COVID and the Power of TAFE – comment by CEO Jenny Dodd

COVID and the Power of TAFE – comment by CEO Jenny Dodd

Welcome back to the TDA Newsletter. It is always exciting to start a new academic year and to engage with students on campus, in workplaces and online.

Unfortunately, it seems that 2022 is still far from ‘back to normal’ and those on-campus connections will continue to be constrained. As the world in which we work and study continues to be disrupted, this impact is felt by both existing and new students, and on the supply chain of skilled and qualified workers for industry.

Last Thursday the Power of the TAFE was evident as CEOs and Executives from across the country met online to discuss their strategies for managing living with COVID. Victorian TAFEs and dual sector universities, who we know have had the longest and most serious impact, led the discussion. This was followed by TAFE NSW and Canberra Institute of Technology, and then all the States and Territories who have had more recent experiences.

We heard the extremely positive responses that TAFEs and dual sector universities have made including their investments in IT systems, professional development for staff to deliver online learning, additional resources for student support, and scholarships for disadvantaged students.

One of the most important themes was acknowledging and working with the anxiety and exhaustion that the pandemic has caused amongst students. Another was communicating the public health orders in the TAFE context. Both have required extensive resourcing and commitment.

There were also practical discussions about how to manage the huge backlog of students (especially those who had not completed mandatory work placement), which students should be back on campus first, how to procure requisite protection equipment such as masks, plans for the distribution of rapid antigen tests, and the vexed problem of the vaccinated versus the unvaccinated.

A constant theme was the broad industry scope that is delivered and pivoting training responses to each circumstance. Remaining flexible and agile was part of the message.

The diversity of types of students, including those in remote communities, has required unique solutions. Like our colleagues in the community colleges sector, TDA has concerns for the ongoing impact of COVID and what that means for disadvantaged students’ engagement with vocational education and training. TDA supports the CEO of Communities Colleges Australia, Don Perlgut’s requests for more support for disadvantaged learners during this crisis. Refer to Don’s January opinion piece, Will Omicron devastate Australian Vocational Education and Training in 2022?

This huge, two-year, student-focused effort has been, and continues to be, amazing. The impact on our current situation is still unclear but there are concerning early signs of new students’ anxiety, evidenced by lower new enrolments in 2022.

Given the scale of everything TDA members are dealing with, we call on those who have responsibility for other parts of the VET system to actively work with all RTOs to minimise unnecessary administrative and bureaucratic processes and to focus, with us, on students. Reducing further impact on existing students is critical, and supporting new students to engage is essential.

ASQA releases draft fees and charges

The Australian Skills Quality Authority (ASQA) has released the proposed fees and charges that will apply under the full cost recovery model to commence from July 1.

Originally, the full cost recovery of fees and charges was to apply in 2020-21 but was postponed in response to the COVID pandemic.

ASQA has issued a draft Cost Recovery Implementation Statement which sets out how fees and charges have been calculated and how they will be levied.

ASQA says that changes to fees for 2022-23 will see:

  • Fees for registration, renewal, and changes to registration largely at, or below, the costs proposed in the 2019 consultation
  • Course accreditation fees at the same level proposed in 2019
  • The Annual Registration Charge (ARC) for providers which reflects that, between November 2021 (when the last CRIS was published) and 1 July 2022, ASQA will have achieved further efficiencies
  • A decision not to proceed with the 2019 proposal to introduce an ARC for course accreditation.

ASQA is working with the Provider Roundtable (which includes TDA) and the Stakeholder Liaison Group (includes TAFE representatives) on implementation of the measures. It is inviting feedback from individual providers, course owners and other stakeholders on the proposed fees and charges.

See the draft CRIS and provide feedback on the proposed fees and charges using this form by Wednesday 9 February 2022.

DSO and PwC join forces to bid for industry cluster

The Digital Skills Organisation (DSO) and PwC’s Skills for Australia have teamed up to make a bid for one of nine proposed new industry clusters that will be a centrepiece of a reformed VET system.

