Policy Forum Aims To Build Regional Skills

Pictured: Hon Karen Andrews, Assistant Minister for Vocational Education and Skills

A high level forum in Warrnambool has set the scene for south west Victoria to influence national policies to address future skills requirements.
The forum hosted by Westvic Staffing Solutions, Warrnambool City Council and the Federal Government has highlighted the need for a strong Vocational Education and Training (VET) sector and apprenticeship opportunities.
Industry, education, employment and training, government and municipal leaders from across the region attended the Engaging Employers at the Regional Level – Great South Coast Policy Forum in Warrnambool on March 15.
Assistant Federal Minister for Vocational Education and Skills, Karen Andrews, attended the forum.
Westvic Staffing Solutions CEO Dean Luciani said he was confident the local discussions would have impact on policy formulation and that the south-west region would continue to collaborate to meet future employment challenges.
Mr Luciani said the forum was an opportunity to showcase to the Federal Government how the region promotes apprenticeships and traineeships and Vocational Education and Training (VET) and to look at how best to support young people and businesses.
A major theme was the importance of community leadership and collaboration.

“We need to identify any gaps and where we can improve and connect with existing groups to ensure we have the most effective collective voice,” Mr Luciani said.
“There are a lot of community leaders here today and there’s a terrific opportunity for us to continue those conversations and strengthen that spirit of collaboration. If we get collaboration right, there can be some really positive outcomes.”
Mr Luciani said the region needed to better prepare young people for the workforce and jobs of the future and to promote the whole concept of lifelong learning.
“Our overall unemployment rate is good but the youth unemployment rate is not something to be proud of,” he said. “Our capacity to prepare young people for the opportunities ahead has to be addressed. We need to work together and do more in terms of understanding what each step of the journey requires.”
Ms Andrews said the forum was about the Government seeking feedback on key issues. “You will be directly able to have input into our policy direction as a result of today’s discussions,” she said.
She stressed the need to improve the status of VET “which has for too long time been seen as the poor cousin of training”.

“It’s not true that vocational education is the second cousin because a lot of people go straight into jobs. We need a groundswell of support to promote that.”
Ms Andrews said the Government wanted to arrest a decline in apprenticeships and encourage more people into science, technology, engineering and maths.
“We don’t know what the jobs of the future will be but we do know 75 per cent will require skills in science, technology, engineering and maths,” she said.
Ms Andrews said training will need to be flexible and responsive to deal with rapid change and be driven by the needs of industry.
The forum was part of the Government’s review of rural and regional training needs.
“We are interested in your views about training, how it’s delivered and whether it responds to the needs of our young people and why we aren’t getting their engagement,” Ms Andrews said.
“Some of the statistics for rural and regional areas are particularly poor; we don’t have enough completing Year 12 and going on to further education.”
Ms Andrews said regional areas could pursue niche markets and look at international opportunities in either bringing more students into Australia or training trainers overseas.