O’Connor: “Great opportunities” for Australian workforce

19 February, 2024

Brendan O’Connor, the Federal Minister for Skills and Training, delivered a keynote address at the Australian Financial Review Workforce Summit, shining a spotlight on Australia’s pressing skills shortage.

The AFR Workforce Summit serves as a platform for business leaders, policymakers, and industry experts to convene and deliberate on the evolving landscape of workforces. They also work on strategies to effectively navigate future challenges.

Among a roster of speakers, O’Connor emphasised the imperative of investing in Australia’s labor force. He articulated,

“Our transition to net zero means we require a substantial influx of tradespeople, engineers, and maintenance workers. We have the capacity and the obligation to enhance our efforts as we gaze towards the future.”

Acknowledging the advent of digitalisation and automation in industries like mining, O’Connor stressed the necessity for modernising education and training frameworks to align with the demands of an evolving landscape.

“The digital transformation of our economy is an area that highlights the need for qualifications to be modernised and flexible, with digitisation forging ahead, sometimes at a speed that feels relentless,” he said.

Furthermore, O’Connor underscored the critical importance of ramping up industry-specific roles such as mining engineering to meet climate targets

“We are supporting 10,000 new energy apprenticeships through grants of $10,000 and implementing a new energy skills program to develop fit-for-purpose training pathways for new energy industry jobs, in partnership with states and territories, employers and unions.”

Highlighting plans for the swift establishment of up to six TAFE (Technical and Further Education) Centers of Excellence, O’Connor emphasised their role in offering advanced “higher” apprenticeships at the bachelor level.

“For too long, we have held onto an idea that the head and the hands need to be separate,” he said.

“TAFE Centres of Excellence will be key to fostering closer engagement between the two tertiary sectors.

“Our skills and training sector is vital for the future of our economy, a time where the labour market is rapidly changing.”

In conclusion, O’Connor reiterated the paramount importance of the skills and training sector in fortifying Australia’s economic future, particularly in a landscape marked by rapid transformations in the labor market.