TAFE Response to COVID -19 

Let’s be in this together – comment by CEO Craig Robertson

Let’s be in this together – comment by CEO Craig Robertson

The streets of Richmond in the inner suburbs of Melbourne will be eerily quiet this week considering the significance of the event in Brisbane on Saturday evening.

The rhythm of a year is punctuated by the big events – ANZAC Day signals the heaters be turned on (in Canberra at least) and the last day in September heralds the ultimate in AFL – the Grand Final at the G.  From then on, even in weather prone Melbourne, the true Spring allows everyone to venture outdoors.

AFL had its beginnings as an urban league – suburb pit against suburb on a Saturday afternoon during winter. The game may have evolved to a national stage but the tribes remain. In 2020 it’s the Tigers from Richmond versus the Cats from Geelong.

For Tigers and Cats fans and AFL fans from Victoria the curtailment on outside gatherings to control the virus will be keenly felt this week in particular. There’s nothing like the drive by of Punt Road to get a glimpse of players training, or walking through the city with many wearing their team’s beanie or scarf as a last display of tribal loyalism for the year.

As we look on 2020 as one like no other and contemplate a new way of life, abiding by public health imperatives and wonder how our economy can rebound, the transformation at Punt Road from 2016 is a useful reflection.

Prior to 2016, Richmond, like most other clubs played ‘change the coach’ when things did not go well. After some promising finals in years prior to 2016 that season turned sour with a finish at unlucky thirteenth. The coach had used lofty exhortation to incite the players to action that quickly turned to anger when the plays disintegrated alongside the players’ confidence. In the old way of thinking, supporters were baying for the coach to go, even some ex-players hatched a take-over of the board which ultimately failed.

For this column there are too many elements to the turnaround but at the core were calm leadership and humility.

The club leadership at Punt Road kept their faith in Hardwick (the coach). This gave him enough space to explore his own leadership at Harvard during the summer break. He knew the angry coach was losing his players – the distance even extended to his wife (‘You’ve changed, you’re not the guy that I married.’).

The exponential change came pre-season for 2017 when he and the captain shared their vulnerabilities and from there it flowed to all the players. ‘The players responded to the honesty of their leaders by opening up about their own experiences. It had a transformative effect on the group.’ The playing system then flourished as players played for each other.

Some three years on, a legacy is looming – potentially three premierships in four years.

Why do I tell this story? Two reasons.

It seems to me we in VET are ach trying desperately for the magic solution for its resurrection. Joyce, at the core of his recommendations says lining up incentives for Industry will do the trick. The Productivity Commission has faith in the invisible hand of the market and the Prime Minister sees solutions in consistent funding across the nation (plus a forward-looking curriculum). The rapid review of ASQA sees a successful future with more trust in providers, and bureaucrats rely on pushing ever more curated information to prospective students to entice the right enrolment.

Each has a contribution to success, but what is the magic ingredient? Vulnerability shared made the playing group stronger. To know that someone has your back frees you to have someone else’s back.

The shortfall of dog-eat-dog neo-liberalism has been exposed during the pandemic, here and around the world.

Public administration needs new tools. The Productivity Commission in its investigation of human services concluded ‘For some services, and in some settings, direct government provision of services will be the best way to improve the wellbeing of individuals and families.[1]’ Some call the new approach stewardship, where Government’s steer and stakeholders contribute according to their strengths and create an adaptable system.

Secondly. Success is a shared endeavour. Hardwick couldn’t do it on his own. He never could. He empowered his players. It’s no coincidence that the new football manager for the 2017 season was Neil Balme who is often cited for refining this philosophy in his coaching in the 90s. He has said:

‘the guy .. going for the ball is in charge of your destiny [as a coach], so you’ve got to empower him somehow, because he’s got all the responsibility. You need him to want to do it for the right reasons, you need him to want to do it for you.’

In an unsettling year, a tiring year, there’s benefit in contemplating the Richmond journey even though it might stick in your craw. Whether it is how we approach the reform journey for VET in Australia or our very own leadership – let’s be in this together – even from the safety of our homes.

(I thank George Megalogenis and his book The Football Solution for the Richmond story.)


[1] https://www.pc.gov.au/inquiries/completed/human-services/identifying-reform/preliminary-findings#text

More 25-year olds choosing university over VET, according to latest youth snapshot

There has been a significant shift in the behavior of young people over the past decade, with more studying at university, and fewer choosing VET, according to the latest report from NCVER’s Longitudinal Surveys of Australian Youth (LSAY).

“Today’s young people are completing university at higher rates than ever before, the study says.

LSAY charts the lives of a group of young Australians as they leave school, enter further study or the workforce and make the transition into adulthood. It compares the results of the group that commenced the study in 2009, who were age 25 in 2019, with the 1998 cohort who were age 25 in 2009.

The proportion of 25-year-olds who completed a university qualification increased from 41% to 52% over the decade, while those with a VET qualification fell from 55% to 46%. Those in apprenticeships and traineeships slipped from 25% to 17%.

