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Workforce advisory agency abolished

The Australian     |   14 April 2014

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The Australian Workforce and Productivity Agency (AWPA) will be terminated and its functions transferred to the Department of Industry from 1 July 2014.

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Confirming the agency’s disbandment to staff, AWPA chairman Philip Bullock said that the move is in line with the AWPAgovernment’s plan to “streamline its advisory processes” and  that the board wants to ensure a “smooth transition”. He said AWPA’s strategies, reports, modelling and research documents had been used by industry and governments at all levels.

There are few times in our working lives where we (can) contribute in an area which has the potential to positively impact so many people and for this opportunity, we remain grateful.

Tertiary education researcher Leesa Wheelahan described  the decision as shortsighted.

There is now no source of independent advice to government, no way of questioning policy and no research on what Australia needs in the future.  AWPA has questioned policy, suggested new lines of thinking and changed our understandings of the way we link tertiary education to the needs of the labour market. No one else does the kind of work AWPA does.

A spokesman for Training Minister Ian Macfarlane said AWPA’s core functions would continue in the Training Department.

It will reconnect department people with industry and allow stronger input into government policy development.

But the Australian Education Union said the change would come at a cost.  Federal TAFE secretary Pat Forward“ said the move “risk(s) losing a whole lot of memory and expertise from the sector overnight”:

It will increasingly be left to Canberra bureaucrats who have very little experience of on-the-ground running of vocational education, and have shown little capacity to make policy or understand the work of the sector.

Sources now expect the $700 million National Workforce Development Fund, which AWPA administers, to be cut or abolished in the May budget. The government has already suspended NWDF applications while it reviews funding arrangements ahead of the budget.

Industry skills councils, which also play a role in the NWDF, are likewise considered vulnerable to budget cuts.

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