A letter to the PM from the COVID Generation – Comment by CEO Craig Robertson

A letter to the PM from the COVID Generation - Comment by CEO Craig Robertson

Dear Prime Minister

Our parents told us that earlier this year you said vocational education and training is just as good as university.

We took you at your word. It hasn’t worked, so we’ll try university thanks, or make our own way in work.

We all took up a vocational education course because you said it would set us up for life, at least that’s what we figured if it’s the same as university, right? We did what you said but we can’t complete. We have no qualifications because work placements are outstanding, and nobody will take us on.

We started our courses, mainly at TAFEs. They did everything to make sure we continued to study during lock-down. It’s the first time we’ve used Zoom more than TikTok.

We’ve done everything. On Zoom in front of the teacher we have each shown the tasks for the jobs we are wanting and now that we are back on campus we are practicing in class. Let me tell you – doing these things in front of your friends with the teacher watching is scary – but we’ve got through it.

Now we are told we may need to wait till next year to find a workplace so we can complete our qualifications.

Please don’t label us as VET nerds, but we’ve looked into this.

We understand why doctors and nurses need workplaces because we want them to have some experience before they work on us. We looked at the Australian Qualifications Framework. The qualifications we are in say we will work with limited or defined responsibility. If that’s the case, why do we need work practice? Even our friends in enrolled nursing are told they’ll be working under the supervision of a nurse.

Call us real nerds now, but we looked at those things called training packages which our teachers tell us limit what and how they can teach. We find it strange Prime Minister that we practice and are assessed against the long list of tasks we are told are needed for jobs, yet it’s not good enough. I can understand for doctors, nurses and teachers because they have been stuck into the theory stuff. But you want us to do it all over again in a workplace. Our university friends suspect it’s a ploy to get free labour.

We could understand if we are guaranteed a good job and pay but we only seem to get casual work offers. If we’ve done the hours then surely there should be a job at the end.

A friend of one of our mums is a VET teacher and she said something that makes this stranger still. She spent time and money to upgrade her training qualification because the government didn’t think assessment was up to scratch. She has done that, yet it seems the government still doesn’t trust assessment.

Our apprenticeship mates seem to be better off than us. At least the contract they have signed with their employer and state governments makes sure they learn while they work.

Our parents say people call you Scotty from Marketing. You better look at the MySkills website. We used it as you said to select the course best suited to each of us but there’s no mention about work placements. We’re told we ought to report the false advertising to something called the ACCC.

Talking about false advertising. Our parents heard the great fanfare about a new micro-credential in infection control. Great contribution to the COVID cause, they heard. One of our parents enrolled because she wants to work in aged care but she can’t get the micro-credential till she is assessed in a workplace! Do you think she can get into Aged Care? A friend told her she could do the same unit from the Business training package because there’s no workplace assessment required. How does that work –  a business unit to get into aged care? Maybe she can give some finance advice to the old folk!

I hope your new scheme – I think it’s called JobCheater, no sorry, JobTrainer – works for others. I’d hate to see more young people getting led astray.

We get the pandemic stuff. We get it more than most because we lost our part-time jobs early on. Most of us are back at home and at least we are not stranded like our international student friends.

The question we have for you Prime Minister is, “who is looking after us?” Why would we make the effort for vocational education if we can’t get the qualification? What we want to know is who is responsible for this situation?

We’re going to drop out and look elsewhere. We hope it’s fixed for those coming behind us.

Yours sincerely


First JobTrainer agreements released

The federal government has announced details of its JobTrainer agreement with NSW, which will see an extra 108,000 free or low-fee training places in the state.

Under the agreement, a total of $318 million will be injected into the state, comprising $159 million from the Commonwealth, matched equally by the NSW government.

The NSW Minister for Skills and Tertiary Education Geoff Lee said the funding would help job seekers retrain or up-skill to enhance their credentials and support school leavers to enter the workforce for the first time.

To be known as Skilling for Recovery, the NSW program will provide infrastructure-specific training, full-qualifications, short courses, support for apprentices and trainees, a new online skills and employment hub, and regional employment brokers.

The Commonwealth’s agreement with the ACT will see almost $17 million injected into the territory’s VET sector, with $8.38 million from each of the Commonwealth and the ACT government, supporting 3,500 extra training places.

