Comment by CEO Craig Robertson

Comment by CEO Craig Robertson

Season’s greeting to all of you from the staff at TAFE Directors Australia, the board and our TAFE leaders across the country.  After a tumultuous 2019 we look to 2020 for substantive change, as that is our mission.

This is our last newsletter for 2019.  We will return on Tuesday 28 January after the Australia Day public holiday.

As many in our country face an uncertain 2020 we take this break to gird ourselves for the year ahead, based on the knowledge that genuine vocational education delivered through committed teachers changes lives.

Over two thousand years ago the Eastern (Christmas) Star signalled to tribes of the middle east that a new way of life was being born, according to the current Christian tradition. For the Jewish nation at that time it was the liberation from an occupying force. It was a chance for that people group to make their way in a new life. No matter our traditions in regards to Christmas I trust the story offers you hope for new beginnings. We offer a similar hope through the power of vocational, further and higher education, and this is more important than ever.

For those enduring the most cruel of droughts and fighting the wild flames of bush fires, our thoughts and prayers are with you.

My family will be staying home in Canberra over this break. In fact, I’m under strict instructions to clean up the mess I have created with books and gifts I have received while doing this wonderful job.

What a privilege it is to advocate for that which is good and positive in life. I trust you feel the same.

For some fun, I have reflected on 2019 in the form of the Jingle Bells Christmas Carol. It’s at the end of the newsletter so you read the other news on the way! I hope you enjoy it and forgive the English which has been mangled for the sake of the tune, and the tune that is sacrificed for the sake of the message!

Season’s greeting and a happy new year.

Apprentice commencements take a hit

The number of apprentice commencements fell almost 20% in the June quarter, compared with the same quarter last year, according to the National Centre for Vocational Education Research (NCVER).

One of the more alarming aspects was a drop of almost 40% for construction trades in the June quarter, compared with the corresponding quarter in 2018.

Non-trade commencements increased by 9.3% over the same period, with the biggest increases for carers and aides, up 19.1%, and sales assistants and salespersons, up 16.8%.

There were 272,920 apprentices and trainees in-training at the end of June, a fall of 1.4% from the previous year.

See more

Quarterly trade commencements 2014-2019



TDA Convention - save the date!

It’s time to ‘save the date’ for the next TDA Convention which will be held 12 – 14 August 2020 in Perth.

More information will be coming soon!

University colleges pave the way for a revitalised higher education sector: Bruce MacKenzie

The reinstatement of the University College (UC) as a category in Australia’s tertiary education provider framework affords an opportunity to internationalise the university system, improve student access and success, and create course and institutional diversity, according to VET expert Bruce MacKenzie (pictured).

The Minister for Education Dan Tehan last week accepted all ten recommendations from the Review of Australia’s Higher Education Provider Category Standards by Emeritus Professor Peter Coaldrake.

It will see a new category for high performing non-university providers, to be called “University College”, rather than “National Institute of Higher Education”, as recommended.

Mr MacKenzie, head of the MacKenzie Research Institute, said well-designed university colleges would create a system better able to meet the demands of a heterogeneous range of students and respond to key labour market shortages.

“High performing economies in the OECD have ensured that the status of VET as a partner in tertiary education is maintained. To achieve this, they have diversified the university sector to provide unimpeded access to applied education within a university,” he says in an article for TDA.

“In the previous Higher Education Provider framework, the UC category, with its cumbersome and unnecessary transition arrangements and its preoccupation with research university status, was all but redundant. It simply reinforced the status quo,” he said.

A revised model, he argues, should not emphasise research as a priority but embrace technical vocational applied education in fields such as manufacturing, technology, teaching, human resources, business, construction and health.

“Reimagining the UC model and focusing on applied education and pathways provides reforming governments at both the state and Commonwealth levels with an opportunity to consider structural arrangements at the tertiary level as well as revitalise upper secondary education.”

See Re-imagining the University college: a game changer for equity and access by Bruce Mackenzie, MacKenzie Research Institute.

Satisfaction with skills training remains high

The overall level of satisfaction with skills training has remained at a reasonably high level, according to the latest National Student Outcomes Survey, compiled by the NCVER.

The survey provides a summary of the outcomes of students who completed nationally recognised VET during 2018.

Among graduates, 88.1% were satisfied with the overall quality of training, up 1.3 percentage points from the previous survey.

Almost 66% had improved their employment status after training.

Of those employed before training, 18% were employed at a higher skill level after training, up 1.5 percentage points from the previous year.

Of those not employed before training, 46.8% were employed after training, down 1.6 percentage points.

See more


VET and university qualification to be aligned under reform plan

The federal government has accepted all the recommendations of the review of the Australian Qualifications Framework (AQF), pending discussions with the states and territories regarding specific reforms to the VET sector.

