Is a Tertiary Education Commission needed? – comment by CEO Jenny Dodd

Is a Tertiary Education Commission needed? – comment by CEO Jenny Dodd

The bold ambitions set out in the Australian Universities Accord Interim Report for a coherent national tertiary system suggest an oversight body is needed.

TDA was initially reluctant to support a Tertiary Education Commission when it was first muted in the Accord panel’s discussion paper. Our reluctance stemmed from the fact there are already numerous bodies to which funding is provided, such as Jobs and Skills Australia, and we questioned if there was a need for another. However, if the long-term change proposed in the Interim report is going to be realised, then an independent body may be the only effective solution to achieve the desired outcomes.

The Interim Report states a Tertiary Education Commission would promote strategic thinking and “provide oversight, coordination and expert advice to the higher education sector.” In its first iteration it would be focused on higher education. Its responsibilities would include “policy and funding settings to enhance student, teaching and research outcomes, … pricing, … new mission-based compacts with local, regional and national priorities”.

Among other responsibilities, the Tertiary Education Commission would track increased participation from priority groups and have a focus on learning and teaching. The Interim Report proposes a new First Nations Higher Education Council be formed which “could give voice to the needs, aspirations and know-how of community and lead a self-determined approach to funding and policy settings in relation to First Nations students, employment, teaching, research and engagement.” And another component might be establishing a National Learning and Teaching Committee (within the Tertiary Education Commission). Thus, the Tertiary Education Commission would have a watching brief on how student targets are being met in relation to the expanded goals of participation.

Perhaps the main reason, though, for TDA’s more recent support of the Tertiary Education Commission is that an overarching body will be needed to monitor progress toward alignment and collaboration between vocational and higher education. The Tertiary Education Commission would need to recommend the system wide changes that will be needed for this alignment to occur. This is not going to happen in the short-term, and so, as the Interim Report suggests, a stable body over a longer term would facilitate this success. Additionally, without a single body looking at the system wide change that is needed for that alignment, it is unlikely there will be progress.

In October, TDA will be hosting a half-day online conference on Zoom, free of charge, to explore the successful practices that TAFEs enable for VET and higher education pathways now. We will also engage in policy discussions on what changes are needed in the future for such alignment to be successful. Block out your diary for the afternoon (if you are on the Eastern seaboard, or for three hours from mid-morning if you are in the West) of Wednesday 18 October to engage with this discussion. The program and registrations for Linkages: One tertiary education system, will go live on Monday 14 August.

Fewer VET-in-Schools students but higher level qualifications

The number of students undertaking VET in Schools has fallen over the past year, but many students are choosing higher level qualifications, according to latest data from the National Centre for Vocational Education Research (NCVER).

A total of 242,945 students undertook VET as part of secondary education in 2022 – 8,290 or 3.3% fewer than in 2021.

Only a small percentage of students (8.5% or 20,765) participated in a school-based apprenticeship or traineeship, while the majority (91.5% or 222,180)  were in other VET in Schools programs.

NCVER Managing Director Simon Walker said that although Certificate II programs continue to have the highest uptake, there has been a significant increase in Certificate III enrolments over the past decade, up 69.7% from 68,250 in 2012 to 115,800 in 2022.

“Further, we have observed a 74.1% decrease in Certificate I enrolments over the same period.”

The most popular training package was Tourism, travel and hospitality, comprising 15.7% of all VET in Schools students.

Queensland has the bulk of VET in Schools students (95,320), followed by Victoria (52,350), NSW (46,375), Western Australia ( 30,490), South Australia (10,740), Northern Territory (2,805), Tasmania (2,445), and ACT (2,425).

See VET in Schools 2022

TAFETalks: Beyond Paper: The evolution of digital credentials

As digital transformation continues to take place across many aspects of life, TAFEs are at the forefront, streamlining the student experience by awarding and recognising qualifications digitally.

TDA invites you to join us for a discussion with our corporate affiliate My eQuals along with representatives from Bendigo Kangan Institute, Holmesglen and Canberra Institute of Technology (CIT) to learn more about how TAFEs are digitising their credentials, and the benefits that this is bringing to students, institutions and industry alike.

The consistent approach to provisioning official credentials between VET and higher education providers also supports increasing alignment on recognition of learning between the sectors. This session will also explore the future evolution of this technology, including the movement to Self-Sovereign Identities (SSI) for individuals to securely store credentials in their digital wallet. The future of digital credentials is here!

To register click here

New approaches needed to address critical shortage of digital skills

Surging demand for digital skills is pushing Australia towards a critical shortage of over 370,000 digital expert and digitally enabled workers by 2026, according to a new study from the former Digital Skills Organisation (DSO).

The report also warns that the training system isn’t flexible enough to quickly adjust to what industries need.

The report, Growing Australia’s Digital Workforce, is the final report of the former DSO, now one of ten Jobs and Skills Councils, known as the Future Skills Organisation.

