyone.

I wish you a successful annual general meeting.

Thank you.  

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