Do we need a new approach to training? – comment by CEO Craig Robertson

Do we need a new approach to training? – comment by CEO Craig Robertson

TAFEs are in the throes of preparing for a new future.

As one CEO said at a board meeting of TDA this past week, VET and TAFEs are unlikely to be the same after this event.

I’ve spoken to several people this past week within TAFEs to get a sense of the responses and preparations in place.

TAFE staff have gone above and beyond to transfer their teaching and learning for virtual delivery.

Notice, I’ve used the terms teaching and learning. While some may consider teaching old hat in the modern world, especially in VET, teaching is the science in structuring content to maximise acquisition of content. The TAFE workforce has been hard at work re-structuring and re-ordering that content to give transfer the best chance of success.

Learning, in my view, is the outcome attributable directly to pedagogy. It’s the art of teaching – bringing the vocational education experience to life for each participant. For educational theorists attached to the social construction of learning – think Vygotsky and the Zone of Proximal Development (but more on that in future weeks) – on-line can be considered an individualised experience. That’s far from the case, thanks to videoconferencing tools like Webex which are being summonsed to service.

Many TAFEs tell me virtual learning will reach its limit, however, because training packages require demonstration of skills – in a structured learning context or on the job – to complete the qualification. TAFEs are planning in-situ workshops where social distancing is respected so some qualifications can be completed. Yet this will constrain volume and flow of students and for other qualifications securing in this climate the required work placement mean the qualification will not be able to be completed.

Notice I haven’t used the term, training. I view training as the process of acquiring skills – from process to craft – from rote to fine motor. That’s what I suspect VET training packages have become bogged down in – listing of task and sub-task and specification of the number of times each needs to be exercised to be deemed competent – in the task. In some cases it’s justified, in many it’s not.

Where does this leave VET for the next six months? Skills Ministers have asked the Australian Industry Skills Committee (AISC) for rapid adjustments to training packages for emergency training to support the COVID-19 response and, one assumes, to help students complete qualifications.

So here is the tension. On the one hand, good teaching and learning – virtual even – can achieve valid learning outcomes. On the other, training is needed for skills to be acquired and refined as part of the expectations of a qualification. How will the balance be struck in each training package?

It will be vital that we watch the extent of adjustments. Will they be time limited?  Will the opportunity be taken for more wholesale change? After all, if the CEO is correct and VET will never be the same, then the current training package construct will hardly be fit for purpose.

Over to the AISC.

COAG skills ministers adopt emergency measures to ensure training delivery

Commonwealth, state and territory skills ministers have agreed to a series of urgent actions to deliver critical training during the COVID-19 pandemic.

At its meeting on Friday, the COAG Skills Council agreed on immediate steps to support  students, the skilled workforce and training providers.

It agreed that the pandemic will see critical short term gaps in sectors such as aged care, disability support, and health care, and that new training will be needed to keep these sectors operating.

It will look at ways of assisting TAFEs to adjust their delivery and business models under the Revitalisation of TAFE Campuses across Australia program, a $100 million joint Commonwealth-State initiative to upgrade TAFE campuses over two years from 2020.

It will also look at options to vary existing state funding for private providers to ensure they remain viable.

The Council asked officials to look at protection measures for government-subsidised VET students who are not covered by existing course assurance arrangements, and safeguards for full fee-paying students.

The COAG responses will be overseen by an “emergency” COVID-19 subcommittee of the Australian Industry and Skills Committee, to include a representative of the ACTU.

See the COAG Communique

Jobs hub to link candidates to employers with vacancies

The federal government has launched its new Jobs Hub which provides an extensive list of job vacancies posted by employers from around the country.

It currently contains vacancies in every state and territory in areas including mining, finance, retail, nursing, aged care, manufacturing, agriculture and government.

The Minister for Employment, Skills, Small and Family Business, Senator Michaelia Cash said the government was continuing to do everything it could to keep Australians connected to the workforce.

“While many businesses have been adversely affected by COVID-19 and are reducing their workforces, there are some areas of the economy which have an increased demand for workers,” she said.

Employers who are hiring and want support to connect with potential candidates can also contact the Department of Education, Skills and Employment at to be connected directly with businesses reducing their workforces.

“Our Employer Response Unit can work with you to identify the best option to source suitable candidates, and help you with your recruitment to make it as smooth as possible so you can get on with delivering essential services in this difficult time,” Senator Cash said.

International students who can't support themselves urged to return home

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has told overseas students facing hardship in Australia as a result of course disruption and loss of jobs that they should consider returning home.

He reminded students who come to Australia of the undertaking they gave to be able to support themselves for the first twelve months of their study.

“That is a requirement of their visa when they come to that first year. And so that is not an unreasonable expectation of the government that students would be able to fulfil the commitment that they gave,” he said.

“If they’re not in a position to be able to support themselves, then there is the alternative for them to return to their home countries.”

