TAFE Response to COVID -19 

Let’s get ready – comment by CEO Craig Robertson

Let’s get ready – comment by CEO Craig Robertson

Last week’s budget has thrown everything at economic recovery from the impact of the global pandemic. A push for jobs and faith in employers to open them up.

In these unprecedented times every encouragement is being given to keep or take on workers.


JobKeeper has kept workers in employment even if business is poor. The payments now taper, one step down now till the end of the year and then another from January to March.


JobSeeker Coronavirus Supplement of $250 per fortnight is available until the end of the year.


JobMaker Hiring Credit announced in the Budget started on Budget day and provides employers over the next 12 months $200 a week if hiring someone aged 16 to 29 years or $100 a week for 30 to 35 years olds estimated to create 450,000 positions.


Boosting Apprenticeship Commencements Wage Subsidy started last Monday and will pay businesses of all sizes, in all industries, and in all locations 50 per cent wage subsidy (up to $7000 per quarter) for commencing apprentices and trainees or existing workers embarking on a new apprenticeship, up to 100,000 new apprentices and trainees.


Transitions will be interesting. Off JobSeeker, into work, hopefully. Businesses transitioning out of JobKeeper can seek out JobMaker, or Boosting Apprenticeships. The latter has been criticised this past week for favouring men. The name doesn’t help –the bulk of apprenticeships are with men. “Women make up just 3% of those employed in the electrotechnology and telecommunications trades, and only 1% of those working in construction, engineering and automotive trades”1.

The story is likely to be different though across the 100,000 places. The Government is clear that this is a universal scheme – for any employer of any size for any qualification from Certificate II.

Consider the decision making of employers.


Engage an apprentice – will the business be strong for the 3 or 4 years that’s needed for the apprenticeship?


Engage a trainee – the 12 to 18 months is manageable and there’s a wider range of qualifications.


Get current workers to sign up for an apprenticeship or traineeship – a very attractive way to get assistance to train workers.


The 100,000 places are likely to be taken up in quick time, for two reasons.

Opening to Certificate II courses is significant. Support for employers engaging trainees in Certificate II courses was withdrawn in the 2011 Budget (apart for some priority groups). Certificate II traineeships are very popular in retail and hospitality so it is assumed they have been made available to assist in recovery in those industries.

Further still, Government support to employers signing on their workers to a traineeship seems to be a return to previous policy. Financial incentives to employers signing existing workers up to traineeships was progressively withdrawn from the 2012 Budget (apart from traineeships in personal care occupations). Employers will be attracted to the wage support and the formal training.

The question is whether the scheme will grow unchecked. The only proviso on this universal scheme is that the training contract is formally approved by the state training authority. States and territories generally accept Contracts of Training if regulatory conditions are met, so they are unlikely to moderate growth in any way.

There is some moderation though. Most states and territories only fund the training for courses they consider priority. Many traineeships will be signed up but there will be no public funds available for the training. Employers are likely to have to foot the bill.

Bottom line. There will be opportunities for women in the scheme. The broader question is whether the training will be well targeted and of value. This is something that deserves to be watched as the places are taken up… with gusto, I suspect.

[1] https://theconversation.com/the-female-tradie-shortage-why-real-change-requires-a-major-cultural-shift-97091#:~:text=Women%20make%20up%20just%203,construction%2C%20engineering%20and%20automotive%20trades.

New VET qualification needed to address ‘forgotten’ group of disengaged students

Three respected figures in the VET sector have proposed a new VET qualification, a Diploma of Professional Studies, to fill a gap for a high-risk group of students – those likely to miss out altogether on tertiary education due to COVID disruption.

The proposal comes from the Mackenzie Research Institute and was prepared by Gerald Burke, Tom Karmel and Bruce Mackenzie.

They have identified a large group of students who are going to pay a heavy price as a result of the pandemic – young people who have left school and are not going on to university. Many have not had the required support, either from under‐resourced schools or as a result of family background, and may not have key literacy and numeracy skills.

Their paper, ‘A vocational education response to the pandemic’ says the school leavers of 2020 will have an “educational deficit” and more limited apprenticeship and employment opportunities.

“They are a high risk group who could fall into unemployment,” the authors say.

“Furthermore, the area where many of these students typically gained experience through part‐time work and earnt an income, such as retail and hospitality, has been at least temporarily destroyed.”

The Diploma of Professional Studies would be of two to three years’ duration, focused on a vocational stream, with an AQF Certificate III or IV qualification, recognised by industry.

It would be full time, include a substantial component of general education, and entail some external assessment, preparing graduates for employment or further study at the degree level. It would also attract an income or stipend, equivalent to the Youth Allowance.

The proposed diploma would incorporate a curriculum as advised by industry, complementing training packages.

“Narrow qualifications are inappropriate for a world in a state of flux and it is impossible to predict what will be future employment opportunities,” the paper says.

TAFE students dominate WA training awards

TAFE students have been recognised with top honours at the Western Australian Training Awards, announced by Education and Training Minister Sue Ellery last Tuesday.

Twenty-four year old Bethany Clarke (pictured), a graduate of South Metropolitan TAFE’s world-class oil gas training facility, was named Apprentice of the Year.

Bethany is an inaugural graduate of the National Energy Technician Training Scheme (NETTS), a collaboration project between South Metropolitan TAFE, Programmed and oil and gas companies, designed to increase diversity in the industry.

WA Trainee of the Year went to North Metropolitan TAFE student Cheyne Pearce who studied a Certificate IV in Horticulture and works at Kings Park and Botanic Gardens.

North Metropolitan TAFE’s Trent Caldwell was awarded Vocational Student of the Year. After completing a Diploma of Marketing and Communication, he landed a position as Social Media Manager at Near Me.

