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Ms BUTLER (Griffith) (10:08): I also rise to speak to the tabling of the report from the Standing Committee on Employment, Education and Training, Inquiry into innovation and creativity: workforce for the new economy. Like the chair, I take the opportunity to thank all of the members of the committee—there were many during the inquiry; it was a long inquiry—and I also want to take the opportunity to thank our secretariat. I note that Mr Little is with us here today in the chamber, and I thank him for his work. I also thank all of the other members of the secretariat that the member for Bowman mentioned. I also thank the member for Bowman for his leadership in this inquiry. It was a pleasure to be a part of this inquiry and to be a part of preparing this report.
Education helps equip future workers with the skills that they will need for the jobs and the businesses of the future. It also helps create citizens. People need to be equipped with knowledge and skills to help their future participation in society. For both of these ends decisive action is needed so that formal education can serve individuals' interests and also the national interest.
This was a wide-ranging inquiry that went to a range of the skills matters that are needed for the jobs and businesses of the future. As the chair mentioned, there was a significant focus on the arts and creative industries from amongst the submitters, and the report expressly and explicitly acknowledges the significance and importance of the arts and creative industries in the context of developing science, technology, engineering and maths skills; obviously, we refer to the acronym STEAM, which includes arts amongst those other skills. Other submitters would add other letters to the acronym—most relevantly, entrepreneurialism, the ESTEAM that we hear speak of, and there are others.
That is important to remember, because sometimes when you hear the acronym STEM you can think that it is quite a narrow focus. In fact, we are talking about skills that will be needed across occupations, across jobs, across industries and across sectors. As important as science, technology, engineering and maths will be arts and creative skills. In fact, some of the submitters identified the need for more champions for the arts within government and picked up on their concern about the absence of arts and creative industries from their perception of the absence of those things from the National Innovation and Science Agenda. It is something that will require further thought and I hope that our report will kick off some discussion about those issues.
The committee was also very keen to ensure that training via vocational education and training is at the heart of the National Innovation and Science Agenda. As the chair said, we are interested in the ways that people can move between vocational education and university education, and higher education more broadly. Our focus was on permeability not hierarchy. We do not seek to establish a hierarchy between higher education and vocational education and training, and the language, carefully, is aimed at describing movement between not moving up to or moving in a hierarchical way between those two sectors. We believe there will be an increasing focus on making sure there is that permeability between those two forms of training and education.
Providing relevant skills that respond to employer needs is a large focus of this report, of course, but that should not be read as suggesting that the purpose and mission of education is limited to making people job ready. Economic participation facilitates democratic and social participation as well. So while job readiness is very important—crucial, in the focus of this report—it also serves a much broader aim.
This report makes a range of recommendations for change and, as I said, decisive action is needed. As I also said, a focus is better integration between university and vocational education and, specifically, TAFE. But we also focus on a range of things that will help with better integration with industry: work integrated learning, gender equity, making sure that maths is taught in schools, and entrepreneurialism. These are all things that are canvassed in this report. We have also seen, in the course of this report, opportunities for industry collaboration and creative industries that could be better developed. That would also invite a stronger focus on creative industries—more broadly, by government—and I am very pleased that the report recommends that the Australian government introduce a funding scheme based on the former Australian Interactive Games Fund, which was, unfortunately, cut in the 2014 budget. At the time, I spoke out against those cuts and I am pleased that this report recommends the reinstatement of that scheme.