Bill Introduced To Modernise SA Training And Skills System

Thursday 23 July 2020 @ 11.10 a.m. | Industrial Law | Legal Research

The Training and Skills Development (Miscellaneous) Amendment Bill 2020 (the Bill) was introduced into the SA Parliament by the Minister for Innovation and Skills, D G Pisoni, (the Minister) on 2 July 2020. According to the Minister, the Bill is the outcome of a thorough consultative review of the Training and Skills Development Act 2008 (the TSD Act).

Background and Reason for Reform

Since the TSD Act commenced in 2008, the development needs of the SA workforce, and the training and skills required, has seen significant change. The way business operates has been transformed by changes to the nature of work, and the tools and technologies used in the workplace. As a result. a training system needs to be flexible and responsive to the kinds of skills that are required and how training for those skills is accessed and delivered. To assist with this need a review of the TSD Act was undertaken to respond to the key recommendations from the Training and Skills Commission’s Skills for Future Jobs 2020 Series: Future-proofing the Apprenticeship and Traineeship System report which obtained stakeholder views on how well the apprenticeships and traineeship system were working and whether it meet contemporary needs. 

Simplified and Easier to Use TSD Act

The Bill proposes change to improve the structure and clarity of the TSD Act, which aims to assist stakeholders in meeting the obligations the TSD Act imposes on them. The main improvements proposed are to:

  • the Act’s objects and guiding principles;
  • the fee and penalty structure, linked to more logical use of compliance notices;
  • reducing the amount of prescription under the TSD Act, including by moving elements of the TSD Act to regulations and guidelines;
  • removing redundant and inconsistent definitions and terminology; and
  • reflecting the referral of state powers relating to higher education, VET quality and supervision of registered training organisations to the Commonwealth   in 2012.

Revised Objectives and Key Reforms

The Bill proposes the introduction of revised objectives, the main ones being:

  • strengthening the state's economic base by providing a modern, skilled workforce promoting partnerships within government, industry and other enterprises;
  • supporting South Australians access to and completion of the skills training needed to get a job and contribute to the state's economy and their own prosperity;
  • establishing a simple, streamlined apprenticeship and traineeship system featuring flexible, industry‐endorsed approaches to training and skills development;
  • recognising the importance of the vocational education and training (VET) system, including adult community education (ACE);
  • the facilitation of lifelong learning; and
  • promoting equity in training and skills development.

The Bill introduces a large number of reforms, the main ones being:

  • establishing the SA Skills Commission, supported by the SA Skills Commissioner;
  • introducing an expanded scope of trades and declared vocations;
  • streamlining employer registration and introducing a new category of prohibited employer;
  • introducing a fee payable by employers on the transfer of a training contract;
  • balancing and substantiating the obligations of parties to training contracts; and
  • recognising other forms of trade training.

Establishment of SA Skills Commission and Commissioner

The SA Skills Commission (the Commission) will be established and will report to the SA Skills Commissioner (the Commissioner), a new office proposed to be created by the Bill. The Commission will replace and combine the roles of the Training and Skills Commission and the Training Advocate, aiming to streamline the training system and remove confusion and duplication. The Commissioner will support the work of the Commission but "is not bound by its recommendations". The Commission is to be subject to direction by the Minister (but not with respect to making a particular finding or recommendation). The Commission consists of the Commissioner and up to 10 other members appointed by the Minister, and members must have the abilities and experience required for the effective performance of the Commission’s functions.

Declaration of Trades and Vocations

The Bill provides that the Minister may, on the recommendation of the Commission, declare an occupation to be a trade or declared vocation and expands the scope of the power to include, in addition to primary qualifications:

  • pre‐apprenticeships;
  • specified skill sets;
  • higher qualifications; and
  • other matters the Minister thinks appropriate.

Employer Registration

The Bill streamlines the employer registration provisions under the TSD Act. Resulting from changes proposed to be introduced by the Bill, the Commission must register an employer if:

  • the employer is not a prohibited employer;
  • the application to register satisfies any requirements under regulations or guidelines; and
  • it is appropriate to register the employer.

The Commission will continue to have the power to impose restrictions on registration in appropriate circumstances

Prohibited Employers

The Bill proposes changes allowing the Commission to declare an employer to be a "prohibited employer".  Matters to be considered in making such a declaration, include:

  • the employer’s facilities, range of work, supervision and training required for the apprenticeship or traineeship;
  • the employer’s record in delivering training to apprentices or trainees;
  • the behaviour of the employer or employees towards apprentices and trainees;
  • a contravention of the Act, or any other Act related to employment;
  • criminal history of the employer;
  • whether the employer is a fit and proper person to employ an apprentice or trainee.

Other Areas of Reform

Transfer Fee: The Bill introduces a transfer fee payable from an employer to another employer when a training contract is transferred from the former to the latter. Such transfer (or substitution) must be approved by the Commission, which can consider the submissions of the first employer in relation to the proposed transfer of the apprenticeship or traineeship.

Training Contracts: The Bill proposes a stronger focus on the obligations of parties to training contracts.

Recognition of Training: The Bill also makes changes with respect to nominated training organisations and the recognition of other trade training.

Judicial Review: The Bill empowers the South Australian Employment Tribunal (SAET) to order an employer to pay another employer specified costs associated with the early termination of a training contract where it occurs partly or wholly due to a financial or other inducement or reward. Further the Bill provides for the review of decisions by the South Australian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (SACAT).

Comments by the Premier and Minister

In a media release the Premier has stated:

“The changes we are proposing are in line with stakeholder feedback and will ensure our apprentices and trainees develop the skills needed for the modern workplace as well as preparing them for a future that will likely involve a number of career transitions.”

In the same media release the Minister is reported as saying consultation on the Bill was open through YourSAy giving ". . . stakeholders an opportunity to have their say on reforms and ensure they meet the needs of industry, the training sector and individuals." The YouSAy consultation on the Bill opened on 2 July 2020 and closes at 5pm on Thursday 20 August 2020.

Regulations and guidelines supporting the updated TSD Act are to be developed through consultation with stakeholders once the Bill has passed through the SA Parliament. 

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