EWEN JONES: It is an absolute pleasure to be here today with Simon Birmingham, the Minister for Education. We are about to make a very specific announcement, which I will allow him to elaborate on. What I can say from my perspective is that anything we can do to improve the opportunities for young people to get jobs, to get trades, to get careers in Townsville, it is just so important. That’s why the defence department when the Minister for Defence, Marise Payne was talking about the Singapore arrangement coming to Townsville, being able to break down the tender amounts in to bite sized chunks so that local contractors can have a chance at getting that work, that means that the jobs stay here, the training opportunities stay here, the apprenticeships stay here, it means the profit stays here and the further investment stays here, but what we have to do is to have the opportunities for young people to actually get that chance to get that job and secure that future. So Minister, thank you very much for coming and I look forward to your announcement.

SIMON BIRMINGHAM: Thanks so much Ewan for the welcome and for having me here. I am delighted to be here as part of a Turnbull Government that is committed to our plan for economic growth right around the country and for job creation and a really critical component of our plan relies on education and training being geared to give people the basic skills, as well as the technical skills to secure jobs in their local communities and to help local businesses to grow in to the future. What we’ve announced is that around the country we are backing 14 different Pathways in Technology pilot programmes, a P-TECH programme, that links training institutions with local businesses and here I am delighted to say that Tech NQ will be 1 of those 14 pilot programmes around Australia and that they will be partnering with 3 significant local regional employers in Wilmar Sugar, in Ergon Energy and in Canegrowers Burdekin, employers who are critical to the local economy, but who are committed to working with Tec-NQ to help address the skills deficits they have and to help give really strong career pathways to local students.

What we’ll see is that those employers will work directly with Tec-NQ in terms of training, mentoring, assistance to students opening up their career horizons particularly across the science, technology, engineering and mathematics pathways. Tec-NQ is already a national leader in terms of providing apprenticeships and traineeships, but this will allow it to expand its offering in terms of commitment to the STEM disciplines and support in those areas.

The important part of the types of pathways that are available under P-TECH is that they are strong linkages between training providers and employers and this has come about because of the advocacy of Ewan Jones and the commitment of Tech NQ to provide the type of jobs focussed education and training that Townsville needs for kids in Townsville to succeed in the future and in a community with a youth unemployment rate approaching 20 per cent, nothing is more important than providing job ready education and training which this pilot will do.

QUESTION: How much money will Tech NQ get out of that $4.6 million?

BIRMINGHAM: So there is the $4.6 million pilot programme across the nation that will see around $300,000 invested in local pilot programmes such as the one here at Tec-NQ linking up with the 3 significant regional employers, which really helps to build a model that we hope can then be replicated right across the country. So, Tec-NQ with its business partners will be a pioneer to help establish the P-TECH model as something that other training entities can follow right around the country.

QUESTION: Is it the only one in Queensland that’s receiving funding?

BIRMINGHAM: Well there are 14 pilot programmes across the country, not all of the sites have been determined at this stage, but this is absolutely the only one in northern Queensland that we are committing to at this point in time and of course, it is really about helping to create a circumstance where young people get job ready training, job opportunities that are directly tied to local employers to give them the best chance at getting employment afterwards.

QUESTION: What will the $300,000 [indistinct]

BIRMINGHAM: The $300,000 in funding for the pilots supports an arrangement that really builds the relationship between the training provider and the employer. It helps to design the mentoring programmes, it helps to design the working engagement programmes for students to be placed in those employer organisations, it helps to design training pathways that exist beyond just year 11 and 12 and in to vocational qualifications after they have finished in their schooling life.

JONES: The thing that really impresses me about what Minister Birmingham has said today is that we have been saying in Townsville for a long time that when you have an area like Townsville that has critical mass of employment that is reasonably isolated in terms of geography, that we can drive these trials and find out how the programmes work properly. This is $300,000 to see how we can set this thing up to work properly, so we can roll it out across the nation to make it a real stepping stone for everyone’s employment. For someone like Simon Birmingham to come up to Townsville and understand the challenges we have and also understand the opportunities that we present to roll out for the rest of Australia, that we are in that cluster of being able to deliver quantified results, quantified research, quantified data to say this is how the thing will work, roll it out, that we are already up and running and this is where the support of the Turnbull Government with Ministers like Simon Birmingham really works in our region. We do understand that we are part of a centralised state and that we’ve got to do things differently.

QUESTION: What are the direct benefits you are expecting to see?

JONES: What I want to see is the programme that is actually delivered, not just to Wilmar, Ergon and Burdekin Canegrowers, but to a whole heap of industries where individual employers can participate and make sure that they can sign up for these programmes because they know that they are going to receive a quality trained person who understands the science, understands the technology, understands the engineering and maths, that when they turn up for the job, they’re ready to go. These are the things that we want to make sure of and as I said before, the Singapore agreement coming up, that we’ll have opportunities coming up where people are going to be able to build their employment. What we are looking for here is for young apprentices to be able to come out and start their own businesses so that they can provide opportunity for the next generation, those are the things that are so vitally important in our region and for us to be chosen as a trial site, for Tech NQ to be chosen as a trial site, says that what a valuable institution this organisation is, that they have continually defied the odds and delivered quality service to our community all the way through and I think this is a fantastic day for North Queensland.

QUESTION: The state government, the Minister is attending nine different events over regional Queensland today, do you think they’re starting to stock their stocks, Labor starting to stock their stocks for the election?

JONES: I think there is nothing surer than that this Labor government has done nothing in this 15 months so far and is well and truly on the campaign hustings. They want to back Bill Shorten and make sure that we can’t develop the north and we won’t be able to clear land and we won’t put in any dams. They’ll be joined at the hip with the Greens to make sure that we get locked out of the reef. What I would say to the Labor Ministers when they come up here, you didn’t properly fund the stadium, how about you properly fund the convention centre part of it. You’re happy to fund South Bank and you’re happy to fund all of the other ones, you’re happy to fund Cairns, why not fund Townsville? So, if they’re coming up here on the campaign trail, ask them to bring their cheque book with them and make sure they actually deliver for North Queensland. Treat us like first class Queenslanders not second class Queenslanders like they have been doing.

QUESTION: Just before you guys announced the money for the super stadium, Curtis Pitt came on the Friday before hand, do you think that was like, planned or do you think that was like…

JONES: The state government was dragged kicking and screaming to raise their funding from $100 million to $140 million, with me as the only voice in public constantly criticising them for not funding us properly, so imagine what would have happened if the Townsville Bulletin ran front pages against them the way that they did against the Coalition government. We came to the party when we received the paperwork, we came to the party when we were actually presented with a plan that made sense, we came to the party on the stadium when we could say that it is in fact more than a stadium. What I would like to see from this state government is where they believe it is more than a stadium, let them start to deliver for Townsville the way they deliver for the Gold Coast, the way they’re delivering for Brisbane. Let them deliver for Townsville, let them treat us like first class Queenslanders.