Career kickstart at TAFE – comment by CEO Craig Robertson

Career kickstart at TAFE – comment by CEO Craig Robertson

By design or luck –the Morrison Government’s focus on careers development is well timed.

As we contemplate coming out of COVID-19 the carnage in the labour market is difficult to ignore.

The Reserve Bank Board last week concluded that unemployment is expected to peak at around 10 per cent for the remainder of 2020 and still be above 7 per cent at the end of next year. As disturbing this is as a headline figure, it is on top of the persistent underemployment (more people wanting to work more hours) before the crisis and disguises the deep impact on young people who will be at the back of a longer queue to get into work.

The National Careers Institute was established at the instigation of the Joyce Review. As reported later in the newsletter, the institute is offering Project grants of up to $700,000 for innovative proposals which improve career information pathways and services.

TAFEs are a good place to start. Let me share with you just some of the practical outcomes from several of the Skills and Jobs Centres (SJCs) run through TAFEs and dual sector universities in Victoria.

Boxhill Institute operates three SJCs – the CBD, Box Hill and Lilydale. In 2019 they provided guidance and services to over 2,100 individuals and in the first quarter this year, despite COVID, have helped over 400. While most participants are unemployed, many are employed or studying and seeking career advice and some are parents looking to return to work.

Janet Lang of the Holmesglen SJC placed Doyne, who had just completed his electrical pre‑apprenticeship at Holmesglen, and Hamish, who sought out the services of the SJC, with Ellapack as blow mould technicians. Janet describes the unique nature of the SJC service,  “opportunities like this can help students with their personal wellbeing, which will also help them with their studies.”

The SJC at Wodonga TAFE works with Towong Shire and Corryong and Tallangatta Learn Locals providing targeted training and skills development, helping to cope with COVID-19 and rebuilding after the summer’s devastating bushfires. Wodonga donated 200 plants to the Upper Murray Community Recovery Hub’s Mother’s Day activities on top of the 2,000 seedlings being grown by the Agriculture and Horticulture Department to aid in bushfire recovery.

Wodonga TAFE

The SJC for Chisholm Institute serves the Dandenong region, one of the most multicultural and disadvantaged communities in Australia. In a prime location in the main street the centre is a gathering point for locals looking for employment and education opportunities.  Chisholm has established a three-step career program, which develops employability and enhances career readiness, to support students to transition into employment at the completion of their studies.

Chisholm CEO, Stephen Varty acknowledges “the South-East of Melbourne is one of the most disadvantaged regions in the state, and locally we suffer from pockets of high unemployment. Our Skills and Jobs Centre does a great job connecting those in need to employment and education and offers workshops to ensure people are prepared for job interviews and are work-ready.

“We anticipate higher levels of unemployment and disadvantage in the coming months and we’re committed to support our students and the community more generally,” he said.

Making Mallacoota Great Again is just part of the activities of Gippsland SJC. TAFE Gippsland is delivering training as part of the bushfire recovery program for the fire-ravaged community of Mallacoota.

Construction Induction Card (CIC) training is taking place in the seaside hamlet and, according to Interim Project Manager, Stuart Cooper, they have been, “a big hit with local students”.

“With eight students enrolled today and another six tomorrow, the numbers may be modest but they represent a huge boost for the Mallacoota community post the summer bushfires,” Stuart said.

The CIC training allows the participant to register with Grocon, which has the contract for clean-up work on properties lost during the fires.

Local connections with business drives The Gordon’s SJC. Headquartered in Geelong, The Gordon has a close working relationship with the National Disability Insurance Authority. As part of the authority’s drive to grow awareness of the job opportunities through the NDIS the SJC hosted a Facebook Live event – Industry Insights into Careers at NDIA. Originally scheduled to be held at the SJC, there were 14 participants registered, however, the Facebook Live event has been viewed 704 times, has reached 2796 people and had 393 engagements.

The Pathfinders SJC at South West TAFE helped a local lady who had not engaged with education for over 27 years to enrol in the Certificate III in Individual Support for work in Aged-Care. Sue’s story in her own words are featured below.

Pathfinders – South West TAFE

The messages from the Skills and Job Centres are many and varied. At the core though it says there is no wrong door at a TAFE – for citizens, for business, for the community. As institutes with a comprehensive range of post-school education offerings, student and business focused support services and staff committed to the community, TAFEs are the place to build careers, whether starting or refreshing.

While Victoria calls theirs Skills and Job Centres and WA calls theirs Jobs and Skills Centres, all TAFEs offer the same public service.

TAFEs, quite rightly, quite properly, as public institutions have been the anchor during the COVID-19 response – see more stories of the TAFE COVID response on the TDA website. As a network of TAFEs across Australia committed to vocational education for citizens, community and industry, they will be the backbone of a coherent and compassionate career support system for many Australians during the recovery.


Let me finish with two personal stories which demonstrates the benefits of that power.

Retail was all that I knew, 16 years and counting… I was your usual checkout chick at Coles, you know the one who was there no matter the time of the day nor the time of the year always there to help, this was my life along with raising two children as well as being a wife, friend and, daughter. I needed something for me.