DSO and PwC announced in December that they would be jointly bidding to run the industry cluster responsible for the finance, technology and business sectors.

The federal government has opened applications for funding to operate the new industry clusters which will replace the 67 Industry Reference Committees and six Skills Service Organisations, and will be fully operational by January 2023.

DSO and PwC said their joint bid brings “considerable experience, commitment and expertise, capable of driving the new model of skills reform in these critical sectors.”

The CEO of the DSO, Patrick Kidd said the partnership would be led by the DSO and would contribute to a national education and training system which was agile, relevant, data-driven and accessible to all.

“This is an incredible opportunity for all industry players to come together to drive the changes they need to create the workforce of the future,” he said.

Commonwealth announces changes to international student visas

The federal government has announced a range of measures to address critical workforce shortages, and to encourage the rapid return of international students and working holiday makers to Australia.

Visa extensions for COVID-19 affected Temporary Graduate (subclass 485) visa holders
On January 18, the Government announced that Temporary Graduate (subclass 485) visa holders who are eligible for a replacement Temporary Graduate visa because they lost time in Australia as a result of COVID-19 international travel restrictions, will have their visas extended to 30 September 2022. This interim measure allows eligible Temporary Graduate (subclass 485) visa holders who were affected by COVID-19 travel restrictions, to enter, or remain in,​ Australia to live and work until they can apply for and be granted a replacement Temporary Graduate visa. For more information, visit the Minister’s website.

Temporary removal of work restrictions for student visa holders
Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, announced on January 19 a further temporary relaxation of the 40 hour per fortnight restriction on work hours for international students across all sectors of the Australian economy to immediately alleviate workforce pressures. The additional flexibility in work hours for student visa holders does not change the requirement that student visa holders must continue to maintain their course enrolment, ensure satisfactory course attendance, and ensure satisfactory course progress.  Student visa holders who cancel their enrolment and stop attending classes, or fail to meet satisfactory course progress, may be in breach of their visa conditions.

Visa Application Charge refunds for students arriving before 19 March 2022
The government also announced that students who arrive in Australia between 19 January and 19 March 2022 will be eligible for a refund of their visa application charge. This measure applies to students who already have a visa, and may have already travelled to Australia on that visa before returning to their home country during the pandemic. It will also apply to students who apply, provided they are granted a visa and travel to Australia before 19 March 2022. It does not apply to students who are already in Australia.

More information will be published on the Department of Home Affairs website shortly.

TAFETalks: Register now for Wednesday 2 February 2022!

Registration for these events is free! If you cannot attend the event live, please register and we will send you the link to the recording.

TAFETalks: Academic integrity in VET and Higher Education

Date: Wednesday 2 February at 2.00pm AEDT (Canberra/Melbourne/Sydney time)

Duration: 1 hour

Guest speakers:

  • Dr Helen Gniel, Director, Higher Education Integrity Unit at the Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency (TEQSA)
  • Ms Sharon Waitzer, Director Education and Engagement – Quality at the Australian Skills Quality Authority (ASQA)

All TAFEs are concerned about the rising instance of academic cheating, in particular the rise of websites that students who want to do the wrong thing can access. The two regulators, ASQA and TEQSA are developing strategies to minimise these risks and to exercise control in this area. Hear from ASQA and TEQSA about their actions in relation to academic integrity.

Dr Helen Gniel is the Director of the Higher Education Integrity Unit at the Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency (TEQSA). Dr Gniel brings a wealth of experience to the role following a 20 year career in Australia’s higher education sector as a scientist, academic, and quality assurance professional. From 2018 to 2021, Dr Gniel has served as the Senior Advisor, Quality and Standards at Monash University. Prior to her appointment at Monash, Dr Gniel worked as a Senior Assessment Manager at TEQSA and an academic at the Australian National University.

