A new start – comment by CEO Craig Robertson

A new start – comment by CEO Craig Robertson

As we anticipate Parliament this week passing tax cuts, we may be excused for missing the important milestone in Australia’s vocational education and training. Today marks the start of a new reign of quality in vocational education and training in Australia!

Do you believe me? Or, are the terms lipstick and pig swirling the mind waiting to land in one of our particularly favourite turns of speech?

Following a decision of ministers and industry back in 2016, today marks the official start of training by trainers upgraded in two important areas of teaching and assessment.

In 2016 skills ministers agreed to two new core competencies for trainers – Design and develop assessment tools, and Address adult language, literacy and numeracy (LLN) skills as part of the official requirement for trainers to hold the Certificate IV in Training and Assessment (TAE40116) with effect from April 2019.

As part of this quality change ASQA also required providers wanting to deliver TAE for their suitability to be assessed by 5 October 2017. Now, according to MySkills, we have 104 providers authorised to deliver the TAE, compared to about 500 (I believe) prior.

Despite the lead time for trainers to upgrade, there was a flurry at the beginning of the year and ministers agreed to the extension to today!

For TAFEs it will be business as usual. The vast majority of TAFE teachers are upgraded. Those who have not are waiting for their upgrade assessments to be completed (due to the bottleneck of demand), or they’re on long-term leave, or close to retirement.

This change has been implemented to ensure the VET workforce has appropriate skills in designing and developing assessment tools and identifying and evaluating LLN requirements, Skills Ministers have said.

Will it do the trick? Only time will tell, I guess. For me, I’m close to deciding between rouge or ruby for the hog of my choice!

I applaud the intent. It’s the execution I worry about.

Firstly, I hear that the body charged with upholding the training industry itself, the Education Industry Reference Group, didn’t even recommend the change. In fact, I hear the announcement came as a complete surprise. It seems industry leadership is not extended to the VET industry!

Maybe that can be forgiven, but what’s more disturbing – and at this point I’m deciding how to chase down the hog – all the guidance material given to the sector is simply about complying with the new requirements. Blessings go to PWC Skills for Australia which at least prepared an interpretation guide but guess what, it is about how to comply, not what good assessment is!  And the formal implementation guide is no better.

This journey started because ASQA identified systemic failure of assessment in their audits. For example, in ASQA’s 2016 Training Provider Briefing Sessions they reported that just 25 per cent of RTOs were compliant with RTO Standard 1 when first audited. As a reminder, Standard 1 is: The RTO’s training and assessment strategies and practices are responsive to industry and learner needs and meet the requirements of training packages and VET accredited courses.

Every step since has tightened the requirements. The training package and support documents, scope of practice requirements and audits by ASQA. Does it seem strange that the very instruments by which providers have failed are being used to try and correct the situation? More compliance to fix a compliance issue.

When will we learn as a sector that more specification and compliance is not the answer? Where was the government with professional development?

The Education IRC made recommendations to the Australian Industry Skills Committee back in April 2017 for an overhaul of the qualification, but as yet there’s been no agreement for just a review. It seems Industry is happy with the current state of play.

Admittedly, the jury is out on the success of the initiative but, if it does fail, it can only be sheeted home to government and industry.

I’m hoping the outcome is good as I’m not sure how to chase down that swine which would look pretty good with a spot of rouge.

TAFE NSW MD departing to lead NZ Treasury

TAFE NSW Managing Director Dr Caralee McLiesh has announced her resignation to take up the position of Secretary of the New Zealand Treasury.

In a note to her colleagues at TAFE NSW, she said it was a “particularly bittersweet moment for me given there is still so much more that I wanted to deliver for the customers and team of TAFE NSW.”

“However for various reasons this is the right decision for me and my family at this time in our lives.”

Dr McLiesh said while she was excited and honoured to be selected for the new role, she was genuinely sad to be leaving TAFE NSW earlier than originally planned.

“I want to assure you that this change will not affect the implementation of our TAFE NSW strategy,” she said.

Before commencing with TAFE NSW last October Dr McLiesh was Deputy Secretary for the Fiscal and Economic Group in NSW Treasury. Prior to joining Treasury she worked for eight years at the World Bank.

Ms McLiesh said Education Secretary Mark Scott would lead a recruitment process for her replacement.

In between her departure in July and the appointment of a replacement, Ms Kerry Penton, Regional General Manager, South Region will act in the role.

TDA extends its congratulations to Caralee on her new role.

New apprentice incentive arrangements commence today

A number of new incentive payments for apprentices and their employers that were unveiled in the Budget and during the federal election campaign take effect today.

The government committed to creating an extra 80,000 apprenticeships as part of its skills policies and made a number of specific promises to start on July 1. They are:

  • The second phase of the Australian Apprentice Wage Subsidy trial, which supports employers in regional areas facing skills shortages. The program has been doubled to support an extra 1600 apprentices through a wage subsidy of 75% of the apprentice award wage in the first year, 50% in the second and 25% in the third.
  • An identified skills shortage payment which will provide eligible apprentices with $1000 after 12 months and $1000 on completion, while employers will receive $2000 after 12 months and $2,000 on completion.
  • A reduction from 25 to 21 years in the age requirement for the Support for Adult Australian Apprentices incentive.

