20
Jun
2012

Education Legislation Amendment (VET Sector, Universities and Other Matters) Bill 2012

Mr SOUTHWICK (Caulfield) — I rise to speak on the Education Legislation Amendment (VET Sector, Universities and Other Matters) Bill 2012. It is not often that you will find me agreeing with the member for Williamstown, but on this matter I will agree with him and say that all is not well in the VET sector. That is why the Minister for Higher Education and Skills has taken strong measures to reform the sector to ensure that it is more competitive and meets industry needs and to ensure that we have a healthy sector moving forward.

We have had 11 years of absolute waste and mismanagement, and this area is no different to any other area that the Labor Party has touched. Labor absolutely has the Midas touch. Rather than turning something from bad into good, it turns something good into an absolute disaster. We have seen it with this particular area. It is all very well to look at the reforms that were made in the last few years prior to the Labor Party losing government.

If you look at the numbers, enrolments grew under the new process from 381 000 in 2008 to 549 450 in 2011 — a 44 per cent increase in the sector. The bulk of that, or 29 per cent, occurred in 2011 alone. You might look at those figures and say in isolation that that sounds terrific. More people are taking up training opportunities, and that is what we are all about. We want to see more young people entering training opportunities and furthering their education and training.

In isolation it sounds good, but as a package it is unfortunately symptomatic of the way the previous government handled things, because to have that growth you need to fund it. The previous government had $800 million allowed for in 2008. That figure blew out to $1.3 billion, which left a $500 million black hole for which it needed to find funding. We have taken that on, and we have managed to progress forward and ensure that we invest in vocational education in Victoria with an additional $1.2 billion over four years.

By doing that we have ensured that we are funding courses for which there are opportunities at the other end of the scale, so there is not necessarily just the demand coming in. It is exciting when there are courses that sound really good in theory, but if there are no jobs at the other end, this leads to nothing but massive disappointment for a young person looking for a job. As a government, we are making sure that there are opportunities, that courses lead to jobs and that courses are distinctive in their output. This leads to a more productive education system all round.

This bill looks at strengthening the vocational education system in Victoria. It makes a series of amendments to the Education and Training Reform Act 2006 and to university acts. It also makes significant changes through a number of different processes. It creates additional measures of training to ensure that the Victorian system is of high quality and that consumers have information and choice about training.

Victorian industry will be given a stronger voice and a critical role in directly influencing the vocational education and training (VET) market to deliver outcomes for business and our economy as a whole. That is an area that I want to spend a bit of time on, because I think it is absolutely crucial. When we are talking about the vocational education and training system in Victoria, industry engagement is absolutely paramount. We need to ensure that we have industry leaders who are talking to the training providers, making sure that the courses are relevant and making sure that there are jobs at the other end of it.
We have heard a lot of crying over this particular bill — about the refocus of the Victorian Skills Commission and of industry training advisory bodies (ITABs). People have been asking: why are we looking at disbanding these; why are we not putting more effort into just providing the same old system? We are refocusing to a market-driven system. At the moment there are 16 ITABS; some are very good ITABs and some are ITABs that many of the players would not even know existed.

Mr Nardella interjected.

Mr SOUTHWICK — We are ensuring that there is effective labour market advice to government — —

The ACTING SPEAKER (Mrs Victoria) — Order! The member for Melton will have his turn. I ask him to desist.

Mr SOUTHWICK — We are ensuring that these ITABs are industry relevant. The member for Melton can shout all he likes, but he realises that he was a member of the previous government and he did absolutely nothing for this particular area. He just rants, raves and shouts, but he does not deliver.

Mr Nardella — I went through the TAFE system.

Mr SOUTHWICK — This bill delivers and the TAFE system delivers. I hear the member for Melton saying he has been through the TAFE system. I have taught in the TAFE system and I have done a lot of work on the TAFE system. If the member for Melton likes, I could give him a good education — —

The ACTING SPEAKER (Mrs Victoria) — Order! I am not appreciating the banter across the chamber. If members would like to do that, would they please take it outside. If not, we will continue to hear the member for Caulfield.

Mr SOUTHWICK — We are looking at a reform of the system to make sure that we have industry skills consultative committees that are appointed by the minister and industry leaders. These committees will be made up of 12 members and will provide direct feedback to government. These are industry leaders — people who are at the coalface and people who alongside the training providers can determine what opportunities there are at the end of courses, which is absolutely important.

The ITABs can continue to operate if they have industry support, but if they do not have industry support they will not be able to continue.

This is very much a demand-driven system, it is an output-driven system and, most importantly, it is a job-driven system. We are ensuring that there are jobs at the end of courses that are on offer, that there is industry engagement and that there is proper industry consultation, which is absolutely paramount.

I refer to a report by the Boston Consulting Group which suggests that the current model, with the Victorian Skills Commission and industry training advisory boards, was established when government played a planning and purchasing role in the VET system, but with the transition in the training market many of these functions are no longer essential to the operation of the VET market.

The report goes on to say that examination of the architecture of the system reveals a clear case for more fundamental change to fulfil the functions required of Victoria’s training market, to look at the capacity to provide required inputs, to ensure that there is effective synthesis of the labour market and to make sure that proper industry engagement has an active role. This is what the 2011 independent report from the Boston Consulting Group said, and that is what we are looking at doing.

We are ensuring that the increasing investment by our government is in courses for which there is a demand and which at the other end lead to jobs for those who complete them. There are a number of other reforms in the bill. It will reform university acts and ensure that university council members can take leave so we do not lose good council members when they have important things to take care of along the way. Most importantly, we are ensuring that there is financial viability. The bill will get rid of the dodgy private providers.

We have heard many stories of dodgy providers who have been using recognition of prior learning for all sorts of advancements and using double degrees.

The bill effectively ensures that we have proper control mechanisms, that we put the TAFEs and the private providers together, and that we provide support in a competitive, open and transparent market. Most importantly, the people who will benefit at the end are the young people, and they will benefit through jobs, better opportunity and productivity. It is something that this government has been very proud of with all the legislation we have brought before the house. It is something that the opposition knows absolutely nothing about. We will continue to make sure that we have a sound economic platform, productivity, focus and, more importantly, jobs and output for this state. I commend the bill to the house.

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