The review, headed by Professor Peter Noonan, recommended closer alignment between the higher education and VET sectors. Key recommendations include:

  • Senior secondary students can study subjects at school that count towards a VET qualification or university degree.
  • Recognition of microcredentials to allow providers to offer short, highly-targeted courses.
  • VET and higher education to have clear and flexible entry and exit points, as well as pathways within and between the two.

The government has accepted all recommendations in relation to higher education and accepted the “aims of recommendations” in relation to VET, contingent on further discussions with state and territory governments.

The Minister for Employment, Skills, Small and Family Business Michaelia Cash said the government would continue to work closely with the sector and state and territory skills ministers.

“We will fully consider the recommendations in the context of our broader reform agenda, including the COAG VET Roadmap already underway,” Senator Cash said.

See more

See the latest WFCP newsletter

See the latest edition of Dispatch, the newsletter of the World Federation of Colleges and Polytechnics (WFCP).

Articles include the implementation of the Technical-Professional Qualifications Framework in Chile, how to apply for the WFCP Awards of Excellence, a recap of the European Vocational Skills Week in Helsinki, a look at undergraduate research experiences across STEM, and why big US franchises are offering education benefits to their employees.

National Skills Week to include 'ideas' forum

Next year’s National Skills Week will include a one-day event, bringing together leaders and innovators in VET and skills training.

An “Orchestra of Ideas” will be held on August 24 at Sydney’s International Convention Centre and is aimed at VET and skills educators, career advisers, transition officers, senior pathways and tertiary practitioners. It is part of the 2020 National Skills Week that will run 24 – 30 August.

You can register your interest for further information and updates at or contact Anne Cazar, Project Manager, National Skills Week on 0438 8088 848

See more

A Christmas Ode to Vocational Education and Training in Australia for 2019

(to the tune Jingle Bells)

Happy VET, Snappy VET

Vocation has its day!

Who can fault the plan she has

Mich-ael-i-a all the way.


Dashing through our VET

Like a tradie’s ‘lectric ute

The Joyce plan is set

Everything is beaut

Ca-sh sells the dream

Irons gives a hand

Giving us a brand-new scheme

Come join the merry band


The PM had a plan

Kiwi through and through

Details in the can

Off to Cairns he flew

Showed it to his mates

Waiting for a clap

Oh, it failed to work for states

So now we have a map


Happy VET, Snappy VET

Vocation has its day!

Who can fault the plan she has

Mich-ael-i-a all the way.


Gladys and Scott opine

Post school we’re sector blind

VET is just as fine

As uni you will find

Don’t treat us as naive

Just get on with the job

What joy, what bliss, if we receive

Cash like that uni mob


Holding cash so tight

All the numbers in free-fall

PC please review

Who has dropped the ball

Look and you will see

Feds are funding frigs

No new funds and it will be

Like lipstick on a pig


Happy VET, poor-old VET

New funding, no delay

How can we believe your plan

When we all get to pay


Reviewed the A Q F

So the levels can relate

Decision oh so deft

Levels 10 to 8

But they will all be hid

types is all we’ll see

ask we must why we have slid

from eight to ten plus three!


VET seems up for grabs

In reviews through and through

We’ve seen it all before

All action, nothing new

Let’s change things at the core

Learning is the key

I’ve said this many times before

The sector’s all at sea


Happy VET, aging VET

Chasing something new

One thing you’d expect I’d say

The Packages hold the clue


Tri-part-ite is the key

But industry is king

Better done in threes

Cause union power can sting

Me and Troy can feud

Who makes the biggest claim

Time to change the mood

Be-cause our progress is the aim


Happy VET, slappy VET

A sector all at sea

Come and give us all a say

together is the key


Soon our year is done

Grip-ing at an end

Time to be as one

Can we turn the bend?

Australia needs us hummin

Just like a big mack rig

That corner still is comin’

So-o excuse my one last dig


TAFE is VET, trusted VET

The best is what I say!

Believe me Mr Morris-on

Our TAFEs are here to stay


TAFE is VET, trusted VET

The best is what I say!

Believe me Mr Morris-on

Our TAFEs are here to stay


Ho, ho, ho, ho, ho.




Diary Dates

Youth Futures Summit
20 – 21 April 2020
Melbourne Cricket Ground
More information

AVETRA Conference
20/20 vision for VET: Research at the centre of future policy and practice
23 – 24 April 2020
More information

VDC 2020 Teaching & Learning Conference
14 – 15 May 2020
RACV Torquay Resort, Great Ocean Road, Victoria
Registrations opening soon

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

‘No Frills’ 2020, 29th National VET Research Conference
NCVER co-hosted with TAFE WA, North Metropolitan TAFE
8 – 10 July 2020
Perth, Western Australia
More information

TAFE Directors Australia Convention
12 – 14 August 2020
More information coming soon

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

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

World Federation of Colleges and Polytechnics
2020 World Congress

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