The Hon John Barilaro, Deputy Premier, Minister for Regional New South Wales, Minister for Skills, and Minister for Small Business

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John Barilaro was born in Queanbeyan to Italian migrant parents who arrived in Australia in 1968. Their hard working and selfless approach was an example which instilled in him strong values of family and community service.

John still lives in Queanbeyan with wife Deanna and their three daughters, and shares his time between the Monaro, Regional NSW and Sydney.

John is the proud Member for the Monaro and was recently elected leader of the NSW Nationals and Deputy Premier of NSW. He is the Minister for Regional NSW, Skills and Small Business, bringing a unique understanding and passion to his portfolios.

Having spent most of his working life running his own business, John has been through most of the challenges, joys, risks and rewards which come with starting and operating a business. The Deputy Premier strongly believes in supporting a thriving business economy, building a skilled workforce for the future and investing in communities across Regional NSW. He is determined that NSW will deliver for regional and rural communities across the State, firmly believing in their mantra of ‘It’s Our Turn”.

The leader of the NSW Nationals also knows what it takes to provide training for apprentices and understands the importance of Vocational Education and Training (VET) and the role of STEM skills and education. John acknowledges the importance of job creation, up-skilling young people, providing new and adaptable career opportunities across Regional NSW.

In our changing economy and with innovation forging the path for start-ups and SMEs to thrive, John has embraced the case for change and ensured that Government priorities are focused on creating a fertile ground for entrepreneurs and start-ups to cultivate new ways of thinking and new ways of doing business in NSW.

Jon Black, Managing Director of TAFE NSW

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Mr Black was appointed Managing Director of TAFE NSW, Australia’s largest vocational education and training provider on 7 December 2015. Previously Mr Black was Director-General of the Queensland Departments of Environment and Heritage Protection, and Energy and Water Supply.


Mr Black has a strong background in water management in Queensland as the former Chief Executive Officer of the Northern South East Queensland (SEQ) Distributor-Retailer Authority, Unitywater, and prior to that, the SEQ water and sewerage distribution business.


Mr Black combines this first-hand industry and government knowledge with a wealth of leadership experience gained in his 25 year career with the Australian Army.


Mr Black has qualifications from the University of New South Wales, the Australian Institute of Company Directors, The Royal Military College, Duntroon and the United States Marine Corps, Virginia, USA. Jon is also an Adjunct Professor at the University of Queensland.

Alexandra Geddes, Director – Business Improvement, Department of Industry 

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Alex is currently the Director of Business Improvement within the NSW Department of Industry. In her previous role she was the Director of Advocacy, Media and Communications with the Office of the NSW Small Business Commissioner.  Alex has expertise in understanding how government works and how to deliver results within the public sector. Alex started her career as a corporate lawyer before joining government in project and policy roles including serving as an adviser to a NSW Premier and advising in other portfolios including trade & investment, innovation, major events, planning, education and finance.

Mark Tierney, Economist and Manager – Asset Allocation, Australian Super

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Marks has had over 30 year’s experience in financial markets. Prior to joining Australian Super, he was an International Economist for the Macquarie Group for 12 years.

During this time, he was responsible for conducting economic research for equity and fixed interest clients and providing commentary on major economies that incorporated economic and policy factors.

Mark has a  Masters of Economics from Macquarie University and Bachelor degrees in Economics from the University of Sydney and Arts from Macquarie University.

Adam Creighton, Economics Correspondent, The Australian

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Adam Creighton is an award-winning economics journalist with a special interest in tax and financial policy. He spent most of 2016 at the Wall Street Journal in Washington DC. He won the Citi Journalism Award for Excellence in 2015, and was runner up in the internationally recognised Bastiat Prize for Journalism in 2014. He started his career at the Reserve Bank of Australia and studied economics at Oxford, where he was a Commonwealth Scholar. Awards: He was awarded a Citi Journalism Award for Excellence in 2013 and the United Kingdom High Commission’s Business Journalism Placement at the Financial Times.

Lauren Titlman, National Executive Officer, National Apprentice Employment Network

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National Executive Officer of National Apprentice Employment Network (NAEN), Lauren Tiltman, brings an extensive background in group training to her consultation and advocacy work. Beginning her involvement in group training as an award winning trainee, Lauren continued in the sector taking on an Apprentice Consultant Support Officer role within a group training organisation before being appointed the Executive Officer at Group Training Australia (SA).

She has served on a number of youth advisory bodies including the Playford Youth Advisory Committee, the Policy Council at the Youth Affairs Council SA and was Chairperson at the Ministers Youth Council.  A former participant and mentor in the Today’s Skills: Tomorrow’s Leaders program, Lauren understands the business of group training from the perspective of a wide range of stakeholders.

She is currently undertaking a Masters of Business Administration at the University of Adelaide and is committed to actively building the strategic relationships that will position the group training national network for continued success.

Rebecca Burdick, Senior Policy Advisor – Workforce Skills, NSW Business Chamber 

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Rebecca Burdick is the NSW Business Chamber’s Policy Manager, Workforce Skills. Rebecca has more than a decade’s experience in government relations, having worked in a range of senior policy, media and ministerial posts.  In her current role Rebecca leads the Chamber’s education, employment and training agenda through initiatives such as the recent Laying the Foundations for Apprenticeship Reform research.

