Jobs and skills summit must focus on the long term – comment by CEO Jenny Dodd

Jobs and skills summit must focus on the long term – comment by CEO Jenny Dodd

“The gift of near full-employment” is how the current environment was described recently in the Australian Financial Review (15 July 2022). The fact that nearly every Australian who wants a job can get one is something in this two-plus years of disruptive pandemic conditions we must be grateful for and commend those who created the conditions that have made this possible. As we know, work is fundamental to individual purpose, and those of us who have lived through high levels of unemployment, especially youth unemployment, appreciate how important full employment is.

However, there is a flip side, and the jobs and skills summit must address the long-term issues. Those who are leaders of vocational education and training know that, traditionally, individuals invest less in their skills development during full employment. With acute labour shortages individuals can secure employment and often defer their investment in skills development. Of course, apprentices and trainees have a contract with their employer as they study and that does not apply to them. However, apprentices and trainees do not form most of the learner population of a TAFE.

Thus, in periods of full employment TAFEs experience soft demand in many courses. These courses generally include those industries where there is low market entry in terms of the value industry places on qualifications, for example the hospitality industry. This is an expected outcome and has been evident over many cycles. However, for the first time TAFE is experiencing low demand in industry areas not previously subject to such swings, such as the health industry. This is a concern, given the critical need for high level skills in this vital industry.

We know that the future of work requires higher level skills. In the recent successful NCVER No Frills online conference the opening speaker, Sophie Renton from McCrindle Research, stated “The world of work is changing, so too is the pathway to prepare students for it. Investing in lifelong learning to embrace new skills and refresh existing ones is increasingly important to future proof careers”.

While the jobs and skills summit will no doubt endorse greater skilled migration to fill current skilled workforce needs, so too it must spend time on long term solutions. To date, lifelong learning has usually been left just to the individual in terms of their career trajectory. The difference between now and in previous cycles must be what does lifelong learning look like in partnerships between employers and unions and the tertiary education sector.

There are some questions that need to be asked. How do we collectively generate demand by individuals for investment in their own education and skills development? What are the solutions that will provide benefit to our society and economy for the long run? What are the constraints in terms of policy, funding, structure and regulation that maybe restricting the tertiary education sectors’ ability to partner with each other, and with employers, as higher-level skills become even more important in the future?

Skills ministers pledge to resolve impasse on national agreement

The first meeting of Commonwealth and state skills and training ministers under the Labor federal government has agreed to “reset” negotiations on a national skills agreement and to target financial support to key areas of skills need.

The joint statement following last Thursday’s meeting said all jurisdictions agreed “to strengthen Australia’s TAFE and training sector” and to work “ in partnership to continue to grow the pipeline of skilled workers and prioritise skills reform”.

Speaking ahead of the meeting, the federal Minister for Skills and Training Brendan O’Connor foreshadowed moves to more closely target spending initiatives in the VET sector.

“We want to make sure that we are investing taxpayers’ dollars in areas of need,” he said.

“We need to fill the shortages that exist today, we need to anticipate the skill needs for the future in a more precise manner, so when we invest taxpayers’ dollars in training working people, we train them in areas of current and future demand. That has not worked very well,” he said.

“What I’m happy to say, and having spoken to all of the state and territory ministers is there’s a very strong sense of cooperation and goodwill to get this done.”

The Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations Tony Burke told Insiders yesterday that the creation of Jobs and Skills Australia would be the first piece of legislation to come before the parliament this week.

Surging demand for women in trades courses

Ten Brisbane women are the first to complete TAFE Queensland’s new Women in Welding program, created to bring more women into the typically male-dominated welding industry.

The five-day intensive course was run at TAFE Queensland’s Alexandra Hills campus, where the students learnt basic welding skills using the latest augmented reality technology as well as traditional welding techniques.

The program was so successful that more training opportunities will be offered for the rest of the year. One program will be the 10-day Women in Trades Program which is tailored to women who are looking to explore a trade career.

The welding program was delivered at no cost to participants, with the Queensland government funding Women in Welding under the Workforce Transition Support Project.

TDA Convention 2022 – international perspectives from panel of experts

As part of the TDA Convention program, TDA is excited to announce that we will be joined virtually by a panel of four international experts from India, the UK, Canada and the European Commission to share insights on trends, challenges and successes in vocational education and skills training overseas. The presentations will be followed by a live Q&A session with the panel and audience participants.

  • João Santos is a Senior expert in the Directorate General for Employment, Social Affairs, and Inclusion at the European Commission in Brussels. The unit is responsible for Vocational Education and Training as well as for the policy orientation of the Erasmus+ programme in this sector.
  • Amar Jha is the Managing Director and CEO of SkillYatra, and a subject matter expert to KPMG in India. Prior to that he was the CEO of Jharkhand Skill Development Mission Society (JSDMS) for the Government of Jharkhand.
  • Dawn Ward is the Chair of the World Federation of Colleges and Polytechnics (WFCP) and is also Deputy Chair of the Chartered Institution for Further Education in the United Kingdom. She is the Chief Executive of Burton and South Derbyshire College in the UK.
  • Denise Amyot has been the President and CEO of Colleges and Institutes Canada since 2013. Denise is an international leader in education for employment in over 25 countries.

Call for presentations
If you would like to be a part of the TDA Convention 2022 program and collectively shape the future of TAFE, the call for presentations is now open. The deadline for submissions is COB Monday 1 August.

This is an opportunity for TAFE staff and key stakeholders of TAFE to share their stories and experiences of courage and change, and to be the leading providers of solutions to the challenges of the future. Please click here for more information and to download the presentation guidelines.

Delegates at the TDA Convention 2022 will be informed and inspired by courageous stories and innovative practices. Presentations will highlight the power of collaboration with colleagues, community and industry. The TDA Convention will bring together different perspectives including from students, staff, employers, industry, community and government.

