$9.1 Million National Skills e-Passport Aimed at Connecting People to Right Job, Says Canberra

It could potentially function like digital ID, with all education and employment information stored and shared on one platform.
$9.1 Million National Skills e-Passport Aimed at Connecting People to Right Job, Says Canberra
Employees are seen at work during a workshop tour, in Melbourne, Australia, on April 20, 2023. (AAP Image/James Ross)
Rebecca Zhu

Australia's Albanese government is progressing a digitalised national skills passport aimed at better connecting job hunters to employers seeking their specialised skill sets.

Treasurer Jim Chalmers said the government was preparing a $9.1 million business case to define a skills passport's scope, outcomes, and benefits.

It could combine a person’s qualifications from vocational training and higher education, and demonstrate these skills to their potential 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,” Mr. 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.

“We want to make it easier for more workers in more industries to adapt and adopt new technology and to grab the opportunities on offer in the defining decade ahead of us,” he added.

Education Minister Jason Clare noted that it is increasingly becoming necessary for people to upskill and reskill throughout their careers.

“A National Skills Passport could make it easier for employees to demonstrate the skills they have, and for employers to have confidence that employees have the skills they need,” he said.

The initiative is part of Labor’s efforts to promote lifelong learning, a key reform of the Employment White Paper to be released on Sept. 25.

Businesses, unions, tertiary institutions, students, and states and territories will be involved in consultations for an integrated skills passport.

Peak university body Universities Australia and the Business Council of Australia (BCA) welcomed the initiative, as organisations that have been long-time advocates for a skills passport.

“Australia is battling skill shortages right across the economy and this is weighing on productivity and economic growth,” Universities Australia Chief Executive Catriona Jackson said.

“We need to be doing all that we can to lift productivity and move towards a sustainable and faster growing economy, and that means having more skilled workers.”

Ms. Jackson said a national skills passport had the potential to get people employed faster.

“Australia’s changing labour market needs more highly skilled workers, which is why we need to be doing more to recognise the skills of people and make it easier for them to up-skill and retrain to drive workforce growth,” she said.

Meanwhile, BCA chief executive Bran Black said it would help Australians store their qualifications and streamline the process of applying for employment opportunities.
“For employers, it will provide a nationally consistent format to view and verify the skills and competencies of a potential employee,” he said.

Digital Information Platform

Universities Australia and the BCA have indicated that the national skills passport may function similarly to a digital ID or digital record-keeping app, with all education and employment information stored and shared on one platform.

Mr. Black said the BCA has long advocated for a skills passport as well as a national digital skill-sharing system.

Meanwhile, in an interim report commissioned by Mr. Clare into higher education reform, Universities Australia said a national skills passport could “build on” the national credentials platform.

The digital platform allows students and graduates to compile and share their higher education qualifications, micro-credentials, and general capabilities.

“Over time ... a unified national credentials platform would allow digital access to targeted information about different credentials and learning opportunities and the job opportunities they could be applied to,” the report said (pdf).

The European Union launched its own European skills passport in 2012, or “Europass.” It is an online tool that helps people compile and share their skills and has a job search function.

The platform includes digital credentials for certificates and diplomas as proof of qualifications.

It comes as Finance Minister Katy Gallagher said a national digital ID is planned to be rolled out within a year.

Australians could store information such as their driver's licence, Medicare details, and passport, in a centralised, government-run platform.