A global test – comment by CEO Craig Robertson

A global test – comment by CEO Craig Robertson

In my early working days I took up lap swimming and I thought I was pretty good, until one lunchtime in the mid-1990s at the outdoor Canberra Olympic Swimming pool. Gennadi Touretski, Australian coach of the day, preferred the outdoors so had Olympic hopefuls, plus Alexander Popov, the Russian Olympic 50 metre champion, ploughing several of the lanes. Cock-a-hoop I took the lane next to him to test my speed.

Comparison on a global scale is de rigueur these days. Twenty-six years since a technical recession stands us apart from most other countries, but can make us blasé.

This may be the root cause for the rumoured withdrawal of Australia from the 2021-22 survey of adult competencies, part of the OECD suite of education and training measures. My sources in Paris indicate that the Australian Government will not participate, but the decision is not yet final.

PIAAC – the Programme for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies assesses the competencies of adults in basic skills such as literacy and numeracy and problem solving in dealing with IT. The last PIAAC assessed over 7,400 Australian adults in 2011-12 as the first of a ten-year cycle. We stood-up well, possibly because our push to lift year 12 completions in the late 1980s (think Finn Targets[1]) gave us a head start over many of our OCED cousins, with our high skilled migrant intake also helping.

But an OECD report published last year[2] casts some dark shadows over our education achievements. Three million, or one-in-five adult Australians did not have the requisite literacy and numeracy skills for core work tasks. While mainly were older citizens who have not benefited from post compulsory education, 13% had a Certificate IV or Diploma or Advanced Diploma and 9% had a bachelor’s degree or higher – that’s 270,000 university graduates assessed with poor literacy, numeracy and problem solving skills!

In case the Government is open to persuasion here’s some reasons we need PIAAC.

  • It’s the only tool to compare globally the basic skills of our workforce, rather than our qualifications because our VET competencies, at least, are native to Australian industry.
  • It will be 20 years before the survey is conducted again – that’s 14 prime ministers in political cycles at the rate we’ve experienced recently.
  • The nature of the skills for productive engagement in work and life will change fundamentally over this period due to technology advances and we will not know how we stand-up internationally.
  • We lose access to an external measure of the real outcomes of our education sectors.
  • We lose another tool to back up our standing to support our international education industry.
  • Those who face disadvantage will continue to do so because we would have turned a blind eye to measuring their situation.

Popov blew me away halfway down the first lap with one hand behind his back, literally.

[1] By 2001, 95 per cent of 19 year olds: will be participating in, or have completed, year 12; or will have completed years 10 or 11 and be participating in, or have completed, some formally recognised education and training
[2] Building Skills for All in Australia: Policy Insights from the Survey of Adult Skills, OECD 2017

Labor win in Victorian election seen as positive for TAFE

The re-election of the Andrews Labor government in Victoria on Saturday has underlined a commitment for a roll-out of a host of new TAFE training places and campus upgrades.

Labor campaigned heavily on its program of reinvesting in TAFE and, on the eve of the election, added two new early childhood courses to those that will be delivered fee-free at TAFE.

The Diploma of Early Childhood Education and Care and Certificate III in Early Childhood Education and Care will be free as part of an expansion to cope with demand for teachers under Labor’s planned universal three-year-old kindergarten program.

The government is making TAFE free for 30 priority courses and 20 pre-apprenticeship courses.

It also committed to continuing its $67 million TAFE campus upgrade. The latest to be added to the list is stage two of the redevelopment of Chisholm Institute’s Frankston campus.

Universities hit back at 'lazy claims' about tertiary education imbalance

Innovative Research Universities (IRU) has hit back at claims that the tertiary education system is too heavily skewed in favour of universities, compared with vocational education.

“We should not allow lazy claims that ‘everyone goes to university’ to endure,” Executive Director Conor King says in a discussion paper, Towards a Tertiary Future.

“The demand driven funding arrangements for universities allowed all who aspired, and met university requirements, to begin a university degree. In contrast, changes to vocational education and training funding have put pressure on the quality and availability of VET for school leavers, discouraging some.

