Page 4150 - Week 13 - Wednesday, 18 November 2015

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vocational education and training and operating with greater commercial and entrepreneurial focus in an increasingly contestable training marketplace. The CIT board commenced operation on 1 July 2015 and is vital to positioning CIT for success in increasingly competitive training and higher education markets.

We tend to associate growth and innovation with a strong higher education sector and, as a result, can sometimes overlook the contribution made by VET. The benefits of VET are clear when we look at economies that both are highly innovative and boast low levels of income inequality. VET in general and apprenticeships and traineeships in particular must be seen as viable career pathways for all students. It is the countries in northern Europe, such as Denmark, the Netherlands, Germany and Austria that have best weathered the economic crisis that battered European shores. All have dynamic and well-funded VET sectors. They also boast the lowest levels of youth unemployment, according to the OECD, and better youth engagement.

The benefits to society at large are clear: citizens who are engaged and gainfully employed are empowered to be stronger contributors to society and to support safer communities. They also have better health outcomes, which is especially important for our public healthcare system. Finally, they contribute to the economy steadily throughout their careers both as taxpayers and as consumers.

Reform and collaboration are vital to the future of our VET system as well, and as the needs of industry change, so should the focus of the training sector to ensure those needs are met. Flexibility of training provision and informed choice for industry and students is vital to maximise training outcomes and to maximise the productivity of the ACT workforce.

The reforms the ACT government has initiated are vital to ensure the ACT training sector provides quality opportunities for people, access to flexible training to enhance their career prospects and training in areas of highest needs to best provide the skills needed by industry, students and the ACT economy now and into the future.

Engagement with key stakeholders enables government and training providers to ensure subsidised training is delivered in areas of skills need, maximising the return on government investment and training. The training needs of industry and business are evolving. How we respond will require increased sophistication and flexibility. This really highlights that VET students––including apprentices and trainees––are the future of our industries and services.

Expenditure on VET is an investment in our future quality of life and allows us to see the interconnections between education, skills, jobs, community safety, health outcomes and productivity. Access to high quality skills education is undoubtedly necessary to the ongoing economic and social prosperity of our community.

Once again I congratulate our ACT nominees and wish them all the best of luck at the Australian training awards tomorrow. I look forward to Minister Burch continuing to keep the Assembly informed on the great progress the ACT is making to ensure our VET sector is agile and responsive to the needs of our community, industry and students.

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