States seek federal funding extension for skills training

by L&D09 Dec 2016
State training ministers have requested a one-year extension for their federal top-up funding scheme, with negotiations about a new agreement seemingly at an impasse.
The states and territories requested the extension at November's COAG Industry and Skills Council Meeting, according to NSW Skills Minister and Deputy Premier John Barilaro.
Barilaro said that ministers have asked for the 12-month extension in order to give them time to negotiate on a new five-year funding agreement. He added that he is hopeful the request will be signed off at a treasurers' meeting to take place soon.
However, Barilaro and other state training ministers' hopes may be dashed, with Karen Andrews, the federal government's Assistant Minister for Skills, expressing indifference to the idea.

"We must first identify the priority for further reform in vocational education and training to achieve our common goals," Andrews said.

"I have tasked commonwealth officials to work with their state and territory counterparts to do that by the end of this year."

The previous agreement, the National Partnership Agreement (NPA) on Skills Reform between the federal government and state governments was established in 2012, and saw states and territories receive $1.7 billion towards skills development in exchange for allowing their VET systems to be open to private competition, which in part was assisted by the previous VET FEE-HELP scheme.  

However, the well-documented recent scrapping of the government's VET system drew a final line through the agreement, though Andrews insists that the structural reforms that were sought from the agreement had "been achieved".

She added that her priority was "improving outcomes in VET, specifically in student commencement and completion rates".

Barilaro warned that a failure to sign another agreement would cost NSW about $130 million per year, and would be the equivalent of denying skills funding to 83,000 students.

"We can’t look at harmonisation, we can’t look at a national system, we can’t look at apprenticeships and traineeships because the funding bucket isn’t there. Without [an agreement] we won’t see any further reform, except on an individual state [basis]," he said.

Barilaro's sentiments were echoed by Gayle Tierney, Victorian Training Minister, who said, "If they don’t come to the party there is a risk fewer Victorians will be able to access training, ultimately having a huge impact on ensuring a highly skilled workforce for the future."