Blue Tech for all – comment by CEO Craig Robertson

Blue Tech for all – comment by CEO Craig Robertson

I have a confession of failed fathering. My wife helped my son build his Lego models!

I’m proud of my progress, though, when it comes to spreading the good word. I risk giving away my age as I tell this story but I hope it triggers memories for, … mmm,… well, those of you whom we’d regard as the more mature.

I was a whiz at the Gestetner!

That’s right. The bulk printing machine that inhabited the front office of most schools before photocopiers. Preparing the stencil was a real skill. Hefty hammering on the manual typewriter to make sure each letter pierced the wax stencil. The inevitable mistakes covered by a wax equivalent of Wite‑Out (for young ones that the physical equivalent of Ctl-Z in Word – covering mistakes and starting again). To avoid creases, delicately laying the stencil onto the drum more carefully than you’d wrap a newborn in its swaddling cloth. Success! Hundreds of bulletins home or worksheets for the kids!

Imagine my delight when I joined the public service and there was a typing pool to do that for you. Longhand paragraphs sticky-taped into some semblance of a document that the typists deciphered. It’s amazing they could see anything in those smoke-hazed rooms with keys clattering to a numbing rhythm. Then came the word processor that required a special temperature-controlled room and an operator even more officious than the head of the typing pool.

Digital democracy came when IBM PCs were assigned to all office staff. The typing ladies (and it was a female profession) were liberated into more fulfilling roles and the men (and they were mainly men back then) took to the on-line writing task – one finger at a time at a speed slower than the movement of the Fox Glacier!

I survived those times and am writing this piece at a somewhat faster pace, with no need for Wite‑out on the screen. In the intervening period I have seen the dismay of staff as Microsoft upgrades were forced on them. The old timers (and I was reaching that point) insisted on lengthy retraining while the young ones simply hopped on and experimented, confident that Control-Z (CTL-Z) could take them back to the point where things went wrong. Meanwhile, as a safety net, the rest in the office had an instruction book equivalent to the Yellow Pages but it didn’t help much because they didn’t understand the words in the Index!

In my days as an ogre of a boss when staff would insist on giving me a paper version of a document, I often asked to see the electronic one. I was amazed at the number of the times I discovered the setting out was like a manual typewriter – with a carriage return (¶) at the end of each line in a continuing paragraph, or manually constructed dot points!

I tell this story because it speaks to our experience with technology. One day I’ll share my technology awakening when it comes to overhead projectors, but I’ll spare you.

My working life has been turned upside down thanks to technology. Not in a bad way and not in a way that took my job, luckily. Technology has smoothed the way, taken the lock-steps out of my production chain and freed me to work any place, any time.

I don’t need re-training for each release of Microsoft because I’ve learnt how to learn about the new features. My productivity has improved immeasurably. While grammar hounds and journalists can always point to better expression, some skill in the written form underpins my productive contribution. Technology just makes it easier.

This week TDA has released a position paper in conjunction with our corporate partners, Cisco and Optus, highlighting the Blue Tech revolution. The call for action is modest – to size out the challenge and explore news ways of educating in Blue Tech.

Just as my working life has changed due to technology, the pace of change means technology will impinge on more aspects of work, for everybody and in most of the areas supported by vocational education.

The question we need to ask is whether the Australian Industry Skills Committee will insist on the same old functional training to keep abreast of technology changes in jobs tasks. If the predicted rate of technology enhancement is true, a unit of competency will need to change as soon as it has been through the endorsement process.

There is a better way. We learnt language and numeracy through a general education program. We preferred that it wasn’t dry or didactic teaching, but in the end we learned because it had a purpose – for communicating and living. Surely the same is required for technology. The functional and behaviourist approach of training packages doesn’t work in a technology rich world. We may end up with Yellow Page size units of competency full of functional requirements that might work for the Gestetner or IBM PC, but I’m not sure for what else.

Technology can be the great liberator. Digital can be democratic. Both rely though on capability in the hands of all to access its benefits. Blue Tech for all!

CISCO and Optus join with TAFEs to call for action on 'blue tech' skills

TDA has joined with Cisco and Optus in calling on the federal government to work with industry and TAFEs to respond to a forecast explosion in “blue tech” jobs – tech-intensive jobs requiring vocational qualifications – as part of Australia’s economic recovery.

In a report, Critical Role of Blue Tech and Digital Skills in Australia’s Economic Recovery, Cisco, Optus and TDA recommend the development and delivery of one or two micro credentials for digital skills to help in the post-COVID recovery.