Dr Damian Oliver, Leader (Policy and Research), NSW Skills Board Secretariat

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Damian Oliver is an applied researcher who is interested in the world of work, especially how it intersects with education and training.

Damian has worked on a range of projects examining vocational education and training, including with the NSW Department of Industry.

He recently completed a study for the Commonwealth Department of Employment examining unpaid work experience.

Damian has just commenced in a new role as the Leader (Policy and Research) within the  NSW Skills Board Secretariat

Toni Jones, Employment Manager, News Corp Australia

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Toni has enjoyed a diverse 30 year media career working with News Corp and APN (Australian Regional Media) across Australia.  Born and raised in regional country Queensland, Toni has seen first-hand the significant differences in the impact of the changing job market in regional and rural areas, compared to the inner city urban belt.  As the daughter of skilled tradesman, Toni is acutely aware of the vital role that an appropriately skilled workforce plays in the health of a vibrant, successful national economy.

Bronwyn Lee, Deputy CEO, Foundation for Young Australians 

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Bronwyn is Deputy CEO at the Foundation for Young Australians (FYA).  FYA is committed to young people, their futures and the contribution they can make to Australia and informs the national agenda on the issues that most affect them.

Bronwyn is passionate about redefining the role of young people in our society and how the not-for-profit sector can drive social innovation in Australia.  She has a deep practical and theoretical knowledge of the community sector, with over fifteen years experience working in non-profits. 

She is a also currently a Non-Executive Director at the International Women’s Development Agency and a Board Member at the Australian Youth Climate Coalition.  Prior to FYA, Bronwyn led the 40 Hour Famine at World Vision Australia. 

Bronwyn holds a Masters degree in Applied Anthropology and Participatory Development in addition to a Bachelor of Commerce.

Karen Borg, Chief Executive Officer, Jobs for NSW

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Appointed as inaugural CEO in December 2015, Karen Borg leads the newly-formed privately-led, NSW government-backed organisation. Working with a diverse and experienced board led by David Thodey, Jobs for NSW has been allocated $190 million to assist businesses to create meaningful jobs.

In August 2016, NSW Premier Mike Baird released the Jobs for the Future report, authored by Jobs for NSW, to deliver a whole of government strategy for the creation of new jobs over the next 20 years. As CEO, Karen has created a team of specialists to accelerate job creation through direct funding and broader support capabilities, including advocacy and government access, over the next three years.

Karen was previously President for ResMed, Asia Pacific and the Middle East from 2012 until 2015. Prior to this, she was Global Vice President, Marketing for Advanced Sterilization Products, a Johnson & Johnson company based in Irvine, California.

She has worked in the fast moving consumer goods and healthcare industries in senior commercial roles in Australia, the United Kingdom, Russia, Taiwan and the USA for leading organisations including Nestle, Revlon, Goodman Fielder and Seagram, with a broad functional background in marketing, sales and business development.

Karen’s experience is strongly grounded in international leadership, business transformation and deep experience of both mature and emerging markets.

She was on the NSW Export Advisory Council and has consulted to Tribal Warrior, an indigenous Not for Profit based in Sydney. Karen holds a B.A. from the University of Sydney and is a graduate of the Australian Institute of Company Directors.

Peta Skujins, Research and Content Officer, Integrated Information Service 

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Peta is the Research and Content Officer at the Australian Apprenticeships and Traineeships Information Service. She started in this role in 2017 after moving from the National Centre for Vocational Education Research, where she worked as a Research Officer.

Having a background working with young people, her interests include youth transitions between compulsory education and the labour market, and pathways through the education system.

Brian Wexham, Chief Executive Officer, Skillsone

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Born in London, Brian is an experienced executive and non-executive director with an extensive background in media and advertising, spanning over 30 years.  Brian spent 15 years with The Times and Sunday Times in a variety of executive roles.

From 1983, he spent several years in Cape Town, South Africa working with the largest publishing company, Media 24. 

He later returned to London and joined The Observer as a Director in 1986 and was also on the main board of the newly launched Today newspaper.

In 1990, Brian moved to Nairobi, Kenya to head up Lonrho PLC’s East African publishing interests.

He is a committed proponent of vocational education and training; in 2006 he was appointed the position of CEO of The Institute for Trade Skills Excellence and is now CEO of SkillsOne Television and Founder and Director of National Skills Week.

In 2013, Brian was nominated as Chair of WorldSkills Australia, and also holds several non-executive board positions, which include Creative Communications, the Be Your Best™ Foundation in South Africa and The Australian Children’s Music Foundation.


Ian Palmer, Inspiring the Future Australia

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As CEO of the Schools Industry Partnership Ian has been supporting VET and Career Development for over 20 years. Ian has a passion for inspiring young people to reach their full potential and to transition successfully from school into employment or further education including Apprenticeships.

Ian holds an M.Ed (Career Development), several VET qualifications and never tires of learning from international research and best practices. 

