Tanya Plibersek is on a mission to connect with businesses and highlight their struggles to find skilled staff.
The senior Labor frontbencher and education shadow minister will visit 100 businesses over the next 100 days on what she's dubbed a national listening tour.
"I've had many businesses, big and small, tell me that they'd love to take on more staff, but that they can't find people with the right training," she told AAP in a statement on Friday.
"There are almost two million Australians crying out for work or looking for more hours. So I'm keen to hear from employers about how our schools, TAFEs, and universities can better train Australians for jobs."
The latest unemployment figures, released on Thursday, show an uptick in people out of work, up to 5.3 per cent in January, and economists predict this will increase further over the coming months.
Yet surveys of businesses have found three-quarters say they're struggling to find qualified workers.
Ms Plibersek lays the blame squarely at the feet of the Morrison government, citing cuts to TAFE and vocational education funding and low numbers of apprentices and trainees.
The recent Productivity Commission report on government services showed total government spending on the sector dropped by four per cent in 2018 from the previous year and more than 21 per cent from 2012.
"Now we have shortages of bricklayers, plumbers, hairdressers, bakers, electricians, mechanics, panelbeaters, and other critical trades," she said.
And the people teaching those skills are working harder than ever.
An Australian Education Union survey of TAFE teachers finds they are working an extra day each week, on average, on top of their paid work.
Nearly three-quarters of those surveyed said their working hours had increased over the past three years.
Just one in 50 described their workload as "always manageable".
Union federal president Correna Haythorpe said while the public TAFE system offered a clear solution to the nation's skills shortage, funding cuts and privatisation policies had exacerbated the situation.
"We have a nationwide skills shortage and a youth unemployment rate that runs twice the rate of the national average," she said.
"This is the devastating reality of privatisation, marketisation, and the billions of dollars of funding cuts for TAFE."
Australian Associated Press