“Over the next decade, the pace of technological change will be highly disruptive to the workplace and will impact workers and the skills they need to thrive in the Australian economy,” Cisco Vice President of Australia & New Zealand Ken Boal said.

“We see the TAFE sector as best placed to prepare young and mature learners for these new, tech-intensive jobs,” he said.

TDA Chief Executive Craig Robertson said blue tech jobs are highly paid and in-demand in areas like cyber security, data analytics and the Internet of Things.

“Like traditional blue-collar jobs these types of roles require diploma rather than degree level qualifications,” he said.

“TAFEs are able to align curriculum, learning tools, pedagogies and credentials to meet industry trends. Close connections with local businesses also provide a feedback loop that helps contextualise courses to local needs.”

The government has been urged to work with industry and TAFEs to make the acquisition of blue tech and digital skills an urgent priority, and to provide funding to assess the size of the blue tech market and support delivery of micro credentials.

TAFE institutes, teachers and students stand out in training award finalists 

TAFE institutes, students, teachers and industry partners predominate among the finalists for state training awards announced in Victoria and Queensland last week.

In Victoria, three institutes – GOTAFE, South West TAFE and Box Hill Institute are finalists for Large Training Provider of the Year. GOTAFE and Box Hill Institute are also finalists for Inclusive Training Provider of the Year

The Industry Collaboration Award sees Swinburne University of Technology, SuniTAFE and Federation TAFE, along with their industry partners in the running.

TAFE teachers, Kevin Nunn (TAFE Gippsland), Marina McGrath (Bendigo Kangan Institute) and Torin Coakley (Bendigo TAFE) have been selected for the Teacher/Trainer of the Year Award.

See all the Victorian finalists.

In Queensland, the regional finalists for the state training awards were announced for Tropical North Queensland, North Queensland, Central Queensland, Darling Downs South West, North Coast, Metropolitan and South East Queensland.

The Queensland regional winners will be announced on 11 September and the state winners a week later.

Former anti-corruption chief to become new head of TEQSA

The federal government has announced the appointment of Alistair Maclean (pictured), the former CEO of Victoria’s Independent Broad-based Anti-Corruption Commission (IBAC) as the new CEO of the Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency (TEQSA).

Mr Maclean served as the inaugural CEO of IBAC in 2013 until he retired last December. He was previously with ASX-listed gold and copper producer PanAust, and also served as a diplomat and an adviser to former Prime Minister John Howard.

He starts with TEQSA tomorrow, succeeding Anthony McClaran who stood down earlier this year to become Vice-Chancellor of St Mary’s University at Twickenham, London.

The Minister for Education Dan Tehan said Mr Maclean will drive forward TEQSA’s important work to ensure the quality and reputation of higher education.

Mr Tehan also announced three new members of the Higher Education Standards Panel – Professor Steve Chapman (Vice-Chancellor, Edith Cowan University); Ms Kadi Taylor (Head of Strategic Engagement, Navitas); and Dr David Perry (Vice President Academic, Alphacrucis College).

Countdown begins to JobTrainer funding

State and territory governments are expected to begin releasing their commitments under the JobTrainer fund as early as this week, following the signing of the national agreement for VET reform.

Every state and territory government has now signed the Heads of Agreement for Skills Reform presented to the National Cabinet in July.

The agreement establishes a new National Skills Agreement to replace the National Agreement for Skills and Workforce Development (NASWD) and outlines a series of national VET reforms.

Each of the states and territories are also parties to the $1 billion JobTrainer fund on a 50:50 cost sharing basis with the Commonwealth, designed to create almost 341,000 additional training places.

NSC identifies the jobs that are on the rise

The National Skills Commission has identified 25 key emerging occupations in the labour market that includes data analysts, agile coaches, solar installers, wind turbine technicians and hazardous materials labourers.

In its latest report, Emerging Occupations, the NSC has developed full profiles of the 25 emerging occupations, including employment numbers, earnings, and demographic information.

“By identifying emerging skills and looking at how these skills change existing jobs, we are able to identify emerging or new jobs in the labour market,” the report says.

Other emerging roles include biostatisticians, respiratory therapists, risk analysts, energy auditors, fundraisers, and research assistants.

NSC says its access to real time internet job advertisement data using Burning Glass Technologies, identifies occupations in emerging fields like blockchain, nanotechnology, quantum computing and the internet of things as soon as the employer demand for these skills increases.

NSC says the list is not exhaustive, and that it will continue to monitor trends.

A new era begins for ASQA

The Australian Skills Quality Authority (ASQA) starts a new era as the VET regulator, following the passage of the National Vocational Education and Training Regulator Amendment (Governance and Other Matters) Bill 2020.