Married with 2 grown daughters, Ian finds sanctuary in his Japanese garden on weekends.

John Ross, Higher Education Journalist, The Australian 

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John Ross is a higher education journalist and science correspondent with The Australian. He reports across the range of tertiary education issues, specialising in VET policy, international education and research. He has won journalism awards from the National Press Club, Universities Australia, the International Education Association of Australia, the Migration Institute of Australia, the Australian Council of Deans of Education and the Council of International Students Australia. He joined The Australian in mid-2011 after working for several years with Campus Review. Prior to that he spent many years as a media officer with NSW government agencies including the Department of Education and Training, TAFE NSW, the Adult Migrant English Service and the National Parks and Wildlife Service. He has also freelanced for publications including The Sydney Morning Herald and The Good Weekend, and as a casual scriptwriter for educational and promotional videos and TV. He has also worked at various times as a musician, English teacher, kitchenhand, landscape labourer and sugar cane chipper. He has reduced his coffee consumption but still plays Galician bagpipes quite badly.

Ashley Langdon, National Account Executive, Verto Australia

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Ashley Langdon has more than 20 years’ experience in the Australian and United Kingdom (UK) vocational education sectors (including the apprenticeships and group training systems).

Ashley provides first-hand insight into the industry, having completed an apprenticeship in the automotive industry. His previous roles in the sector include General Manager and National Business Development Manager of one of Australia’s largest apprenticeship service providers.

Ashley was also the founding Executive Officer of one of the first approved Apprenticeship Training Agencies (ATAs) in the United Kingdom, which is similar to Australia’s group training system. Here, he had the opportunity to consult with the Department of Business Innovation and Skills in relation to the Australian group training model, and also provided input into the Holt Review regarding ‘SME Engagement with the Apprenticeship System in England’. Ashley remains connected with the UK system via a strong network of associates.

Ashley’s work in Australia is instrumental in assisting large corporate customers to successfully implement national training programs and projects. Organisations such as API Priceline, Boost Juice, HSBC, Qantas, Rio Tinto, Tenix Defence, Toys ‘R’ Us, VISY Industries and Westpac work closely with Ashley to ensure their employee base remains highly skilled.

Ashley’s knowledge of the apprenticeships, group training and vocational education systems is extensive. He is currently undertaking a statement of work for VERTO to assist them to build their corporate customer capacity via his extensive networks.

Megan Lilly, AI Group 

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Megan Lilly is the Head of Workforce Development for The Australian Industry Group, Chief Executive of The Australian Industry Group Training Services and The Ai Group Graduate Employment Services.

Previously, Megan was the Chief Executive Officer of Business Services Training Australia, held several senior positions throughout Victorian TAFE institutes and chaired the Joint COAG-NQC Working Group – VET Products for the 21 Century.

Megan is a board member of Worldskills Australia, Chairs Manufacturing Skills Australia and is a member of:

  • Australia India Education Council and Co-Chairs their Skills Working Group,
  • Australian Industry Skills Committee, and
  • Australian College of Educators.  

Megan also holds a Masters in Educational Policy and Administration.

Mr Philip Le Feuvre – Head of Engagement, PwC’s Skills for Australia

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Philip is responsible for stakeholder engagement and PwC’s Skills for Australia. He specialises in education policy reform and stakeholder management, having worked on a number of high profile initiatives for government and industry, in Australia and internationally. In Australia, Philip has worked with the Victorian VET Funding Review to develop recommendations for delivering a stable vocational education funding system and achieving better outcomes for students and employers. He has also worked with training providers to better track and manage their performance. In the UK, Philip developed and implemented a large-scale response on issues of skills gaps in the professional sector and among small businesses.

Jason Sultana, Executive Officer, Group Training Association of NSW & ACT

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Jason is the Executive Officer of the Group Training Association of NSW and ACT since 2015. Jason has worked in the Group Training Industry for 5 years in various roles. Jason has over 16  years experience in the VET industry and in actively involved in a various working parties within the VET industry.

Claire Parry, Sydney Metro 

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Claire Parry is an  internationally based consultant providing advisory services to government agencies and leading industries. Currently Claire is working with the Sydney Metro project and Regional Rail. Previous projects include Sydney Light Rail, WestConnex, Canberra Light Rail and Crossrail in the UK.

Claire is a specialist in skills, employment and industry participation. She works with organisations to develop strategic approaches and delivery mechanisms resulting in local employment, workforce development, apprenticeships, workforce diversity and SME capacity.

Claire is a qualified teacher and education leader, and has extensive experience in industry skills and training. This includes the development and delivery of new vocational qualifications, employability and apprenticeship programs to support economic development and industry growth.

Guy Pearce, Training Manager, WestConnex M4 East & New M5 

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Guy is leading the WestConnex Training Academy – a shared service across both the WestConnex M4 East and New M5 projects – with an aggregate project value over A$8 billion. Prior to this role he held a range of generalist and specialist HR roles in the maintenance services, mining, oil &gas, diversified manufacturing and information technology industries.

We would like to thank the following sponsors and exhibitors:

Early Bird Deadline
11 April 2017

Conference Date
14 June 2017