Skills and Training

COAG has affirmed the importance of greater participation to ensure that more Australians contribute to, and benefit from, the prosperity of the nation.

Increasing the skills and qualifications of individual workers is critical to support Australian businesses and drive improvements in the productivity of the economy while fostering greater levels of workforce participation. Ensuring rigorous quality assurance of education and training gives confidence to employers and students that the skills and qualifications being attained are of a high standard.


Strengthening the Vocational Education and Training Sector

Vocational Education and Training (VET) is a major part of Australia’s education system, with close to 5,000 providers and 1.8 million students. The sector’s support for high-level skills and workforce development will be crucial as the Australian economy undergoes a major transformation as a result of the mining boom, new technologies, clean energy, infrastructure investments, the transition to a knowledge and service-based economy, and demographic change.  High-quality training will help workers and businesses take up new opportunities emerging in the economy, and allow Australian businesses to improve their competitiveness in global markets.

In December 2009, COAG agreed to a model for national regulation for the VET sector that comprises  a national regulator to drive better quality standards and regulation and a separate standards setting council. Accordingly, in February 2011 COAG (with the exception of Victoria and Western Australia) agreed an Intergovernmental Agreement (IGA) for Regulatory Reform of Vocational Education and Training. (Victoria and Western Australia noted the national approach, and continue to have regulatory responsibility for VET providers that operate solely within their jurisdictions and do not enrol international students.) 

The national VET Regulator – the Australian Skills Quality Authority (ASQA) – has been operational since1 July 2011. It is now the regulator for the VET sector in New South Wales, Queensland, South Australia, Tasmania, the Northern Territory and the Australian Capital Territory. ASQA is responsible for the registration and monitoring of providers against national standards of registered training providers and for the accreditation of courses where no National Training Packages exist. In Western Australia and Victoria, ASQA regulates providers that operate across jurisdictional borders or that enrol international students.

The National Skills Standards Council was established on 1 July 2011 as a committee of the Standing Council on Tertiary Education, Skills and Employment (SCOTESE). It is responsible for providing advice to SCOTESE on national standards for regulation of VET.


Further Reform to the Vocational Education and Training Sector

In April 2012, COAG signed up to an ambitious set of reforms to the national training system. This agreement included a revised National Agreement for Skills and Workforce Development and a new National Partnership Agreement on Skills Reform

Reforms under the National Agreement and National Partnership will provide the skills that Australian businesses and individuals need to prosper in a rapidly changing economy. These reforms will support Australian businesses and drive improvements in productivity by growing the pool of skilled workers, encouraging existing workers to up‑skill and supporting higher levels of workforce participation.

Key reforms include:

  • ensuring working age Australians without qualifications can get the skills they need to get higher skilled jobs in today’s economy, by introducing a national training entitlement for a government-subsidised training place to at least the first Certificate III qualification;
  • reducing upfront costs for students undertaking higher level qualifications, by offering income-contingent loans for government-subsidised Diploma and Advanced Diploma students;
  • improving the confidence of employers and students in the quality of training courses, by developing and piloting independent validation of training provider assessments and implementing strategies which enable TAFEs to operate effectively in an environment of greater competition;
  • improving access to information about training options, training providers and provider quality on a new My Skills website, so students and employers can make better choices about the training they need; and
  • supporting around 375,000 additional students over five years to complete their qualifications, and improving training enrolments and completions in high-level skills and among key groups of disadvantaged students, including Indigenous Australians.

Also in 2012, COAG agreed a National Partnership Agreement on Training Places for Single and Teenage Parents. The agreement aims to improve the job readiness of single and teenage parents in receipt of parenting payment through participation in training, and to thereby increase their participation in the workforce. It also has a particular focus on identified areas of disadvantage.


Investing in New Training Centres for School Students

Under the Trade Training Centres in Schools Program, two and a half billion dollars will be spent over 10 years to roll out state-of-the-art trade training centres for the benefit of Australian secondary students, with funding of more than $1.2 billion approved for more than 370 new or upgraded trade training centres that will benefit more than 1,060 secondary schools across Australia. These centres provide access to the VET system for students in Years 9 to 12 to improve outcomes for young people through increasing Year 12 retention rates and providing a pathway to a vocational career.

More information on the National Partnership Agreement for Youth Attainment and Transitions is available the Schools and Education section of this website.


Strengthening the International Education Sector

The International Students Strategy for Australia 2010-14 has been developed collaboratively by the Commonwealth and State and Territory governments through COAG. The strategy has 12 initiatives to address four key issues: international student wellbeing, quality of international education, consumer protection and the availability of better information.

Governments, international students and the international education sector are working together to implement the strategy which has been developed alongside a number of other complementary measures at State, Territory and national levels. Progress so far includes:

  • launch of a Study in Australia web portal, incorporating a student personal safety guide and comparative information on government services currently available;
  • introduction of revised international student health insurance cover arrangements;
  • improved data-sharing arrangements between health insurers and governments for overseas student health cover;
  • the inaugural international student consultative committee roundtable was held in August 2011, which brought together international students to discuss the challenges and opportunities that impact on the quality of their study and living experience in Australia; and
  • implementation of a range of administrative and legislative changes including a strengthened Australian Quality Training Framework, the Education Services for Overseas Students Amendments and expanded legislative arrangements for the Commonwealth Ombudsman.

The Commonwealth has also engaged States and Territories in developing its response to the Strategic Review of the Student Visa Program (the Knight Review). The response broadly agreed to all of the Review’s recommendations, including a post study work visa for university graduates at bachelor or higher degree level and implementing new visa assessment procedures, such as streamlined assessment of university students.

Of the 41 recommendations agreed by Government, 22 have been fully implemented.  A further six recommendations will be implemented by early 2013, including the introduction of the post-study work visa and abolition of the student visa automatic and mandatory cancellation requirements. The remaining recommendations are ongoing and require future research and consultation across agencies.