A sighting of a Fed Uni logo on a customer’s clothing and a plan was set, took awhile but I turned up at Fed Uni Job and Skill Centre without a clue of what I wanted to do. I knew I loved working with people and I knew a few things about businesses but what sort of uni/TAFE course combines the two of those things? Chatting with the advisor and Diploma of Business was the goal!

After a few stumbling blocks and two years of study, I walked out on that stage at the Regent as a graduate! All my hard work and dedication to study had paid off but I was still working retail and wishing for more…

Another meeting with the job advisor and a resume was sent off for an opportunity that was what I thought out of my reach. A few months of waiting to see if my application was successful and bam! the process of beginning a career with Serco and the Police Assistance Line began.

After 18 years of being the checkout chick, I am now taking calls for people who have been affected by crime and in need of police assistance with lost items or general enquiries.

I love my new career and have the qualifications as well as the skills that will take me anywhere I wish… if a change is ever needed again I know that I will be heading to see the wonderful staff at Fed Uni for direction.

Hi, my name is Sue I am a mum of five children and I care for four of them at home. They too have busy lives with them attending school, playing sport and working jobs.

I did a three-day course at Hyland Street in Warrnambool which led me to meet Riki Fox at Pathfinders Skills & Jobs Centre. I was very nervous and didn’t know what I was doing. I kept changing what course I wanted to do. I didn’t have much confidence in myself and was doubting if I could do a course. One of my fears was using a computer and completing the online test. I kept going back to Skills & Jobs Centre where I sought assistance with Cert 111 in Individual Support as the right course for me.

I was nervous about going to class and meeting new people and knowing I had to use computers. At first I thought it was too hard and would go and see Jo at Skills & Jobs Centre and she reassured me.

My experience working with Pathfinders Skills & Jobs Centre has been really positive. I have used them to do my resume and cover letter and they have given me assistance to search for jobs and practice job interviews as I have never had one before. I even did a phone and video interview. As I was going through the process I would go back to the Skills & Jobs Centre and they would encourage me to follow through to the next stage. I have now secured the job and am loving the work.

The outcome has been that I applied for three jobs with the help of Pathfinder Skills & Jobs. The first interview I went to was not successful and the people at Skills & Jobs Centre talked me into keep trying and even though I was upset I could see they were right. I was successful applicant for both jobs however only decided to take on one that fitted in with my personal life. I am now self-employed, working in Aged Care part time and studying the Certificate 1V in Disability.

I came across two people that completed course at TAFE at the same time as me. When they asked me how I get a job I told them about the Skills & Jobs Centre and all the help I had received with my resume, interview tips, and they encourage you for whatever job / career you would like to undertake. I have recommended them to anyone who will listen.

Governments take first look at post COVID-19 skills reform 

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg has revealed that the Commonwealth and states have been working on plans for post-COVID-19 skills reform, including the idea of independent assessment of a person’s skills.

The Treasurer told the National Press Club that re-skilling and upskilling of the workforce would be one of the main priorities in re-opening the economy.

“Accreditation of skills are one of the recommendations out of the Shifting the Dial report, which was raised in the conversation with state treasurers last week,” he said.

“There is work that is being undertaken across jurisdictional lines in order to try and get those skills and accreditation changes to enhance the economy. It is one area among many that we will be focused on for reform once we get through this crisis.”

The Productivity Commission Shifting the Dial report recommended the government move to the independent accreditation of skills.

It suggested that the government “in conjunction with employers, the Industry and Skills Committee and the Australian Skills Quality Authority, should investigate areas of vocational education and training where an independent certification model could robustly test a person’s skills.”

The Joyce Review also recommended a pilot of independent assessment validation schemes to be undertaken by the National Skills Commission.

National Skills Commission has listened and is ready to roll

The new National Skills Commission (NSC) has taken the first steps to identifying its priority objectives, following a four-month stakeholder consultation.

The NSC has released a paper, ‘This is what we heard’ summarising the outcome of the consultations.

“There was widespread and consistent support across stakeholder groups for a mechanism that would revitalise leadership of VET,” the paper said.

“Different stakeholders proposed that the NSC provide strategic leadership across a broad range of areas, including VET policy, standards, funding and pricing, and improving linkages with other education sectors.”

The paper said there was also strong support for the NSC to lead an economy-wide focus on skills and workforce development, rather than just a focus on qualifications “which would limit capacity to consider other learning approaches such as micro-credentials, non-accredited training and informal learning.”

“The focus on skills was also identified as the enabler to address the long-standing challenges in the sector including quality, training products, apprenticeship regulation and overall investment,” it said.

The consultation included 13 workshops attended by more than 500 people, 35 individual consultations with sector leaders, roundtables with small and medium employers, and 59 submissions to a discussion paper.

Training set to resume but international education in the last wave

The return of international students has been included in the third and final stage of the federal government’s plan for the re-opening of the economy.

The three-stage framework agreed by the National Cabinet foreshadows a return to more normal activity by July, with detailed decisions to be taken by the states and territories.

