An important new book on tertiary education policy – comment by CEO Jenny Dodd

An important new book on tertiary education policy – comment by CEO Jenny Dodd

Last Thursday in Melbourne it was exciting to be part of the launch of Rethinking Tertiary Education: Building on the work of Peter Noonan. This book contains perspectives on policy directions in tertiary education through the lens of the leadership of the late Peter Noonan and a group of tertiary education thought leaders including the three authors, Peter Dawkins, Megan Lilly and Robert Pascoe.

The book’s purpose is to highlight the role of tertiary education in “promoting Australia’s future economic prosperity and in enhancing social outcomes and greater equality of opportunity” (Prologue pXV). Its purpose is also to honour the legacy of Professor Peter Noonan who was one of Australia’s most vibrant contributors to tertiary education policy.

The book tackles a range of issues in tertiary education. Peter Noonan had a deep interest in funding and the book contains a section on funding and regulation. Within this section there are chapters that are written by Peter Noonan complemented by chapters by other significant policy thinkers in this area, including, Bruce Chapman who is best known as the creator of the Australian Higher Education Contribution Scheme (HECS).

Of great relevance to current debate are the chapters on Qualifications, Pathways and Partnerships. Both the Universities Accord Panel and those who have negotiated the National Skills Agreement have spent much of 2023 delving into how to address these essential ingredients of a tertiary education system. While the recommendations of the Universities Accord are still to be delivered, the National Skills Agreement has put forward new proposals for pathways and partnerships, such as the TAFE Centres of Excellence.

The importance of discussion on skills has never been more critical and this is explored throughout these chapters. As those of you who participated in TDA’s successful October half day online conference, Linkages: One tertiary education system, know the place of the Australian Qualfications Framework (AQF), as an enabler for greater linkages has to be considered. As our keynote speakers Sally Kift and Megan Lilly examined during the online conference, reform can be enabled through a revised AQF. Much of Sally and Megan’s presentation is contained in Chapter 3 of the book. Their premise that skills need to elevated to complement knowledge is fundamental.

I also had the opportunity last week to speak at the Australian Libraries and Information Association (ALIA) online conference. Libraries play an important role in TAFEs of providing access to policy thinking in tertiary education. I encourage all TAFE libraries to obtain a copy of Rethinking Tertiary Education: Building on the work of Peter Noonan – if you google the title you will find where you can purchase the book.

2023 has been a pivotal year for tertiary education. The release of Rethinking Tertiary Education: Building on the work of Peter Noonan is a wonderful way to conclude the year by adding to the richness of that debate. Thank you to the authors and all the contributors.

More than 60,000 free TAFE places under Victoria's skills agreement with Commonwealth

Victoria will receive more than $3 billion in federal funding and will deliver up to 62,800 fee-free TAFE places over the next five years, under the recently signed National Skills Agreement (NSA).

Details of the Victorian arrangements, to start in January, were announced last week by the Minister for Skills and Training Brendan O’Connor, Premier Jacinta Allan and the Minister for Skills and TAFE Gayle Tierney at Kangan Institute’s Automotive Centre of Excellence.

Mr O’Connor acknowledged that the Victorian government led the way with its fee-free TAFE initiative – something that became the template for the federal government’s approach, nationally.

“I’m very conscious of the fact that it started here, and it’s to the great credit of the Victorian Government that was the case,” he said.

To date there have been 13,600 enrolments in the care sector, 4,200 in construction, and 2,800 in technology and digital under fee-free TAFE in Victoria..

Minister Tierney said that next year, three new courses will be added to the free TAFE list – youth work, kitchen management, and tourism.

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Image: Minister O’Connor, Minister Tierney and Premier Jacinta Allan meet students at Kangan Institute’s Automotive Centre of Excellence.

TAFE urges NSW VET review to cut red tape, allow self-accreditation

TAFE NSW has urged the state’s VET review to remove a host of regulatory barriers and place TAFE on a path to self-accreditation.

TAFE NSW Managing Director Stephen Brady says that to assist industries with their evolving skills requirements, the VET review needs to address “obstacles that hinder swift course development”.