For further information on registration packages and inclusions, and to register for the event, please click here.

Sponsorship opportunities
The sponsorship prospectus is now available here. To discuss sponsorship opportunities, please contact

Stay up to date on convention news and program updates 
For updates on convention news and programming, please subscribe to the TDA Convention 2022 e-newsletter here.

TDA looks forward to welcoming its members, partners and supporters to Adelaide in November 2022 to be part of the conversation on Courage, Change and Challenge: The Future of TAFE.

WorldSkills opens applications to regional Australian competitions

WorldSkills Australia has opened applications to regional competitions, which are the first step on the path to upcoming national and international skills championships.

The regional competitions will be held in 34 regions Australia-wide and are free to enter.

The regional competitions are usually held at a school or training organisation and will test participants’ skills against others in the region.

Those who perform well can go on to the National Championships in Melbourne being held 17 – 19 August 2023.

National medalists may be invited to train for the International Competition in Lyon, France in 2024.

See more

TAFE courses to be added to SA tertiary admissions guide

For the first time, TAFE courses in South Australia will appear alongside university study in the latest South Australian Tertiary Admissions Centre (SATAC) guide.

The SATAC was established in 1977 by universities as the single point for admissions to all higher education institutions.

The Minister for Education, Training and Skills Blair Boyer said secondary students will now see TAFE SA courses listed alongside university courses for the first time.

“TAFE SA delivers a wide range of education and training programs in fields as diverse as Cyber Security, Software Development, Hospitality, Nursing and Engineering at locations across the state,” Mr Boyer said.

“These are critically important career paths and ones that will serve our economy now and well into the long-term future of our state.”

TAFE SA Chief Executive David Coltman said the institution has strong partnerships with universities, meaning it is able to provide pathways for students who want to combine the applied learning of VET with the academic focus of a university delivered qualification.

The 2023 SATAC guide contains more than 900 TAFE SA and undergraduate courses. Some 40,000 copies will be delivered to students in the state.

See the 2023 SATAC Guide

Don't forget this week's TAFETalks: The Scholarship of Teaching and Learning

Wednesday 27 July at 2.00pm AEST (Canberra/Melbourne/Sydney time)

Register here


Join Professor Sally Kift and a panel of distinguished speakers for a discussion on the scholarship of teaching and learning.

Sally is a Principal Fellow of the Higher Education Academy (PFHEA), a Fellow of the Australian Academy of Law (FAAL) and President of the Australian Learning and Teaching Fellows (ALTF). Sally is a renowned higher education expert and academic and has published widely on transition pedagogy, legal education and student transition. Sally was a member of the Australian Qualifications Framework Review Panel that reported to Government in September 2019. Sally’s role will be to reflect on the discussions of our TDA members including:

  • Associate Professor Melanie Williams, Associate Dean (Scholarship) at William Angliss Institute, where her primary role is to lead and support vocational and higher education teaching staff in taking a scholarly approach to improving their learning and teaching practice.
  • Dr Fiona Wahr, Senior Lecturer, Applied Research and Scholarship, Melbourne Polytechnic. Fiona led the revised scholarship model introduced at Melbourne Polytechnic
  • Vanessa Crawford, Associate Dean, Higher Education, TAFE Queensland. Vanessa will reflect on TAFE Queensland’s practices related to the scholarship of teaching and learning. Vanessa is also the chair of TDA’s Higher Education Provider network.

Places are filling fast! Register here

More students doing VET in schools

There has been a modest increase in the number of students undertaking VET in schools, according to the latest data from the National Centre for Vocational Education Research (NCVER).

The number of students undertaking VET in Schools increased 4.2% to 251,200 between 2020 and 2021.

Of the total, 20,500 students, or approximately 8%, were undertaking a school-based apprenticeship or traineeship while the majority (92%) or 230,700 students were enrolled in other VET in Schools programs.

Almost 40% of the nation’s VET in Schools enrolments are in Queensland, where the number increased 14% over the year to almost 100,000.

The most popular qualification (52%) was at Certificate II level.

In 2021, 13% of students were training for qualifications in the Tourism, travel and hospitality training package, 12% in Business services and 12% in Sport, fitness and recreation.

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Recruitment difficulty stuck at historically high level

Recruitment remains a major challenge, with 67% of employers reporting difficulty in June, according to the National Skills Commission (NSC).

While the level of recruitment difficulty was down 1% since May, it is up 15 percentage points since June 2021.

The NSC’s Recruitment Experiences and Outlook Survey also shows that 28% of employers expected to increase staffing levels over the next three months, a decline on May (32%) and April (36%, the record high).

The NSC surveys approximately 1,200 employers each month to find out about their experience when recruiting staff as well as whether they are expecting to increase staffing levels.

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Recruitment Difficulty Rate
(Proportion of recruiting employers who experienced difficulty hiring)

Diary Dates

TAFETalks: The Scholarship of Teaching and Learning
27 July 2022
Register here

10-11 Aug 2022
More information

ACER Research Conference 2022
Reimagining assessment
22-25 August 2022
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Victorian TAFE Association
State Conference
24-26 August 2022
Registrations open

National Skills Week 2022
22-28 August 2022
More information

Community Colleges Australia National Conference
13-14 September 2022
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Australian International Education Conference 2022
18-21 October 2022
Gold Coast & Online
More information

2022 National VET Conference
Velg Training
3-4 November 2022
Gold Coast Convention and Exhibition Centre
More information

TDA Convention 2022
Courage, Change and Challenge – the Future of TAFE
15-17 November 2022
More information

VDC Teaching & Learning Conference
VET Development Centre
17 & 18 November 2022 (Online)
More information