The Jobs and Skills Summit created a reinvigorated sense of optimism and ‘tripartite’ collaboration to build a bigger, better trained and more productive Australia. The opening of the Summit was marked with the Australian Government announcement of a $1 billion one-year National Skills Agreement and the accelerated delivery of 180,000 additional fee-free TAFE places in 2023.

Last week the TAFE sector celebrated National TAFE Day 2022 – with the apt theme of Rebuild TAFE, aimed at providing structural reform of the VET sector through guaranteed funding from government. The VET sector has experienced multiple challenges. Almost a decade of budget cuts has resulted in 68% of TAFE teachers reporting the cessation of courses at their institutions and a decline in equipment and materials needed to deliver training.[1] The VET sector is weakened by insufficient supply of trainers and assessors, unable to compete with the wages offered by sectors and industry which trainers originate. Furthermore, curriculum programs and delivery methodology may not reflect the needs of employers or learners.

Governments’ re-investment and focus on reforming the TAFE sector is much welcomed but will only be achieved over time. In the short term, there is a need find immediate solutions to address current skills and training shortages and gaps.

Within the infrastructure sector, workforce supply does not meet the demand requirement of current and future pipeline projects. Border closures and delays in processing of visas is placing further pressure on skills availability. Increasing digitalisation is resulting in changes to existing jobs and the emergence of new jobs across multiple industries, requiring wide scale upskilling, reskilling, and new skills requirements. Industries will increasingly compete with each other for similar skills, driving a need for more transferable skills to support greater agility in the labour market.

The Summit has helped to establish a better understanding of these gaps and barriers but there is more to do to provide workable solutions. We now need a range of innovative approaches to focus and facilitate the delivery of targeted vocational education and training.

Partnerships between industry and education are one example of collaborative models to deliver high quality training and transferable skills. Government infrastructure projects provide fertile opportunities to grow capacity and capability in high demand industry skills. Projects are often able to provide entry pathways and career development through employability and technical skills development using cutting edge techniques and resources, resulting in a pipeline of skilled workers with transferable skills across many industries. Examples of this include the Sydney Metro and NSW Regional Rail Pre-employment Programs, which IAG team members played a key role in establishing from 2014 and 2019 respectively. These programs provide accredited entry level technical skills and employability training for people interested in working in the infrastructure sector, including under-represented groups e.g., First Nations, women, youth and long-term unemployed. Candidates are prepared for entry-level opportunities and further training via traineeships or apprenticeships. The programs adopt a collaborative model between government, TAFE NSW and industry, and are developed in consultation with potential employers to target training to specific roles and requirements of industry. Both programs have been recognised for best practice in collaboration and innovation and for exceeding job outcomes for local communities and infrastructure projects.

Initiatives such as these offer examples of how partnerships can help to address barriers to participation and maximise productive potential of Australians in the short to medium term. If you would like more information on the above or how IAG can help you achieve your outcomes, please contact [email protected].


  • $1.1 billion one-year National Skills Agreement that will provide additional funding for fee-free TAFE in 2023, while a longer-term agreement that drives sector reform and supports women’s workforce participation is negotiated
  • Accelerate the delivery of 465,000 additional fee-free TAFE places, with 180,000 to be delivered next year, and with costs shared with the states and territories on a 50:50 basis.
    • 180,000 includes up to 60,000 additional spots and dropping the fees of 120,000 existing paid TAFE spots
    • $50million technology upgrades
    • Support services for students who are at risk of dropping out
  • Australian Education Union State of our TAFE Survey 2020

[1] 2020 State of TAFE Survey, Australian Education Union