“Australia’s productivity growth is at a 60-year low, which is a serious problem that needs urgent attention across the entire economy,” Universities Australia Chief Executive Catriona Jackson said.
“The Employment White Paper acknowledges the need to lift productivity to a level that continues to underpin strong economic growth and a high and sustainable standard of living for Australians.
“We welcome the government’s focus on filling skills needs and building our future workforce – both of which are key drivers in reigniting productivity and driving economic growth.
“Universities are central to this task, educating the skilled workers who spur the industries that make our economy more productive and hundreds of billions of dollars bigger.
“Australia’s changing labour market needs more university-educated workers, which is why we need to be doing more to widen participation in higher education.
“We strongly support the government’s specific intention to explore ways to better support students financially as they undertake compulsory placements during their studies.
“Right now, we are missing out on workers in areas of serious shortage, including nurses and teachers, for financial reasons.
“The adoption of a skills passport will also help in this regard, particularly if it builds on the existing qualifications recognition infrastructure that universities and other tertiary providers already use.
“We have long called for these initiatives that will break down barriers not only to education but workforce growth, which is good for all of us, and thank government for taking these steps.
“We will be seeking clarification from government around the idea of TAFEs delivering bachelor-equivalent apprenticeships independent of universities.
“While we support greater engagement between universities and VET providers, it is important that this is done in a complementary way.
“To reverse Australia’s productivity fortunes, government must seriously invest in the institutions that drive productivity and grow the economy in ways that pay for themselves. Universities do this in spades.
“The Employment White Paper is a step in the right direction, but the government must not waste the opportunity it has through the Australian Universities Accord to provide universities with the funding and policy certainty we need to continue doing our job for the nation.”