The legislation follows the Braithwaite and Joyce reviews and the rapid review of ASQA released in April which was intended to improve the transparency, efficiency and effectiveness of ASQA.

“The passing of this Bill is another critical step in the Government’s reform process to support ASQA’s continued evolution as a transparent and balanced regulator that engages effectively with stakeholders and builds quality in the VET sector,” the Minister for Employment, Skills, Small and Family Business, Senator Michaelia Cash said.

The changes will see the replacement of commissioners with a single chief executive officer, and the creation of a 10-member advisory council.

The legislation also creates new powers to allow the NCVER to share information it collects with government agencies and departments for functions such as regulation, program administration, monitoring and evaluation.

Queensland targets scam training 

The Queensland government has launched a crackdown on recruitment firms and training colleges that are luring jobseekers into fraudulent training programs.

The Minister for Training and Skills Development Shannon Fentiman has ordered a review of every training provider receiving government subsidies and committed to cut funding to those that have deceived jobseekers.

“I’ve got a clear message for scammers who are tricking jobseekers into training programs – we’re coming after you,” Ms Fentiman said.

The government has also ordered an investigation by the Queensland Training Ombudsman and set up a dedicated online compliance unit to identify scammers.

“I will be working with ASQA, the Office of Fair Trading and the Office of Industrial relations to investigate and crack down on dodgy recruiters and training providers,” Training Ombudsman Geoff Favell said.

Ms Fentiman said a very small group of unscrupulous operators was taking advantage of jobseekers.

She urged anyone who has been a victim of the training scam to phone the Training Scammer hotline – 1800 773 048.

University vice-chancellors reject proposal for VET free-for-all

Australia’s six dual sector universities have rejected the Productivity Commission push for greater competition between TAFEs and private colleges in the VET sector.

In a report responding to the Productivity Commission’s recent review of VET, they argue that “traditional free market principles are not necessarily applicable to the Australian VET system, at least not totally”, according to a report in The Australian.

Charles Darwin University, CQUniversity, Federation, RMIT, Swinburne and Victoria University say the Productivity Commission recommendation would compromise education quality and put them at a disadvantage.

“Governments of all political persuasions do not appear to have learned the lesson that despite the protestations of free marketeers, allowing near unfettered access to government subsidies with little to no oversight will invariably lead to exploitation and profiteering,” the universities warned.

Victoria University vice-chancellor Peter Dawkins said that public VET providers had to meet community service obligations, which had a cost.

“If you go the marketised route, private providers tend to cherry pick the most profitable courses,” he said.

CQUniversity vice-chancellor Nick Klomp said that his institution was not able to operate with the flexibility of private education providers and needed ministerial approval to change courses.

TAFE Queensland in partnership to deliver IT traineeships

TAFE Queensland has entered a partnership with Microsoft, Prodigy Learning and MEGT to deliver  traineeships in a growing area of IT skills need.

The Microsoft traineeship program combines paid on-the-job training with a Certificate IV in Information Technology, with students also able to obtain globally recognised Microsoft certifications.

TAFE Queensland CEO Mary Campbell said the traineeship program will help to deliver the next generation skilled IT workforce.

As the first Microsoft traineeship program intake in Queensland, the program will initially commence with 20 positions.

Trainees will receive paid, on-the-job work experience with MEGT, which will recruit, screen, employ and support each trainee for the duration of the program.

Read more

AIS offers study scholarships for high performing athletes

A generous, private donation has enabled the Australian Institute of Sport to launch an education scholarship to help high-performing athletes to pursue their studies.

Applications are now open for the AIS 2020 Education Scholarship, with an expected 20-30 scholarships worth up to $5,000 on offer.

It is aimed at Australian high performance athletes who are committing themselves beyond their training and competitions, in preparation for a career after sport.

An approved course is a recognised Australian university degree or TAFE course from an educational institution that is part of the Elite Athlete Education Network (EAEN). A listing of educational institutions can be found here.

Applications close 21 September and successful applicants will be notified in late October.

See more.

Diary Dates

AVETRA 2020 Researcher Development Series
Webinars designed for early career, emerging and practitioner researchers
June 2020 – March 2021
More information

TAFE NSW Virtual Open Day 2020
9 – 10 September 2020
More information

VDC 2020 Virtual Teaching & Learning Conference
19 & 20 November 2020
Registrations Open

Australian Training Awards
20 November 2020
More information

TAFE Directors Australia Convention 2021
29 – 30 April 2021
Westin Hotel, Perth
More information coming soon

Worldskills Australia
28 April – 2 May 2021
Perth Exhibition and Convention Centre
More information