PM sets new goals for digital skills

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James Riley

In his first major domestic speech since the May 18 federal poll, Prime Minister Scott Morrison has pledged to improve Australia’s digital skills, and to drive the uptake of new technologies within the nation’s financial system.

Mr Morrison outlined for the first time the government’s response to recommendations of the Joyce Review into Australia’s vocational education and training system, which was handed to the government in March.

The review, led by former New Zealand minister for tertiary education, skills and employment Steven Joyce, pointed to a need for VET courses to be updated to address skills gaps in emerging industries such as advanced manufacturing, information and communication technology, and cybersecurity.

“The Review acknowledges the good work undertaken in the sector so far, but says VET needs to adapt so it can support important and emerging industries and become a first choice for students who want to pursue technical careers,” the Prime Minister said.

“We believe that learning through a vocational education is just as valuable as a university degree, so we want to transform the way we deliver skills, support employers and fund training.”

Mr Morrison said initial steps would include setting up a National Skills Commission and a new National Careers Institute “to give people the information they need to decide their future careers and the best pathways to get them into a job.”

He said government would create up to 80,000 additional apprentices over five years in priority skills shortage areas through increasing apprenticeship incentives.

Small Business minister Michaelia Cash and assistant minister Steve Irons have been appointed to oversee these implementations, Mr Morrison said.

Speaking to the WA Chamber of Commerce and Industry on Monday, the Prime Minister also pledged to focus attention on boosting competition and technology adoption in the financial services sector a pet issue that Mr Morrison has pressed since his time as Treasurer.

Mr Morrison said Assistant Minister to the Treasurer Jane Hume would drive changes in the financial services sector, including the introduction of Open Banking, the new Consumer Data Right; as well as encouraging wider uptake of the New Payments Platform across the economy; establishing a mandatory comprehensive credit reporting system; and finalising a digital trade benchmark agreement with Singapore by the end of the year.

“With greater information, new entrants and small lenders, including innovative FinTech firms, will be encouraged to compete for small business and retail customers,” Mr Morrison said.

“The mutuals sector, including customer owned banks and cooperatives, will also be able to compete better with our legislation lifting restrictions on their ability to raise capital being passed just before parliament rose.

“More broadly, our Government will continue to advocate strongly for a rules-based and open global trading environment that supports digital trade, builds trust and confidence in the online environment, and reduces barriers.”

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