KAREN HOWARD: I’m thrilled to welcome Minister Birmingham to the beautiful electorate of Paterson today to launch the P-TECH programme. This is the innovation centre of NSW and it is excellent to see four of our local businesses jump on board straight away to work with kids from Hunter River High.

SIMON BIRMINGHAM: Thanks so much Karen, it is a real delight to be in Paterson today with Karen Howard, our Liberal candidate who is a passionate advocate for the creation of jobs in this area, for keeping jobs and people in the Hunter region and the P-TECH announcement we have today is all about helping to skill local students for local jobs. P-TECH is a wonderful programme, Pathways in Technology, that brings businesses and schools together for the technology rich subjects that will exist and jobs that will exist in the years to come. More than 70 per cent of the fastest growing jobs in the world are in STEM related disciplines and the Turnbull Government is committed to make sure that through our innovation agenda, we have more students studying science, technology, engineering and maths and that we have more businesses engaged with local schools to help create the best possible pathways of the future. This P-TECH programme will bring the Hunter River High School together with four big local businesses and the local RDA, all of whom can really help to…


…the local focus on aerospace is, of course, a key part of the commitment that business has in this area to staying here and what we want is for students from the Hunter River High School to understand the job opportunities that exist in local businesses to be skilled and trained for them while they’re at school, to pursue the qualifications post-school and then to live and work locally in the future and P-TECH will help this school to do that and help local students to be skilled for local jobs.

QUESTION: So could we compare this project to – I guess in a way so people can understand, is it like a student possibly going to TAFE one day a week or something while they’re at school that links them directly, this programme links them directly with businesses I guess in that sense for training?

SIMON BIRMINGHAM: The Pathways in Technology programme brings four local companies in to the school environment and students from the school in to those business environments. So, it provides mentoring, but it does more than that, it gives structured pathways for learning about the type of jobs local businesses have, for learning the skills that are necessary and pathways in to actual curriculum and qualifications that students need to secure those jobs. P-TECH is a pilot that we’re establishing around Australia across fourteen different sites so, what we want to see is that it compliments the national curriculum, but also gives a real stream within schools starting from year nine that students can continue through post-schooling to complete a diploma or other qualification that is relevant to local jobs, particularly local jobs in the technology type disciplines.

QUESTION: Why was Hunter River High selected? What gave the government the idea to come to here?

SIMON BIRMINGHAM: We’re selecting a diversity of schools around the country, but most importantly really is the passion and commitment of local business to work with the school and here we’ve had enormous assistance from the hunter regional development authority and enthusiasm from local businesses driven in part by Karen’s enthusiasm as a local candidate who understands local business, understands their needs for people of real skills and has really helped to convince us that this is a worthy site for one of our fourteen pilots.

QUESTION: I was just speaking to somebody while you were going around who said that they have to bring trainees from Queensland because the skills aren’t here. I guess that’s a big highlight here given that people need to be trained here, we shouldn’t be bringing students all the way from Queensland to be employed in the local industry.

SIMON BIRMINGHAM: Too often there seems to be a real miss-match between what jobs are available in a local area and yet high levels of youth unemployment in local areas. What we want to do through the stronger relationships between local schools and local businesses is better match students to the jobs that exist locally and to stop that need for businesses to import skills or workers and to encourage them to support training from the earliest years, enthusiasm to work in these local businesses and therefore get more local kids qualified and skilled to secure local jobs and drive down youth unemployment, drive up the incentive for businesses to invest in the Hunter region as an area of real jobs growth in the future.

QUESTION: Being a pilot programme, how long will this programme last for?

SIMON BIRMINGHAM: Well we’re committing funding across four years to support the programme, but ultimately, this is a programme that I hope and trust can be rolled out right across the nation at low or no cost to schools. Once we have the templates, the resources and the material in place then there is no reason that other schools who have enthusiastic local businesses can’t replicate this themselves.

QUESTION: Hunter River High being picked for this programme, it’s not fully set in stone yet, as you said, you need to come up with templates and work out how it is going to all work. Is there any idea on when that will happen and when the programme will actually be within this school?

SIMON BIRMINGHAM: The school and businesses here are committed to start the programme next year. We’ve got two pilots off the ground this year that are already happening in Geelong and Ballarat in Victoria so, we already have a model in place. The Commonwealth funding that the Turnbull Government will provide supports the Skilling Australia Foundation to engage a facilitator locally who will really help step the school and local businesses through adaptation of this model to the local circumstances and give that practical assistance to get it off the ground and running from next year.

QUESTION: Speaking to locals as you’ve been campaigning, is obviously youth unemployment an issue that has come up a bit?

KAREN HOWARD: Look, it is a statistic that we are not particularly proud of in the Hunter and particularly in Paterson and it is one of the reasons why I am so excited about P-TECH. The mutual obligations between the students and employers is a critical plank in making the programme work and I am hoping it can be rolled out more broadly across the electorate of Paterson in the future and will really help us to make inroads in to our youth unemployment statistics.

QUESTION: I guess providing jobs for young people ensures that they’re going to stay in this area and that the local area can thrive, the economy can thrive and that the area can keep on building.

KAREN HOWARD: Lets not forget the Coalition Government’s youth unemployment package which is extremely valuable to employers and unemployed youth and particularly in the area of Paterson, as we were saying before, we’re nudging about 19 per cent youth unemployment. I am really excited. Businesses that I talk to are very excited at the opportunity to take on board young people and young people are excited at what those packages mean for them. So, it helps them become job ready, it gives them that boost that they need to be able to go in and meet with an employer, put their best self forward and hopefully get themselves a job.