The study says that every person in the workforce now needs digital skills. It says that simple skill descriptors will make it easier to describe the digital skills needed across the economy – examples being digital experts, digitally enabled and digitally informed workers.

It says a more flexible training system is required where teachers and trainers must be upskilled to deliver digital training across different qualifications.

Among its recommendations are for a digital workforce strategy, a digital careers campaign, a national standard for workplace digital literacy, and a digital skills standard.

Record $438m fine for training college for acting unconscionably and misleading students

The Federal Court last week imposed record penalties of $438 million against former private training college Phoenix Institute of Australia and its marketing arm Community Training Initiatives (CTI) in proceedings brought by the ACCC and the Commonwealth.

The court had previously found that Phoenix and CTI had acted unconscionably and misled students into thinking the vocational courses they were enrolling in were free and that they would receive “free” laptops when this was not the case.

Phoenix was also found to have failed to properly assess language, literacy, numeracy and computer skills of its many vulnerable and disadvantaged students to determine if they were suitable for the courses.

Most students were enrolled in two courses at the same time, leading to significant debts. On average, students incurred a debt of about $37,000 each, totalling more than $350 million in debts under the former VET FEE-HELP scheme.

Phoenix received more than $106 million in Commonwealth funding under the VET FEE-HELP scheme, and claimed an additional $250 million for students enrolled in its courses between January and November 2015.

“This case involved cynical and calculated systemic unconscionable conduct towards disadvantaged individuals, on an industrial scale,” ACCC Chair Gina Cass-Gottlieb said.

TAFETalks: Using immersive technologies to enhance learning 9 August 2pm AEST

Join TDA’s TAFETalks webinar, where TAFE Queensland and TAFE NSW will demonstrate how they are integrating immersive technologies to achieve improved learning outcomes, in high risk and high-cost training. This session will explore how augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) can improve learner outcomes, using examples from the construction industry.

Lee Webster from TAFE Queensland and John O’Brien from TAFE NSW will show the effectiveness of VR in improving student outcomes in courses such as working at heights. They will share how simulating real-life situations is effective at enabling learners to gain deep skills before entering the real environment. Tony Maguire from D2L will offer reflections and insights on leveraging Learning Management Systems to enhance the incorporation of immersive technologies in teaching and learning.

The collaboration between TAFE NSW and TAFE Queensland in immersive technologies has grown because of TDA’s Immersive Learning Network (TILN). TILN facilitates knowledge exchange among TAFEs, focusing on AR/VR and related technologies that have the potential to enhance TAFE’s educational delivery.

To register, please click here

Federal government to review older worker skills program

The federal government is reviewing two key programs that provide assessment and financial assistance to older workers to upgrade their skills and secure employment.

The Department of Employment, Skills and Workplace Relations has asked the Social Research Centre to conduct research into the Skills Checkpoint for Older Workers Program and the associated Skills and Training Incentive.

The Skills Checkpoint provides up to 10,000 eligible older Australians per year with advice and guidance to help them transition into new roles within their current industry or find new career pathways.

The Skills and Training Incentive provides up to $2,200 to jointly fund training, with a co-contribution from individuals or employers.

The Skills Checkpoint program was introduced by the former Coalition government in 2018.

DEWR says over coming months, the Social Research Centre will be talking to people who have undertaken the program and received the incentive payment, as well as employers who have paid it.

It says the research will inform the department’s evaluation to measure its impact, appropriateness and effectiveness.

See more

Diary Dates

What AI means for the accounting industry
2 August 2023, 9.30am AEST
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TAFETalks: Using immersive technologies to enhance learning
9 August 2023, 2pm AEST
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National Apprentice Employment Network 2023 National Conference
‘New Skills for a New World’
15-17 August 2023
Marvel Stadium, Melbourne
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VET National Teaching & Learning Conference 2023
‘From Competence to Excellence’
17-18 August 2023
Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre
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WorldSkills Australia National Championships and Skills Show
17-19 August 2023
Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre, Victoria
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Victorian Training Awards
18 August 2023
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National Skills Week
‘What are you looking for?’
21-27 August 2023
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TAFETalks: Beyond Paper: The evolution of digital credentials
30 August 2023, 2pm AEST
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NSW Training Awards
September 2023
Sydney Town Hall
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Community Colleges Australia (CCA) Annual Conference
Building ACE Futures
10-11 October 2023
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Australian International Education Conference
10-13 October
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TDA online conference – Linkages: one tertiary education system
18 October 2023, 1 pm AEDT
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VDC World Teachers’ Day Event
27 October 2023 – save the date

2023 National VET Conference
2-3 November 2023
Gold Coast Convention and Exhibition Centre
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Australian Training Awards 
17 November 2023
Hobart, Tasmania
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TDA Convention 2024
8-9 May 2024
Sofitel Wentworth, Sydney
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