The Australian Government is addressing industry concerns about the quality of the previous Labor Government’s Trade Training Centres (TTC) in schools programme through an independent review.

The review has been ordered based on feedback that students are not graduating with the skills required by employers.

Assistant Minister for Education Sussan Ley explained that taxpayers had spent more than $1.4 billion on the programme since Labor dismantled the Howard Government’s successful curriculum-focussed Australian Technical Colleges in 2009 in favour of an infrastructure-centric approach. However, industry has been raising numerous concerns about inconsistencies in the quality of training, qualifications and equipment offered between different TTCs.

Observing that more kids need to be inducted into trades and training to address Australia’s skills shortages, she said the training programme needed to be high-quality and also include on-the-job experience to be effective. Unfortunately, Labor’s Trade Training Centres programme was more focussed on building flashy new buildings rather than the quality of training delivered inside.

Since TTCs operate under 20-year contracts, the review will ensure they deliver both the taxpayers and students maximum value going forward. The review would also ensure stronger links between industry and schools, and better career guidance for students.

The Abbott Government is currently working with the states and territories to update the national Vocational Education and Training in Schools (VETiS) framework for the first time since 2001.

Emphasising the importance of the need for students not only to develop physical skills but also employability, Ms Ley said a TTC offering a Certificate II in construction should deliver hands-on experience and training with tools on a worksite for it to be a worthwhile experience for both the student and the employer. Likewise, a TTC delivering a hospitality qualification should go beyond merely teaching school students how to make a great meal to training them in business fundamentals such as customer service.

At the end of the day, students should consider trades and training as first-class career pathways similar to university, and not made to feel like they’re playing on the ‘B team’.

The TTC review will focus on examining three areas:

The current utilisation of training facilities to identify opportunities for increased or improved utilisation;

The training provided, particularly in terms of industry and employer engagement, which involves an examination of the current role of industry and employers in training delivery models to identify models of best practice, options for strengthening industry and employer links, and opportunities for enhanced involvement leading to better training outcomes;

Training outcomes and whether they are meeting industry and employer needs, which will involve an assessment of the current training outcomes under the Program against program objectives, original funding proposal expectations, contractual obligations, and industry and employer expectations.

Ms Ley announced that Ms Patricia Scott would undertake the review using her extensive policy, advisory and implementation experience in various public service roles, including as a former departmental secretary. The report will be submitted to the Government later this year.