Happy skills week – comment by CEO Craig Robertson

Happy skills week – comment by CEO Craig Robertson

Once upon a time, in my younger days, I ran church summer camps for school children, teens and young adults. For those from the West it was the Baptist Campsite in Serpentine, which some of you might have visited for school camp.

One year I ran the summer camp for senior primary school children. One of the more important organisational tasks is to assign each volunteer leader with the right dormitory of kids. Luck was with me as I had the most amazing leader and he was assigned a group of six young boys, who easily qualified as the misfits (by the standards of the kids at the camp). Wayne was used to kids who were not from the mainstream because that was his story to a certain extent.

With much enthusiasm I had organised for daily inter-dorm quizzes based on the bible lessons from the day rotating through each dorm member. As the week went on Wayne’s group fell further and further behind. At the last quiz for the camp he felt safe in offering an inducement – he’d shave off half his beard if the team won – knowing that the last kid was the most disruptive of the lot. A young child who had been in and out of foster care. A little disruptive and someone we had written off on the good camp kids stakes.
Imagine our surprise, leading into absolute delight, as he answered every question and swept his team to victory!

This story says something about National Skills Week which kicks off today.

This week we shine the light on all things good about vocational education and training as part of National Skills Week being run by the newly established National Careers Institute (NCI).

As if the NCI did not have an important job already, the roadblocks in Australians’ passage into work and journey into a fulfilling career caused by COVID-19, heightens their task.

Vocational education accepts all comers. It does the heavy lifting for any Australian who wants to start a learning and skilling journey. It’s a straight passage to industry skills and knowledge for those who are clear on their aspirations in life. It can pick up someone from the wrong side of the tracks and guide them into the mainstream. It shepherds those who struggle with education on to a learning journey.

VET is a talent business.

It’s all too easy to underestimate the power of a job. Winning a job at the end of training is a thrill – ‘someone believes in me.’ Work is a great boost to self-confidence and well-being, even for what we may consider the mundane. In this climate, where job prospects are poor and the future looks bleak, we need Skills Week to remind us to keep striving for better times.

I encourage you to visit the National Skills Week site, register for updates and follow the stories during the week of the many people whose lives have been turned around through vocational education.

As you bounce into this week, maybe planning how to train remotely, possibly daunted by the paperwork needed for new training package qualifications, wondering how students will be able to complete their study for the year, summonsing that extra ounce of encouragement for students who feel they are losing their way, keeping your team together over video, or planning for next year, take the time to watch the video of young 13 year old Braydon Harrington from last week’s US Democratic National Convention.

Braydon has a stutter and a gentle word of encouragement from Joe Biden back in February picked up his confidence.

We all fall short in some way. But the greatest gift we can give is hope through education and training.

We are all in the hope game. This week pass it on through all you come in contact with. This week we have stories of success for TAFE students.  Take the time to read them.

My friend Wayne died over ten years ago but I still recall his simple act, a joke in some ways, which uncovered for all at that camp the hidden treasure in that young child.

I hope that can be your experience in this National Skills Week.

Productivity agency turns the blowtorch on NSW training system

The NSW Productivity Commission has delivered a stinging assessment of the state’s VET system, saying the government needs to overhaul training subsidies and introduce an “earn or learn” strategy for the post-pandemic economy.

The NSW Productivity Commission Green Paper says that despite many reviews, there is a need to modernise learning, address career pathways and examine VET’s relationship with industry.

“Chronic skills shortages show the system is unresponsive to industry and unattractive to students,” the report says.

“Reform should focus on introducing more modern, flexible training pathways and addressing poorly-aligned incentives,” it says.

“Poorly targeted subsidies have encouraged many students to enrol in courses of low value to employers and students. The mismatch between skills delivered by VET and industry needs has further contributed to poor employment outcomes.”

The report claims that some of the most popular courses on the NSW Skills List, subsidised under Smart and Skilled, “have little demonstrable value to industry” and “do not significantly improve most learners’ employment prospects.”

It recommends extending Smart and Skilled subsidies to targeted short courses and micro-credentials.

It says the apprenticeship system is too rigid and calls for new entry pathways to the trades, including a two-year formal training requirement for HSC graduates, and an 18-month fast-tracked entry for mature age workers through a proposed Training and Skills Recognition Centre.

