The 5-year Productivity Inquiry: From learning to growth interim report, published yesterday, demonstrates the Albanese Government’s skills policies will result in taxpayers’ money being wasted, Vocational Education and Training (VET) students being less likely to complete their courses and graduates from skills programs being less likely to find a job.

This is a black mark on what was already a paper-thin skills agenda from the Albanese Government.

According to the Productivity Commission, Labor’s free TAFE policy would not increase quality of outcomes for students, was unlikely to provide community-wide benefits, and would be better allocated elsewhere including by supporting students to access training at industry-led Registered Training Organisations (RTOs).

The Productivity Commission also called out preferential funding for public training providers, a key feature of the Albanese Government’s skills policies, concluding that there is also no evidence that the quality of delivery is higher at public TAFEs than private RTOs.

It also found students are equally satisfied with public TAFEs and private RTOs, while employer satisfaction is in fact higher for private RTOs. The Commission found students training at a company accredited to deliver qualifications to its own workers are much more likely to complete their qualification than their peers, particularly students at TAFE.

In contrast the Productivity Commission found the Coalition’s JobTrainer fund saw significant uptake in training, expanded places in areas of skill need, and successfully met demand as Australia kept training through the COVID-19 recession. It concluded that JobTrainer got students into jobs, should be considered as a model to get more students into training and had the potential to enhance Australia’s long-term productivity potential.

It is time for Anthony Albanese and Brendan O’Connor to acknowledge that they got their skills policy wrong and change course. There is still time before they lock in wasteful spending commitments in at the Budget.

One of the first things Anthony Albanese did as Prime Minister was rip skills policy out of the Education Department and put it in to the Industrial Relations portfolio – and clearly, it’s not working.

We need every single dollar we invest in skills and training to work as hard as possible, and we have a responsibility to our students to get this right—it is time for someone to take responsibility and address this report immediately.