I cried some tears for the Australian VET sector this past week – comment by CEO Craig Robertson

I cried some tears for the Australian VET sector this past week - comment by CEO Craig Robertson

I’ve been in Brazil meeting with education leaders and attended the conference of CONIF, the network of Federal Technical Institutes. Following an edict in 2008 by the Brazilian Government for free democratic technical education, the network of 38 Federal Institutes was established as centres for professional, scientific and technological education across 643 campuses to over one million full-time students supported by 80,000 teachers and staff.

Why the tears? The Government of Brazil and the Federal Institutes are clear about their democratic responsibility to promote applied research and innovation and act strongly in technological extension, something abundantly clear in the conference. Officials and institute rectors recognise this grassroots movement can open up opportunities for students and grow business effectiveness far more than any fiat by government.
I don’t see anything like this in Australia.

Why is it important? The applied research model brings students face-to-face with real world challenges and exposes them to production and service systems and processes. Developing real solutions with businesses, whether they are taken up or not, prepare them for the adaptive work environments we will all face. The educational benefits on their own are worthwhile, let alone the positive spillovers to business.

What is Australia doing? It’s hard to see. In January this year Innovation and Science Australia said a serious examination should be made of how the sector can best play a key role in ensuring Australians can harness the opportunities from innovation, yet nothing has happened. The Australian Industry and Skills Committee has several projects looking into technology, but from what I can see, it will give rise to more training package competencies, not a plan for education action.

Don’t get me wrong, there are many examples of applied research across our TAFEs. The point is that it’s off their own bat and with their own resources. Apart from the Victorian Government’s Workforce Training Innovation Fund there appears little commitment from governments.

What can we do? We need to look from the outside in. That opportunity is available to the sector next month at the Congress of the World Federation of Colleges and Polytechnics in Melbourne from 8-10 October.

If Brazil is ahead of us, Canada is a mile in front – by about 10 years. CEO of Canadian Colleges and Polytechnics, Denise Amyot will share the Canadian journey on applied research. Dr Stephen Murgatroyd will tell his story of innovation and entrepreneurship and explore patterns and trends which will impact teaching, learning, skills development and assessment.

It’s fair to say that Brazil does not have the same economic structures as Australia, nor the protections for workers. That’s the very reason their strategy is so crucial. Individuals empowered with capabilities to innovate become strong and independent economic actors. Technology and automation may render our work structures and protections obsolete in ways we cannot predict.

The best solution is to ensure Australians have the capabilities to be strong independent economic actors. The applied research model is a start.

Pictured above, colleagues from WFCP at the CONIF Conference, Buzios Brazil. L-R: Rodrigo Nunez, DUOC, Chile; Denise Amyot, President and CEO, Colleges and Institutes Canada; Wilson Conciani, Rector, Federal Institute of Brasilia; Craig Robertson.

With special thanks for the expert assistance of the Education Counsellor team at the Australian Embassy in Brazil.

Skills shortages increasing and employers warn they will continue

The percentage of employers facing skills shortages has taken a dramatic leap over the last two years, according to the Australian Industry Group’s 2018 Workforce Development Needs Survey.

Over the last three surveys the percentage of employers experiencing skills shortages in the last 12 months has increased from 48 per cent in 2014, to 49 per cent in 2016 and to 75 per cent in 2018.

Employers were also asked whether they expected skills shortages in the next 12 months. This has progressively increased from 34 per cent in 2014, to 45 per cent in 2016 to 74 per cent in 2018.

“It is clear we need new approaches to education, training and reskilling to maximise the benefits of the digital economy,” said Ai Group chief executive Innes Willox.

“Our survey has found major skills demand issues facing employers. It provides an important gauge of employer sentiment around skill needs, education and training at a critical time for industry transformation.”

See more.

TAFE NSW in medal haul at NSW training awards

TAFE NSW  was presented with the Large Training Provider of the Year Award and the Industry Collaboration Award at the NSW Training Awards last week.

TAFE NSW’s Design Centre at Enmore secured the Large Training Provider of the Year Award for its record in design education with more than 60 courses and facilities including exhibition spaces, classroom studios, jewellery, prop and set construction workshops, a film studio, a 3D printing studio and specialist library.

The Industry Collaboration Award was shared between TAFE NSW and Central Coast Area Health District for their ‘Caring for the Coast’ initiative which provides school-based trainee program that focusses on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people with openings in the health industry.

The Enmore Design Centre’s, Belinda Maudson was awarded the coveted VET Trainer/Teacher of the Year for her inspiring work in the field of entertainment design.

The Apprentice of the Year was Michael Edwards, who studied a Certificate III in Electrotechnology at TAFE NSW Riverina, while Trainee of the Year was Tara Proberts-Roberts (Certificate II in Civil Construction) from TAFE NSW Western Sydney.

TAFE NSW Hunter boasted School Based Apprentice/Trainee of the Year, Lucy Allen (Certificate III in Health Services Assistance) and Vocational Student of the Year, Katayoon Karimodini (Diploma of Community Services).

The Phil Darby Memorial Award for an Apprentice or Trainee went to Michelle Brown (Diploma of Visual Arts) at TAFE NSW South West Sydney, while the Special Award for a Woman in a Non-Traditional Trade or Vocation went to Tayla Constable (Diploma of Agriculture) TAFE NSW New England.

See more.

NSW Assistant Minister for Skills Adam Marshall, Vocational Student of the Year Katayoon Karimodini, and TAFE NSW Managing Director Jon Black.


Canberra Institute of Technology takes prize at ACT training awards

At the ACT Training Awards last Thursday, Canberra Institute of Technology took out the Large Training Provider of the Year Award, as well as VET Teacher of the Year, which went to metal fabrication and welding teacher Evan Street.

CIT was also in the winners’ frame with Apprentice of the Year, Matthew Egan an electrician with a passion for clean energy with a Certificate III in Electrotechnology.

Funding bias against VET needs to be fixed, higher education expert says

Any fix to higher education funding will also need to address the funding bias against vocational education, according to the Higher Education Program Director at the Grattan Institute, Andrew Norton.

Writing in the The Conversation, he says that the federal opposition’s recently announced plan to invest an additional $174 million in higher education under a Labor government may not be good advice to students in every case.

“The demand driven system has often responded to labour market signals, but some further moderation in the numbers of students attending university would make it easier for graduates to find professional jobs,” he said.

He argues that if universities are to enrol fewer people, options such as vocational education should become more important.

“The policy status quo of capped higher education funding and a funding bias against vocational education will not serve us well.

“With restored demand driven funding and changes to vocational education, the tertiary education system would do a better job of matching students with the courses that maximise their long-term employment outcomes,” he says.

Diary Dates

2018 World Federation of Colleges and Polytechnics (WFCP) World Congress (in conjunction with TDA National Conference)
8-10 October 2018
Melbourne Convention Centre
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China Annual Conference for International Education & Expo (CACIE) 
Beijing, China
18-21 October 2018
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New VET Research Perspectives
AVETRA (Australian Vocational Education and Training Research Association)
26 October 2018
Canberra Institute of Technology, Canberra, ACT
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Taking the Lead: Building Community
Community Colleges Australia Annual Conference
13-15 November 2018
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2018 Australian Training Awards
15 November 2018
International Convention Centre, Darling Harbour, Sydney
Tickets can be purchased here.

Engineering Next-Generation Learning
4 – 7 December 2018
Wollongong, NSW
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