Employer groups and unions have joined forces to address Australia's continuing skills shortage releasing a 10-point plan to tackle the problem head on.
The plan was developed by the National Skills Policy Collaboration, which includes representatives from the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU), Australian Industry Group (Ai Group), Australian Education Union (AEU), Dusseldorp Skills Forum (DSF) and Group Training Australia (GTA).
Ai Group chief executive, Heather Ridout, said yesterday the competitive future of the Australian economy rests in large part with the development of a highly skilled and innovative workforce.
"This will only happen if there is a quantum leap forward in the resourcing and commitment by a range of parties to lifting the skills of Australians," she said.
"Australia's economic potential will remain constrained unless productivity-boosting reforms such as those proposed in this statement are embraced and implemented."
ACTU president, Sharan Burrow, agreed there is a need to look at fundamental reform.
She said Australia has a generational opportunity to turn around the skills crisis.
"Reforms undertaken today will set us up for a new wave of productivity improvement and prosperity," Burrow said.
"Australia's skills shortage needs to be addressed urgently through improvements in the provision of vocational education and training.
"Greater industry involvement in this is essential if real improvements in delivery and outcomes are to be achieved."
The statement highlights 10 steps integral to improving the quality and capacity of Australia's workforce.
These include: a renewed focus on apprenticeship completions; long-term investment in education and training; skill infrastructure partnerships between public and private sectors; a review of the traineeship program; and a national vision on the future of TAFE.
A key element of the plan is to support teachers, trainers and their leaders to improve their qualifications and knowledge.
Moreover, the Collaboration will be conducting a roundtable in coming months to communicate the plan and to engage with other stakeholders.
DSF chief executive, Jack Dusseldorp, said the global war for talent means that Australia must do much more to educate, train and add value to its workforce to remain competitive.
He said benchmarking Australia's skills performance against the OECD leaders and the best in the Asia-Pacific region will be crucial.
A 2008 report by the Australian Computer Society (ACS) released earlier this year found that the ICT skills shortage is negatively impacting industry performance.
ACS president Kumar Parakala said the shortage will have significant economic flow-on effects for Australian business at a time when global industry growth is paramount.