Training awards off and running

At the Queensland Training Awards on Friday, TAFE Queensland student Ngaire Trigg was named Vocational Student of the Year and Jabin Giblett, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Student of the Year.

Together with industry partner, Rheinmetall Defence Australia, TAFE Queensland also won the Premier’s Industry Collaboration award. 

Equity VET Student of the Year went to Helena Kidd from CQUniversity.

In the ACT Training Awards, Canberra Institute of Technology students took out major honours.

This included Apprentice of the Year, Khye Bolin; Trainee of the Year, Clarisse Ambroise; Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Student of the Year, Lisa Cherie Birnie (CIT Solutions); Australian School-based Apprentice of the Year, Sebastian Connor; Vocational Student of the Year, Charise Mae Brabec.

CIT was also awarded the ACT Large Training Provider of the Year.

West Australian Education and Training Minister Sue Ellery this week announced the 16 finalists for the WA Training Awards. The winners will be announced on 6 October.

The 35 finalists for the Victorian Training Awards were announced in late August, with winners to be announced as part of a series of virtual events.

The NSW Training Award finalists  have been announced and, for the first time, include a People’s Choice award in Apprentice of the Year, Trainee of the Year, Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Student of the Year and School Based Apprentice/Trainee of the Year. Voting in the People’s Choice awards closes 28 September and all winners will be announced on 9 October.

The finalists in the Tasmanian Training Awards have been announced and winners will be unveiled at a special presentation function on 9 October.

Due to COVID-19, the South Australian Training and Skills Commission has decided to postpone the South Australian Training awards silver jubilee celebrations until 2021.

However, state nominations and direct entries for the Australian Training Awards will be shortlisted and progress to the national event, to be held on 20 November.

TAFEs share TVET lessons with Indonesian partners

Australian TAFEs have showcased their online delivery capability to Indonesian policymakers and polytechnics.

The 10-week webinar series, delivered from June to August 2020, shared issues on the design and delivery of vocational education and training online.

The webinars were jointly organised by the International Labour Organization, the Australian Embassy in Jakarta and TAFE Directors Australia.  The series offered Australia`s know-how and lessons about online delivery. On average over 230 participated in each session, showing that the TVET sector in Indonesia is keen to meet the challenges posed by the COVID outbreak and contribute to economic recovery.

Experts from Australian TAFEs and dual sector universities shared their expertise on topics such as guidelines and standards for setting up online delivery, design of online courses, use of new technologies and virtual reality, trainer effectiveness, and assessment and certification for online TVET courses and addressing the digital divide.

Recordings of sessions are available on the ILO Jakarta YouTube channel.

For more information, click here.

AFR Dialogue identifies key areas for change in education in Australia

Panellists in the AFR Reshaping Australia Dialogue have highlighted several areas for change in Australia’s education system.

The provocateur for the dialogue, MIT Vice President for Open Learning, Professor Sanjay Sarma said that “learning of computational thinking needs to operate alongside reading, writing and numeracy.” He went on to say that we do not want to train people for just one skill. For this reason he believes education should be non-profit as education has the role of “preparing human being for life”.

Margaret Gardner AC, Vice Chancellor of Monash University said there’s real opportunity for Australia to innovate in qualifications for higher order care roles and technicians. Reflecting on a question from AFR Editor, Michael Stutchbury, Professor Gardner said the VET sector has been “frozen for a while” in these areas. While the question may be whether they are delivered in higher or vocational education the more important issue is the type of qualification and what needs to be in them. “This is an area of great potential for Australia,” Professor Gardner concluded.

Other panellists were NSW Department of Education Secretary, Mark Scott, Australian Government Skills Expert Panel Chair, Steven Joyce and PwC’s National Skills Lead, Sara Caplan.

TAFE SA launches virtual reality ship building technology

As part of the gearing up for naval shipbuilding, TAFE SA has partnered with industry to create a virtual ship engine room to help students gain vital experience.

TAFE SA has collaborated with Odyssee Aus Engineers to build the virtual engine room at its Regency campus for computer-aided design (CAD) students.

The project works on a rendered version of the engine room so that students are able to use virtual reality goggles to explore the engine room in a 3D virtual environment and understand how their work fits in with the design of the whole vessel.