National Skills Week to highlight workforce of the future 

As part of National Skills Week (24 – 30 August), the Department of Education, Skills and Training is organising a live stream event about the workforce of the future.

The Workforce of the Future – A National Skills Week Event will take place Friday 28 August 12-1pm (AEST).

The special one-hour live streamed event will feature leaders from the Australian Government’s Skills Organisation Pilots and there will be the chance to ask questions and learn about the skills employers are looking for to build the workforce of the future. It will feature:

  • John Murray – Chair, Human Services Skills Organisation and CEO, Royal Australian Air Force Association (RAAFA) WA.
  • Emma Weston – Director, Digital Skills Organisation Pilot and CEO & Co Founder, AgriDigital.
  • Gavin Lind – Chair, Mining Skills Organisation Pilot Working Group and General Manager Safety, Workforce and Innovation at the Minerals Council of Australia.

See here to register.

Government takes up the push for new IT apprenticeship

The federal government has taken the initial steps that could see the creation of a new IT apprenticeship.

The idea for the IT apprenticeship scheme has reportedly been put to the government by financial markets technology company IRESS, along with REA Group, SEEK, MYOB, Slack and Catapult.

The Financial Review reports that IRESS chief executive Andrew Walsh believes the IT apprenticeship would fill an important skills gap in the sector.

“The problem is that if someone comes in from school, works for us for three years and then goes to another company, that company will just say you have no formal certificate so the experience means nothing,” he said.

“We would need the [state and federal] governments to provide the infrastructure, administration and formalise the apprenticeships.”

The Minister for Employment, Skills, Small and Family Business Senator Michaela Cash said the proposal put by the firms deserves further exploration.

“That is why my office has put the group in contact with the Digital Skills Organisation to learn more about this initiative and to ascertain if this proposal would fit with the Digital Skills Organisation’s focus,” she said.

VET 'benefits' too focused on employment, paper argues

The benefits of vocational education and training are too often measured in narrow employment terms, rather than across the entire community, a new paper argues.

Writing in the public policy journal, Pearls and Irritations, VET teacher, consultant and researcher Linda Simon examines the recent Centre for Future Work study which showed TAFE returns annual benefits to the economy of $92.5 billion.

“Even if you wanted to quibble with the actual numbers, what this study does is recognise the multiple benefits to the economy and individuals of quality vocational education and training programs delivered through TAFE,” Ms Simon says.

“Too often the benefits of training are measured by governments and even organisations such as the Productivity Commission, in employment outputs, without acknowledging flow-on effects to individuals and businesses, and the confidence and mental health of individuals able to gain sought-for jobs and satisfying careers,” she says.

“Unfortunately for many students, unscrupulous for-profit providers, including some of the largest in the business, made their focus their profit margin and how much government funding they could take out of the system.”

AVETRA research journal invites contributions

AVETRA is Australasia’s only national, independent association of researchers in vocational education and training, producing The International Journal of Training Research (IJTR), the A-News electronic newsletter, and Research Today, released twice a year, usually in April and October.

AVETRA recognises that there is an enormous body of research – often not called “research” – being done by VET practitioners. Sometimes this is innovation support for industry and community stakeholders, sometimes this is industry-themed or VET-themed inquiry. Sometimes it is scholarship of teaching and learning that leads to innovation in delivery and assessment within VET.

The new Editor of Research Today, Andrew Williamson, the Executive Director of International Education & Enterprise Solutions at Holmesglen, is inviting contributions for the next Research Today edition.

Articles should be of around 1000-1500 words and on topics of interest to AVETRA members and the wider VET community (including researchers, academics, VET practitioners and other stakeholders).

Articles on VET practitioner-led and applied research are especially welcome and should include the aims of the research, how information was collected, and key findings. Contributions are due by 18 September.

If you would like to make a contribution to the magazine, please contact Andrew Williamson via email andrew.williamson@holmesglen.edu.au or phone 0400 403 755 for more information.

See the most recent edition of Research Today.

Have a say on post-COVID skills outlook!

The Council of Small Business Organisations Australia (COSBOA) is undertaking a survey to find out what has changed for Australian workers with regards to their skills needs since COVID-19.

If you are a current or recent Australian worker over the age of 18, COSOA is keen to get your views through this 10-minute survey.

Take the survey.

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 

TAFE NSW Virtual Open Day 2020
9 – 10 September 2020
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