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Learning and Development Forum | Ministers' Media Centre

The Hon Brendan O’Connor MP

Learning and Development Forum | Ministers’ Media Centre

I begin by acknowledging the Traditional Custodians of the land on which this forum is taking place, the Wurundjeri people of the Kulin Nation.

And I pay my respects to their Elders both past and present.

I extend that respect to all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people joining us today.

This forum brings together some of the most passionate and dedicated professionals in learning and development.

And as we navigate the fastest changing economy in history, and a vastly different employee-employer relationship, the work that you do has never been so important.

Your commitment to enhancing the working and career opportunities of Australians is crucial to the future of our economy, as well as enhancing people’s professional and personal lives. 

I know that something we all share is a belief in the importance of life-long learning.

It’s something that our government is focused on across all tertiary sectors.

Which is why we’re supporting more people to skill-up within their current industry or take the skills they have and apply them somewhere different. 

People need to acquire skills in demand to ensure secure employment.

As a nation our prosperity depends upon a skilled and knowledgeable workforce. 

You all know that equitable learning and development opportunities for workers need to come from within businesses, as well as outside.

Since we came to government, unemployment has dropped to historical levels – but that also creates new challenges.

Jobs for life are, for the most part, a thing of the past.

The average Australian worker now stays about three years in a job.

In generations past, the economy was more stable and less dynamic.

That’s changed.

That increases the role for government, businesses, and workers to support regular upskilling and reskilling to adapt with the changing economy.

It is a partnership, with all points of that triangle having a critical role to play.

According to a recent LinkedIn study, providing learning opportunities to employees is the number 1 retention strategy.

And that hunger for learning and development is most attractive to younger generations, as they seek to advance from entry-level jobs.

In many industries, L&D is a necessity to keep up with technological growth. 

Take a mechanic for example.

Historically, there would have been two main pathways.

Auto mechanics and diesel mechanics – two similar career paths that required different education and training. 

But that’s evolved tremendously, with traditional vehicles being increasingly computerised, and hybrid and electric vehicles claiming more of the market share. 

AI is an increasing part of the automotive industry – not something traditional mechanical workshops could have imagined a decade ago.

These changes mean that L&D for mechanics is vital to simply keeping up with the technology of the cars they are working on.

Our VET sector is playing a more central role in ensuring a modern and dynamic workforce. 

However, when we came to government 2 years ago, I was presented with a VET sector that was fractured and deflated.

The sector had been victim to a lack of strategic planning, under-funding and an idea that Vocational Education and Training comes second to higher education.

But in 24 months, we’ve done a lot to re-build it.

We’ve removed cost barriers to training – including hundreds of thousands of Fee-Free TAFE courses in areas where people can up-skill to meet the demands of a changing economy.

And through our qualifications reforms we’ve been working closely with employers, unions and VET providers to reform the way that qualifications are developed.

Our reforms will mean industries can quickly scale up to take advantage of the changing economy.

They will support Australians to get the skills they can use not just in their current job, but across their working life.

And we’re reforming the quality of VET.

We’re investing hundreds of millions on capital upgrades at TAFEs and other training providers – so the equipment people are learning on better reflects what is used by industry.

By investing in education and training, we are preparing our workforce for the challenges ahead, and fostering a culture of continuous learning and innovation.

And I know this intention extends to the work each of you do in your organisations.

Thank you for your dedication and hard work in skilling our workforce and in supporting them into good, secure work. 

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