“The errors of VET are no reason to complain about the successes of universities. The challenge of TAFE is well known, with the TAFE Directors Australia among others pushing hard at the consequences of treating TAFEs like just another provider. There is much to resolve to ensure VET, led by TAFEs, works well,” the paper says.

It claims to show that there has been no surge in university completions since the introduction of demand driven funding in 2012.

“Higher education completion is strongly correlated with the socioeconomic family background of Australia’s youth. Vocational education is primarily an activity for students from low socioeconomic backgrounds,” it says.

Commonwealth Games role delivers TAFE Queensland major events prize

TAFE Queensland’s integral role in the successful Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games.has earned it the Best Achievement in Event Education and Training at the 2018 Australian Event Awards on the Sunshine Coast.

The awards recognise the nation’s event professionals for the best events and event-related goods, services and innovations.

In the two years leading up to the event, TAFE Queensland created a games-first volunteer training program that equipped 15,000 volunteers with the skills to bring the games to life.

It designed an innovative paperless workbook model – which saved more than 1.8 million pieces of paper and connected volunteers from around the world – and delivered around 360,000 hours of training to support more than 200 volunteer roles.

See more.

Higher standards needed for VET teaching, new study says

A new academic study claims that the requirements for VET teaching in Australia are much lower than in other countries, and recommends higher level qualifications as part of a systematic review.

Flinders University researcher, Dr Anne Dening, who spent 30 years in the VET sector, found an absence of systemic methodology for teacher training and for continuous professional development in VET.

“VET teachers are unique because they are ‘dual professionals’ who come to teaching in VET as a second career and usually without any teaching knowledge or qualifications,” Dr Dening said.

She said examples of good teaching practice were “largely due to the personal commitment of a VET teacher or their manager, rather than systematic processes of professional development for VET teachers.”

“It would appear that teacher capability development remains accidental rather than deliberate,” she said.

The current model that obliges VET teachers to upgrade their Certificate IV qualification in VET teaching every time the training package is reviewed only adds to a culture of compliance rather than ensuring the highest quality outcomes, she said.

The study recommends a teacher induction, education and development program, and empowering VET managers to orchestrate changes that will build the quality of teacher development.

See Building Capability in VET Teachers

Unique cyber security training centre launched in Canberra

Canberra Institute of Technology (CIT) has become a hub for national cyber security skills training with the launch of a $1.1m Training Security Operations Centre (TSOC).

In a first for industry collaboration in the space, the centre will include a virtual classroom with a cloud-based security operations centre simulating real cyber threats, giving students the chance to experience real scenarios to gain nationally-accredited qualifications.

Tony Marceddo of Vault Cloud and Co-Chair of AustCyber ACT Node Advisory Board said, “CIT is leading the way with implementing education and training pathways to help address the critical issue of growing and upskilling our cyber security workforce.”

Owen Pierce of the Industry Growth Centre AustCyber said CIT’s leadership was reflected in the number of students enrolled and seeking to enrol in CIT’s cyber security programs. CIT has seen 168 enrolments in cyber security courses since March.

The centre has been primarily funded by AustCyber as part of its Projects Fund, with additional funding from the ACT Government. The TSOC is a collaboration between CIT, Nova Systems, Fifth Domain and ANU.

Left to right: Dr Abu Barkat, Head of CIT Centre for Cyber Security and Games; Leanne Cover, Chief Executive Officer, CIT; ACT Minister Mick Gentleman MLA; and Craig Sloan, CIT Chair.

TAFE SA in central training role for solar energy expansion 

TAFE SA is to become the preferred accredited training partner for installers of home batteries being built by German energy storage giant, Sonnen.

The company has established a battery manufacturing facility at the former Holden site in Elizabeth and plans to produce 10,000 batteries a year for the domestic and export market.

An MoU signed between Sonnen and TAFE SA will see local electricians accredited to install the sonnenBatterie.

