A skills passport: a great initiative requiring thoughtful consideration – comment by CEO Jenny Dodd

A skills passport: a great initiative requiring thoughtful consideration – comment by CEO Jenny Dodd

TDA welcomes the positive initiatives outlined in the Employment White paper released last week. Over the next couple of weeks, we will address each initiative that will impact the TAFE sector. Let’s start with the proposed skills passport.

In Australia we have been discussing a form of a skills passport for many decades. During this time, many countries have introduced some form of skills passport. For example, Singapore has a skills passport which “allows you to document your skills, certificates and licences on MySkillsFuture” .

Commentary from business associations welcomed the skills passport. For example, the Business Council of Australia said on 24 Sept 2023, a skills passport “will enable Australians to store their qualifications easily, make applying for a job simpler and more streamlined, and help reduce the barriers to lifelong learning”.

This is a positive step in enabling learners to progress through their careers with ready access to a trusted portal where credentials and skills can be shared with employers.

However, there are three considerations needed in the next steps towards a skills passport. The first is the complexity of Australia’s post school education environment. As TDA has often stated through the Accord process, a genuine tertiary education sector is needed to reduce the binary nature of vocational education and higher education. Any initiatives, such as a this one, may reduce that separation. Designing for a skills passport might be a practical project in such an exercise.

Secondly, like Universities Australia, TDA agrees that the project planners must consider what has already been invested in by providers of tertiary education themselves. Good use of taxpayers’ money would be to build on that. As Universities Australia stated in its media release following the Employment White paper (25 Sept 2023), “Right now, we are missing out on workers in areas of serious shortage … . The adoption of a skills passport will also help in this regard, particularly if it builds on the existing qualifications recognition infrastructure that universities and other tertiary providers already use.”

And the third consideration, if a skills passport is to hold more than qualifications and certificates, must be some sort of quality control on what goes into it. The Australian Financial Review quoted Victoria University education policy expert Associate Professor Peter Hurley on that topic. Peter said, “if the passport was to contain non-formal education, the government would have to develop a mechanism to assess the quality of the programs included in it.” (AFR, Sept 29 2023).

So all in all, a skills passport is a good initiative. Next step is in the design stage to ensure that the benefits are delivered with consideration to the points above.

TAFE handed key role in jobs white paper reforms

TAFEs welcomed key initiatives aimed at driving skills creation and workforce capability that were contained in the federal government’s Employment White Paper, ‘Working Future’, released last week.

A key measure was funding of $31 million to fast-track six TAFE Centres of Excellence in priority areas of the economy including net-zero, the care sector and digitisation.

These centres will see collaboration between TAFEs, industry, Jobs and Skills Councils and universities to deliver cutting edge training and upskilling.

TAFE also welcomed the advent of new higher apprenticeships at the Bachelor degree level that will be delivered through TAFE.

“This is a landmark development with the capacity to transform the way that formal learning and on-the-job work experience are combined at the degree level,” the CEO of TDA, Jenny Dodd said.

“The TAFE sector is particularly pleased that it will be at the forefront of delivering, independently, a new work-based learning model at the bachelor level. The work-and-learn model is core to TAFE and we welcome the expansion of TAFE expertise to apply it to higher skills levels.”

See TDA’s media release

Newly-appointed NSW skills minister vows to be a 'champion of TAFE'

The NSW Premier Chris Minns has appointed experienced former minister Steve Whan to the position of Minister for Skills, TAFE and Tertiary Education.

Mr Whan was elected for the southern NSW seat of Monaro at the March state election but has served as a minister in a previous Labor government in several senior portfolios.

His appointment follows the resignation of former Minister Tim Crakanthorp in August over failure to declare property interests in the Hunter region. The Deputy Premier and Minister for Education Prue Car has held the portfolio in the interim.

Mr Minns said the appointment of Mr Whan will bring his considerable skills and experience to helping rebuild TAFE and the VET sector after decades of under-funding.

“Steve has represented all communities, but particularly rural and regional NSW, with distinction throughout his career as a former Minister for Rural Affairs, Primary Industries, Emergency Services and Small Business,” he said.

Mr Whan said that across NSW, local TAFEs are an integral part of the fabric of regional communities.

“I want to be their champion and see those campuses and institutions get the respect, resourcing and prominence they deserve.”

South Australia to receive an extra 15,000 fee-free VET places

The Commonwealth government has reached agreement with South Australia to deliver an extra 15,000 fee-free TAFE and VET places from next January.

The Minister for Skills and Training Brendan O’Connor said the $28 million investment follows around 12,500 fee-free places over the last year in South Australia, part of an initiative that saw the national target of 180,000 fee-free places exceeded by almost 40,000, reaching almost 215,000 enrolments.

“Fee-Free TAFE and VET has been such a success that we’re committing a further $415 million to deliver an additional 300,000 places nationally beginning next year,” Mr O’Connor said.

“A total of 15,000 of the additional Fee-Free TAFE VET places will be delivered in South Australia.”

The South Australian Minister for Education, Training and Skills, Blair Boyer said that fee-free TAFE had been a “gamechanger”, with the additional investment in skills one of the most significant in the state’s history.

“Courses offered through Fee-Free TAFE directly align with areas where we need thousands more highly trained workers, including for the huge projects we will be delivering as a State such as AUKUS, three-year-old preschool and the hydrogen plant,” he said.

