May 15, 2003

Minister undermines committee

MINISTER UNDERMINES COMMITTEE

MEDIA RELEASE: Anthony Albanese – 15 May 2003

At a time when the Government is about to spend $10 million refurbishing its apartments in Paris for visiting Ministers and officials, they are abolishing a vital program that assists young Australians acquire vocational skills while at school.

The Enterprise and Career Education Foundation (ECEF) had been successfully bringing schools and industry together to provide young people with the skills that will improve their long-term career prospects.

The ECEF was proving so successful that the Prime Minister’s Youth Pathways Action Plan Taskforce had given a glowing endorsement of the program. The Taskforce concluded that the ECEF had made:

“a particularly strong and practical contribution to achieving a broader approach to schooling. In particular, it has encouraged partnership between schools, industry and the community to provide a range of opportunities for young people to develop employment skills. The Taskforce believes the [ECEF] would be an appropriate organisation to drive the shift in thinking needed to create an effective and integrated system of transition for young people from school to the wider world.”

Summary Report from the Prime Minister’s Youth Pathways Action Plan Taskforce, p4

During hearings of the Vocational Education In Schools Inquiry currently being conducted by the Standing Committee on Education and Training, of which I am a member, the ECEF has been roundly praised.

Despite this positive feedback and strong endorsement from the Prime Minister’s Taskforce, Minister Nelson has abolish the program saving the Government $4.1 million over the next 4 years.

At a time when Australia is experiencing acute skill shortages across a range of traditional trade occupations such as carpentry, plumbing, cabinet making, panel beating and metal fabrication, the abolishing of the ECEF is a retrograde step. This decision highlights the fact that the Government is not committed to the integration of vocational education into our school system.

I call on the Government to defer its plans to abolish the ECEF at least until after the VET In School Inquiry has completed its deliberations.

This inquiry is doing constructive work and should not be undermine by the Minister abolishing beneficial programs.