High trust, high value, please – comment by CEO Craig Robertson

High trust, high value, please – comment by CEO Craig Robertson

Several weeks ago I said my aspiration for VET, well TAFEs at least, was for high value, high trust. These words rang true this past week in our study tour of Canada and the US, supported by our industry partners, CISCO and Optus. The tour included meetings with colleges in both countries, with national and provincial government officials and CISCO’s technology leads.

Why high value?

It was very apparent to me that colleges are seen and treated as key agents for economic and social transformation.

I was blown away by the middle-college program established by Prince Georges Community College in Maryland. From Year 9, high school students do dual accreditation – college associate degrees and high school. Fifty percent of the intake must be from the poorest households of the region, meaning many are from families with sustained inter-generational unemployment. In the words of President of the college, Dr Charlene Dukes (pictured with Craig Robertson, CEO of TDA) they are blitzing it! A glimpse on what education should be about.

Representatives of the National Governors Association (our COAG on steroids) recounted the focus of most states of the union on workforce development. Strange when you think about their record low unemployment rates but understandable when they are seeking to return economic activity to their state. North Carolina was mentioned as a state which has used workforce development as a pathway to economic recovery.

And I never would have thought that partisan US politics would embrace apprenticeship. The differences between the Obama and Trump model – a supply or demand-led approach, provider or industry in the driver seat, worker rights versus employer interests and the role of regulation are live issues. Germany and Switzerland are advocating their approach. The US House of Representatives Committee on Education and Labor looks with interest at the Australian approach. Our visit attracted interest from several Congressmen who are planning to visit Australia soon. Regardless, the motive is clear – high order skills are regarded as an ingredient to kick-off new industry! An unspoken tension is the cost to the economy of the four-years before university graduates hit a skills hungry labour market.

The Canadian colleges gave tangible expression to the power of applied research to local business and as a learning tool. Colleges, as the holder of specialist knowledge and skills and equipment, are accessible to local businesses to innovate their product. The key? Recognition by government, backed by seed funding, block release of faculty staff and IP being retained by the sponsor business. The educational return? Students get guided experience in the travails of innovation and technology adoption within a firm – core skills for work. It’s hard to figure why there is such apathy in this country (bar Victoria[1]) to picking up this approach through TAFE.

Why high trust?

Government accreditation, quality regulation and funding are built off trust in the processes and staff capabilities of colleges. US colleges retain funding if a student drops out – in recognition of the costs they incur in standing up faculty and facilities. Ontario is moving to ‘corridor’ (profile) funding away from ‘seat’ (per student) funding. We didn’t have time to explore the politic of the change but it’s built off trust and a belief that stability is needed for colleges so they can plan for serving their community and build its economic strength. In return, Ontario has deep and stable institutions to meet the challenges of the modern economy!

What comes first?

Mission comes first! In both countries, colleges are stood up and regarded to serve their community on the road of economic inclusion, for all students, regardless of the barriers they face.

If culture trumps strategy in organisational theory, then trust delivers public value in public policy.

How does Australia stack-up? I’ll leave that to you to judge. I’m certain. And I’ll be advocating for a new approach for TAFEs when we start over next week. Our communities need it!

Picture: President of Prince Georges College, Dr Charlene Dukes with Craig Robertson.

[1] Victoria runs the Workforce Training Innovation Fund

Education and training alliances are strong with the US

The significance of the alliance between our countries extends to education and training collaboration.

Members of the TDA study tour were hosted by the Australian Ambassador to the US, Joe Hockey at his residence in Washington DC.

Included in the guests were representatives of the Congress and US Government, the National Governors Association, American Association of Community Colleges, IWSI America and colleges.

Discussions centred on the those things that bind us in education such as workforce development, apprenticeships and our preparation for a future fuelled by technology were common discussions.

TDA, along with CISCO and Optus as tour sponsors, sincerely thank Ambassador Hockey and embassy staff for such a memorable event.





From top: Craig Robertson shares a Mark Latham moment with Ambassador Joe Hockey; Mary Faraone, CEO of Holmesglen and Chair of TDA greets the Ambassador; Craig Robertson addresses the gathering.





TDA dismisses private college claims about TAFE capability

TDA has strongly rejected claims that TAFE won’t have the capacity to deliver the skills training promised under Labor’s skills and education policies.

“Labor’s commitment that at least two-thirds of public funding will be directed to TAFEs makes perfect sense,” TDA CEO Craig Robertson said.

