Page 1452 - Week 05 - Tuesday, 9 May 2017

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here in Canberra. We recognise in particular the central role played by the Canberra Institute of Technology and the reform program currently underway at the CIT.

There are a number of steps the government is taking to strengthen our VET sector and improve access to the quality courses on offer. We are committed to keeping CIT in public hands and to maintaining a level of public funding for the institute to ensure that it continues to offer the range of courses that our city needs now and into the future.

Members will note that in other jurisdictions a combination of deregulation and privatisation in the VET sector led to many students being left with high debts for courses that were never delivered. This government has taken steps to improve access to VET for some of the most vulnerable members of our community.

I have previously outlined measures that the government has taken to attract students from a wider range of refugee and asylum-seeker backgrounds. Permanent humanitarian visa holders have been able to access apprenticeships, traineeships and Skilled Capital courses since January last year. From 1 January this year, eligibility has been extended to refugees and asylum seekers who hold temporary and bridging visas that also grant working rights. Studies have shown that a majority of refugees quickly become productive members of the community. Giving these people more training opportunities is also good for our economy.

The government is also taking steps to get more women into trades traditionally dominated by men. At the last election we committed $1 million over four years and we are also committed to assisting mature-aged workers to re-skill and adapt to changing labour market conditions.

This Labor government will always support a properly funded VET sector that supports a wide range of students. Whether it is refugees looking to contribute to our community, women looking to get into trades or mature-aged students looking to re-skill, we will support them through our VET sector.

MS CODY: Can the minister outline what action is being taken to encourage women to take up a career in the trades?

MS FITZHARRIS: In recent years there has been a significant increase in women’s participation in vocational education and training. The ACT benefits from the skills many young women bring to our community and our economy when they graduate. But this strong participation rate masks a serious under-representation of women in traditional trade apprenticeships. In 2015 the proportion of women who commenced a traditional trade apprenticeship was just three per cent. Promoting women’s participation in traditionally male-dominated trades will improve workplace equity and strengthen different industries through greater female representation.

Of course, if we want to grow our economy, improve productivity and keep people in jobs, we need to attract more women into traditional trades. The building and construction industry presents one of the best opportunities to attract and retain more

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