The South Australian government is providing $100 million in subsidies and $100 million in low interest loans to support the installation of home battery and solar systems.

Education Minister John Gardner predicted it would boost interest in TAFE’s renewable energy and battery installation courses.

Sonnen Managing Director, Marc Sheldon said safety and quality were the top priorities for the group.

“Since the installation in the customer’s house is a crucial part for this, we’re delighted to partner with TAFE SA to guide South Australian installers on the technical best practices to deliver a quality installation for sonnenBatteries,” he said.

Official website to bring clarity to higher education admissions 

Following public concern about a lack of transparency around higher education admissions, the federal government has launched a new platform that will allow a comparison of over 7,000 undergraduate courses.

Course Seeker allows students to search, select and compare higher education courses nationally, and to filter search results by ATAR, mode of study, study area and location.

There are currently 78 institutions on Course Seeker, including all public universities and many private higher education providers including TAFE institutes, with more to be added next year.

The platform is aimed as a one-stop-shop that provides transparent information about higher education admissions. It follows the October 2016 report Improving the Transparency of Higher Education Admissions, which called for clearer information about admissions requirements and entry pathways.

New head for group training peak body

The National Apprentice Employment Network (NAEN) has appointed a new National Executive Officer, Dianne Dayhew (pictured), the former Executive Officer of the SkillsIQ NSW Industry Training Advisory Body (ITAB).

Announcing the appointment, NAEN Chair John Liddicoat said Ms Dayhew is a well-regarded professional with more than 20 years of experience in the VET sector, and a background that includes regulated high-risk trades, services industries and creative sectors.

A former primary and tertiary level educator, she also established and managed three group training organisations, and held senior executive roles at the ABC’s Human Resources and Training division, and the Construction and Property Services Industry Skills Council.

Ms Dayhew succeeds Lauren Tiltman who stepped down in September and is relocating to the UK.

Funding available to develop free trade opportunities

Applications have opened for funding under a federal government program which will develop strategies to help organisations benefit from a series of recent free trade agreements (FTAs).

The Free Trade Agreement Market Entry (FTA-ME) Grant, represents the second phase of the government’s FTA advocacy and outreach, designed to help SME’s access new export markets.

The grants are open to TAFEs, universities and associated institutes, and a range of business organisations.

It will assist organisations to access overseas markets that have been opened up through FTAs with countries including China, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, Vietnam, Singapore, Brunei, Canada, Mexico, Chile and Peru.

See more.

Construction industry skills council says its work is done

The Construction and Property Services Industry Skills Council (CPSISC) is to wind up at the end of the year after 15 years at the helm of training and workforce development in the sector.

The Chair of CPSISC, Robert Wilson said the organisation’s role has largely been taken over by Industry Reference Committees established under a the new scheme managed by the Australian Industry Skills Committee.

“Most IRCs include many of the same associations previously involved in skills councils such as CPSISC with many of the Board of Directors having now been formally appointed or taken up positions on the Construction and Property Services IRC’s,” he said.

“Now that the IRCs are well established and have the support of the SSOs, the role of our members and that of CPSISC itself, is no longer required.”

He said that negotiations were underway for the sale of CPSISC’s commercial subsidiary, Skills Oz, and possible collaboration for the printing and distribution rights of its education and training resources.

Diary Dates

Engineering Next-Generation Learning
4 – 7 December 2018
Wollongong, NSW
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Building confidence in VET Practice: 4th Annual Conference on VET Teaching and VET Teacher Education   
Australian Council of Deans of Education Vocational Education Group
6 – 7 December 2018
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2019 VET CEO Conference
Velg Training
17 May 2019
Doltone House – Sydney
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2019 QLD School VET Conference
Velg Training
9 August 2019
Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre, Brisbane
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VDC 2019 Teaching & Learning Conference
12 & 13 September 2019
RACV Torquay Resort, Great Ocean Road, Victoria
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2019 National VET Conference
Velg Training
12 &13 September 2019
Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre, Brisbane
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