Can we arrest the decline? – comment by CEO Craig Robertson

Can we arrest the decline? – comment by CEO Craig Robertson

Those who hold dear our apprenticeship and traineeship model would have been distressed this past week surveying NCVER’s latest quarterly (September 2018) figures[1] for this the most formal part of vocational education and training in Australia (see story below).

Much has been made of the fall in numbers over the last six years. It started from 2013 when the Commonwealth withdrew from employers its $4000 financial incentive for existing worker trainees in areas it deemed non-priority. These traineeships dried up overnight, as shown from this chart[2] and felt mainly in retail and clerical.

Commencement Trends in Trade and Non-trade apprenticeships and traineeships
The policy change is defensible – traineeships are an agreement between the employer and governments to open-up an employment opportunity for an individual who otherwise is not skilled for the job, with the government assisting the new starter with training. Existing workers have a job!There’s a deeper story though. The trend in commencements over five years shows there should be concern for both Trade and Non-trade training, with specific occupations warranting attention and drawn out in this table.

Why is it in this age of the technology revolution we have such low and declining numbers in ICT? Even the total number of VET students training in ICT – 25,000 in 2017 as shown in the 2017 Government Funded Students and Courses – is woefully short of the demand we know intuitively for these skills. And 28 per cent decline in community and personal service roles is certainly heading in the wrong direction given the Department of Jobs estimates 250,300 additional new jobs in this area will be required in the five years to 2023.

The Skilling Australians Fund has been established to arrest this trend. The signing states and territories, all bar Victoria and Queensland, have committed to an additional 26,069 apprentices/trainees this financial year. The decline in the September Quarter – the first of the financial year – shows there’s a lot of catching up to do.

Over this period there has been strong employment conditions, even high rates of full-time employment. Surely in these conditions employers would be keen to “give one to the country and their industry” and take on a trainee, especially as there are discounted wages via apprenticeship award arrangements or the National Training Wage. But no.

What’s the root cause? I don’t know. I’d hazard a couple of guesses – the regulation on employers dampens their spirit, potential candidates can find other employment probably that is more convenient for them and better paying. Technology and work redesign is likely reducing the need for skilled trade hands in some areas. And for retail and cookery, I suspect international students are taking the work to supplement their living costs.

What to do? I do know higher incentive payments to employers is dead-weight. I suspect it’s time for a fundamental rethink. We need something radical to reverse the decline. ‘Apprenticeship’ has been a central tenet of VET and the pioneer of work-integrated-learning which we don’t want to lose, but what is that model for a 21st Century Australia with its 21st Century employers and 21st Century candidates?

[2] Source: Finding the truth in the apprenticeships debate, Mitchell Institute, ttp://

Apprentice completions now down almost 50 per cent over last four years

The poor state of traineeships and apprenticeships was highlighted in the latest NCVER figures. In the year to September 2018, completions fell by 10.4%, to 86,880 and are down 46.8% on the 163,160 that completed in 2014.

Commencements were also weaker, down 1.6% to 158,640 in the 12 months to September, compared with the same period in 2017.

There were 267,385 apprentices and trainees in-training at September 2018, a decrease of 0.6% from 30 September 2017.

Determining trends between in-training, commencement and completion is difficult but one thing is certain – the decline in participation and success for individuals continues.
See more.

Apprentice completions (Quarterly activity over the last five years) Source: NCVER

Time to start planning for universal tertiary education, academic says

Whichever party wins the next federal election will need to finish the job of creating a unified tertiary education sector where the “false trichotomy” of a degree, a trade or a job is finally abandoned, according to a new discussion by Curtin University Senior Research Fellow Tim Pitman.

Writing in The Conversation, he says too many Australians, and successive governments, think in terms of students having to make a choice between university or vocational studies or neither.

“Tertiary education policy shouldn’t be seen this way,” he says.

“For many people, the false trichotomy of degree-or-trade-or-job is locked in way too early by social and family expectations, and curriculum choices. Greater flexibility in how lifelong education is understood and explained (in terms of pathways and options) needs to be developed at the policy level.”

He says that in many cases, there are fewer financial barriers to doing a university degree than a vocational course.

“This can lead some students to make a choice that seems right for them, but over the long term doesn’t work out.”

The regulatory structure in tertiary education, he says, means that students can be more certain of what they are getting from universities than from VET providers.

He argues that the VET sector could benefit from an approach more akin to that of the Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency oversight of higher education.

“Given there are more than 5,000 vocational providers, a more realistic approach might be to provide a similar oversight (or even expand TEQSA) to cover all courses offered by the public TAFES, to begin with,” he said.

TAFE SA graduates on the slipway to shipbuilding college

TAFE SA has welcomed new education pathways for its graduates of the Associate Degree and Diploma of Engineering – Technical, following the announcement of guaranteed entry into the Australian Maritime College’s Bachelor of Engineering programs, including Naval Architecture.

Students in TAFE SA’s Diploma of Project Management will also receive direct entry and credit into the Bachelor of Global Logistics and Maritime Management at the college.

TAFE SA Director Defence Industries, Penny Johnston, said TAFE SA was pleased to be providing these new pathways for careers in this rapidly growing industry.