“The review could help TAFE NSW on the path to self-accreditation, enabling innovative and agile curriculum development to better meet the evolving skills needs of industry,” he wrote in an op-ed in the Financial Review.

He said TAFE NSW is already moving in this direction through collaboration with industry and universities in developing micro-skills and micro-credential, with more than 22,000 enrolments since February.

Mr Brady said excessive red tape burdens training providers, with TAFE NSW navigating compliance with 43 state, federal and industry bodies.

“In NSW, regulatory processes surrounding assessments, enrolments and reporting far exceed the requirements of the national regulator, the Australian Skills Quality Authority,” he said.

He cited the example of employers of carpentry apprentices in northern NSW who are required to confirm each trainee or apprentice has satisfactorily completed every training unit – resulting in 96,000 separate pieces of paperwork for those employers.

“The review of the VET sector is not just a moment for reflection; it’s a call to action,” he said.

Free TAFE places and funding for new TAFE centres in ACT

The ACT will gain 3,600 fee-free TAFE places at Canberra Institute of Technology (CIT) over the next five years, as part of the National Skills Agreement (NSA) signed between the Commonwealth, states and territories.

The federal Minister for Skills and Training Brendan O’Connor and ACT Minister for Skills Chris Steel announced the key elements of the ACT arrangements at CIT last week.

Under the NSA, there will be matched ACT-Commonwealth funding, including:

  • $24 million for TAFE Centres of Excellence
  • $6.5 million for Closing the Gap initiatives
  • $14 million to improve VET and apprentice completion rates
  • $13 million to foster collaboration between CIT and other public training providers and to enhance quality and capability in the VET workforce
  • Almost $1.5 million to improve foundation skills and learning.

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Images: Commonwealth Minister Brendan O’Connor and ACT Minister Chris Steel with staff at Canberra Institute of Technology.

Employers of apprentices express confidence in TAFE

TAFEs across Australia continue to do the heavy lifting in the skilled vocations, with almost 60% of employers with apprentices and trainees using TAFE.

The latest NCVER report, ‘Employers’ use and views of the VET system 2023’ shows 58% of employers with apprentices and trainees used TAFE institutes as their main provider. Of these, 74.7% were satisfied overall with the training provided by TAFE.

Among those employers that used TAFE institutes as their main provider to train apprentice and trainees, around half stated that TAFE was the only suitable provider available.

Employers also expressed satisfaction with the relevance of skills taught at TAFE (75.5%), the condition of equipment and facilities (83%), cost-effectiveness (76.3%), flexibility in meeting employer needs (71%), trainer’s knowledge and experience of industry (80.1%), and standard of assessment (73.1%).

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TAFETalks: Engage to Excel: Personalised student engagement strategies, this Wednesday 15 November

TDA invites you to join us for an engaging discussion with TAFE Queensland and TechnologyOne on making learning enjoyable, discovering practical ways to support struggling students and enhance the experience of international students.

Peter Nikoletatos will discuss student engagement strategies, focusing on leveraging gamification, interactive content, and peer collaboration to tailor engagement to individual learning styles.

Emma Rice and Jo Ward will provide insights into the academically ‘At Risk’ system at TAFE Queensland, focusing on identifying struggling students and implementing appropriate intervention strategies.

Marty Lock will highlight strategies to improve engagement among international students, offering actionable approaches to create a welcoming and inclusive learning environment.

To register click here

VET pathways enable students to gain practical experience before committing to a career

This week we continue to share our case studies on how TAFEs are creating pathways for students between vocational education and training and higher education.

This week’s story features Certificate III in Dental Assisting graduate, Ayomide Afolabi (pictured) who chose to study at North Metropolitan TAFE in Western Australia to get a realistic idea of what a career in dentistry would be like, and if it was the right career choice for him.

Ayomide had been studying for an undergraduate commerce degree at university when a close friend suffered trauma to his teeth and jaw in a car accident.

Thanks to emergency dental treatment, his friend’s quality of life was restored, but the impact of this event persuaded Ayomide to pursue dentistry. After applying and receiving university offers, he decided to defer and instead enrol at TAFE to gain the practical skills that vocational education and training can offer.

