Mrs PHILLIPS (Gilmore) (17:57): As a former TAFE teacher and work placement coordinator, I know how vital TAFE is to providing Australia with a skilled workforce. I know how valuable apprenticeships are to the future of young people, helping to address youth unemployment and providing us with the tradies of the future.
I went out into communities such as Sanctuary Point and East Nowra to help students on the path to training and work. I taught students who had faced challenges in their lives but were working to improve the future for themselves and their families—young mums, young dads, mature-aged people. I have seen how hard they have tried to change the cycle of disadvantage. I have heard their calls for help when they couldn't get the support they so desperately needed from their employment providers. I spent many years working with them, trying to help them and seeing the challenges they faced.
So when I hear, like we did last week, that the government thinks the solution is a celebrity, I can't help but shake my head. When I hear that the Prime Minister wants to end 'job snobbery' by asking young people to give up on university and try a trade instead, I despair. I do agree with the Prime Minister on one thing: we are facing shortages in vital blue-collar jobs. I agree with the Prime Minister that we do need more tradies, but Scott Cam is not the answer.
The motion that I rise on today praises the government's 'strong commitment' to reform the vocational education and training sector. It talks about 'incentivising apprenticeships and trainees' to address skills shortages. It even mentions addressing youth unemployment in regional areas.
There is only one thing I can say to that: this government is now facing a mess of its own making. Because of the coalition government's cuts, my electorate has the highest youth unemployment rate in New South Wales. Between September 2013 when this government took office and March 2018, my electorate lost 30 per cent of its apprentices—810 apprentices, a huge number in the New South Wales South Coast, where we are really struggling.
There are 150,000 fewer apprentices and trainees nationally. More people are dropping out than finishing apprenticeships and there are fewer apprentices and trainees than 10 years ago. The $3 billion in cuts to vocational education and training will do that.
All pre-apprenticeships at local TAFE campuses on the New South Wales South Coast were axed by this government. I know how popular these courses were because I used to teach them. These courses help people to start a trades career. Employers loved them and students loved them. Why wouldn't they? These courses gave students a foot in the door, helped them to gain the valuable trade skills to make them real assets to local businesses. I helped students get ready for industry accredited work placements through the pre-apprenticeship welding class I taught, and I know it worked.
Instead of reinvesting the money this government has ripped from TAFE, they think that spending taxpayer dollars on a celebrity endorsement is going to do the trick. I feel confident when I say that no matter how popular he may be, and I'm sure Scott Cam is a nice enough chap, this has nothing to do with Scott Cam. He cannot make up for a funding black hole this government has created.
The government has turned its back on the people of the South Coast. This motion from the member for Braddon welcomes support workers by improving literacy and numeracy, and digital literacy. But I am reminded about the Adult Migrant English Program. This TAFE program provided literacy and numeracy skills to new migrants. In 2017, this government decided to outsource it. They privatised it. What happened? The new provider decided that people in Batemans Bay didn't need to have access to this program anymore. They decided that people could travel to Nowra instead, a 90-minute drive away. This cruel decision hurt our local TAFE campuses. It led to fewer enrolments. It led to teachers' positions being axed and a reduction in literacy programs.
That's all this government knows how to do—cut, cut, cut.
We don't need celebrity endorsements and we don't need motions like this that attempt to hide the reality of this government's actions in the skills sector. We need our TAFEs to be properly funded. We need apprentices to be properly supported. We need help for the people of the New South Wales South Coast who desperately want to help fill this skills shortage the coalition government has created.