The government also committed to ten new industry training hubs and a complete overhaul of the current system of apprentice incentive payments.

See the latest Australian Apprenticeships Incentives Program Guidelines.

VET sector needs to do more to cope with changing jobs 

The VET sector has been urged to play a greater role in collaborating with universities and industry to deliver the skills needed for the fourth industrial revolution.

In an article in The Conversation, a group of academics say there is a “consensus among experts” that training providers and employers aren’t adapting fast enough to meet looming skill needs.

The authors are Pi-Shen Seet, Professor of Entrepreneurship and Innovation at Edith Cowan University, and three academics from Flinders University – Ann-Louis Hordacre, Senior Research Fellow at the College of Business, Government and Law; Janice Jones, Associate Professor at the College of Business, Government and Law; and John Spoehr, Director of the Australian Industrial Transformation Institute.

“The VET sector requires increased collaboration between industry, educators and governments. It also needs responsivess and flexibility in delivering skills, from formal qualifications to micro-credentials or non-formal education to reflect the needs of rapidly changing technologies,” the authors say.

They say a good example is the first nationally recognised qualification in automation, launched in Perth recently from a collaboration between Rio Tinto, South Metropolitan TAFE and the state government.

“An important first step is to implement the early recommendations of the Joyce Review on VET,” they say.

“Recent initiatives indicate the VET sector, industry and government have recognised these issues. They will need to pick up the pace to ensure vocational education provides students – and businesses that employ them – with the future-ready skills needed to succeed in the fourth industrial revolution.”

International student fees driving university revenue

Fees from overseas students have been the largest source of revenue growth for Australian universities, according to a new research paper from the Commonwealth Parliamentary Library.

The paper, Overseas students in Australian higher education: a quick guide by Dr Hazel Ferguson and Henry Sherrell, analyses latest trends in international student enrolments, source countries, visa arrangements and finances.

It says revenue from overseas student fees has grown as a proportion of total revenue, from 15.5% in 2008 to 23.3% in 2017 (the latest year available).

“The $1,208 million increase in revenue from overseas students from 2016 to 2017 accounted for 64.2 per cent of the total increase in all revenue for the same period ($1,881 million),” the paper says.

It says that while overseas students also enrol in Australian VET, schools, English Language Intensive Courses for Overseas Students (ELICOS), and non-award courses, each of these accounts for fewer students and has less economic impact than overseas student enrolments in higher education.

Grants available for emerging women leaders

The organisation, Women & Leadership Australia, has announced a pool of scholarships available for women across Australia to participate in a range of leadership courses.

It will provide grants of between $3000 and $7000 to enable participation in one of three programs that cover areas such as Presence and Presentation Skills, Leading Innovation and Change, and Emotional Intelligence and Conflict.

The scholarship funding is provided with the specific intent of providing powerful and effective development opportunities for women.

Expressions of Interest close September 13.

See more.

Change in how unit codes are allocated in VET accredited courses

The Australian Skills Quality Authority (ASQA) has announced that the way unit codes are allocated to units of competency is changing and will apply to VET accredited course applications received from 1 September 2019.

The ASQA accredited course document template will be amended to include explanatory advice. A new version of this template will be published closer to the implementation date.

See more

ACT skills minister makes surprise departure

The ACT Minister for Vocational Education and Skills Meegan Fitzharris has made the surprise decision to step down as a minister and leave politics within weeks.

“My decision is a personal one, and stems from a desire to better balance my family life,” Ms Fitzharris said.

“This has been an incredibly difficult decision for me, but it is the right decision and will allow a new member of our team to come into the Assembly prior to the 2020 election,” she said.

Diary Dates

No Frills 2019: The student journey: skilling for life
28th National Vocational Education and Training Research Conference
10-12 July 2019
TAFE SA Adelaide Campus, 120 Currie Street, Adelaide, South Australia
More information

CISA (Council of International Students Australia) National Conference
15-19 July 2019
Perth, Western Australia
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National Apprentice Employment Network
2019 National Conference
31 July – 2 August 2019
Crowne Plaza, Gold Coast
More information

QLD School VET Conference
Velg Training
9 August 2019
Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre, Brisbane
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VTA 2019 State Conference
15 – 16 August 2019
RACV City Club, 501 Bourke Street, Melbourne
Save the date

National Manufacturing Summit
21 & 22 August 2019
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National Skills Week
26 August – 1 September 2019
Locations around Australia
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TAFE Directors Australia 2019 Convention
‘The Power of TAFE’
3 – 5 September 2019
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2019 National VET Conference
Velg Training
12 &13 September 2019
Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre, Brisbane
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Community Colleges Australia 2019 Annual Conference
18-20 November 2019
The Stamford Plaza Hotel, Brisbane
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Australian Training Awards
21 November 2019
Brisbane, Queensland
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Australian Council of Deans of Education Vocational Education Group
5th Annual Conference on VET Teaching and VET Teacher Education
9-10 December 2019
Charles Sturt University Wagga Wagga Campus
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