Tourism Training Australia Skills Summit

Four Seasons Hotel Sydney

I am delighted to provide the Opening Address to the Tourism Training Australia Skills Summit 2020.

The theme of this year’s conference is ‘Winning Together’ - and there is no doubt that your industry wins when it has the workers with the right skills coming through.

WINNING TOGETHER is the way forward.

The Skills Summit it an important event as it brings together tourism, travel and hospitality training providers, industry and other key stakeholders to build industry confidence but also to celebrate the resilience of the tourism sector.
And it has been resilient. 

This year – 2020 - has presented the tourism industry with challenges none of us could have foreseen.

I commend Tourism Training Australia for its commitment to meeting these challenges head on, and, for its focus on the future.

Tourism’s importance to the Australian economy cannot be overstated. The Prime Minister said from the outset of this pandemic that the Government investments would be targeted and scalable, and the recent $250 million regional tourism announcement by Minister Birmingham is an example of that.

We know that tourism offers a wide range of employment opportunities across our vast country. It can provide that first job - and that dream job - for so many Australians — young people in particular.

Prior to COVID-19, the broader Accommodation and Food Services industry — which the Tourism sector is included in — was the largest employer of young people aged 15 - 24 years - employing 434,600 youth as at February 2020.

That is almost 23 per cent of all employed youth.

Your industry trains so many people and gives them strong, transferable skills.

In 2019, there were 196,000 VET enrolments in tourism, travel and hospitality qualifications.

Skills including strong customer service and clear communication are all sought after by employers in tourism and hospitality.

In fact, they are important skills - no matter what industry you are in - or what job you are after and those skills will remain important into the future.

The Beyond Tourism 2020 Steering Committee Report to Government has identified some key skills challenges facing the tourism sector.

Those are in the areas of online and social media, as well as ICT and technology skills to embrace artificial intelligence, big data and data analytics.

The Tourism, Travel and Hospitality Industry Skills Forecast in 2019 also identified a combination of key technical and soft skills in the areas of teamwork, problem solving, data analytics, online and social media.

These skills challenges are not uncommon as industries look to adapt to an increasingly digitised environment – a trend which has become even more prevalent with the onset of COVID-19.

It will come as no surprise that COVID-19 has placed new pressures on your industry. 

Share of overall employment has fallen since February 2020 from 7.2 per cent to 5.3 per cent in May 2020.

There will continue to be challenges ahead.

To meet these challenges, we know that a post-COVID world will need leadership in skills and training to make the most of future opportunities.

Industry will have a leadership role to play, and the Morrison Government is providing leadership at the national level.

Our vocational education and training system is critical to the national economy and ensuring our future prosperity.

We need to support people to get the skills that will help us rebuild. This includes helping more young people to train and to get into jobs.

To do that, we need a strong, responsive and adaptable training system that can meet the needs of learners and employers, and that can help boost the Australian economy.

At the last election we made a $585 million commitment to skills reform.

We acted swiftly in response to COVID-19, to supercharge that commitment.

We know we need to train people for the jobs that will emerge from the pandemic. They will not all be the same as those that were lost.

We have prioritised skills development as part of our JobMaker strategy, designed to set up Australia for economic success over the next three to five years.

Our role in government is to get the policy settings right to ensure that those in the workforce have the opportunity to upskill and reskill.

We know the VET system is not keeping up with the needs of learners, trainers and employers.

That’s why we are embarking on fundamental structural and long-term reforms.

We have invested $6.5 billion in the VET system in 2020-21.

This is the biggest investment on record.

We are investing $2.8 billion to support our apprentices through the Supporting Apprentices and Trainees wage subsidy.

This measure is now expected to support 90,000 employers to keep 180,000 apprentices and trainees in employment and training.

We know that apprentices and trainees are the first to go in a downturn - but as our next generation of skilled workers - we need to focus on keeping them on the job.

We have also invested $500 million towards the establishment of the $1 billion JobTrainer Fund, to be matched dollar for dollar by state and territory governments.

