A proposed new National Skills Agreement put forward by the Federal Government involved massive increases in student fees for training and skills courses, Employment and Small Business Minister Di Farmer told State Parliament today.
Minister Farmer, who is also Minister for Training and Skills Development, said the fee increases, if introduced, would result in existing acute staff shortages in health care, child care, aged care and disability care becoming even worse.
“With the Federal election imminent, a very serious issue looming for Queenslanders, and indeed Australians, is the Morrison Government’s proposals for skills funding.
“The funding model for training courses and student fees under the proposed new National Skills Agreement would have very serious consequences for attracting the urgently needed and appropriately skilled staff in the various sectors providing care services.
“The States and territories are united in their condemnation of the draft agreement.
“For more than 18 months the Federal Skills Minister Stuart Robert has failed to enter into constructive negotiations with States and territories, and has persisted with draft agreements that ignore the major concerns States and territories have raised.
“Not least of these is the enormous fee increases that would flow under the proposals the Federal Government has put forward.
“Australian business, and governments providing public services, are struggling to find the skilled workers they need.
“It is essential that States and territories are able to keep training courses affordable and accessible, thus enabling people, and especially young people, to get the skills they need.
“It has been shown, and it is a simple truth: higher fees lead to a drop in training enrolments.
“So I find it astounding that the Federal Government has rolled up a new National Skills Agreement that would not just see fees increase, but skyrocket.”
Minister Farmer said analysis by the Queensland Government indicated that fees for a student seeking to gain a Certificate 3 in Early Childhood would jump from $316 to between $1000 and $3000 under the proposed funding model, meaning an increase of up to 950 per cent.
A Certificate 3 in Individual Support, for students looking to work in aged care and disability care, would leap from $172 to between $500 and $1500.
“These projections are supported by modelling by the ACT Government that found the student fee for a diploma of early childhood education and care, or a diploma of community services, could increase by almost 250 per cent.
“Huge numbers of people are currently employed in the various care sectors such as health care, aged care, child care and disability care,” Minister Farmer said.
“They represent 14 per cent of the Queensland workforce. These occupations rely heavily on the availability of affordable and accessible vocational education and training courses.
“These sectors desperately need more staff – and are struggling to find more staff – and yet the Morrison Government has persisted with a new national pricing model that would make training significantly more expensive for students.
“This has other serious ramifications, for example, when it is considered how vital beds in Queensland’s hospitals are being occupied by people who ought to be in aged care, but who cannot transition to aged care because of staff shortages in that sector.
“There is a simple remedy to getting the stalled negotiations around a new National Skills Agreement moving, and finalising an agreement that the states and territories are willing to sign up to, and that is to remove the cause: the Morrison Federal Government,” Minister Farmer said.