Let’s converge – comment by CEO Craig Robertson

Let’s converge – comment by CEO Craig Robertson

I wonder if your heart sank when you heard the media stories two weeks ago about a report from Deloitte[1].

It smashed out of the park the fear that the automation and digitisation boom will run Australia out of jobs. Even though an IMF staff paper[2] predicts the opposite, that is not what’s important about its findings.

The key message is the growth of knowledge jobs and continued decline of manual repetitive jobs – what Deloitte call “jobs of the hand”.

Their analysis shows the vast majority of jobs will involve work of the head and, significantly, work of the heart. For the latter, think of all those jobs which need sophisticated inter-personal and communication skills.

Did you think this is another dagger in the heart of VET? Does this mean even more demand for university?

While you may not subscribe to such distinctions between sectors, your heart may have sunk anyway because popular understanding, even among our politicians, has VET pegged as the sector turning out practical process workers, the very jobs computers are waiting to take?

The political narrative in Australia may have VET as the factory for turning out process workers, and universities as the knowledge factories, but this couldn’t be further from the truth, for VET at least.

The reality is that technology has been a feature of our productive endeavours for decades, even centuries, and most of us have taken it on with some degree of success, although I still haven’t conquered Excel!

Technology, believe it or not, brings convergence. The best example is our mobile phone. It started as a mobile telephonic device but now handles our email, social media, banking, video, and you name it!

That’s why I believe economy-wide capabilities will emerge. What do I mean? The modern workers (of all levels) will need to be able to see and understand the whole process in which they are operating, use technology to support or transform that process and be able to work cooperatively and productively with others in that process.

What are VET graduates expected to do? Exactly, that. They work in production and service processes every day; they apply technology safely and effectively; and they work in teams and with others to achieve results! A simplification, but you get my point.

We shouldn’t assume that our universities own this applied knowledge domain. At the risk of stirring the debate, if they are holding firm to their formal recognition as universities here in Australia, their mission should be focused on the frontiers of knowledge through their research efforts. The TAFE model is the one we need in these changing times – producing graduates with knowledge, understanding and skills. Clearly universities also deliver these graduate capabilities.

Just as modern capabilities will converge, we also need to think seriously about how TAFE and higher education converges. Training packages in VET need to do more in the knowledge stakes, but I’ll address that in future weeks.

Stephen Parker has come closest to offering a theoretical underpinning for imagining post-school education, drawing on Aristotles’ three forms of knowledge: knowing why, knowing how and knowing what to do (with apologies to Aristotle and all philosophers for this crass generalisation). In his article in The Australian last December he warned in respect of higher education and VET:

“Our rigidities could cost Australia dear. We urgently need to reimagine our educational providers, funding system and qualifications framework to encourage new blends of knowing why, knowing how and knowing what to do.”

The printing press underscored the spread of the Reformation and the Enlightenment, which has led to our modern open society. That’s why the 3 Rs (reading, ‘riting and ‘rithmatic) remain a human right of Australian residents and underscore the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

Systems thinking, digital skills and engagement capabilities should be the new rights of every Australian. I hope we can start the journey Parker outlines for us, not for our sake, but for our country.

KPMG report identifies TAFE Queensland's value to the state's economy

As Queensland’s largest and most experienced provider of vocational education and training (VET), TAFE Queensland is playing a critical role in Queensland’s prosperity into the future, creating jobs and enhancing the social wellbeing of communities across the state, according to a KPMG report.

In 2018, TAFE Queensland commissioned KPMG to calculate the organisation’s impact to the Queensland economy and evaluate how it supported industries and communities throughout the state.

The report found TAFE Queensland delivered an economic benefit of $1.8 billion to Gross State Product (GSP) in 2017, with every $1 spent supporting $2.55 of value-added in the Queensland economy.

KPMG National Education Lead Partner Professor Stephen Parker and his education team wrote the report which includes analysis and modelling by KPMG Economics.

“More than ever before, Queensland’s and Australia’s current and future workforce needs to prepare for the changing requirements of employment,” Professor Parker said.

“These changes will happen to jobs themselves, and the skill profiles within jobs.