It is expected that this new training technology, which will be incorporated in learning activities in the Diploma of Engineering Technical, will attract a wave of young people considering a career in 3D CAD for shipbuilding.

TAFE SA Chief Executive, David Coltman, said it was another example of a partnership with industry that would provide many benefits to TAFE SA and its students.

“The convenience of being able to have access and explore a 3D virtual environment of a ship’s engine room will provide invaluable context and build student understanding of the complex systems and constraints that need to be taken into account when designing naval vessel interiors.”

See more.

80th birthday celebration for William Angliss Institute

On 18 September 1940, a crowd of more than 500 people, many connected to the food industry, gathered on a warm spring day in Melbourne for the opening of The William Angliss Food Trades School.

Last week William Angliss Institute marked its 80th year of providing education excellence.

Staff and alumni were treated to a virtual celebration, hosted by William Angliss Institute Board Chair Dr Anne Astin and CEO Nicholas Hunt.

In keeping with the traditions of the Institute, a special 80th birthday cake was created for the occasion by William Angliss Institute’s professional bakery and patisserie teacher, Greg Williams.

Nicholas Hunt said the vision and mission that has held the institute in good stead over 80 years would serve to ensure William Angliss Institute can continue its great work for 80 years more.

“Since the first students commenced in 1940, the Institute has supported the industry and maintained its focus as a specialist education provider in foods, tourism, hospitality and events.”

See more


Nicholas Hunt cuts the 80th birthday cake – a chocolate mudcake masked with ganache, covered with pettinice fondant icing and decorated with ribbon and royal icing.

WA TAFE recruitment drive follows enrolment surge

The West Australian government has launched a state-wide recruitment drive for TAFE teachers following a sharp increase in TAFE enrolments.

The expanded pool of lecturers will be used to fill casual and fixed term vacancies in metropolitan and regional areas.

Since the start of the year, TAFE enrolments have increased by more than six per cent compared to last year.

Education and Training Minister Sue Ellery said TAFE was an essential part of the economic recovery and the sector must respond with speed and agility to meet the changes.

“This recruitment drive will ensure we can meet the unprecedented demand and recognises the critical role training will play in the State’s economic recovery.”

Applications are open until 5 October.

See more.

OctoberVET online

OctoberVET events aim to showcase VET research and promote discussion between VET stakeholders about research needs.

During the month, there will be a range of free online events on VET and VET research, hosted by AVETRA organisations and members.

Details of events as they are confirmed will be posted on the AVETRA webpage.

Work integrated learning virtual summit, 27–28 October

The ACEN WIL Virtual Summit is an online event open to Australian Collaborative Education Network members (free) and non-members.

It will explore the theme “Beyond 2020: Creating the Future with WIL” through showcases, refereed paper presentations and interactive roundtables. There will also be online opportunities to socialise and network with colleagues from across the country and beyond.

See more.

ACEN is the professional association for practitioners and researchers from the tertiary education sector, industry, community and government representatives, involved in work integrated learning (WIL) in its various forms.

Diary Dates

AVETRA 2020 Researcher Development Series
Webinars designed for early career, emerging and practitioner researchers
June 2020 – March 2021
More information

TAFE NSW: The 4th Bangamalanha Conference (virtual)
23 September 2020
More information

OctoberVET 2020
A range of free online events on VET and VET research, hosted by AVETRA organisations and members.
October 2020
More information

LH Martin Institute
Web Fest
1 – 29 October 2020
More information

National VET PD Week
Velg Training
26 – 30 October 2020
More information

Beyond 2020: Creating the Future with Work Integrated Learning (virtual) 
Australian Collaborative Education Network Limited (ACEN)
27 – 28 October 2020
More information

VDC 2020 Virtual Teaching & Learning Conference
19 & 20 November 2020
Registrations Open

Australian Training Awards
20 November 2020
More information

Velg Training & MRWED
30 November – 4 December 2020
More information

TAFE Directors Australia Convention 2021
29 – 30 April 2021
Westin Hotel, Perth
More information coming soon

Worldskills Australia
28 April – 2 May 2021
Perth Exhibition and Convention Centre
More information