Going virtual in a COVID world – by Mary Campbell, CEO, TAFE Queensland

Going virtual in a COVID world – by Mary Campbell, CEO, TAFE Queensland

The first six months of semester one, 2020 has certainly been a memorable one for everyone. Almost overnight, COVID-19 transformed how we live, how we work, and how we learn. Consequently, we have all had to think differently about our operations and find new, more agile ways of working and delivering training.

During the pandemic, TAFE Queensland successfully transitioned up to 90 per cent of our workforce to remote working arrangements and facilitated over 85 per cent of our training programs to be delivered online and flexibly. Our mission was to ensure that, where practicable, students and apprentices had the opportunity to complete their studies as scheduled so that they might enter the workforce as soon as possible.

COVID-19 challenges aside, I am very proud to say that we achieved our mission and last month celebrated yet another first for our organisation, hosting a number of virtual graduation ceremonies.

While the pandemic ruled out the possibility of face-to-face celebrations for graduates and their loved ones, our staff took to Zoom and used a series of innovative pre-recorded presentations to recognise the hard work and determination of their students and apprentices.

Graduates from a variety of study areas came together online to celebrate the culmination of their studies and to thank teachers and services staff for their efforts in supporting them through the added challenges of 2020. They also spoke about the bonds and lifelong friendships they had all formed with one another and how their experience at TAFE was one they will remember fondly.

I am sure that many of you share similar stories of success and celebration. The training we provide truly has the power to change lives and we should all be extremely proud of our abilities to adapt and change over the past few months.

Even in the most trying of circumstances, we have continued to deliver the high level training we are all known for and I am proud to say that we, the public providers, have again answered the call and supported our students, industry partners and communities when they need us most.

Congratulations everyone!

Take a look at TAFE Queensland’s pre-recorded 2020 International Graduation.

Shergold review urges greater focus on VET choices in secondary schools 

Senior secondary students should not be forced to make “binary choices” between university and VET, and should be provided with a more realistic view of the world ahead, according to the federal government’s review of senior secondary pathways.

Headed by Professor Peter Shergold, the review, Looking to the Future, finds that many students at Year 10 are required to choose an inflexible pathway, either in an “academic stream” or a “vocational stream”.

It says the binary decisions that students are often forced to make reinforce stereotypical assumptions about relative prestige, and “give a false expectation of the world ahead”.

“Research suggests that although two-thirds of students have aspirations of a professional or paraprofessional occupation by age 30, these types of positions only represent a third of available job opportunities,” the report says.

“This helps to explain why so many graduates later undertake vocational courses provided by TAFEs and other registered training organisations.”

It recommends the adoption of Learner Profile – a much broader measure than the ATAR which would include a range of student skills, knowledge and experience, such as work experience, volunteering and personal achievement.

“The singular dominance of the ATAR is unlikely to survive COVID-19,” the report says.

It urges the creation of a digital Education Passport for lifelong learning to allow young people to capture progressively their education and training qualifications and workplace experience.

It says career guidance within and outside schools should be strengthened significantly and accorded higher status.

The report found “many instances of poor practice” with VET-in-schools, and says it should only be done in a high quality way, otherwise it should be undertaken externally.

Formal VET qualification or school-based apprenticeships and traineeships should be based on the best interests of students, “rather than upon funding arrangements or administrative convenience”.

It says governments should provide free education or training to 16- to 20-year-olds who have left school without a senior secondary certificate.

The government says it will consider the recommendations of the review and work with the states and territories on a response through Education Council.

TasTAFE secures federal funding for advanced trades centre

The federal government has provided $7 million toward the construction of TasTAFE’s new Trades and Water Centre of Excellence at its Clarence campus.

The funding is part of the $50 million Revitalising TAFE Campuses Across Australia program. In partnership with state and territory governments, the program will provide funding for campus upgrades, expanded services to meet industry skills needs, and IT upgrades to improve online capability.

The TasTAFE Centre of Excellence will also receive $14 million from the Tasmania government.

The Minister for Employment, Skills, Small and Family Business, Senator the Hon Michaelia Cash, said the centre will be able to expand training in building and construction, plumbing and water, refrigeration and air-conditioning and smart buildings technologies, along with upskilling in renewables and hydrogen technologies.

Micro credentials or 'zombie skill sets"?

The shift to micro credentials in higher education risks creating a set of “zombie skills sets” that are likely to leave students worse off, according to two prominent researchers.

Writing in the latest edition of TAFE Teacher magazine, Adjunct Professor Gavin Moodie from the University of Toronto and RMIT University, and Leesa Wheelahan from the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education question the federal government’s recent opening up of university short courses in response to COVID-19.

They point to the poor uptake of skills sets in VET training packages and their relatively weaker employment outcomes, compared to full qualifications.

“One might have expected such poor outcomes from uncompleted qualifications to kill off micro credentials, but in it’s all too familiar necromancy the Australian Government pushed them onto higher education,” the researchers say.

“Micro credentials are poor, in principle, because they reflect the failures of human capital theory, they seek to put education in an employment straitjacket and reflect the skills fetish, which alienates productive work from the people who do that work,” they say.

The article argues that micro credentials are designed to “atomize learning by certifying small amounts of learning” and that even employers have not shown widespread interest in credentials, preferring readily recognised qualifications.

A towering addition to Canberra skyline  

Anyone passing Canberra Institute of Technology’s Bruce campus would have seen the huge crane and imagined major construction was underway.

In fact, the 35-metre-tall tower crane is a training aid – the latest addition to CIT’s safety and renewables training facility.

It’s giving students a safe, simulated workplace where they experience the physical challenges of working and operating equipment at height.

CIT teacher and Global Wind Organisation Program Co-ordinator Ken Wilson said there is currently high demand for these skills in areas such as construction and renewables.

“There are a lot of multi storey buildings under construction across the ACT at the moment so there is a need for people who are trained to work at heights,” he said.

“In the renewables sector, wind turbines generally exceed 80 metres. Based on these evolving engineering designs, safe working at heights training is critical.”

New look for youth internship program

The Youth Jobs PaTH program is to enter a new phase that will see  industry playing a larger role in getting young unemployed people into work.

The Minister for Employment, Skills, Small and Family Business, Senator Michaelia Cash said the new PaTH Business Placement Partnerships program aims to connect job seekers to employers with significant workforce needs in growing industries.

The trial program will see the government work with industry to co-design youth employment pathways, using elements of the Youth Jobs PaTH program and other existing government-funded employment and training services.

“PaTH Business Placement Partnerships will test the effectiveness of youth employment pathways designed by industry and facilitate access to jobs for young people in those industries,” Senator Cash said.

The federal opposition described it as a “reheat of a failed program”.

Under the Youth Jobs PaTH program, businesses can trial a young person for up to three months in an internship and receive $1,000 to help with the costs. If it leads to a job, the business may be eligible for up to $10,000.

The government plans to approach a range of industry partners through a limited tender to establish a panel to implement the trial program.

Diary Dates

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

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

VDC 2020 Virtual Teaching & Learning Conference
19 & 20 November 2020
Registrations Open

Australian Training Awards
20 November 2020
More information

TAFE Directors Australia Convention 2021
29 – 30 April 2021
Westin Hotel, Perth
More information coming soon

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