A message of hope for a bright future – comment by CEO Craig Robertson

A message of hope for a bright future – comment by CEO Craig Robertson

In response to a question I was asked this past week about what I wish for VET, I said, one that is known as high-value, high-skill and high-trust. That’s my Christmas wish.

The VET sector has copped an awful hiding over the past few years. But the rot had set in long ago. It happened the day we said that the VET sector was to focus solely on job outcomes. We constructed our qualifications by the ‘here and now’ needs of that job, we limited our funding to those needs, and we measured our success against that metric, in effect, turning our VET sector into little more than an expensive training system.

Australia has a long history of high living standards off the back of the sheep, gold and iron ore and an, at times, protected manufacturing sector from which we have all benefitted. The new wealth is services-centred. And we will continue to grow the sophistication of our services through the deployment of technology and automation. I haven’t been inside a bank for many a year!

This requires new skills and capabilities. Turning a dial, securing a bolt, cranking the machine, pushing a pen, selling between customer and manufacturer are all in decline as technology replaces these routine tasks. Then, why do they feature so much in our competencies?

I’ve heard someone say these competencies are needed because we still have jobs that require these skills. Fair enough, but surely our task is to build all people’s skills to grasp the nettle the future will bring, even for those in these jobs.

The need is urgent. Our production and services are increasingly open to the world, either the inputs sourced from across the globe or our services and products needing to compete against suppliers on the other side of the globe.

Our skills and knowledge have stood us in good repair. But guess what? Most other countries have a similar strategy. This year I have been to China, Pakistan, China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Brazil and Argentina. Each has the same strategy. There’s a race for talent and I fear we are complacent competitors.

You may ask, “Where’s the evidence?” There’s plenty, but you know these things are self-evident. So, let’s get on with the task. Let’s enter the race with renewed gusto in 2019.

Many thanks to those of you who have taken the time to tell me you enjoy these columns in the TDA newsletter. Some who have known me for a while, possibly as a stodgy public servant, have suggested it is Craig unleashed! Others more impolitely, though possibly accurately, say it’s Craig Unhinged.

Either way, it’s an easy task. To shine light on the issues, to point to a better way and the gift of hope, opportunity and fulfilment available through vocational education.

In these coming weeks we contemplate the birth of the Christian religion. You may reflect on the origins of your religion and the hope of a future life it promises. Have you ever wondered, when communication relied on parchment made of animal leathers and pens of river reeds, that these messages spread so far and wide? I don’t. Messages of a bright future, often based on fulfilment through selflessness, strike a chord, even today.

The jostling and in-fighting at 1 Parliament Place Canberra has finished for the year and return on 12 February. That’s 67 days of peace! Let’s use it for thinking through the important things in our sphere of influence – quality TAFEs, quality training, quality jobs, and bright futures for all Australians.

This is our last newsletter for the year.

I have one little surprise for you. Our very own Christmas Carol. It’s at the end of the newsletter so you can read the other news on the way there, and as you do, start recalling the tune to Good King Wenceslas.

Season’s Greetings. Be safe and enjoy time with family and friends. If you are dining out, celebrate that it’s most likely a TAFE-trained chef who is preparing your feast!

We at TDA look forward to bringing more that is good about vocational education through TAFEs to you in 2019. Our newsletter returns on 21 January.

Apprentice numbers continue their slide, according to latest statistics

Apprentice numbers have continued their downward trajectory in the June quarter, according to the latest figures from NCVER.

There were 269,720 apprentices and trainees in-training as at 30 June 2018, a decrease of 1% over the past year, and a fall of 22% over the past four years.

Commencements were down 0.6% over the quarter and 26% over the four years.

The worst result was for completions, down 7% over the quarter and a whopping 47% over the past four years.

See more.

Apprentice and trainee completions. Source NCVER

CIT to help test renewable gas changeover

Canberra Institute of Technology (CIT) has joined forces with gas supplier, Evoenergy, to develop Australia’s first test facility to examine the complete replacement of natural gas with hydrogen in the ACT.

Launching the facility, the Minister for Climate Change and Sustainability Shane Rattenbury said the ACT government’s target of zero net emissions by 2045 has spurred the idea of fully switching to hydrogen gas as a replacement for fossil fuel natural gas.

“Hydrogen can be a renewable, zero-emissions gas source and we want to understand whether, and how, it can be viably used to decarbonise the gas network,” he said.

