A true tertiary education sector will improve perceptions of VET – comment by CEO Jenny Dodd

A true tertiary education sector will improve perceptions of VET – comment by CEO Jenny Dodd

The House of Representatives Standing Committee on Employment, Education and Training is currently undertaking an inquiry into the perceptions and status of vocational education and training (VET). 

There have been numerous inquiries like this over the past few decades. As a result of a recent one, the National Careers Institute was established. Funded through the Department of Employment and Workplace Relations, the National Careers Institute aims “to ensure Australians have access to authoritative and accurate careers information and support, whatever their age or career stage”. So why are we still examining the perception of VET?

TDA’s position for this inquiry is that perception of VET will be improved if substantial changes are made to consistent use of the term tertiary education. We need to move away from what has become three sectors – higher education, VET and secondary to one tertiary education sector for adults and one secondary education sector for children and young people. We need to think about what it really means to have a lifelong learning approach which will require individuals throughout their life to have both VET and higher education experiences.

Last week in this newsletter I called for both the National Skills Partnership and the Universities Accord to develop principles that allow better integration between VET and higher education. To achieve this, we require one tertiary education system that is accessible by all adults. One tertiary education system that will need to have a more coherent funding arrangement.

This will require new language and new thinking that distinguishes VET for post school learning from VET as a sector. This will require genuine discussions about how post school learning needs to be funded. And it will also need sustainable partnerships between employers, community, TAFE and universities that will make a difference to the capabilities of adults for both work and life.

The perception of VET has been impacted by our failure to develop a proper tertiary education system. Within this context we must ask, “does VET still have a place in schools?” The answer is, “of course it does”. However, there is a new problem we must address and that is equipping adults for a life of learning. The review of the AQF nicely fits within this tertiary education sector.

We must move to a different discussion that distinguishes less between VET and higher education. We need a Tertiary Education sector and Secondary Education sector. In both these systems there is a place for vocational skills and learning, but the actual VET sector – with all its past perceptions disappears.

Meeting of national skills ministers agrees on next steps for VET reform

Commonwealth, state and territory skills ministers have agreed to a series of actions to progress skills reform and pave the way for the new national skills agency and the Jobs and Skills Councils.

At the meeting in Brisbane on Friday, skills ministers:

  • Discussed reform opportunities under the proposed five-year National Skills Agreement (NSA) to be negotiated in 2023 and commence in January 2024.
  • Discussed the establishment of Jobs and Skills Australia (JSA), including the planned study of adult literacy and numeracy and a capacity study on the clean energy transition, ensuring that state and territory intelligence feeds into this work.
  • Agreed to a new commencement date of 1 January 2025 for the revised Standards for Registered Training Organisations, to allow the arrangements to be “further tested with the sector”.
  • Expressed concern about Responsible Service of Alcohol units of competency and noted work being “expeditiously progressed” to remove material that is potentially unlawful or offensive.
  • Endorsed an integrity framework for the ten new Jobs and Skills Councils.
  • Endorsed the temporary oversight of the Training and Assessment (TAE) and Foundation Skills (FSK) Training Packages by the Commonwealth Department of Employment and Workplace Relations.
  • Endorsed changes to the National Vocational Education and Training Regulator (NVETR) Act, to support timely updates to VET data.
  • Discussed projects to be funded under the TAFE Technology Fund

See the Skills Ministers’ Communique

TAFE campuses to drive renewable energy skills training

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and Skills Minister Brendan O’Connor formally launched the government’s New Energy Apprenticeships scheme in Western Australia last week.

In a visit to North Metropolitan TAFE’s Green Skills Training Centre, the PM and Mr O’Connor met with staff and students as the scheme was unveiled. The program will see the government spend $95 million over nine years to support 10,000 New Energy Apprenticeships.

On Friday, the Prime Minister visited the NSW Illawarra region where he announced $10 million for the University of Wollongong to establish the Energy Futures Skills Centre, and $2.5 million to create a Renewable Energy Training facility at TAFE NSW Wollongong campus.

The goal of an integrated tertiary education sector gains momentum

The drawn out debate over an integrated VET and higher education system has received a boost with the issue being canvassed in the Universities Accord discussion paper.

“Over the last two decades, innovation and growth in both systems has led to increasing interactions and overlaps,” the discussion paper says.

“The Commonwealth and the states and territories are working on a range of skills and VET reform initiatives to boost participation in areas of demand, strengthen public TAFE systems, and create stronger connections with industry and higher education,” it says.

“A focus on building the connection in occupations that span both VET and higher education qualifications, integrating digital platforms, and leveraging existing initiatives such as the newly created Jobs and Skills Australia, could be early steps towards a more harmonised system.”

Among the questions the discussion paper asks are:

  • How should better alignment and connection across Australia’s tertiary education system be achieved?
  • What role should reform of the AQF play in creating this alignment?
  • What would a more effective and collaborative national governance approach to tertiary education look like?

See the Australian Universities Accord Panel Discussion Paper

TAFETalks: Women’s Leadership in Times of Crisis


On International Women’s Day, join TAFE Directors Australia at TAFETalks to celebrate the leadership of women in vocational education and training.

Mish Eastman, from RMIT and Sally Curtain from Bendigo Kangan Institute (BKI) will lead a thought-provoking discussion on the impact of COVID-19. RMIT’s College of Vocational Education and BKI will come together to explore the ways in which they developed leadership through crisis.