This fund is expected to provide up to 340,700 training places in areas of genuine need to help upskill and retrain people looking for work, including school leavers.

The key is that these training places with be in areas of labour demand in each state or territory - to ensure that training leads to a job.

Five of the states and territories have now signed up to and launched – their Job Trainer Agreements including: Western Australia, Queensland, the ACT, South Australia, Tasmania and NSW. We are soon to launch the Northern Territory’s.

Whilst specific Job Trainer courses to be funded will differ in each state and territory, states and territories have identified qualifications and skill sets relating to tourism, hospitality, catering and event management for inclusion.

In order to sign up to JobTrainer, the states and territories had to the sign the Heads of Agreement for Skills Reform which commits all jurisdictions to immediate reforms to improve the quality and relevance of VET, and to an approach and priorities for new National Skills Agreement.

The short-term reforms include:

Simplifying, rationalising and streamlining national VET qualifications across industry occupation clusters and the Australian Qualifications Framework, and introducing improved industry engagement arrangements.

And, strengthening quality standards, building Registered Training Organisations capacity and capability for continuous improvement and developing a VET workforce quality strategy.

The long-term reforms include: Simplifying the VET system and making it more responsive to skills needs.

This includes replacing the National Agreement on Skills and Workforce Development with a new agreement with the states and territories

Including increasing real investment in VET, while undertaking agreed reforms needed to ensure this investment will improve outcomes for Australians and the economy.

Another significant step has been taken to improve Australia’s VET sector with the passing of the National Vocational Education and Training Regulator Amendment Bill 2020.

This will help position the agency responsible for regulating the VET sector — the Australian Skills Quality Authority (ASQA) — as an effective, modern regulator.

Ensuring effective regulation of the sector is key to supporting high-quality training.

These reforms aim to shift ASQA’s regulatory approach from prescriptive and process-based compliance, to a broader focus on self-assurance by training providers and excellence in training outcomes.

I know ASQA Chief Commissioner, Saxon Rice, is also presenting to your summit, and she will no doubt run you through more detail on these reforms. 

Now more than ever, Australia needs a trusted training system that can deliver workers with high quality, relevant skills to support rapid upskilling and reskilling in growth areas.

As we deal with COVID-19 and the impact on the economy, we need to properly understand what is happening in the labour market - the structural shifts occurring - and the skilling and re-training needed to get people into jobs.

That is where the work of the National Skills Commission - or the NSC - is so valuable.

The NSC provides expert advice and national leadership on the Australian labour market, current and future skills needs and workforce development issues.

For instance, the NSC insights in relation to the tourism industry, suggest that while the tourism industry has been impacted significantly by the COVID-19 pandemic and associated economic responses - with restrictions easing, and some domestic borders beginning to open, employment in the industry is recovering well. 

Encouragingly, employment in the industry increased by 129,500 (or 20.1 per cent) over the quarter to August 2020. By comparison, the average increase across all industries over the period was 3.5 per cent.

And while young people employed in the industry were affected by the pandemic, over the quarter to August 2020, youth employment in the industry increased by 61,700, accounting for 40.4 per cent of the total increase in youth employment.

I am confident that this trend will continue as our economy recovers from the pandemic and restrictions ease further and our national borders open.

Better skills and labour market analysis, like that offered by the NSC, will allow education providers to offer VET courses tailored to the current and future workforce needs of employers.

I hope you too can harness the insights of the NSC as part of your own planning on skills and training.

Despite the current significant challenges tourism, travel and hospitality face, if the industry continues to adapt, innovate and collaborate, strongly aided by the Government’s timely and much needed economic supports to pandemic affected workers, businesses and the broader community; it will recover.

By working together, we will see the best results.

I thank Tourism Training Australia for its leadership in promoting and delivering training for the tourism industry.

Having people with strong, relevant skills is so important for businesses and industries to be able to stay strong, adapt and grow.

I trust everyone will get a lot of ideas and energy from today’s discussion, to tackle what lies ahead.

I wish you all the best in this important work.