The test facility will be launched in three phases over the next 12 months. CIT will also use the facility to train plumbing students in new technologies.

Satisfaction among VET students remains high

New data from over 200,000 VET students shows that satisfaction remains high, with 86.8% of graduates and 90.4% of subject completers satisfied with the overall quality of training.

NCVER’s annual National Student Outcomes Survey shows that 59% of VET graduates reported an improved employment status after training, up 2.2 percentage points from 2017.

It also shows 48.4% of graduates who weren’t employed before training were employed after, up 1.3 percentage points from 2017, and that the median annual income for VET graduates employed in their first full-time job after training was $45,000.

The story is also good for VET graduates who were employed before training, with 18.6% being employed at a higher skill level after training (up 1.5 percentage points from 2017).

The Minister for Skills and Vocational Education, Senator Michaelia Cash, said the results were “an overwhelming vote of confidence in the Australia’s VET sector”.

See more.

World congress favourite, Nikki Hind, takes on her next big challenge

Visitors to the World Federation of Colleges and Polytechnics in Melbourne in October will remember the hugely inspirational Nikki Hind, the founder of Blind Grit, and Australia’s first legally blind fashion designer.

As Nikki says, Blind Grit is about ‘athleisure’ wear, created by those who conquer challenges, for those who are ready for one. She says TAFE gave her the skills to pursue her childhood dream of fashion design.

Now Nikki is seeking crowdfunding support to create a manufacturing chain and the samples for her first collection.

You can visit the campaign and purchase a limited edition singlet in time for Christmas, with all funds raised supporting Blind Grit’s first collection.

You can also watch this recent news story on Nikki that appeared on Prime 7 News.

Applications open for 2019 national training awards

Applications have opened for the 2019 Australian Training Awards which will be held in Brisbane on 21 November 2019.

See more.

TDA’s season carol

Dear readers,

We’ve prepared a Carol for the season, based on the classic, Good King Wenceslas.

To help you through the mangled verse, we first have the original version.

We recommend, however, you follow this link and sing along to the music!


Good King Wenceslas looked out

On the feast of Stephen

When the snow lay round about

Deep and crisp and even

Brightly shone the moon that night

Though the frost was cruel

When a poor man came in sight

Gathering winter fuel.


So, here you go.


Oh please rum-in-ate with me

On the year we’ve ha-d

Highs and lows, but let us see

If it’s been that b-a-d

Gov-ern-ment, it seems to wreck

Any-thing it touches

Only focus that they get

Is voters in their clut-ches


Karen Andrews fought the fight

Foc-us-ing on status

But her tool kit was too light

No one gave a rat-us’

In des-par-ation she did say

No one beats Australia

From the Scot(t) she copped a spray

Now we have Mich-ae-lia


Then we have our Aussie Scot

Sen-a-tor Doug Cam-eron

Fight the fight and stop the rot

Tackling Cash his clarion

He’s a champion of the trades

Look where it has got him

Bring back TAFE before it fades

Is his constant hy-mn


Listen here forgive the code

In this little stanza

TAFEs have taken all the load

Of the loan disast’a

Legis-lation we have read

Little owed is clear

Time to put it all to bed

See you all next ye-ar


The World Congress pulled a crowd

Near the Yarra river

Aussie TAFEs we should be proud

Of what we did deliver

Winners of the train-ing awards

Across the whole darn nation

One and all you should applaud

Your deep apprec-ia-tion


So, on pol-it-ics we jest

In this Christmas season

But as leaders we know best

Students are the rea-son

Of their future if you care

TAFE the word to spe-ll

Trust and passion is their flair

Hoorah the Aussie je-well


Season’s Greetings and a happy 2019!

Diary Dates

VDC 2019 Teaching & Learning Conference
16 & 17 May 2019
RACV Torquay Resort, Great Ocean Road, Victoria
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2019 VET CEO Conference
Velg Training
17 May 2019
Doltone House – Sydney
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6 – 7 June 2019
International Convention Centre, Sydney
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No Frills
28th National Vocational Education and Training Research Conference
10 – 12 July 2019
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QLD School VET Conference
Velg Training
9 August 2019
Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre, Brisbane
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2019 National VET Conference
Velg Training
12 &13 September 2019
Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre, Brisbane
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Australian Training Awards
21 November 2019
Brisbane, Queensland
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