Get with the times, VET – comment by CEO Craig Robertson

Get with the times, VET – comment by CEO Craig Robertson

This week I return to the topic of VET qualifications following a hiatus due to the election and reporting back on our study tour to Canada and the US supported by two of our industry partners, CISCO and Optus.

Last time I wrote of my alarm on the prospect of competency-based education as the new black in the US tertiary education system, although I calmed down once it was clear US competencies are to be a different take on learning outcomes.

We differ in our concept of competency. Substantially so compared to the aspiration in the US, much narrower than the Germans conceive competency but possibly like the English version. In Australia, our learning outcomes (to the extent there are any in an education sense) are the tasks involved in an occupation – the competencies. Each VET qualification, complete with task definitions, oops, units of competency, seeks to prescribe the skills of an occupation. The learning program (if there is one) is built from that. For a person to move on in their career, or change job, more formal training is required, thanks to the Carmichael model.

In Australia we celebrate the efficiency of this model. Someone acquires a qualification for a job. She or he gets the job. Simple!  But let’s see how efficient that looks from a broader view.

I make my point courtesy of Australian Rules Football, that great home-grown game. Australia can only blame itself when there are faults in the game.

Let’s imagine what would happen if we applied the current logic of qualifications to Aussie rules.

Firstly, people would need to train for a specific position – as a forward flank, or back pocket, possibly even a left forward flank or right back pocket.

Secondly, players would be limited to play the position for which they had trained. Clearly, if the pathway into the game was prescribed in this way then it must flow through to the game itself.

Thirdly, if a player wanted to play another position, they’d need to go back to training to qualify for that position.

Fourthly, when it comes to the game, a player could only play their position and the skills prescribed to it. That’s the only logical conclusion from the rules.

Fifthly, this would also have to be policed. More umpires to ensure each player did not venture beyond the position they were trained for.

Sixthly, a player exercising skills beyond those prescribed would be in breach. It’s not too hard to imagine that special committee structures would be required to approve any skills outside the norm.

Would you watch? Would you recommend your children play the game? Fifteen little zones of play. The action in one zone at a time. Little motion and no movement of players. Rules bound and heavy policing. No thrill of a Buddy Franklin sweeping down the wing with a great arching kick to goal. No desperate defensive retreat from a forward trying to defend the goal.

Lastly, to make things worse, a player with aspirations for other football positions after retirement wouldn’t be allowed as the Australian Football Positions Framework doesn’t recognise some positions![1]

Some will say that I’m exaggerating. But am I? In the Australian economy there are 1,325 occupations, yet at last count there were 1,527 qualifications in training packages and 887 as accredited courses!

Some may say this is ridiculous and doesn’t match the real world. Amen! Then why do VET qualification structures continue with this kind of logic? Some positions need specialist skills, but those don’t dictate how the rest of the positions are structured and how the game is played.

I’m pretty sure that the success of the AFL Women’s league has many a girl aspiring to be an AFLW player and developing the skills that will get them there. Honing ball skills, on both sides of the body, acquiring knowledge of the game and learning how to read the play and the opposition – not the rules of each position. They can learn that when they get there and if they need to.

How efficient is a system if it doesn’t work as a whole? Only 32 per cent of graduates end up in jobs aligned to their training and we know most workplaces are far more dynamic than what VET qualifications structures assume.

A sport survives and thrives on participants aspiring higher and achieving more. Australian VET needs to offer the same for students, but the rules count against it. We made the rules, so we have the capacity to change them. It’s a question whether there’s the will.

[1] If this is too coded – the Australian Qualifications Framework specifically excludes Certificates I-III from recognition in any higher qualifications.

New minister and new department for skills and training 

The skills and training portfolio is set for a shake-up with the appointment of a new minister, and departmental responsibility expected to shift from education to employment.

As expected, Dan Tehan retained his position as Minister for Education.

But the VET sector is now set to fall largely under the new Minister for Employment, Skills, Small and Family Business, Senator Michaelia Cash, in the portfolio previously held by Kelly O’Dwyer.

Senator Cash’s junior minister in the portfolio is West Australian Steve Irons, pictured, who becomes Assistant Minister for Vocational Education, Training and Apprenticeships.