“This is likely to be an effect of several factors including changes to the labour market and VET funding arrangements,” the report said.

“The expansion of higher education through the demand driven system (2010-17) also saw some young people, who might have otherwise studied vocationally, instead opt to go into the university system.”

The report also shows young people are finding it harder to secure full-time work and completing their post-school study at a later age and, as a result, working while studying for longer periods.

Rising housing costs and difficulty in securing full-time work have seen a decline in 25-year-olds buying their own home, with an increasing proportion still living with their parents at age 25.

See the Longitudinal Surveys of Australian Youth: Life at 25: then & now

How VET marketisation has impacted around the world – free webinar

The World Federation of Colleges and Polytechnics (WFCP) is hosting a free webinar this Thursday at 9.30 pm (AEDT) on the topic: ‘To marketize or not to marketize: around the world in three approaches to technical education’.

The webinar will see speakers across three continents – Australia, the UK and Chile –  discuss the vocational system in their respective countries, focusing on whether a marketised approach has been taken, how it has been implemented and whether it has been effective. The webinar will conclude with an audience Q&A. This will be of interest to education policymakers and practitioners.

Join the speakers:

Emma Meredith, Association of Colleges (AoC) International Director, UK
David Corke, Director of Education and Skills Policy, (AoC), UK
Dr Don Zoellner, University Fellow, Charles Darwin University; former Board Member of TDA
Alfredo Pinto, Director of Marketing and Communications, Duoc UC, Chile

Registration (free of charge) is required.

Free TAFE extended in Queensland election pledge

The Queensland ALP has announced that, if re-elected, it will extend its free TAFE initiative to all Queenslanders under the age of 25.

In her campaign address yesterday, Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said the TAFE initiative was part of a plan to support young people prepare for the job market and help recover from the economic impact of COVID-19.

The government had already provided free TAFE and free apprenticeships for Queenslanders under 21, helping some 24,000 young people.

“Now we’re going further by extending that to under 25s,” Ms Palaszczuk said.

“That means another 37,000 young people throughout Queensland will be able to get world-class vocational training for free.”

The Minister for Training and Skills Development Shannon Fentiman said the extended program will apply to 165 priority qualification areas, including health services, hospitality, engineering, aged and disability support and early childhood education.

The election will take place on Saturday, October 31.

School leavers forced to compete against subsidised jobs: Mackenzie Institute

The head of the Mackenzie Research Institute, Bruce Mackenzie says the federal government’s Jobmaker hiring credit will see Year 12 school leavers competing for jobs against workers benefiting from a $200 employer wage subsidy.

Writing in Michael West Media, he says the scheme sends a terrible message to youth, “that they first have to go on unemployment benefits before they are likely to be offered a job.”

“The subsidised jobs are likely to be found in low-skilled areas, such as jobs in fast food outlets, supermarkets and retail,” he said.

“The lack of incentive, or need, for these employers to encourage or facilitate upskilling means that these insecure, low-paying jobs are no stepping stone to a better career or further qualifications. They may be jobs for life.”

He also said that the government’s apprenticeship wage subsidy scheme may be popular with the public, but the drop-out rates for apprenticeships are high, at about 40-50% for traditional apprentices, mainly because of employer-related issues.

“While traineeships in areas such as retail, hospitality and so on achieve better completion rates than traditional apprenticeships, the continuing employment rates are terrible – especially after the government subsidy cuts out.”

International students tune in to TAFE Queensland showcase

TAFE Queensland International received a strong response to its virtual open day in September which showcased its facilities, courses and teachers to international students, globally.

Both onshore and offshore international students and education agent were able to gain a glimpse of TAFE Queensland, with highlights including Creative Arts and Fashion, Dental Technology, English Language, Information Technology, and Childcare.

The event also discussed admissions, student support, virtual delivery, vocational placement, pathways, and featured a virtual ‘walk around’ some of the state-of-the-art facilities across key campus locations.

Registration was strong with agencies and students across the global signing up and tuning in. The event was recorded and is available on the website.

A Q&A section covered issues such as borders, visas, and program entry.

Due to the success of the event, more webinars are planned, with the next one specifically for international education agents.

See the TAFE Queensland International promotion

BHP makes training and upskilling commitment

The federal government has struck an agreement with BHP to enable up to 1,000 people in regional areas to study a higher education qualification or undertake an apprenticeship.

Those engaged will be able to undertake an undergraduate certificate qualification through a short course, or enter into an advanced apprenticeship.

The Minister for Employment, Skills, Small and Family Business, Senator Michaelia Cash said the BHP partnership would strengthen the VET system, and she welcomed BHP’s commitment to training 2,500 new apprentices.

See more

Diary Dates

AVETRA 2020 Researcher Development Series
Webinars designed for early career, emerging and practitioner researchers
June 2020 – March 2021
More information


OctoberVET 2020
AVETRA
A series of online events in October showcasing VET research and discussion.

