Page 3758 - Week 10 - Thursday, 14 September 2017

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in some way, shape or form. I think there is a lot that we can do in this place to support business, to support the apprentices and trainees that go down that route and, more broadly, to dispel those myths and promote the great opportunities that exist through vocational training and taking up alternative training.

MS FITZHARRIS (Yerrabi—Minister for Health, Minister for Transport and City Services and Minister for Higher Education, Training and Research) (4.05): I thank Mr Steel very much for bringing this important matter forward. I know, Madam Speaker, of your longstanding interest and leadership in this area over a number of years. The establishment by the government of the higher education, training and research portfolio demonstrates the government’s commitment to bringing a strong economic development and jobs focus to our relationship with Canberra’s nationally and internationally recognised education, research and training institutions. A diversified economy with skills and talent at its core is how we view the job ahead. Skills and talent are the building blocks of new industries, and they are also the necessary ingredient for ongoing business competitiveness and innovation.

Today I specifically want to talk about the importance of supporting VET students, and the way they contribute to our economic development—and, beyond that, how VET is there to support all Canberrans to develop the skills they need to participate meaningfully and effectively in our labour market. The enormous contribution of VET and its students was recently on display at the ACT training awards that I spoke about earlier this afternoon. It was a parade of incredible students, teachers, employers and training providers, all with a clear passion for VET and what it is achieving. But while awards nights are there to celebrate the high achievers, it is hard not to reflect on the enormous contribution that VET and its various outputs are making generally; indeed, how all of us interact every day with the traditional trades, personal services, health care and the hospitality sector—and the list goes on—and how we possibly take some of the outcomes from the sector a little bit for granted sometimes.

Without VET and all its moving parts and players, without eager and passionate students coming in and moving through the system, and without those dedicated employers and trainers, Canberra simply could not operate. That is why VET, its students and supporters of the VET sector will always be a priority for the ACT government. We are focused on supporting the skills our community needs and skills for new industries to build our successful economy. We are focused on providing appropriate support for students to ensure that they have the best chance of completing their qualifications.

I am personally also very committed to removing the barriers that people face in accessing lifelong learning opportunities. Over the past two years, the ACT government has implemented a number of initiatives to support this. Through the skilled capital training initiative, the government has supported over 6,000 ACT residents’ participation in VET qualifications since early 2015, and more recently in skill sets. We have also increased our engagement with Australian apprentices and their employers through a field officer program, ensuring that they can be appropriately supported throughout their training. The program also allows us to more broadly promote the enormous benefits of VET pathways for achievement in life, career and personal development.

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