Training & Careers

National Skills Agreement critical to grow the construction workforce immediately

THE Housing Industry Association (HIA) has welcomed the National Cabinet's announcement of the National Skills Agreement -- especially in light of the new construction industry training demand to meet the Federal Cabinet aim of 1.2 million new home completions within five years.

"The Agreement promises to invest $12.6 billion to expand and transform the vocational education and training (VET) sector to deliver quality training and reforms which address our critical skills needs,” HIA managing director, Jocelyn Martin said. 

“Earlier this year National Cabinet committed to building 1.2 million homes over the next five years. To build these much needed homes, it is critical that we have the key skills and workforce in place to enable us to achieve this target. 

“This investment is a key plank in addressing the skills shortages, strengthening our VET sector and training and upskilling workers into national priority areas including construction.

“Part of this agreement includes the establishment of nationally networked Centres of Excellence involving partnerships between TAFEs, universities, Jobs and Skills Councils and industry,” Ms Martin said.

While broadly supportive of these targeted ‘Centres of Excellence’ which can focus on key skills gaps, HIA has stressed the importance of the Australian Government broadening the focus beyond TAFEs to also recognise the key role played by industry specific training organisations.

These organisations deliver training developed by industry for industry and also have the capacity to deliver targeted skills in regional areas.

Included in the $12.6 billion funding is $100 million to support, grow and retain a quality VET workforce, $250 million to improve VET completions including women and others who face completion challenges and $142 million to improve foundation skills training capacity, quality and accessibility.

“The National Skills Agreement promises to deliver much needed changes to the VET system and the opportunity to target skills and reforms which will make a difference to our industry and our capacity to deliver on the Government’s plan to build 1.2 million homes,” Ms Martin said.


A$200k-plus in mine rehabilitation scholarships on offer

MORE THAN $200,000 in post-graduate student scholarships is being offered by the Coal Minesite Rehabilitation Trust to help build on Queensland’s reputation as an international leader in coal mine rehabilitation.

Two scholarships valued at $40,000 a year over three years are now available through the Coal Minesite Rehabilitation Trust to post-graduate students studying at a Queensland university.

The Coal Minesite Rehabilitation Trust was established in 2007 and is overseen by the Queensland Resources Council (QRC), Queensland Government and industry representatives. 

Resources Minister Scott Stewart said the generous scholarships provide two university students with an opportunity to pursue postgraduate studies in world-leading environmental management.

“Mine rehabilitation is a key part of a company’s life of mine planning cycle to ensure better environmental outcomes and help create more jobs for Queenslanders after a mine is no longer in use,” Mr Stewart said.

“Good progress has been made in rehabilitation in Queensland and these scholarships contribute to research that will lead to even better practices.

“I support the industry’s continuing efforts to improve rehabilitation methods to ensure mining is compatible with current and future land uses,” he said.

“The scholarships will support ongoing research to identify future improvements and ensure we can have confidence in the industry’s ability to manage and reduce its impacts.”

QRC chief executive Ian Macfarlane said the scholarships are a practical and innovative way to develop world-class expertise in Queensland to lead the resources sector’s future rehabilitation practices.

“This scholarship program benefits the whole resources sector by encouraging more research and fresh thinking into how we can continually improve and refine land rehabilitation practices,” Mr Macfarlane said.

“We are now seeing current and former coal mines working to transform to a range of productive and innovative post mining land uses including agriculture, renewable energy infrastructure, native ecosystems and community development.

“The research conducted by postgraduate students over the years is making a significant contribution to understanding and implementing sustainable rehabilitation outcomes.”

Applications for the 2024 Coal Minesite Rehabilitation Scholarships are assessed against key priorities that include sustainable post-mining land uses and addressing long-term water management, Mr Macfarlane said.

More information on the 2024 Coal Minesite Rehabilitation Scholarship positions is available here.


Challenges today in recruiting future leaders

By Leon Gettler, Talking Business >>

WHAT ARE the key issues for boards looking to bring in a new breed of leaders?

Anita Wingrove, the managing director of leading search and leadership advisory firm Russell Reynolds Associates, said there were several areas “that are challenging companies when recruiting future leaders”.

She said the two big areas were digital transformation and ESG (environmental, social, governance), putting more focus on sustainability.

Ms Wingrove said digital transformation made things “much more complex” for leaders and ESG meant that company leaders now needed to think more broadly. 

“Now, to be more successful, they really have to be turned into the broader context of community, the social agenda, and the sustainability agenda more broadly – and that’s requiring them to lead much more complex environments than they have had to previously,” Ms Wingrove told Talking Business.

