Job seekers would be able to share their verified qualifications with employers through a new national skills passport that could function as a digital record-keeping platform like the Medicare app, with the federal government investing $9.1 million to pursue the reform.
The concept of a national skills passport has been previously backed by employer groups, including the Business Council of Australia, and the initiative has been given the green light by the Albanese government in its employment white paper.
Treasurer Jim Chalmers has backed the idea of a national skills passport for recording workers’ qualifications. Credit: Alex Ellinghausen
The paper, to be released by Treasurer Jim Chalmers on Monday, will confirm the government’s plans to spend $9.1 million to prepare a business case for creating the digital skills passport and consult industry, unions, tertiary institutions and students on its scope and function.
Chalmers said more workers were re-training and upskilling over the course of their lives than ever before and a skills passport would make it easier for them to demonstrate their training to employers.
“Our goal is to make it easier for workers to have their qualifications recognised and easier for employers to find the well-trained, highly qualified workers they need,” Chalmers said.
“It’s vital that we build a more agile and adaptable labour force. Our economy is rapidly changing, and the demands on workers and employers are changing too.”
Government sources, who were not authorised to speak publicly about the concept, said a skills passport could function like a digital ID for qualifications similar to the way the Medicare app provides digital health records. It could be used to store a person’s training and education qualifications from high school to university and VET on one platform that could then be shared with employers.
Education Minister Jason Clare said the passport would help ensure that employers had confidence that they were hiring staff with the correct skills, while Skills Minister Brendan O’Connor said that the ongoing shortage of skilled workers meant it was crucial that students’ qualifications were easily recognised “so they can upskill, reskill and find work as the economy changes”.
A review commissioned by Clare into the university sector endorsed the concept of a skills passport in its interim report to the minister in June.
“A national skills passport could build on the National Credentials Platform (NCP) which aims to be a secure digital platform for students and graduates to access, compile, display, and share their higher education qualifications, micro credentials and general capabilities,” the universities accord report said.
The report said the initiative would move Australia toward “international best practice, exemplified by Singapore’s unified credentials platform MySkillsFuture” – an online government portal “that enables Singaporeans to make informed learning and career choices to pursue their skills and career development throughout their lifetime”.
The BCA has called for a national skills passport for a number of years, mostly recently in its submission to the employment white paper.
The Council of Small Business Organisations Australia also endorsed the idea in its submission to Labor’s 2022 Jobs and Skills summit, saying a nationally recognised skills passport would “make it easier for employers and their workers to recognise qualifications of all types, including micro-credentials”.
The employment white paper will also record that while women are participating in the labour market at the highest rates ever, a gender pay gap is present across all industries.
Extracts of the paper, to be released by the government on Sunday, will state that the “female-dominated health care and social assistance industry has a full-time gender pay gap of 21.0 per cent”.
“In STEM fields, machinery and equipment repair and maintenance had the largest full-time gender pay gap at 24.0 per cent, or a difference of $34,000 in total remuneration each year. Oil and gas extraction had a gender pay gap of 22.0 per cent, which in dollar terms is around $63,000 a year,” the paper said.
Finance Minister Katy Gallagher said the government would next year release its “national strategy to achieve gender equality, helping guide our actions to make Australia one of the best countries in the world for gender equality. “
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