The former electrical apprentice, has fought to secure his marginal seat of Swan in metropolitan Perth, once held by Labor leader Kim Beazley, and contested in the recent election by his daughter, Hannah Beazley.

At the official level, there will be a period of transition as key responsibilities and personnel move across to the new department.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said Steve Irons was someone who knows what it’s like to get a trade and help people get trade qualifications.

“He understands the needs of small businesses who want to take people on with trades, as apprentices. I look forward to the great work Steve will be able to do in that portfolio,” he said.

TDA extends its congratulations to Senator Cash, Minister Dan Tehan and Mr Irons on their appointments.

The ministry will be sworn in on Wednesday.

See the full Morrsion ministry.

What VET leaders expect from a Morrison government  

In the election aftermath, there have been several media articles speculating on what the re-election of the Morrison government will mean for VET and TAFE.

The Financial Review quoted TDA CEO Craig Robertson and his ACPET counterpart, Troy Williams calling for greater integration of VET and universities in the ministerial arrangements under the new government.

“The disjoint between education policy and ministerial oversight is feeding some of the inequalities (between VET and universities),” Mr Robertson said.

“It would be better if all of the education functions of government were under one portfolio and one minister.”

The architect of the government’s review of VET, Steven Joyce told the Financial Review that he didn’t agree with a wholesale integration of the two sectors, but said it would be good to have a more neutral setting on fees between the two.

He told the paper that his main recommendation was to speed up the way new courses were created so industry could get the skills it needed more quickly. He said courses and qualifications should be drawn up by new Skills Organisations, which would be jointly owned by employers and other stakeholders.

The Australian speculated that there would be “tinkering at the edges” but little in the way of major VET reform.

“We are not clear whether the government has accepted all the recommendations (of the Joyce review) or whether the budget announcements are the limit of what they intend to do,” Craig Robertson told the paper.

Gavin Moodie, an adjunct professor of education at RMIT said that the promised careers institute might offer useful information, but would be relying on centrally derived workforce planning and employment outlooks which have proven unreliable in the past.

Addressing the government’s promise to create 80,000 new apprenticeships, Leesa Wheelahan from the University of Toronto said that even if there were a dramatic increase in apprenticeships, they comprise a minority of the system, and the government needed a policy for all vocational education, not just apprenticeships.

VET consultant Claire Field said that while she regarded the Joyce review highly, there was little to suggest that private providers would see any growth in domestic markets, and they would need to look to international students.

The head of the National Apprentice Employment Network, Dianne Dayhew said the Coalition had put forward several positive policy ideas, and there was confidence these could help to elevate the importance of apprenticeships and traineeships.

The PIE News (Professionals in International Education) said it would be “business as usual” with sector leaders cautious about the impact of Labor’s promised $10 billion in university funding over a decade now off the table.

“The worry now is to the effect that universities will now look to alternative revenue sources and that usually will mean they’ll up the ante on their international student recruitment,” said Phil Honeywood, chief executive of the International Education Association of Australia.

Apprentice incentive payments don't work, says VET academic

Government incentives to employers to encourage the uptake of apprentices and trainees are not the best way to achieve that outcome, according to a discussion by VET academic, Gerald Burke.

In an article in The Conversation, Burke, Adjunct Professor of Education at Monash University says history shows that government incentives to employers have made little difference to the (mostly male) trade apprenticeship numbers.

“In 2011, an expert panel noted Australia was the only country that paid government incentives, on a large scale, to employers of apprentices and trainees,” Mr Burke says.

“The panel reported research that showed incentives paid to employers for the shorter traineeships represented a significant part of the wage costs (in some cases about 20%) and contributed to the large increase in trainee numbers.

“For the longer, and more costly, training of trade apprentices, government payments to employers represented a much smaller proportion of the wage and training costs. And so, the incentives had only a marginal effect on the numbers of trade apprentices employed,” he said.

He says the incoming government should undertake a comprehensive review of incentives and all other forms of apprenticeship assistance, ideally in the context of a full review of  tertiary funding.