Sharon Waitzer has dedicated nearly 20 years to improving the quality of training and learning outcomes in the VET sector. Currently the Director Education and Engagement – Quality at ASQA, Sharon is passionate about contributing to quality training frameworks and standards that can help empower the sector to continuously improve the quality VET training.
She is an advocate of creating innovation in the sector and has led numerous projects to enhance professional learning and development for VET training providers. Sharon is experienced in establishing and maintaining collaborative networks with industry, government, peak bodies, education, and research communities throughout Australia to improve the quality of VET delivery to students.

Registration:  To register for this event, please click here.

AND for your diary…TAFETalksMicro-credentials: developing with and for industry

Date: Wednesday 16 February at 2.00pm AEDT (Canberra/Melbourne/Sydney time)
Description: Micro-credentials are on everyone’s lips. Join renowned expert Beverley Oliver and representatives from TAFE Queensland and TAFE NSW to further your understanding of micro-credentials and how two leading TAFEs are working with industry to develop micro-credentials for their needs.

Registration:  To register for this event, please click here.

Box Hill Institute signs new five-year deal with ADF

The Australian Defence Force signed a new five-year Command Support Training (CST) contract with Victoria’s Box Hill Institute (BHI) in early December at Simpsons Barracks, Victoria.

Following a competitive tender process, BHI will continue to deliver industry best practice training for the Defence Command Support Training Centre (DCSTC) from January 2022.

The contract will help drive capability in leading edge learning with the ability to adapt to the future training requirements of Defence while providing local and national employment in education services.

BHI has been training Royal Australian Navy, Australian Army, Royal Australian Air Force, Australian Public Servants and members foreign nations militaries since 2014.

BHI currently trains in excess of 1200 Defence members each year. This contract represents $50m over the first phase going into first class Australian education services – a critical function to ensure that the Defence force has the skills and cognitive edge for future challenges.

Director General Training and Doctrine, Brigadier Glenn Ryan, (2nd from right), and the CEO of Box Hill Institute, Ms Vivienne King (3rd from left), with Army and Box Hill Institute personnel at Simpsons Barracks, Victoria.

New TAFE campuses set for NSW and Victoria

The NSW and Victorian governments have both signalled the construction of new TAFE campuses in key growth area of their states.

NSW has announced a business case is being developed for a new TAFE in the Gosford CBD on the fast-growing Central Coast, with up to 3,000 vocational places available.

The Victorian government has commissioned a business case for a new TAFE campus at Melton in Melbourne’s west.

The Minister for Training and Skills Gayle Tierney said Melton is one of the fastest-growing areas in Victoria with a forecast population of 330,000 by 2026 – but there is no dedicated TAFE or post-secondary education provider meeting local needs.

Ms Tierney said consultation will take place with students, trainers, industry and community to determine demand for training, local skills needs, best case delivery, local partnerships and a possible site for the TAFE campus.

Regional students eligible for up to $5,000 to aid their study

Young students from regional areas can apply for grants of up to $5000 to help them relocate for higher level tertiary study.

The federal government’s Tertiary Access Payment (TAP) provides payments of either $3000 or $5000 to help eligible school leavers studying a Certificate IV or higher.

To be eligible, students need to be moving from a regional or remote area for tertiary study, directly after finishing year 12 or equivalent, with no gap year.

For the first time students from inner regional areas will have access to the program.

See more

Diary Dates

TAFETalks: Academic integrity in VET and Higher Education
2 February 2022
Dr Helen Gniel, Director, Higher Education Integrity Unit, TEQSA & Sharon Waitzer, Director Engagement and Education, ASQA

TAFETalksMicro-credentials: developing with and for industry
16 February 2022
Beverley Oliver,  Emeritus Professor and Principal Consultant at EduBrief

National Apprentice Employment Network
National Conference
15-17 March 2022
Hotel Grand Chancellor Hobart, Tasmania
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CCA National ACE Summit
5 April 2022
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Apprentice Employment Network NSW & ACT
2022 Skills Conference
15 June 2022
Dockside Darling Harbour, Sydney
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31st National VET Research Conference ‘No Frills’
National Centre for Vocational Education Research (NCVER)
6-8 July 2022, Melbourne
Call for abstracts open now!
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