Subject: (SA Government Training System)
LEON BYNER: Simon, how far down the track are we from this? Is there a breached agreement or not? Are you certain that, because you told us when you were in the studio last week that you were going to withhold money until you could get a handle on what they were actually doing because you honestly believed there was a breach of the agreement signed by the former Prime Minister which doesn’t expire until the year after next?
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: Well that’s right, Leon. Look, I do believe they’re in breach of both the letter and intent of that agreement. It’s an agreement that runs from 2012 to 2017. Now, Gail Gago’s response to me when I wrote to her last week expressing concern about these reforms was to say “it will all be fixed by 2019” Well I’d make two points about that. Firstly, that 2019 is well after the expiration of this agreement, but secondly at the heart of this agreement is the notion that we will be moving to a system of getting employers and students greater choice in their training provider progressively through the life of the agreement from 2012 to 2017, and what Gail Gago and the State Government seems to be proposing is a model over the next two years than is worse than it’s been over the previous three years of the agreement. Now that is completely unacceptable. It’s going in the wrong direction, it creates a boom-bust cycle for the training providers and it removes that choice and opportunity for students and employers to access best quality, most cost effective training in SA relevant to their industry.
LEON BYNER: So Simon, what happens now? So you’re holding the funding for the time being, the private training companies are not getting any, so they’re trying to scratch their heads and see if they can convince the government to change their mind. From the comments by the Premier and indeed the Minister, that doesn’t seem to be the case. So, if you’re going to hold the money back, that means that many people won’t get any training at all.
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: Well Leon, I noticed the Premier yesterday indicated yesterday there may need to be some refinement or changes to this Work Ready model. They would have to be fairly significant in my mind to really comply with all aspects of the agreement, but I hope that is a sign the State Government is willing to reconsider. The simplest way to fix this problem is for the State Government to get its house in order, to revise this policy and to ensure that providers, whether they be the Royal District Nursing Service, whether they be community welfare providers, whether they be the construction or civil training industry, that they all have access to the subsidies to be able to provide training on a fair footing against the TAFE sector as well.
LEON BYNER: Are you meeting the Premier soon on this?
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: Well Leon, I’ll be speaking to Minister Gago hopefully later today and indeed very happy to discuss this directly with the Premier. I want the $65 million that’s available over the next two years for South Australia to be spent in SA and the simplest way for it to be spent is through the established mechanisms by the SA Government if they just apply them in a way that gives students and employers the choice they deserve.
Alright hold the line for a sec. Now Rick Cairney, I need to ask you something. Is it your understanding that the businesses you represent have actually got signed agreements with the Government?
RICK CAIRNEY: Well if they’re training providers, they would have, as I understand it, they have to get accredited to deliver Skills for All, they’re going to have to do the same for the Work Ready programme, but this goes further than affecting the training providers themselves. It’s important that jobs aren’t lost, but clearly if our members, our business community, can’t get the training they want for people, then that’s also going to create a problem in that jobs won’t be created which this programme was supposed to assist in doing.
LEON BYNER: So Simon Birmingham, can you keep us in the loop on this? Because unless there’s a breakthrough, the people that are going to be the meat in the sandwich are going to be the students.
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: That’s a real concern, Leon, and Rick just hit the nail on the head that whilst training providers might be the ones most immediately affected, the whole economy suffers overall if our training system isn’t responsive to the employers and giving skills to the students that are relevant to the jobs that exist in the economy.
LEON BYNER: Alright, so you’ve heard from Caroline Graham from Regional Skills, the policy director of Business SA, the Assistant Minister for Education and Training, Ross Womersley from SACOSS was on this morning basically scratching his head as well. This seems to be another one of those unenviable positions the government finds itself in where the only people that think its right are them.