“A healthy and vibrant TAFE system will be a non-negotiable and vital part of ensuring that Queensland has an education system that can meet the skills needs of the future,” he said.

To read the KPMG report, visit www.tafeqld.edu.au.

See the media release.

Axe likely to fall on education infrastructure fund

The federal government may be set to axe a $3.9 billion education infrastructure fund, part of which was used to support upgrading of regional TAFE campuses.

The Sydney Morning Herald has reported that the government may be about to scrap the fund, citing the need to divert cash away from areas such as university upgrades to natural disaster assistance.

The Higher Education Endowment Fund (HEEF) was first launched by then Treasurer Peter Costello in 2007 and later re-badged as the Education Investment Fund (EIF) by Labor in 2008.

The Herald reports that Prime Minister Scott Morrison is seeking to legislate a new Emergency Response Fund, but will need the Senate to approve the plan to re-purpose the existing fund.

See ‘Stoush brewing over $3.9b education infrastructure fund’ in the Herald

PC inquiry shows the need for a level playing field in tertiary education

Last week’s Productivity Commission report into the demand-driven system for university entry  highlighted the unequal playing field between TAFE and universities, TDA said in a statement.

TDA CEO Craig Robertson said that the demand-driven system that operated from 2010 until last year, saw many students channelled into university pathways who could have equivalent employment outcomes through TAFE, if the playing field was level.

“The inquiry is clear that the demand-driven system certainly increased the numbers attending universities, but it diverted many away from the TAFE sector where their prospects may have been better, particularly when the difference in foregone earnings and the level of student debt are taken into account,” he said.

The inquiry found that additional students who attended universities under the demand-driven system had, on average, lower ATAR scores, commenced at an older age, while about 30 per cent had some previous VET experience.

“While we must look at raising access and improving equity, it’s clear that this cannot be achieved by prioritising one sector over another,” he said.

“TAFEs, including dual sector institutes, continue to do the heavy lifting in the VET sector, providing the bulk of high-level skills and qualifications, trades training and apprenticeships, and have an unmatched level of public confidence in their integrity and capability.”

He said the report was a “wake-up call” that an uneven approach to skills and learning was leaving some individuals vulnerable and disadvantaged as they cope with a rapidly changing workplace.

See TDA’s media release

NSW Budget funds key TAFE election promises

The NSW Budget has delivered a total of $2.3 billion in funding for VET, including money for key election promises such as additional free TAFE places and a new campus in Western Sydney.

The Minister for Skills and Tertiary Education Geoff Lee said the government’s investment in TAFE NSW totalled $1.85 billion,an increase of 3.1 per cent, and accounted for 80 per cent of the state’s skills budget.

“We remain committed to reforming TAFE NSW to further strengthen its place as the nation’s biggest education and training provider,” he said.

The government allocated $71 million over four years for an extra 100,000 free TAFE places. It also committed to deliver an $80 million TAFE “super campus” in Western Sydney, eight additional Connected Learning Centres and two vocational high schools for Western Sydney and the North Coast.

South Australia opens subsidised training to more private providers

Private training providers in South Australia will be able to access subsidies for all 853 courses, including 20 that were previously only available to TAFE, under the latest subsidised training list.

The Minister for Innovation and Skills David Pisoni said the 2019-20 Subsidised Training List (STL 5.0) will ensure more choice and deliver on the government’s commitment to funding contestability.

“Qualifications on the STL have been carefully selected to align with new and emerging areas of the state’s economy such as defence, ICT, cyber security and creative industries while maintaining a sustainable level of funding to support critical sectors such as health, disability, construction and agriculture,” he said.

“Based on stakeholder feedback, we have simplified our communication of subsidised training, with courses funded under training contracts included in the Skilling South Australia Subsidised Traineeship and Apprenticeship List and all other funded courses in the Training Priority List.”

The revised training list takes effect on July 1.

See the South Australian Subsidised Training List

VET needs a shake-up to deal with digital disruption

Australia’s VET sector needs a comprehensive re-think to ensure it can deliver the skills and the people needed for a new era of digitasitaion and automation, TAFE Directors Australia CEO Craig Robertson has urged.

