Jobs summit $1.1bn boost for TAFE ‘just one piece of puzzle’
Training, workforce participation and skilled migration will be the focus of day 2 agenda.
A $1.1 billion boost for TAFE to generate 180,000 places was the curtain-raising announcement by Prime Minister Anthony Albanese on day 1 of the Jobs and Skills Summit in Canberra.
It set a tone of optimism and co-operation with accounting representative Ainslie van Onselen, CEO of CA ANZ, “looking forward to day two” when the key issues of training and skilled migration would be discussed in more detail.
Other attendees from the profession included CEO of PwC Tom Seymour and national chair of KPMG Alison Kitchen while among the small business representatives was Alexi Boyd of COSBOA.
Mr Albanese said the TAFE initiative, with costs shared between the Commonwealth and state governments, would create an additional 180,000 fee-free TAFE places for 2023.
“In recognition of the urgent challenges facing our nation, we are taking action now – with a billion-dollar training blitz, driven by public TAFE,” he said.
“We want to see more Australians gaining the skills they need to find good jobs, in areas of national priority.
“And I want this to be the beginning – not the end – of the progress that we see on skills and training over the next two days.”
Ms van Onselen said day 2 discussions would give the chance to raise the skills drought, the key issue for the accounting profession.
“I’ll be making the point that enrolments in accounting, management and commerce degrees have been declining for several years,” she said.
“At the same time that the demand for accountants is hitting an all-time peak, with accounting professionals experiencing a surge in demand due to the pandemic and its impact on the health of businesses.”
“We will be putting forward solutions to increase skilled migration and boost our domestic skills, training and education capacity.”
Executive director of the Institute of Certified Bookkeepers Matthew Addison, who was not at the summit, welcomed the TAFE funding as a measure that could be put in place quickly.
“In terms of the bookkeeping and accounting shortage, it's a medium to long term assistance. Absolutely,” he said.
“But it’s one element of the picture. There’s got to be more.”
“It's micro-credentials, roadmap, it's workplace training as well.”
But he was confident that the summit would generate more ideas.
“There are good concepts being tabled and there is an absolute willingness to engage and provide solutions. So I am somewhat optimistic.”
Another observer from the sidelines, media general manager for CPA Australia Dr Jane Rennie, said the TAFE funding was “a small contribution to a broader suite of measures we want the federal government to implement”.
“Businesses need immediate action, we can’t still be talking about this problem in 12 months,” she said. “We need both short and long-term solutions to solve the jobs and skills shortage. We also need to increase the intake of skilled workers from overseas.”
As well as skilled migration, Ms van Onselen said boosting workforce participation was another priority along with closing the gender pay gap.
“We are committed to continuing calculating and publishing the gender pay gap for the accounting profession derived from our annual member remuneration survey, and to providing our members with tools and education to help them address their own organisational pay gaps,” she said.
“Addressing pay equity will create greater financial security for women and families.”
The CEO of COSBOA, Alexi Boyd, said penalty rates were hurting women and cited one member who wanted to roster more hours for his part-time female staff, but mandated penalties meant it was cheaper to hire someone new.
She said COSBOA members wanted an examination of the industrial relations system before the mooted multi-sector employer agreements, and were happy with awards.
“COSBOA does not believe, nor will in any way propose, unionisation of small business,” she said.
“We need to examine the IR system first, then consider how to make options like multi-sector employer agreements accessible for those who want to use them.”
The agenda for day 2 includes the role of skilled migration in resolving the labour crisis, training for the labour market, and boosting workforce participation.