The government announced on the weekend that temporary visa holders with work rights, including international students, will be allowed to draw on their superannuation, while the 40-hour per fortnight restriction on work hours will be relaxed for those in the aged care and nursing sectors.

TDA called last week for financial support to be extended to international students in Australia, arguing that the country’s third largest export industry could be at risk if we ignore the plight of international students stranded in Australia.

“These students have come to Australia to learn and acquire skill, and through no fault of their own, have seen their learning interrupted and their livelihoods threatened,” CEO Craig Robertson said.

Adult and community education 'forgotten' in COVID-19 responses

The adult and community education (ACE) sector says it is in a dire position, and fears it is being overlooked in the government response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The sector’s peak body, Adult Learning Australia, has raised the alarm over some 2,500 ACE providers, many of which are at risk.

“They include neighbourhood houses, community colleges, community learning centres, Aboriginal learning cooperatives, community resources centres and more,” it says.

“These community-based organisations offer personal enrichment learning programs and many also offer adult basic education in language, literacy, numeracy, digital and other foundation skills.

“A significant number of ACE learners are also dealing with a range of issues including disability, low mental health and domestic violence,” ALA said.

It is seeking financial support to keep the sector afloat and for professional development, a scheme to maximise online learning capability, and resourcing of mental health programs for ACE educators in frontline roles.

See more

WFCP 2020 World Congress cancelled due to coronavirus

The World Federation of Colleges and Polythecnis (WFCP) has cancelled the 2020 World Congress that was to be held in San Sebastián, Spain in October.

The organising committee said it had taken the decision in light of uncertainty whether the COVID-19 health crisis will have ended by October.

“Additionally, the possible increase in costs both for some and for others and the difficulty for the sponsors to maintain their agreements in a moment of this health emergency make it unviable for the WFCP Congress to be held this year,” it said.

At this point in time, the proposals presented for the excellence awards are being assessed, with further information to follow soon.

The deadline for the Calls for Proposals, Breakout Sessions, and the Affinity groups has been extended to the April 30.

“When the next steps have been decided, we will use the official channels to inform the general public as well as those who presented proposals,” the committee said.

Organisers say they are working hard to continue with everything that has already been undertaken and anticipating the Congress in 2022 in San Sebastian.

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'Passion' the key to solving many youth problems, report says

Year13 has recently released its third flagship report, After The ATAR III: The Role of Passion and Purpose in Connecting Youth to Meaningful Education and Employment.

The paper uses data from nearly 5,000 responses across its youth audience to examine the state of passion in Australian high schools.

It focuses on how this can be the key to solving many of society’s biggest and costliest problems, from unemployment to mental health.

For TAFEs, these insights reaffirm the need for vocational education especially in regards to fostering young people’s passions, and show that students benefit greatly from a balanced view of the entire range of post-school options.

Click here to download the report.

ASQA to allow struggling training providers to go into 'hibernation' 

The Australian Skills Quality Authority (ASQA) will allow training providers adversely affected by COVID-19 to place their registrations on hold until the crisis passes.

In a statement, ASQA says it acknowledges the variety of challenges currently facing providers as a result of the pandemic.

“We are committed to supporting the sector to navigate the way forward, including situations where providers feel they need to cease all delivery,” it says.

“In these circumstances, ASQA can support those affected to maintain their registration by placing it on hold (effectively in hibernation) until the situation improves. This hold would be in place of registration withdrawal.”

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MySkills being updated with online training offerings

TAFEs and training organisations are encouraged to update their records on MySkills to highlight courses that are now available online.

All TAFEs and other training organisations have been working hard so courses can be delivered virtually.

The Department of Education, Skills and Employment will be writing to TAFEs and training organisations this week encouraging them to update their details on the Update your My Skills page – particularly in regard to online learning options.

The department is encouraging TAFEs and training organisations to jump onto My Skills, promote their offerings and attract new students.

If providers are too busy at this point or closed temporarily My Skills can be updated later when things change.

Diary Dates

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

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

2020 VET CEO Conference (postponed)
Velg Training
15 May 2020
QT Gold Coast Hotel, Surfers Paradise, Queensland
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 (cancelled)
NCVER co-hosted with TAFE WA, North Metropolitan TAFE
8 – 10 July 2020
Perth, Western Australia
More information

TAFE Directors Australia Convention 2020 (cancelled)
12 – 14 August 2020
Westin Hotel, Perth
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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
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Apprentice Employment Network NSW & ACT
Annual 2020 Skills Conference
5 November 2020
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VDC 2020 Teaching & Learning Conference
19 & 20 November 2020
RACV Torquay Resort, Great Ocean Road, Victoria
Registrations Open

Australian Training Awards
20 November 2020
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Worldskills Australia
28 April – 2 May 2021
Perth Exhibition and Convention Centre
More information