Queensland could soon be struggling for workers in dozens of skills areas from plumbing to robotics unless changes are made to vocational education, the state’s Premier says.
Annastacia Palaszczuk on Friday identified 139 potential future skills shortages in traditional, but rapidly changing professions.
Electrical works, plumbing, engineering, healthcare, hospitality, early childhood, digital technologies, robotics and utilities all fit the bill.
Skills and training were among a number of issues Australia’s premiers, chief ministers and the prime minister tackled on Friday at the Council of Australian Governments meeting in Cairns.
Ms Palaszczuk’s comments came before the meeting and the council later produced a vision statement for a revamp of Australia’s vocational education training sector.
Ms Palaszczuk said future skills shortages were the reason the Queensland government launched a “free” apprenticeships scheme on August 5, which will cost taxpayers $32 million.
That policy will encourage 60,000 Queenslanders under 21 to take up an apprenticeship.
“They will be in skills areas where we have recognised where we will have skills shortages in the decades to come,” Ms Palaszczuk said.
“Queensland has already done the work and identified 139 skills where there could be shortages into the future.”
After the meeting Ms Palaszczuk said the $32 million funding would pay for the training component for apprentices to make taking on an apprentice more cost-effective for businesses.
“I think we need to make it easier for young people to get a loan if they choose to go into vocational education and training,” she said, adding that traineeship fees needed to be simplified.
“There has a been a lot of focus in the past on university education but I think there needs to be an equal focus on vocational education because there is going to be a skills shortage and we need to get young people into these employment opportunities now.”
Prime Minister Scott Morison said the “jobs of the future” weren’t just in technology, but increasingly in human services areas such as aged or disability care.
He said parents should be confident about their child’s future if they chose to pursue a trade or a skills-based education.
“It is not second prize,” he said.
The federal government funded a National Skills Commission in its April budget to better identify and plan for skills shortages and work with industry to design training courses, but it is yet to be established.
A new COAG Skills Council will present leaders with a reform road map for the sector in early 2020.
A detailed federal government study, Strengthening Skills, released earlier this agreed changes were needed to simplify student loans.
“The Commonwealth and the states and territories agree to develop a simpler, nationally consistent funding policy for all government-subsidised qualifications, which provides confidence and certainty to trainees, industry, employers and all funded providers, public or private,” the Joyce report says.
Ms Palaszczuk said work to restrict Australia’s waste export industry and control plastics and packaging was also commendable.