In the latest AVETRA A-News, he says the “philosophy and instruments” of the VET sector are not well-suited to respond to the looming skills need of those entering and transitioning to work.

“The unquestioning adherence to competency-based training centred on practical skills aligned to a point-in-time occupation fails to prepare people for an uncertain future,” he said.

“The little regard given to underpinning knowledge, or to the development of basic literacy and numeracy skills, is a further disservice to students.

“In addition, qualifications which are pegged to current-day occupations provide little opportunity for advancement.”

He said that funding models forcing price competition and simplistic “tick and flick” training and assessment lead all providers down the same path to rudimentary adherence to standards, with little regard for the quality and the spirit of teaching and learning.

“In times of uncertainty, the most basic tenet of education and training – the development of self-managing individuals – should be paramount,” Mr Robertson said.

See the AVETRA News.

TDA issues a call for proposals for the 2019 convention

TAFE Directors Australia has issued a Call for Proposals for this year’s TDA Convention being held in Brisbane, 3 to 5 September.

The call is an opportunity for TAFE staff and close stakeholders of TAFE to present a unique aspect of the distinctive role that TAFEs play in Australia’s post-school education sector, in technology transfer and in close working relationships with industry and business.

The convention theme is ‘The Power of TAFE’. 

TDA and the Advisory Committee invite proposals from within TAFEs, from supporters and partners of TAFEs and from VET experts in Australia and beyond.

Proposals may be for one of the workshop sessions or the keynote program. Proposals can be submitted here.

The deadline for submissions is July 9.

The Convention sponsorship and exhibition prospectus is also available by emailing: tdaconvention@absoluteevents.com.au

Federal Court imposes hefty fine on VET provider

The Federal Court has ordered a Tasmanian man to pay significant penalties for providing a VET course without registration and for issuing qualifications that were not genuine.

The court found that Leon Vere King contravened the National Vocational Education and Training Regulator Act 2011 by providing a VET course when he was not a Registered Training Organisation (RTO) and that he issued 31 statements of attainment, despite not being an RTO.

Justice Perram found that Mr King “undermined the creditability of the VET training system” and ordered him to pay $200,000 in penalties that include the Commonwealth’s costs of $75,000 as well as a civil penalty of $125,000.

The Australian Skills Quality Authority (ASQA) commenced investigations into the matter in 2016 and said the result highlights the importance of the regulator’s investigative work alongside its scrutiny of RTOs and accredited courses.

ASQA Chief Commissioner and CEO Mark Paterson said ASQA will continue to take action against organisations that misrepresent their status as registered providers and mislead students and employers.

Diary Dates

No Frills 2019: The student journey: skilling for life
28th National Vocational Education and Training Research Conference
10-12 July 2019
TAFE SA Adelaide Campus, 120 Currie Street, Adelaide, South Australia
More information

CISA (Council of International Students Australia) National Conference
15-19 July 2019
Perth, Western Australia
More information

National Apprentice Employment Network
2019 National Conference
31 July – 2 August 2019
Crowne Plaza, Gold Coast
More information

QLD School VET Conference
Velg Training
9 August 2019
Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre, Brisbane
More Information

VTA 2019 State Conference
15 – 16 August 2019
RACV City Club, 501 Bourke Street, Melbourne
Save the date

National Manufacturing Summit
21 & 22 August 2019
More information

National Skills Week
26 August – 1 September 2019
Locations around Australia
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TAFE Directors Australia 2019 Convention
‘The Power of TAFE’
3 – 5 September 2019
More information

2019 National VET Conference
Velg Training
12 &13 September 2019
Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre, Brisbane
More Information


Community Colleges Australia 2019 Annual Conference
18-20 November 2019
The Stamford Plaza Hotel, Brisbane
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Australian Training Awards
21 November 2019
Brisbane, Queensland
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Australian Council of Deans of Education Vocational Education Group
5th Annual Conference on VET Teaching and VET Teacher Education
9-10 December 2019
Charles Sturt University Wagga Wagga Campus
More information