RMIT will delve into how the pandemic led to the creation of an innovative learning ecosystem and changes in approach to delivering online and blended learning. Plus, hear about BKI’s unique program to transform its systems, people, and processes to better meet the training needs of students with a focus on student-centred innovation and digital enablement.

Additionally, TDA also welcomes Kit McMahon, National Co-convenor, Women in Adult Vocational Education (WAVE), who will speak about the lived experiences of women in the current VET system, including the challenges and opportunities presented by inequity.

To register for this event, please click here

Extended post-study work rights for international graduates

Starting in July, international higher education graduates with eligible qualifications will be granted an extra two years of post-study work rights.
The allowable work hours cap for international students will also be increased from 40 hours to 48 hours per fortnight.

The two-year extension of post-study work rights is available for international graduates with select degrees that are in areas of verified skill shortage.

This extension will give eligible international higher education graduates an additional two years on their Temporary Graduate visa (subclass 485).

The extension is in addition to the existing additional one to two years of work rights for eligible students who study, live and work in regional areas.

See the indicative list of eligible occupations in demand and the related qualifications which are eligible for the extension.

See more

Education, business leaders share concerns about falling school standards

TDA Chief Executive Jenny Dodd joined university and industry leaders last week at the Universities Australia conference in Canberra where the issue of foundation skills re-surfaced.

The Financial Review reported the comments of Tim Reed, President of the Business Council of Australia, who said the number of people entering the workforce with the barest of foundational skills was posing a challenge.

‘‘The role that business plays is to try and not exclude people from careers because of that fact. That becomes very challenging for individual businesses,” he said.

As one example, Ms Dodd pointed to some trade apprentices not confident with the foundational maths required during the theoretical component of their training.

‘‘From what we expected 20 years ago, there are significant literacy, numeracy and digital literacy problems coming into some of those courses that are so critical for our economy,’’ Ms Dodd said.

The AFR pointed to data from last year’s NAPLAN showing that 13.5 per cent of boys did not reach the national minimum standard for reading in 2022, while a staggering 20.8 per cent did not meet it for writing.

Partnership between Holmesglen and CYP sees state-of-the-art tunnelling centre


A collaboration between Cross Yarra Partnership (CYP) and Holmesglen Institute has resulted in the creation of the Victorian Tunnelling Centre (VTC), a skilling facility based on international best practice to support major infrastructure projects in the state.

The partnership began with MetroHub, a jobs and training centre for Melbourne’s Metro Tunnel Project, and involves a steering committee and advisory group to ensure industry needs are met.

The VTC is a 24/7 business that replicates the real world experience, using simulators, virtual reality, mixed reality, and replicas, with a focus on a centre of excellence mindset.

See more

Ten-year national safety blueprint released

Safe Work Australia has released a 10-year national strategy to reduce workplace fatalities, injuries, and illnesses.

The Australian Work Health and Safety Strategy 2023-2033 sets a national vision of safe and healthy work for all and provides a platform for delivering key work health and safety improvements.

The strategy was developed under Safe Work Australia’s tripartite governance processes and has been agreed by the Commonwealth, state and territory governments. It represents a national commitment to work together to reduce worker fatalities, injuries and illnesses over the next decade.

Call for speakers for international education conference

AIEC is inviting VET colleagues to share their expertise in international education by submitting a proposal to speak at the Australian International Education Conference in October in Adelaide/Tarntanya.

The theme, ‘International education: visionary and transformative’, focuses on the role that innovation plays in transforming the experiences of students and the communities in which they live, work and study.

You are encouraged to align your proposal to the list of ‘hot topics’.

The committee is particularly interested in receiving proposals on:

  • Future of international education in the VET sector – trends, patterns and emerging demand areas
  • VET as a pathway for key industries
  • New successful offshore TNE models – innovations and approaches
  • Vocational Education and Training International Engagement Strategy 2025 ​

Jana Perera, Executive Director, Commercial Business at The Gordon and a member of the IEAA Board, is on the AIEC Program Committee representing the VET sector at the AIEC. Jana is looking forward to seeing proposals for sessions that will showcase thought leadership and best practice in VET.

The submissions portal closes 10 March.

See more

Diary Dates

Universities Australia Conference 2023
22-23 February 2023
National Convention Centre, Canberra
More information

TAFETalks: Women’s Leadership in Times of Crisis
8 March 2023
Webinar, 2.00pm AEDT
Register here

AVETRA 2023 Conference
27-28 April 2023
More information

World Federation of Colleges and Polytechnics (WFCP) 2023 World Congress
23-25 April 2023
Montréal, Canada
More information

Apprentice Employment Network NSW & ACT
2023 Skills Conference
14 June 2023
Dockside Darling Harbour, Sydney
More information

Journal of Vocational Education and Training (JVET) Conference
13-15 July 2023
Keble College, Oxford, UK
More information

32nd National Vocational Education and Training Research Conference ‘No Frills’
19-21 July 2023
RMIT University, Melbourne
More information

National Apprentice Employment Network 2023 National Conference
‘New Skills for a New World’
15-17 August 2023
Melbourne – save the date

2023 VDC Teaching & Learning Conference
17-18 August 2023 – save the date

WorldSkills Australia National Championships and Skills Show
17-19 August 2023
Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre, Victoria
More information

National Skills Week
‘What are you looking for?’
21-27 August 2023
More information

Australian International Education Conference
10-13 October
More information

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