Australia’s landmark National Skills Agreement to boost sovereign training capabilities

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Australia’s National Cabinet has finalised the National Skills Agreement (NSA), which will unlock billions of dollars in investments to build skills and prosperity in Australia. 

The five-year NSA, which is set for rollout in January 2024, builds on principles agreed by the National Cabinet and will embed national cooperation and strategic investment in the local vocational education and training (VET) sector. 

In a media release, the Federal government said it is allocating up to $12.6 billion in investments to expand and transform access to the VET sector, support quality training, and implement reforms to address critical skills and needs. 

If states and territories access all the Commonwealth funding available under the NSA, the combined investment by governments would exceed $30 billion. 

The Federal investment includes an extra $2.4 billion in flexible funding to support state and territory skills sectors with the capacity to deliver skills for critical and emerging industries. 

The funding will be allocated for priorities including clean energy and net zero transformation of the economy, Australia’s sovereign capability, such as advanced manufacturing skills, national security, food security and construction, and ensuring Australia’s digital and technology capability. 

The federal government has also allotted an additional $1.3 billion of Commonwealth funding to implement agreed reforms. 

The investment includes $325 million to establish nationally networked TAFE Centres of Excellence and strengthen the collaboration between TAFEs, universities, and industry; $100 million to support, grow, and retain a quality VET workforce; $155 million to establish a National TAFE leadership network; $214 million for Closing the Gap initiatives to be designed in partnership with First Nations peoples and led by them; $250 million to improve VET completions including women and others who face completion challenges; $142 million to improve foundation skills training capacity, quality and accessibility; and $116 million to improve VET evidence and data.

“The National Skills Agreement is consistent with so much of what my Government does – bringing people together from all over the country to address the common challenges faced by all of us,” Prime Minister Anthony Albanese. “This important National Skills Agreement, alongside our very successful Fee-Free TAFE places, will mean more boilermakers, more chefs, more aged care workers, more child care workers, and more Australians with the skills that they need, but also the skills that our economy needs.”

“We need to develop and deliver the skills our economy needs in a timely and future-focused way and this Agreement is a potential game-changer if implemented well and swiftly,” said Innes Willox, CEO of the Ai Group. “We encourage the States and Territories to fully engage with the Agreement and to make the most of this historic and economy-changing plan.