Ms VAMVAKINOU (Calwell) (09:36): Last Friday, I attended a very special event at Penola Catholic College, a fine secondary school in my electorate which is built on the site of the former St. Joseph's baby home, a place where Saint Mary MacKillop spent some of her time as a nun in the early 1900s. Penola conducted the official blessing and opening of their newly constructed Saint Joseph the Worker Trades Skills Centre. I was very pleased to tour the new building and its facilities. The trades skills centre, fittingly named 'Saint Joseph the Worker', provides students at Penola with the opportunity to undertake vocational education and training.
The establishment of trades skills centres in high schools was, of course, a federal Labor government initiative. Federal Labor understands that it is of vital importance to invest in skilling our young people in jobs of the future. The Rudd and Gillard Labor government funded the Trade Training Centres in Schools Program, which saw a large number of schools receive funding to establish what are vital links to our secondary school education system. By establishing these centres, high schools are able to provide additional pathway options to students beyond tertiary education. The centres also run in partnership with industry and employers, giving students even greater opportunities to obtain jobs on completion of their high school studies.
The funding provided by the Labor government enabled Penola to construct a new building which includes a workshop for electrotechnology and engineering and a hairdressing teaching facility which, of course, will deliver qualifications in these areas. These are areas where there is a skills shortage and, therefore, students who undertake these qualifications will be in a better position to get a job on leaving school. The incredible value and opportunity these centres bring to the secondary school system was not exactly appreciated by the Abbott-Turnbull government, which stripped $950 million from this program and, for whatever reason, also decided to change the name from 'trades training centre' to 'trades skills centre'. This significant cutting of funds has locked out over 1,500 schools across Australia from ever applying for a skills centre of their own. This is very disappointing and, especially after visiting the centre at Penola, I feel for those school communities and students who will miss out on vital training for future jobs.
I extend my thanks to all those involved who made the opening such a success. I pass on my special thanks to Father Chinua Okeke, who gave the official blessing; college principal Christopher Caldow, who provided the tour of the new building; deputy principal and head of the Broadmeadows campus Mr Ernie Pisani, who moderated the ceremony; Stuart Harrison, deputy principal of the junior campus; Denzel Carvalho, captain of applied learning; Joanne Grindrod, chairperson of the board; and John Gribble, property manger. I want to thank them for their involvement in the ceremony and for organising a wonderful event. Thanks must also go to the former Penola principal, Chris Blake, for taking the time to officially open the trades skills centre and for unveiling the plaque with college captains Katrina and Joseph. Congratulations to all at Penola Secondary College.