For the education and training sector, the guidelines encourage universities and technical colleges to “increase face-to-face where possible and prioritise hands-on, skills based learning.”

It’s only in stage three that the guidelines envisage the return of international education, a move that could occur by July.

Discussing the return of international students, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the government would work with institutions to see how it could be achieved.

“But it has to be done according to those strict quarantine restrictions and how that’s done and how that those costs are met and so there’s a lot of steps to work through but, I mean, we’re open to everything pretty much to get the Australian economy back and firing again as much as possible,” he said.

$100m provided to small businesses to save apprenticeships

More than $100 million has been paid to almost 13,000 employers to protect the jobs of approximately 22,000 apprentices and trainees under the federal government’s Supporting Apprentices and Trainees measure, announced in early April.

The program provides a 50 per cent wage subsidy to small business employers of apprentices and trainees, including those using a group training organisation (GTO), to cover wages paid from January 1 to September 30, worth up to $7,000 per quarter for each eligible employee.

Employers of any size and GTOs that re-engage eligible out of trade apprentices or trainees are also eligible for the subsidy.

Apprentices and trainees who have lost their jobs as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic are also being connected with new work and training through the new Apprentice and Trainee Re-engagement Register.

Government names members of mining industry skills pilot

The federal government has named the members of the steering group that will run the pilot for the new mining industry skills organisation.

The Minerals Council of Australia is operating the mining pilot, with the aim of making the training system more responsive to the skills needs of industry.

Chair of the steering group is Tania Constable, CEO of the Minerals Council of Australia, a former senior public servant who worked in Treasury and in the resource and energy sectors.

Other members are Andrea Maxey, Vice-President of Corporate Affairs, Community and Human Resources with AngloGold Ashanti Australia; Chris Salisbury, Chief Executive, Iron Ore, Rio Tinto; Christine Gibbs Stewart, CEO, Austmine; Greg Graham, Chief Executive WesTrac (NSW & ACT); and Warwick Jones, Head of Human Resources with Anglo American’s Metallurgical Coal (Australia & Canada).

The mining, digital technology and human services care pilots were announced as a part of the government’s $585 million Delivering Skills for Today and Tomorrow package.

Applications open for National Careers Institute Partnership Grants program

Project grants of up to $700,000 are available for innovative proposals which improve career information pathways and services for Australian students, job seekers, career changers and upskillers.

The federal government is seeking collaborative applications from schools, employers, industry bodies, tertiary education providers, governments and researchers.

Examples of successful partnership applications may propose to:

  • establish virtual workspaces with industry partners
  • grow career advisor capacity and capability
  • increase the reach and impact of existing proven programs
  • support career influencers to help career decision-makers
  • research projects that inform government policy.

The government is looking for outcomes that demonstrate the value of career development, develop and showcase innovative approaches, increases the knowledge and awareness of career pathway information or provides innovative evidence-based career development information.

Grants range from $20,000 to $700,000, and will be funded for a maximum of two years. Round one applications will close on 30 June 2020.

More information

ASQA's explains its approach to COVID-19

The Australian Skills Quality Authority (ASQA) has addressed key questions facing training providers during COVID-19, including requirements for work-based assessment, the shift to online learning and the resumption of audit activity.

In a webinar, Benn Gramola, Acting General Manager, Regulatory Operations, and Emma Marks, Assistant General Manager, Regulatory Operations have outlined the way ASQA is responding during the “hibernation” period and what providers need to do.

Listen to the webinar and see presentation slides.

Diary Dates

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

Vocational and Professional Education and Training (VPET) International Conference 2020 (Live Online)
“Skilling for the Future”
15 May 2020
More information

2020 VET CEO Conference (postponed)
Velg Training
15 May 2020
QT Gold Coast Hotel, Surfers Paradise, Queensland
More Information

Velg Training & MRWED
22-26 June 2020
More Information

National Manufacturing Summit 2020 (cancelled)
Manufacturing a Sustainable Future
6 & 7 July 2020
Gold Coast, Queensland
More information

‘No Frills’ 2020, 29th National VET Research Conference Online
National Centre for Vocational Education Research
7 – 10 July 2020
More information

TAFE Directors Australia Convention 2020 (cancelled)
12 – 14 August 2020
Westin Hotel, Perth
More information

Worldskills Australia (re-scheduled to April-May 2021)
12 – 15 August 2020
Perth Exhibition and Convention Centre
More information

National Skills Week
24 – 30 August 2020
Various locations
More information 

2020 National VET Conference (postponed)
Velg Training
17 – 18 September 2020
Gold Coast Convention and Exhitbiton Centre, Broadbeach, Queensland
More Information

World Federation of Colleges and Polytechnics (cancelled)
2020 World Congress

14 – 16 October 2020
Donostia – San Sebastian, Spain
More information

Apprentice Employment Network NSW & ACT
Annual 2020 Skills Conference
5 November 2020
More information

VDC 2020 Teaching & Learning Conference
19 & 20 November 2020
RACV Torquay Resort, Great Ocean Road, Victoria
Registrations Open

Australian Training Awards
20 November 2020
More information

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