Ayomide is now studying for a Doctor of Dental Surgery at the University of Melbourne.

Read more

JSA's 2024 skills list open for consultation

Jobs and Skills Australia (JSA) has opened consultations on the development of the 2024 Skills Priority List (SPL).

The SPL forms a key element in government decisions in relation to funded training and apprentice incentive support payments.

JSA recently issued the 2023 SPL, which saw a number of occupations added to the list.

The 2024 Skills Priority List (SPL) stakeholder survey is open until 23 February 2024.

Australia and India agree to joint initiatives in skills and education

Education and skills ministers from Australia and India have agreed to collaborate on international delivery of VET, and to host an India-Australia Skills Summit in 2024.

They were among the outcomes of the first Australia India Education and Skills Council meeting in the Indian city of Gandhinagar, hosted by the Indian Minister of Education, Skill Development and Entrepreneurship, Dharmendra Pradhan.

It was attended by the Australian Minister for Education, Jason Clare, and the Minister for Skills and Training, Brendan O’Connor who joined online from Australia.

Ministers discussed cooperation under the International Skills Training (IST) program, including through cybersecurity and aged care, and the Developing Critical Skills in India project, which is trialling a model of transnational skills development.

The two countries committed to implement the Mechanism for the Mutual Recognition of Qualifications to expand institutional partnerships and educational mobility.

There was agreement to share VET sector approaches to workforce development for the clean energy sector, and news that Jobs and Skills Australia will undertake a study on international student pathways and outcomes in the first half of next year.

See the Communique

Peter Noonan's vision for tertiary education to feature in discussion

The work of the late Professor Peter Noonan will be at the forefront of an upcoming webinar on the outlook for a harmonised tertiary education system.

The Ai Group Centre for Education and Training, the Mitchell Institute at Victoria University and a range of others have collaborated on a new book, Rethinking Tertiary Education: Building on the Work of Peter Noonan.

Next Monday, November 20, Centre for Education and Training Executive Director Megan Lilly, the recent Interim Commissioner of Jobs and Skills Australia and Emeritus Professor at Victoria University, Professor Peter Dawkins, and Mitchell Institute Director, Associate Professor Peter Hurley, will join in a discussion about the reform agenda outlined in the book.

Register here

A first for degree apprenticeships

South Australian apprentices will be able to study at university while working with a defence employer under what is claimed to be Australia’s first genuine degree apprenticeship.

The South Australian Skills Commission has formally declared the Bachelor of Software Engineering (Honours) as a trade under the South Australian Skills Act 2008.

The government has committed $450,000 over three years to support the establishment of the software engineering degree apprenticeship, which is the result of a partnership between the University of South Australia, the defence industry and Ai Group.

The first intake of up to 30 apprentices will occur next year. Those who complete the five-year apprenticeship will receive a degree and a trade certificate.

The government says the degree apprenticeship model will be further explored for disciplines such as electrical and mechanical engineering.

Tender released for re-designed SEE program

The Department of Employment and Workplace Relations (DEWR) has released a Request for Tender for the Skills for Education and Employment (SEE) program.

DEWR says the SEE program has been redesigned following extensive stakeholder consultation to provide better access to foundation skills training, focusing on building language, literacy, numeracy and digital literacy skills.

The RFT is seeking responses from organisations interested in delivering Stream 1 services from 1 July 2024. It covers the period from 2024 to 2028 with options to extend for up to six years.

Information on the RFT and how to respond is available on AusTender and DEWR’s Employment Services Tenders website.

Diary Dates

TAFETalks: Engage to Excel: Personalised student engagement strategies
15 November 2023
Register here

OctoberVET Ballarat
Learning Landscapes: Learning for work and life
15 November 2023
FedUni SMB Campus, Ballarat Tech Park
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’ – Register now!
8-9 May 2024
Sofitel Wentworth, Sydney
Call for presenters open now
Early bird registrations

VET National Teaching & Learning Conference 2024
15-16 August 2024
Save the date