South Australia set to overhaul its training system

The South Australian government has announced a review of the state’s training system following an extensive stakeholder consultation and the release of a series of far-reaching recommendations in a new report.

The Minister for Innovation and Skills David Pisoni has called for feedback as part of the overhaul of what he says is the “outdated” Training and Skills Development Act 2008.

The review follows the release of a report by the Training and Skills Commission, ‘Future-proofing the Apprenticeship and Traineeship System’.

“Extensive stakeholder consultation undertaken last year by the Training and Skills Commission revealed the desire for simpler and more responsive legislation, lower costs and less red tape,” Mr Pisoni said.

He said that the government would continue to work towards the recommendations outlined in the report.

The Training and Skills Commission Chair Michael Boyce said he was pleased the government is acting on expert advice and continuing to revitalise South Australia’s training sector.

Feedback can be provided at yourSAy until June 19.

Careers webinar to 'demystify VET' and explain job choices 

The Career Development Association of Australia is hosting a webinar on Wednesday that will explain the VET system and the range of choices open to anyone wanting to start a career.

Featuring TDA CEO Craig Robertson, the webinar ‘Demistifying VET’ will also explain the range of online tools to help get the right advice in selecting courses and training providers as well information on apprenticeships and traineeships.

The webinar is on at 7.30 pm to 8.30 pm AEST.

See details.

NSW apprentices facing hardship can apply for $15k scholarship

Apprentices in NSW are able to apply for financial support worth up to $15,000 under the latest round of the Bert Evans Apprenticeship Scholarships.

The scholarship program commenced in 2014 and is named after the late Bert Evans who devoted most of his working life to the VET system and apprenticeships. More than 400 scholarships have been awarded to date.

They are aimed at apprentices who are experiencing hardship and have demonstrated a positive attitude and application in the workplace throughout their studies.

Applications can be lodged here of by phoning 13 28 11 to contact your local Training Services NSW Office.

TasTAFE receives skills funding in state budget

TasTAFE has been provided with $2.9 million funding over two years as part of a program to build skills that meet industry demand.

The state budget handed down last week provided the funds for increased pre-vocational training to support the construction industry, address workforce shortages and to train more nurses.

The 2019-20 budget also provided funding of $92.3 million as a grant to TasTAFE to support training activity and operations. This gives effect to the government’s commitment to ensure a minimum 70 per cent of training funding is provided to TasTAFE.

Vale Delia Ivanoff (Delia Craig)

Members with memories of TAFE NSW will be sad to know that Delia, aged 80, passed away on May 13.

Although she retired 25 years ago, she is still remembered by her TAFE friends and colleagues for the series of senior leadership roles she held – particularly as Head, College of External Studies and then as Group General Manager (Non Metropolitan/Country Colleges) in TAFE NSW.

Delia will be sadly missed, but remembered fondly as a committed and compassionate educator.

Canberra Institute of Technology auto apprentices among the best 

Canberra Institute of Technology (CIT) automotive apprentices have taken out first and third place in the gruelling 2019 MotorEx Flying Spanners competition in Melbourne.

The annual competition offers automotive students the chance to team up and compete in a two-day event, stripping and rebuilding motors in record time against other TAFEs and teams from around the country.

Head of Department for CIT Automotive Steven McMahon said the competition was a fantastic opportunity for students to network with key players in the automotive industry and learn from the very best.

“Our teams of dedicated apprentices are the future of automotive, and we are so proud of their achievements in being the current Flying Spanners title holders,” Mr McMahon said.

Diary Dates

TechnologyOne Showcase
Empowering industry transformation
Brisbane: 29 May 2019
Sydney: 4 June 2019
Melbourne: 6 June 2019
More information

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 2019: The student journey: skilling for life
28th National Vocational Education and Training Research Conference
10-12 July 2019
TAFE SA Adelaide Campus, 120 Currie Street, Adelaide, South Australia
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National Apprentice Employment Network
2019 National Conference
31 July – 2 August 2019
Crowne Plaza, Gold Coast
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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
Save the date

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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Community Colleges Australia 2019 Annual Conference
18-20 November 2019
The Stamford Plaza Hotel, Brisbane
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Australian Training Awards
21 November 2019
Brisbane, Queensland
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