“Vocational education has a critical role to play in building the capacity and ability of the shipbuilding workforce and we are pleased that our qualifications have been recognised as providing a valuable pathway to the Australian Maritime College’s bachelor degrees,” she said.

TAFE SA is working closely with the Australian Maritime College and the Naval Shipbuilding College to maximise skills for the Future Frigates and Future Submarine programs.

Wodonga TAFE CEO steps down to take on civic leadership role

The CEO of Wodonga TAFE, Mark Dixon (pictured) has announced that he is leaving the institution after four years to take on a new role as CEO of the City of Wodonga.

He said he made the decision with some regret and sadness but said the new position was a career step where he hoped to “make a difference as a leader of change within my regional community.”

The CEO of TDA Craig Robertson said that Wodonga TAFE has been an exemplary TAFE under Mark’s leadership.

“It was fitting that the institute was awarded  the large training provider of the year for 2018 and is rightly recognised as the leading provider across Australia.

“All TAFE CEOs and staff from TDA have appreciated the way Mark has worked collaboratively across the network of TAFEs and his championing of regional education and training issues,” he said.

Before starting with TAFE, Mark had a distinguished background in the military. He served in the British Army for 20 years where he was a bomb disposal officer. He moved to Australia in 2005 and joined the Australian Army, serving as a squadron commander in Iraq, before becoming head of training for the ADF’s counter IED task force, also serving as director of operations in Afghanistan.

TDA extends its best wishes to Mark on his outstanding achievement at Wodonga TAFE and best wishes on his new role.

ACT announces first program under Skilling Australians Fund

The ACT government has announced a skills funding program to boost apprenticeships as part of the territory’s agreement with the Commonwealth under the Skilling Australians Fund.

The Future Skills for Future Jobs Grants Program will provide $2m for innovative projects that promote “market diversification” and lift apprenticeships, including pre-apprenticeships, pre-traineeships and higher apprenticeships.

The Minister for Vocational Education and Skills Meegan Fitzharris said “There really are no limits, with funding available to a range of industries in the ACT including tourism, health, agriculture, cyber, renewable energy, space, digital and engineering.”

Applications for funding will be received through an Expression of Interest process. EOIs will be received in six week rounds, to continue until available funding is exhausted. The first funding round has opened and will close March 20.

See more.

More TAFE promises as NSW election edges closer

Last week’s newsletter discussed the election bidding war centred on TAFE that is occurring in New South Wales ahead of the state election on March 23.

There was no let up during the past week, with the Liberal-National Coalition promising more TAFE regional and country campuses, taking the total to eight – Batemans Bay, Byron Bay, Cobar, Hay, Jindabyne, Nambucca Heads, Nelson Bay and West Wyalong.

These are in addition to the Coalition’s promise of a new $80m TAFE facility in Western Sydney, and the promise of an extra 100,000 free TAFE places if re-elected.

Labor is promising 600,000 fee-free TAFE places over the next decade and is guaranteeing that 70% of contestable funding will go to TAFE.

William Angliss Institute celebrates success at graduation events

Two hundred students from William Angliss Institute were launched into careers in food, tourism, hospitality, events and hotel management at graduation ceremonies at the La Trobe Street Campus last week.

William Angliss welcomed back notable alumni as keynote speakers – award-winning chef Michael Cole and 2013 Bachelor of Culinary Management graduate Conan Gomes.

Special achievement awards went to Dux of Bachelor of Event Management, Lissette Ordonez Camero, and Dux of Bachelor of Tourism and Hospitality Management, Fiona Lo Hui Lo Hog Tian.

South Australian VET teachers, trainers funded to upgrade skills

VET practitioners in South Australia will be able to upgrade their skills under the state government’s new $1m Building Capability Framework, announced last week.

The Minister for Industry and Skills David Pisoni said the program would strengthen the capacity of teachers and trainers, as well as the assessors of apprentices and trainees.

He said a series of professional development programs will be available to support and inspire excellence, including promoting best practice in training, assessment and educational leadership.

“Strong engagement with the skills sector has led to the development of the framework, which includes ongoing professional development events and interactive workshops.

“Additionally, regular forums will strengthen networks between providers, professional groups, industry and government and include masterclasses; regular teaching and learning seminars.”

For more information, call 1800 673 097 or visit the Skills Gateway website.

Diary Dates

VDC 2019 Teaching & Learning Conference
16 & 17 May 2019
RACV Torquay Resort, Great Ocean Road, Victoria
Early bird registrations now open  

2019 VET CEO Conference
Velg Training
17 May 2019
Doltone House – Sydney
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2019 EduTech
6-7 June 2019
International Convention Centre, Sydney
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Skills Conference 2019
Apprentice Employment Network NSW & ACT
13 June 2019
Dockside Darling Harbour
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22nd Annual Conference of the Australian Vocational Education and Training Research Association (AVETRA)
No future for old VET’: Researching for the training system/s of tomorrow
17-18 June 2019
Western Sydney University and University College, Parramatta, Sydney
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No Frills
28th National Vocational Education and Training Research Conference
10-12 July 2019
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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
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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
4-6 September 2019
More information coming soon

2019 National VET Conference
Velg Training
12 &13 September 2019
Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre, Brisbane
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Australian Training Awards
21 November 2019
Brisbane, Queensland
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