‘Social justice research and vocational education: A conversation with Professor Liz Atkins (University of Derby, UK)’

Host: Dr Teressa Schmidt (CQUniversity) Member of AVETRA Executive Committee

Date: This is a pre-recorded interview, which is available here: Recording

Enquiries: Dr Teressa Schmidt  t.schmidt@cqu.edu.au

Flyer: Attached

The improving prestige of colleges in the UK – why it’s happening and what it might mean’,  with David Hughes (Association of Colleges, UK)

Host: Robin Shreeve, Executive Committee Member and Past President of AVETRA

Date: 15th October, 6pm AEDT (8am UK time)

Webinar Link: provided upon registration

Enquiries: Robin Shreeve shreeverobin@yahoo.com.au

Flyer: Attached

Register here

‘Trends in the future of work: What does this mean for UK employment and skills system?’ with Lesley Giles (Director Work Advance, UK)

Host: Robin Shreeve, Executive Member and Past President of AVETRA

Date: 21st October, 7pm – 8pm (AEDT)

Webinar Link: Provided upon registration

Enquiries:  Robin Shreeve shreeverobin@yahoo.com.au

Flyer: Attached

Register here

‘One hundred and fifty years of Australia Technical Education: An overlooked sesquicentenary’, with Dr John Pardy (Monash University)

Host: Dr John Pardy, Monash University

Date: 27th October, 2pm – 3pm (AEDT)

Webinar Link: To participate in this seminar Please click this URL to start or join.https://monash.zoom.us/j/99200713933?pwd=bkN2YzlHMmxVTk1OQlBXUFB4VlpsUT09 Or, go to https://monash.zoom.us/join and enter meeting ID: 992 0071 3933 and password:35354691

Enquiries: Dr John Pardy

Flyer: Attached

Registration: No need to register, just join by the Zoom link on the day!

‘An introduction to VET and Australian Apprenticeships Data’

Host: Australian Apprenticeships and Traineeships Information Service (AATIS), with Phil Loveder from the National Centre for Vocational Education Research (NCVER)

Date: 28th October, 2pm – 3pm AEDT

Flyer: Attached

Enquiries: If there is any data you would like us to include during this session, or any questions you have, please include this in your registration or email research@aatis.com.au

Register here

A recording of this session will be made available after the event at: gotostage.com/channel/aatis

‘Women learning, women working: how disability and gender shape training and career opportunities’ with:

–          Dr Lizzie Knight (Victoria University and Secretary of AVETRA

–          Jen Cousins (TAFE SA)

–          Dr Karen O’Reilly-Briggs (LaTrobe University)

–          Michelle Circelli (Senior Researcher, NCVER)

Host: Women in Adult and Vocational Education (WAVE)

Date: 29th October, 1.30pm – 3.30pm (AEDT)

Webinar Link: Provided upon registration.

Enquiries: Dr Kira Clarke (Brotherhood of St Laurence)   Kira.Clarke@bsl.org.au

Flyer: Attached

Register here (For this webinar, there is a small charge of $20 to help raise funds for a grant in memory of our WAVE colleague, Sue Salthouse, who sadly passed away earlier this year).

The multi-stakeholder engagement model (the ecosystem) for applied research and innovation in the Basque Country: insights from TKNIKA’ withIñigo Araiztegui and Unai Ziarsolo (TKNIKA).

Host: Andrew Williamson (Holmesglen Institute of TAFE)

Date: 4th November, 9am – 10.30 (AEDT)

Webinar Link: Provided upon registration

Enquiries: Andrew.williamson@holmesglen.edu.au

Flyer: Attached

Register here

‘How can VET teachers apply the Principles of Universal Design in Education to support learners of all abilities?’ with Annemaree Gibson and Annie Carney (Teaching and Learning Enhancement, Box Hill Institute)

Date: 4th November, 12.30pm – 1.30pm (AEDT)

Webinar Link: Provided upon registration

Enquiries: tle@boxhill.edu.au

Flyer: Attached

Register here

‘Learning in turbulent times’, hosted by Federation University, featuring Anthony Mann (OECD) speaking about ‘Young people and the COVID-19 Labour Market’ along with three Federation University presentations focusing on Men’s Sheds; Community learning in adversity; and People’s learning about the COVID-19 pandemic.

Date: 16th November, 6pm – 8pm (AEDT)

Webinar Link: Provided upon registration

Enquiries: vet.research@federation.edu.au

Flyer: Attached

Register here


LH Martin Institute
Web Fest
1 – 29 October 2020
More information

AIEC Braindate: Making meaningful connections in a virtual world
20 & 21 October 2020
Virtual event
Register here

National VET PD Week
Velg Training
26 – 30 October 2020
More information

Beyond 2020: Creating the Future with Work Integrated Learning (virtual) 
Australian Collaborative Education Network Limited (ACEN)
27 – 28 October 2020
More information

VDC 2020 Virtual Teaching & Learning Conference
19 & 20 November 2020
Registrations Open

Australian Training Awards
20 November 2020
Melbourne
More information

TAE PD Week
Velg Training & MRWED
30 November – 4 December 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

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