Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced the potential shake-up of the VET sector on Wednesday night in an address to business representatives in Canberra.
Reflecting a changing labour market, including digitalisation of the economy, the government wants people at TAFE and enrolled in other training to attain skills for jobs that will actually exist in the future.
The priorities include higher skills, preparing workers for changing industry composition and structural change, including in rural and regional Australia, and preparing for people working longer and in varied roles.
“We need to strengthen our VET system, not simply as an economic imperative but to ensure Australians are equipped for the workforce of the future, with the opportunity to fulfil their potential.”
The VET sector includes public and private TAFEs, training colleges and apprenticeships outside the university industry.
The VET sector has been plagued by problems, including falling enrolments, controversies over student fees and spending problems at four state government TAFEs in recent years.
The Coalition overhauled the VET Fee-Help system, introducing tougher entry barriers for private training colleges, new loan caps on courses and strengthened eligibility criteria and industry requirements.
Bans were placed on brokers recruiting students and new probity measures and student engagement systems were created, addressing problems the government linked to Labor’s 2012 changes.
Steven Joyce, a former New Zealand finance minister and minister for tertiary education, skills, employment, will lead the review.
“Steven will bring a fresh perspective to this review based on the extensive work he led in New Zealand,” Mr Morrison said.
“He is the architect of significant reforms to the apprenticeship and industry training system and one of the most senior ministers in John Key’s government in New Zealand.”
A millionaire before entering politics, Mr Joyce founded a regional New Zealand radio station in his 20s, eventually building a network of stations, which he sold to a Canadian company in 2000.
He held portfolios including transport, finance, science, tertiary education and employment, and launched New Zealand’s “entrepreneurial universities” scheme, designed to bring leading international researchers to the country.
Last month, South Australian premier Steven Marshall appointed Mr Joyce to review his government’s approach to international trade.
Minister for Small and Family Business, Skills and Vocational Education, Senator Michaelia Cash said: “The review will focus on the skills people need when they leave school, but also later in life when they might be looking to improve their skills, change industries or build on general literacy and numeracy.
“The VET sector is central to growing Australian businesses and building our economy. By examining ways to strengthen the VET sector, we can ensure our workforce and our economy is ready for the opportunities of the decades ahead.”