He was responding to an article in the Financial Review Private providers warn Labor against prioritising TAFE’ and claims that TAFE no longer has the capacity or facilities to meet training demand after years of funding cuts by Commonwealth and state governments.

“TAFEs operate across Australia and each TAFE offers a full suite of training options to meet the needs of students and businesses in the communities they serve,” Mr Robertson said.

“Most of the training for the 4.2 million students recorded in the total VET system in 2017 was in short ticket courses such as first aid, responsible service of alcohol or in school VET programs. TAFEs offer the bulk of the high value qualifications which set students up for life.

“This makes TAFE a national treasure, and communities are right to be concerned that lack of funding puts this service at risk,” he said.

In response to a blanket call for full contestability, Mr Robertson added “The reported comments suggest we haven’t learnt the lessons or made the changes that would prevent the sector repeating its recent history.”

VET sector may be lagging on digital skills, NCVER report says

Australia’s digital transformation is occurring more slowly than in comparable countries, and there is dissatisfaction with the capacity of the VET system to produce workers for a digital environment, according to a report by the National Centre for Vocational Education Research (NCVER).

It says findings from an industry survey, the content analysis of training packages and two industry sector case studies revealed “mixed results”.

“On the one hand, more than half of the human resources, skills and training decision-makers surveyed are not satisfied with the digital skills of VET graduates recruited from the market,” NCVER said.

“A similar proportion believes that VET training packages and industry qualifications are not current enough to meet industry digital skill requirements.

“Furthermore, nearly two-thirds of survey respondents report that the digital skills of the VET graduates they encounter fall short of their expectations.”

The report says the findings lend weight to the view that Australia’s digital transformation is much more gradual and may be lagging behind other countries, particularly among the OECD.

It recommends the development of a national digital skills framework to identify digital skills needs in the non-ICT workforce to be used across work, education and training.

Monash Commission urges lifetime learning 'entitlement' across unified education sector

A new think tank, the Monash Commission, has issued a blueprint for tertiary education, centred on a universal learning entitlement combined with income contingent loans.

It calls for the creation of a statutory agency for post-compulsory education and training which would advise government and be the single funding authority for all state, territory and Commonwealth post-compulsory education.

All Australians would be entitled to a lifetime learning account to track and verify training, and a universal student number to cover all publicly subsidised education and training across a lifetime.

The commission’s inquiry found that while 56 per cent of Australians 15 years and older hold a post-school qualification, 90 per cent of new jobs created by 2023 will require a Certificate II or higher, leaving many with poor employment prospects.

Chair of the Monash Commission, Elizabeth Proust, said the vision for post-compulsory education provides adaptable, capable global citizens who are both job-ready and resilient in dealing with change.

See more.

Melbourne Polytechnic funded to generate industry training partnerships

The Victorian government has announced $2.4 million in funding to Melbourne Polytechnic to engage in innovative training projects in partnership with industry.

The Minister for Training and Skills Gayle Tierney announced three grants from the Workplace Training Innovation Fund.

It will see $888,000 to establish the North West Melbourne Data Analytics Hub with North Link, focusing on manufacturing and health; $900,000 to develop new Certificate III and IV courses in design and architectural glass; and $660,000 to enable trainers, students, businesses and their employees to better engage Chinese customers in retail, tourism and hospitality.


West Australian employers to receive incentive for apprentices

Employers in Western Australia who take on an apprentice or trainee from July will be eligible for a payment of up to $8500 under a scheme unveiled in last week’s state budget.

The Employer Incentive Scheme will provide a total of $182.4 million for businesses recruiting apprentices or trainees, commencing July 1. It is estimated the scheme will assist almost 6,000 businesses.

There are additional loadings that will increase the payment for regional areas, employees with disability, priority occupations, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander employees, and apprentices aged between 21 to 30 years.


NT government unveils $8m digital skills program

The Northern Territory government has announced $8.4 million for a digital workforce strategy that will equip training organisations to upskill workers with digital and technology skills.

Last week’s budget included a program, Territory Workforce 4.0, that will support skills training in areas such as advanced automation, robotics, artificial intelligence, machine learning, sensor technology, cybersecurity and data analytics.

It will also provide vouchers of up to $3000 for up to 700 territorians to access future skills training. There will also be $1 million for the future proofing training infrastructure, and $1 million for funding to skills development in regional areas.


Diary Dates

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Australian Training Awards
21 November 2019
Brisbane, Queensland
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