Register for TDA's online conference – Linkages: One tertiary education system, 18 October 2023

Registrations are open for TDA’s free online conference, Linkages: One tertiary education system, which will explore the policy and practice of better alignment between higher education and vocational education and training.

The online conference will take place from 1.00 pm to 4.30 pm AEDT on Wednesday 18 October and features a range of high profile speakers from vocational education and training, higher education, government and industry.

Some of our high profile speakers include the Hon Brendan O’Connor MP, Minister for Skills and Training who be providing an opening address at the conference. The Hon Jenny Macklin, Vice-Chancellor’s Fellow, University of Melbourne and Panel Member Australian Universities Accord will be discussing the Australian Universities Accord Interim Report.

Members of the 2019 AQF Review, Professor Sally Kift, President of Australian Learning and Teaching Fellows and Vice Chancellor’s Fellow, Victoria University, and Megan Lilly, Executive Director, Centre for Education and Training, AiGroup will be speaking on the proposed changes to the Australian Qualifications Framework (AQF) reform.

View the full program and register here

Holistic skills addressing regional needs

The Heavy Industry Multi Skills (HIMS) pre-employment program in Port Pirie, South Australia, now in its fourth year, continues to yield success through collaborative efforts with TAFE SA, local major industries, and Regional Development Australia Yorke and Mid North (RDA Yorke and Mid North).

The latest intake of graduates (pictured) will acquire a Certificate II in Resources and Infrastructure qualification, welding skills, and essential personal development and soft skills vital for industry roles.

Supported by the South Australian government and managed by RDA Yorke and Mid North, HIMS is a result of regional cooperation involving major industry employers, TAFE SA, and RDA Yorke and Mid North.

Tailored to meet specific industry needs, the program addresses both skill development and personal growth, engaging a diverse range of students and breaking down barriers to employment.

The involvement of key industry players like Nyrstar highlights the program’s impact on addressing local employment issues and upskilling the region’s workforce. The HIMS initiative embodies collaboration, community engagement, and regional prosperity, laying the foundation for a promising future in the heavy industry sector.

Read more

TAFE at the Heart - save the date!

Data shows TAFE delivering the bulk of priority skills training

More than half of all students in the key priority areas of skills training are with public training providers, including TAFE, according to the latest NCVER snapshot.

Of the 753,875 students enrolled in government-funded VET in the three months to March, 419,010 or 55% were at TAFE institutes (up 5% from the previous year).

A further 32,000 or 4% were with other government providers (up 30%).

A total of 29,130 or 4% were at community education providers (up 44%), while 244,970 or 32% were at private training providers (up 3%), and 42,175 or 6% were at other training providers (up 8%).

The total number of students in government-funded VET increased by 6.4% over the course of the past year. There were increases in all states except ACT which fell marginally.

Government-funded VET encompasses the skills and training priorities of national, state and territory governments, as distinct from training paid for by employers or individuals.

See Government-funded students and courses – January to March 2023

Women in trades awards open

The Empowered Women in Trades Gala and Awards is a celebration of excellence, determination, and ground-breaking achievements, and the awards nominations are now open!

There are seven award categories:

  • Tradie Lady of the Year
  • Apprentice of the Year
  • Tradie Trailblazer
  • Exceptional Educator
  • Innovator of Cultural Change
  • Exceptional Human Skills
  • Industry Leader in Diversity & Inclusion

Nominations need to be submitted by October 17.

The Empowered Women in Trades Gala and Awards will take place in Melbourne on February 23. You can book here.

See and hear UDL in action!

For those who missed ADCET’s inaugural Universal Design for Learning (UDL) symposium, all of the presentations are now available on the ADCET website.

The symposium represented ADCET’s ongoing commitment to build capacity in the tertiary education sector around UDL. UDL is an excellent learning and teaching framework for diverse learners, especially for students with disability.

UDL in Action: The What, the Why and the How brought together international and national leaders, academics, learning designers and professionals in a program with something for beginners and experts, so there is something for everyone.

The keynote speaker, Dr Sheryl Burgstahler from the University of Washington, started with the what and the why. Having worked in the UDL space for decades, she was able to distil the basics and give practical applications and resources to get people started.

Following up on Day 2, Dr Thomas Tobin’s keynote focused on the how and made it easier to make incremental changes. He also beautifully demonstrated what an excellent online UDL presentation looks like.

Diary Dates

Community Colleges Australia (CCA) Annual Conference
Building ACE Futures
10-11 October 2023
More information

Australian International Education Conference
10-13 October
More information

OctoberVET 2023
October 2023
On-line and face-to-face
See all events

TDA online conference – Linkages: One tertiary education system
18 October 2023, 1 pm AEDT
See more and register here

VDC World Teachers’ Day Event
27 October 2023 – save the date

2023 National VET Conference
2-3 November 2023
Gold Coast Convention and Exhibition Centre
More Information

Australian Training Awards 
17 November 2023
Hobart, Tasmania
More information

Empowered Women in Trades
Gala and Awards 2024
23 February 2024
The Trust, Melbourne
More information

TDA Convention 2024, ‘TAFE at the Heart’ – Save the date!
8-9 May 2024
Sofitel Wentworth, Sydney
More information