Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Historic WA skills agreement signed with Federal Govt

The WA Government has signed a national agreement with the Federal Government that is set to unlock billions of dollars in funding to build the skills and prosperity of Western Australians.

The historic five-year National Skills Agreement (NSA) – which will take effect from January next year – was developed under principles agreed by National Cabinet. It will embed national cooperation and strategic investment in Western Australia’s vocational education and training (VET) sector.

In a joint statement, the Federal Government said it was prepared to invest $1.34 billion to expand and transform access to the VET sector, support quality training and implement reforms to address critical skills needs in WA.

“The Cook Government sought a longer-term Commonwealth funding agreement in order to address the ad hoc approach of the previous government, with a five-year period providing funding certainty which will enable Western Australia to complete significant reforms,” the WA Government said in a statement today.

As part of the package, $1.2 billion in flexible funding will support Western Australia to deliver skills for critical and emerging industries, including:

  • Clean energy and net zero transformation of the economy;
  • Australia’s sovereign capability, including advanced manufacturing skills, national security, food security and construction;
  • Care and support services;
  • Ensuring Australia’s digital and technology capability.

The new agreement also provides up to $125 million for specific training and workforce initiatives, of which the WA Government will provide $109 million in matched funding.

The WA Government says the agreement will provide the means to deepen the State’s response to Closing the Gap for First Nations people, improve foundation skills of Western Australians, and create TAFE Centres of Excellence that will help deliver on Australia’s clean energy transition.

It comes at an important time, as the WA Government convenes an Energy Transition Summit in November 2023 to leverage the unique job opportunities in the global push to decarbonise the economy.

In a new first, a National Stewardship model will coordinate strategic investment in skills across the economy and support delivery of skills needed in national priority areas, as well as providing States and Territories with flexibility to meet local industry skills needs.

This new investment is on top of $414 million already committed nationally for the delivery of 300,000 fee-free TAFE places from 2024. 

“This landmark agreement will kickstart real change,” said Minister for Skills and Training, Brendan O’Connor.

“I’d like to thank my colleague Simone McGurk for her genuine cooperation in looking to rebuild national vocational education and training, with TAFE at its heart.

“The TAFE sector has endured periods of underfunding, impacts of deregulation, loose rules of VET market entry, a lack of national cohesion and an obsession for competition at the expense of collaboration.

“By providing genuine national leadership in partnership with states and territories, we are building a system that is greater than the sum of its part.

“A high performing and world class VET sector is crucial for achieving a fairer society and a stronger economy.”

Western Australian Minister for Training, Simone McGurk said the agreement will provide a significant boost to the vocational education and training sector in WA.

“After years of interim agreements – the Cook and Albanese Governments achieved something others could not – securing a long-term NSA giving certainty to the VET sector, which is critical for providing skills to grow the economy,” she said.

“We’ve always known that TAFE provides students with the in-demand skills they need to land jobs –this agreement will help us continue our investment in TAFE and build our workforce by ensuring more students can access training.

“The Cook Government has advocated strongly to keep training affordable for Western Australians and ensure our training system can flexibly respond to the unique needs of our local workforce – which are vastly different to those in the Eastern States.

“Importantly, the new NSA ensures Western Australia maintains its flexibility to manage our local skills systems and promotes working with the Commonwealth to address shared challenges and priorities.” 

Under the joint partnership, more than 130 full qualifications and short courses will be available for Western Australians next year.

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