COAG meeting - predictable positioning but national apprenticeship scheme announced

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COAG meeting - predictable positioning but national apprenticeship scheme announced

The Council of Australian Governments' (COAG) meeting held on 3 June produced predictable political outcomes in terms of Liberal and Labor differences over IR reform.

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The Council of Australian Governments' (COAG) meeting held on 3 June produced predictable political outcomes in terms of Liberal and Labor differences over IR reform. However, agreement was reached on a national apprenticeship scheme.

The Council comprised the Prime Minister, Premiers, the Chief Minister of the ACT and the President of the Australian Local Government Association.

Agenda items

On the IR and employment front the meeting considered the economic implications of an ageing Australia, vocational education and training, and workplace relations reform.

COAG noted the findings of the Productivity Commission's Research Report on the 'Economic Implications of an Ageing Australia' which it had asked be undertaken at its December 2002 meeting.

In particular, COAG noted the budgetary pressures all levels of government will face in the decades ahead from the ageing of the population, and the importance of measures to raise productivity and labour force participation to enhance income growth.

National apprenticeship scheme

Addressing skills shortages, COAG noted that a more responsive and flexible national apprenticeship, vocational education and training, and skills recognition system is vital to meeting both current and future skills needs.

Raising and recognising the skill level of the Australian workforce will improve workplace participation and productivity and help address the challenge of an ageing population.

While there has been significant reform of the Vocational Education and Training (VET) system in recent years, COAG agreed that there is scope for further whole-of-government action. It agreed that the creation of a genuinely national approach to apprenticeships and training will help Australia respond to its skills shortages and provide more opportunities for young Australians.

COAG agreed to establish a joint Commonwealth-State working group to address the barriers across the VET system to achieving such a national approach.

This working group will examine:

  • effective implementation of full mutual recognition of skills qualifications across Australia;
  • an appropriate system for recognition of overseas qualifications;
  • shortening the duration of apprenticeships where competencies are demonstrated and enabling school-based apprenticeships;
  • ensuring maximum flexibility in training for employers and apprentices;
  • effective competition between training providers;
  • allowing intermediate or specialised qualifications as well as full apprenticeships;
  • the impact of skills shortages on particular industries and regions; and
  • the merits of a purchaser/provider split for apprenticeship funding.

The working group will provide its report to COAG on options and recommendations, including an implementation proposal, in December 2005. COAG also noted that discussions were continuing on the Commonwealth-State funding agreement for skilling Australia's workforce.

Workplace relations

The Commonwealth proposed that COAG agree to work towards a uniform, national system of workplace relations through referrals of the necessary constitutional power from the States to the Commonwealth. As anticipated, the States advised that they will not refer their powers.

More details

See the COAG website for more details. 

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