Leadership challenges worlds apart

Ms Wingrove said family companies faced completely different issues in developing leaders, totally different from listed companies.

For leaders of family companies, she said, there were two issues.

The first is succession, and how to prepare younger family members for leadership roles. The second complexity is bringing in talent from the market to succeed founders. The outsiders are coming in fresh and are not part of the family and don’t have the context of the family, she said.

“In general with companies of that nature, there are a few challenges at hand,” Ms Wingrove said.

“One is – and we’ve often found in the work we’ve done, across Asia in particular – that the team composite is just as important as having best-of-breed people in each role.

“And so the best CFO (chief financial officer) working in a family business might be excellent because they’re a great CFO, but they work very well with the founder of that organisation. They become the ‘ying and the yang’ if you like, and there’s a huge reliance and trust.”

Ms Wingrove said COVID had challenged the leadership of companies and business all round.

“All of a sudden, leaders were leading their teams from their living rooms through Zoom and other means and, all of a sudden, with the personal issues bearing down on us. If we think back to 2020, it was as much about how this business is going to survive as it was about family members being in hospital and things like that,” she said.

“Here we had leaders not prepared to lead in that environment and, all of a sudden, they were really helping people both professionally and personally to get through some really trying settings. Of course, some did that very well and others found it extremely difficult, both personally and also in terms of the skills they didn’t have at that time.”

CEO tenure now a major issue

Ms Wingrove said the tenure of CEOs was now becoming a major issue for companies.

CEOs were now spending less time in the job. She said it used to average about 10 years. In Australia, this had now been reduced to six.

“The turnover is greater and therefore, CEOs are spending a lot of their tenure preparing the next generation” she said.

Ms Wingrove said there was also more pressure on boards to build talent internally.

This meant CEOs now had to develop talent internally rather than relying on the company to bring in a successor from outside.

“Those CEOs who have a good relationship with their chairs tend to fare better,” she said.


Hear the complete interview and catch up with other topical business news on Leon Gettler’s Talking Business podcast, released every Friday at


New global research highlights the top three benefits women in tech want 

NEW DATA from a global survey of women working in the technology sector has clearly revealed the top benefits ‘women in tech’ want from their employers.

Technology companies are often at the forefront of progressive policies when it comes to employee benefits. In addition to competitive salaries, the high-intensity environment of tech work, regardless of industry, necessitates a more expansive approach to employee benefits. 

With recent research highlighting the experience of burnout amongst women in tech – amounting to a  percent, Tenth Revolution Group company Revolent undertook new research to gain greater insight into the policies and practices that women in tech most want to see from their employers.  

In a survey of more than 800 tech professionals across multiple different cloud ecosystems, the most-desired employee benefits were: 1. Four or more weeks paid time off; 2. Working from home; 3. A financial bonus. 

Responding to this new research, Revolent’s global EDI strategy lead Caroline Fox said, “In light of the recent information on burnout amongst women tech professionals, the rankings for the most sought-after benefits here absolutely make sense. 

“Time away from work is often critical when dealing with the impact of workplace stress. Likewise, the flexibility that remote or hybrid working offers can be a vital component in strategies to prevent burnout. 

“Seeing financial bonuses make the top three is also consistent with our understanding of the landscape,” Ms Fox said.

“Tech work can be lucrative, but it’s also intensive, difficult work. Bonuses ranking third suggests women in tech ultimately want to be better compensated for their work, their time, and their energy.” 

Statistics for the report were derived from the latest (2022-2023) careers and hiring guides offered by Tenth Revolution Group and its recruitment brands. The total sample size for this study was 866 and included women tech professionals working across Amazon Web Services, Microsoft 365 and business applications, NetSuite, and Salesforce.


Master Builders Australia welcomes Govt's targeted support for apprentices

MASTER BUILDERS Australia has welcomed the Federal Government’s announcement of strengthening targeted support and services available for apprentices.

Chief executive officer Denita Wawn said with around half of apprentices failing to complete a trade apprenticeship at a time when the industry is facing critical skill shortages, this investment is a sensible step to give apprentices the best possible chance to remain in the industry.

“Construction is the backbone of the Australian economy, employing approximately 1.3 million people, providing infrastructure, commercial and community buildings, and homes for the growing population," Ms Wawn said.  

“Nearly 10 percent of the 1.26 million people employed in construction are apprentices or trainees, the highest proportion of any industry in Australia.

