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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2002 Week 9 Hansard (21 August) . . Page.. 2705 ..

MR PRATT (continuing):

vocational requirements. Not only is VET a vital element in the preparation of a significant percentage of the ACT's population for the workforce, but also it makes an important contribution to the student climate and student stability in our schools.

I was most pleased that the Education Committee of this place decided to take on an inquiry into VET. I have previously congratulated Ms MacDonald and Ms Dundas on their decisions on this very important issue for the ACT. I was also pleased to see the government in its election promises commit to carrying on with the previous government's excellent start in putting VET back on the education radar screen. To be sure, some initiatives have been commenced by the new government. However, I feel that insufficient progress has been made, certainly not enough to match the bellicose ALP pronouncements previously made. At least the government is heading in the right direction regarding VET. At least, as Ms MacDonald pointed out, the statistics have been encouraging over the last couple of years and illustrate that VET has begun to take on a more significant role and apprenticeship training has become a little more popular.

If VET and apprenticeship and technical training are as high on the priority list as the government has claimed, why have we not seen a substantial increase-indeed, any increase-in funding for the CIT? If we are not going to see a further expansion of capability within the CIT structure, how are we going to see any significant development in apprenticeship and technical training? Further, through analysing the budget process and the outcome of budget estimates, I cannot see any expansion of VET capability in our high schools and colleges. VET programs will be needed to be put in place within schools to complement the higher level of training of CIT programs. I look forward to the government presenting its strategic plan and departmental directives illustrating either that this is happening or at least that plans are on the drawing board.

The great challenge for the government is in developing a stronger marriage between industry and the CIT and schools on VET. I do not envy them this challenge. It will be difficult. Where the opposition can help in this process, we shall. I will continue to encourage the government to develop VET and technical training in the ACT, for it to be treated as a priority and to be integrated into the rich tapestry of our education system.

As I stated earlier, the government seems to recognise the need for VET and it has certainly moved in the right direction, but the community will expect this move to be hastened. Tonight's excellence awards will play a vital role in educating the community in general and parents in particular of the worth of VET and technical training; indeed, the viability of these programs as honourable and important educational options.

MR CORBELL (Minister for Education, Youth and Family Services, Minister for Planning and Minister for Industrial Relations) (4.33): Mr Deputy Speaker, I welcome the matter of public importance raised today by Ms MacDonald because this debate gives me an opportunity not only to highlight and congratulate the nominees for tonight's 65th awards night, but also to recognise the contribution that VET makes to our community.

In the spirit of the matter of public importance, I will not be seeking to make partisan comments about the adequacy or otherwise of programs, except to say, in direct response to Mr Pratt's comments, that CIT funding actually went up by $2.2 million this year and the government is continuing to support a range of initiatives, including the excellent

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