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Interview - Hit WA Breakfast with Allan and Carly

The Hon Brendan O’Connor MP

Interview – Hit WA Breakfast with Allan and Carly

ALLAN ALDWORTH, HOST: We’ve been hearing a lot of chat about the Budget this week, Carly, and one thing that we can take away is that we definitely need to get more people into jobs. And trade jobs, I think is fairly important, which is why right now we have on the line the Minister for Skills and Training, Minister Brendan O’Connor. Good morning.


ALDWORTH: We’re doing good. Now talk us through it, you guys got a whole plan on how we’re going to fix the sector?

O’CONNOR: Well, look, we have to invest more in skills. We really need to supply the skills to the economy in Western Australia and around the country. And that’s why we’ve made announcements investing in Fee-Free TAFE, additional places in the construction sector, in the energy sector. We need more houses, we need more housing stock and supply. That can only happen if we’ve got more tradies. And this investment, I think, will supply the skills that we need, on top of already the Fee-Free TAFE places you’ve got in WA.

ALDWORTH: Yeah. And what are we doing to make sure that we keep a lot of our staff in regional areas, a lot of these, you know, these skilled workers?

O’CONNOR: What the really good thing about this Fee-Free TAFE initiative, that started after the Jobs and Skills Summit about 18 months ago, is that one third of those courses that I mentioned are in regional Australia. So, there’s been a massive take up in regional parts of Australia to enrol in courses where there’s skills needed. And that’s the real key here. There’s no point in acquiring skills, as well as getting a degree or getting a trade or getting a traineeship if the jobs are not there. So, we’re targeting the areas where the skills are in demand today and tomorrow. And as I say, one in every three enrolees has been in regional Australia.

ALDWORTH: Absolutely. And what can we do to get females in trade?

O’CONNOR: The one consolation about a skills shortage in construction is that we can’t continue to live on this outdated model that you have only half the population need apply for jobs. We need to expand the opportunities for women. And in this Budget, we have $55 million to really invest in increasing the proportion of women. You know, when you have an occupation that is predominantly of one gender, the skill shortages are greater. And it makes sense, if you’re hiving off half the population of prospective employees because of their gender, you’re not going to have the supply you need for your business or for your sector of the economy.

CARLY PORTCH, HOST: Speaking of supply, how long will this take to go through? Because just yesterday we were speaking on the show about how in the southwest, unfortunately, a hospital has been forced to close its maternity ward because of chronic staff shortages. So, when you look at situations like that, how long are we taking to get these people moving through the system so that, you know, people can have access to these professionals?

O’CONNOR: That’s a good point. Look, there’s always a lag between investing in education and training and getting the qualified skills, as you know. But we started immediately after our election two years ago, so people have been enrolled for that time. The pipeline of skills is now, people will be coming to the end of some of their traineeships and apprenticeships through this year and beyond. And, of course, people coming out before that. What we do need to do is invest more to get the skills that we need. There will also be a need to complement the labour market skills by skilled migration. That’s always an important supplement to domestic education and training that goes on, that supplies the labour market skills. So, you know, it’s that combination between making sure that Australians get the skills they need, but also supplement that where necessary. My focus, however, as Skills Minister, is making sure that Australians and Western Australians get the skills they need to have good jobs.

ALDWORTH: So, twelve months? Two years?

O’CONNOR: So, the pipeline just continues on obviously, because it’s not like we started investing in education and training in this country just since the election of government. But what I will say is, you’ll see greater levels of supply because of the deeper investment we’ve made since we’ve come to office. And because we’ve actually targeted areas of existing and emerging demand, we’re ensuring people get the skills they need to have jobs, and businesses get the skills that they’re crying out for.​

ALDWORTH: Absolutely. Well, thank you so much for your time today, Minister. We appreciate it.

O’CONNOR: No, thank you for your time. All the best.

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