“On September 30, 2022, 121,479 apprentices and trainees in-training were employed in the building and construction industry. This is three in every 10 apprentice and trainees employed in Australia and significantly more than any other industry sector," she said.

“With Australia's population projected to grow by over 50 percent between 2022 and 2060, reaching nearly 40 million people, the industry will require a significant workforce to undertake the necessary building and construction work.

“Work integrated learning pathways — including apprenticeships, traineeships and cadetships — are critical to ensuring the building and construction industry has a pipeline of skilled workers.

“The early stages of an apprenticeship are the most tenuous. Pastoral care can benefit apprentices, is a core element of the group training organisation model, and likely one of the main reasons that GTOs have higher completion rates than small employers," Ms Wawn said.

“The construction industry attracts more male than female workers. Improving the attractiveness of the industry to women presents a massive opportunity to increase the pool of potential workers.

“Initiatives such as Master Builders Australia’s Women Building Australia program are supporting retention through mentoring, helping to dispel misperceptions about the industry, encouraging more women into construction, sharing the stories of women in the industry, and nurturing career progression and business resilience,” Ms Wawn said.

Last week, Master Builders Australia released its blueprint for future-proofing the building and construction industry’s workforce in wake of a shortage of half a million workers.




Airwallex and University of Melbourne help to ‘forge Australia’s future tech leaders’

GLOBAL financial technology (fintech) innovator Airwallex has embarked on a pivotal partnership with the University of Melbourne, aiming to help build ‘the next generation of Australian tech leaders’.

With a total investment from Airwallex of more than A$3 million, the partnership is aimed at increasing access, exposure and career opportunities for technology students, and in turn, growing the pool of future technology talent in Australia.

The partnership will run into 2025 and builds on Airwallex’s long-term relationship with the university, which is where the four Airwallex co-founders first met. University of Melbourne’s Engineering and Information Technology students will be considered for a range of opportunities across multiple programs, including the Airwallex Excellence in Technology Scholarships, the Opportunity Fund, the Student Enrichment Plan, and the Future Idea Fund.

Airwallex Excellence in Technology Scholarships are 42 financial scholarships, valued at up to A$15,000 a year, which will be offered across the three years for gifted and promising students in Bachelor or Masters programs. Scholarship recipients will be given priority consideration for internships at Airwallex.  

The Opportunity Fund is for  students experiencing financial hardship. The fund will provide one-off payments for up to 100 students to support their studies, and is available throughout 2023 to both domestic and international students.

The Student Enrichment Plan is a series of special activations, awards and facilities to foster innovation amongst students and alumni. This will include hackathons, guest lectures and talks from Airwallex leaders at key university events such as the Endeavour Exhibition, which Airwallex has been involved with since 2019.

The Future Idea Fund offers a “plethora of initiatives” to increase access and exposure to training and careers in technology.

Airwallex and University of Melbourne staff and students will also have the opportunity to co-locate in the Melbourne Connect innovation precinct. Located in Parkville, Melbourne Connect brings together world-class researchers, industry leaders, start-ups, government representatives and students seeking to leverage research and emerging technologies to disrupt and transform society.

As a nod to the founders who were running a cafe in Melbourne’s CBD when they started exploring ideas that would become Airwallex, the company will provide free coffee at Melbourne Connect for students through the partnership.

The partnership between Airwallex and the University of Melbourne will expand opportunities available for students, and in turn, grow the pool of future tech talent in Australia, according to Airwallex co-founder, CEO, and University of Melbourne alum Jack Zhang. The initiative has come at a time when the tech talent shortage continues to negatively impact Australian businesses. The Tech Council of Australia has forecast that Australia would need 653,000 additional people in tech jobs by 2030 to fuel the nation’s economic growth1.

“Since our inception, Airwallex has strived to create opportunities for exponential career growth and development,” Airwallex’s Mr Zhang said. “Our partnership with the University of Melbourne marks a significant step-change in our contribution to building the tech leaders of tomorrow. It’s an honour and a privilege to be in a position to give back to the community that's been a part of the Airwallex story from day one.

“Airwallex was founded by looking beyond what’s possible, and we want to empower students to do the same. Whether through scholarships or grants, Airwallex guest lectures or events, our partnership aims to drive innovation and provide meaningful support to the next generation of technology professionals and leaders.

“We understand deeply the tech talent challenges facing businesses today. By providing students with opportunities and support from inside the sector, this partnership aims to grow the local talent pool and ultimately, strengthen Australia’s tech and start-up ecosystem. I look forward to seeing the next generation of Australian tech leaders, entrepreneurs and innovators benefit from this partnership and make their mark in the world.”

