Michelle Lensink

Select Committee on Skills for All Program

Select Committee on Skills for All Program.

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK: I move:

That the report of the committee be noted.

I would first of all like to acknowledge the members of the committee, the Hon. Mr Darley, the
Hon. Ms Franks and the Hon. Ms Lee; our secretary, Anthony Beasley, and our research officer,
Stephen Atkinson; and to particularly thank the Hon. Ms Lee for chairing the committee in my
absence. I make those acknowledgements at the start to ensure that I do not forget. The Select
Committee on Skills for All was established on 3 June 2015, obviously to look into the Skills for All
program.

It had some 10 or 11 terms of reference that were quite explicit and are available for anybody
to read. This particular program, I think, will have to go down in the annals of history. It could easily
be the subject of one of those satirical programs that are often on the ABC in the tenor of Yes Minister,
given how poorly managed it was—a classic case of over-promising a huge amount of money that
was expended not in accordance with any particular outcomes and was hastily called to an end to
the detriment of the training sector, particularly the non-government training sector in South Australia.

The original Skills for All white paper promised the creation of 100,000 new training
placements with 'the largest investment in skills in the state's history', which was supposed to be
$194 million over six years. In anyone's language this is a whole lot of moolah. The key goal was to
increase our labour force participation by between, as it stated, two and three percentage points,
which was in order to meet an Economic Development Board growth rate of 3.2 per cent. The
program was shut down three years ahead of schedule, and the government quite boldly stated that
this was because the targets had been met. The key target, of course, being that it had spent all the
money.

We had a very unedifying situation in May 2015, where a whole lot of registered training
organisations had scaled up to meet the program targets to design new programs, put on new staff,
have students enrolled and so forth and were given next to no warning about the fact that the program
was being axed and that the funding would cease. Clearly, that had a range of negative impacts on
those training providers and on the students who would have liked to participate in those programs.
What we also discovered was that the funding that was still available was being very much directed
towards the TAFE sector, so that TAFE was receiving money at the expense of non-government
providers.

We heard from a large number of witnesses. The evidence was very consistent that there
was a distinct lack of controls on the original program, which led to some courses having no
enrolments at all. There was poor matching between the types of courses that were offered to
particular employment outcomes, and general chaos ensued as a result of the manner in which the
government had let the money flow out and then had cut it short without any warning at all. Regional
providers, I think, were probably particularly disadvantaged. There were issues for the agricultural
skills sector. A lot of non-government providers, I think, were also subject to unfair competition from
TAFE, which scoped their activities and then provided very similar courses and was able to drop its
prices to try to attract those non-government provider students.

At the same time, there have also been internal difficulties within the TAFE system with
ongoing negotiations between the particular union and TAFE itself. I would have to say that TAFE
were very unimpressive witnesses. We had a difficult time with them. Even though they were the key
stakeholder, the major stakeholder in terms of this inquiry, they did not actually provide a written
submission to the committee, which I think was unsatisfactory.

We had quite an exchange with the chairman of the TAFE board and then, when we asked
particular questions in the follow-up that we requested as a committee, those replies were very tardy
in coming forth. We just about had to threaten the TAFE board with being in contempt of parliament
if they did not produce the information that we requested. That was the means by which we eventually
were able to obtain that information. I would have to say that they did not cover themselves in glory
in many ways as witnesses to this committee.

There are a number of recommendations, quite a large number of recommendations for a
committee: 29 in total. I would like to thank everybody who made a submission, either in person or a
written submission to the committee. I commend this report to the council.

Debate adjourned on motion of Hon. T.T. Ngo

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