Dean of the University’s Faculty of Engineering and Information Technology, professor Mark Cassidy said the University was delighted with the new partnership.

“It is very exciting to see alumni, such as Jack and his co-founders, achieve such success with their own business and be able to give back so generously to the next generation of technology professionals and Australia’s broader tech sector,” Professor Cassidy said.

“The Airwallex scholarship and opportunity programs will make a real difference to our students’ ability to focus and continue with their studies each year, while the enrichment and idea programs will equip our students with the knowledge and mindset to become leaders in the workforce,” he said.

“This partnership exemplifies the University of Melbourne’s commitment to collaboration as a means of nurturing innovation. Bringing together world-class researchers and educators, industry and students, we can create an environment where great minds connect and incredible futures emerge.”

Tech Council of Australia CEO, Kate Pounder said, “The Tech Council of Australia welcomes this exciting new partnership that will ensure more students gain crucial skills that will allow them better access to great Australian tech jobs.

“This partnership is a great example of the power of collaboration and how organisations can work together to improve and create new pathways to attract more students to consider and take up a career in tech.”

Airwallex is a financial technology platform that assists modern businesses to grow beyond borders. With one of the world’s most powerful payments and banking infrastructure, the technology empowers businesses of all sizes to accept payments, move money globally, and simplify their financial operations in one single platform.

Established in 2015 in Melbourne, Airwallex saims to connect entrepreneurs, business builders, makers and creators with opportunities in every corner of the world, Mr Zhang said. Today, Airwallex has a footprint across Asia-Pacific, Europe, and North America.

ITECA says Parliamentary Inquiry Into skills training should focus on student choice

THE Independent Tertiary Education Council Australia (ITECA) wants the Federal Parliametnary Inquiry into skills training and vocational education and training (VET) in Australia.

“As a nation, we need to put students at the centre of the skills training system," Independent Tertiary Education Council Australia (ITECA).chief executive Troy Williams said.

"We need governments to back their decision to study with the training provider of their choice, whether it’s a quality independent training provider or a public TAFE college,” he said.

“At a time of widespread skills shortages, too many students can’t access government funding to study courses that will get them into a career in industries critical to our economy. 

"That is the primary issue that the parliamentary committee needs to consider in detail,” Mr Williams said. 

This week the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Employment, Education and Training launched an inquiry into the perceptions and status of vocational education and training (VET) in Australia.  The chair of this parliamentary committee has said that the inquiry would examine the choices of Australian students, employers and educators.

“Current skills funding models mean that too many students can’t access government funding to undertake courses in critical areas such as electricity generation, gas distribution, sustainability, plus resources and infrastructure.  It’s no wonder employers can’t find skilled staff,” Mr Williams said.

The ITECA chief executive referred to a government skills funding model that directs a disproportionate amount of funding to public skills training providers, often to the detriment of students and employers. 

"That is because, in many cases, independent registered training organisations (RTOs) offer the lion’s share of training in these areas – and sometimes are the only provider – but students can’t access government funding for these courses," Mr Williams said.

“Public providers of skills training do some good work, but they don’t always have the resources, staff, expertise and industry linkages to deliver quality training in many areas critical to the economy. 

"That’s why current government funding models that direct the bulk of government funding to the public sector don’t serve students and employers well,” Mr Williams said.

The parliamentary enquiry will review Australian Government programs which could influence any structural barriers to improving the skills training system.

“A major structural barrier in the skills training system is a funding model that is not student-centric, prohibiting them from studying in areas critical to the economy.  As the Australian Government negotiates a new skills funding agreement with the states and territories, we need to ensure that students are at the centre of the vocational training system,” Mr Williams said.

Government data referenced in the 2022 ITECA State Of The Sector Report shows that taxpayers can have confidence in the investment made by governments to back a student’s decision to study with private providers. 

“When it comes to program completions by government-funded students studying with private RTOs, they have a completion rate around twice that of government students with public providers,” Mr Williams said.

Government data references in the 2022 ITECA State Of The Sector Report show that independent RTOs across the nation support 87.1 percent of the 4.3 million students in skills training, including 70.9 percent of students in diploma and higher skills qualifications, 69.4 percent of students in Certificate IV programs and more than half of all apprentices and trainees.

ITECA State of the Sector Report key facts:

  • Independent skills training providers support 70.9% of students in Diploma and higher skills qualifications.
  • Independent skills training providers support 69.4% of students in Certificate IV programs.



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