School-based Apprentice of the Year went to Joel Pearson, who started his own circus entertainment company and undertook a Certificate III in Arts Administration at North Regional TAFE. It saw him selected to complete a Tour Coordinator Mentorship with regional arts industry leader, CircuitWest.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Student of the Year is Colleen Little who undertook a traineeship with AMA Training Services at Motor Trade Association of Western Australia where she is now employed full time.

The winners will compete at the Australian Training Awards which will be a virtual event on 20 November.

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Success runs in the family at NSW training awards

Canberra Institute of Technology student Joshua Nickl (pictured) scored a double at the NSW Training Awards on Friday, picking up both Apprentice of the Year and a People’s Choice award.

Joshua, who grew up in his family’s patisserie, studied a Certificate III in Retail Baking at CIT and now works at The Gumnut Patisserie. Joshua’s father was a finalist for Apprentice of the Year in 1994.

Trainee of the Year went to Emily Jones, trained by TAFE NSW where she undertook a Certificate IV in Library and Information Services and is employed by GTO, ATEL Training Solutions and hosted by Greater Hume Council.

School Based Apprentice/Trainee of the Year was awarded to Theodore Scholl, trained by TAFE NSW, employed by Richmond Valley Council and attending St Mary’s Catholic College, Casino.

TasTAFE riding high at Tasmanian training awards 

TasTAFE was awarded Large Training Provider of the Year and one of its graduates, Apprentice of the Year, at the Tasmanian Training Awards in Hobart on Friday.

The Minister for Education and Training Jeremy Rockliff named Caitlin Radford (pictured) as Tasmanian Apprentice of the Year. The multi-award winning dressage and para-equestrian completed her Certificate III in Agriculture through TasTAFE and now works for SW Radford.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Student of the Year was awarded to TasTAFE student Jessica Matthews, and Vocational Student of the Year to Heetham Hekmat, also from TasTAFE.

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Existing workers to be included in $1.2bn apprentice wage subsidy scheme 

Existing workers will be eligible to attract the new $1.2 billion apprentice wage subsidy announced in last week’s federal Budget, the Minister for Employment, Skills, Small and Family Business, Senator Michaelia Cash has confirmed.

In a letter to VET stakeholders on Friday Senator Cash outlined details of the Boosting Apprenticeship Commencements program which will provide a 50% wage subsidy to employers taking on new apprentices and trainees.

“Existing workers embarking on a new apprenticeship will be included in this scheme to support upskilling and reskilling,” Senator Cash said.

The inclusion of existing workers surprised some in the VET sector because a commencement payment to employers of existing workers was terminated by the former Labor government in mid-2012 because of a blowout in non-trade traineeships.

There was concern that some employers might exploit the new measure by moving existing employees into unsuitable or low quality training in order to attract the subsidy, taking a large share of the 100,000 available places.

The wage subsidy is available to businesses of all sizes, in all industries and locations, and is worth up to $7,000 a quarter for the period up to 30 September 2021.

VET FEE-HELP redress measures extended

Thousands of students who were victims of the VET FEE-HELP loan scandal will have an extra two years to lodge their complaints and have their debts re-credited, under an extension announced in Tuesday’s Budget.

The government committed almost $12 million to extend the student redress measures to 31 December 2022. They were originally due to cease at the end of December.

Since 2016, approximately 130,000 students have had more than $2 billion in student loan debts cancelled.

The recent quarterly report of the VET Student Loans Ombudsman showed an extra 1,236 complaints received in the June quarter, with almost 3,000 still to be determined.

TAFE NSW and Volvo join for apprentice training

TAFE NSW has partnered with MSX International as the national training provider for Volvo apprentices.

Through the partnership, Volvo apprentices will study a Certificate III in Light Vehicle Mechanical Technology in the state-of-the-art automotive training facilities at TAFE NSW Campbelltown and receive hands-on experience with Volvo’s advanced automotive software technology.

Premier Gladys Berejiklian said the agreement with MSX International is an example of how TAFE NSW is partnering with industries to bolster the practical skills of employees and maximise business potential.

“This is a significant step towards strengthening Australia’s automotive industry and building a pipeline of mechanics with specialised skills and knowledge to meet the needs of global companies like Volvo,” Ms Berejiklian said.

New website helps young people chart next steps in their careers 

The National Careers Institute (NCI) has launched the School Leavers Information Kit and the School Leavers Information Service, providing a targeted support package for young people leaving school and choosing a career.

Also, the new Your Career website provides a wide range of information on career ideas, skills matching and finding the right courses.

The School Leavers Information Kit, Your Career: What’s next for you?, provides this year’s school leavers with information about their education, training and employment options in 2021. It can be found here.

The School Leavers Information Service will provide school leavers with phone, text or email support to navigate the School Leavers Information Kit, and to access and use the Your Career website.

The service also offers a personalised career guidance session with a qualified career practitioner for up to 45 minutes. The service is available by:

  • calling 1800 CAREER (1800 227 337)
  • texting SLIS2020 to 0429 009 435, or
  • emailing schoolleavers.nci@dese.gov.au

Victoria expands job re-connect program

The Victorian government has announced a four-year extension of its workforce assistance Reconnect Program to help those affected by the COVID lockdown and bushfires.

The Minister for Training and Skills and Higher Education Gayle Tierney said the $47 million expansion was aimed at early school leavers, long-term unemployed, asylum seekers and those on Youth Justice Orders and is designed to act as a pathway to further education or employment.

The program is offered by TAFEs and a number of community organisations.

Applications recently closed for providers to run the program beyond 2021.

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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:

The improving prestige of colleges in the UK – why it’s happening and what it might mean, with David Hughes (Association of Colleges, UK)
15 October, 6pm AEDT (8am UK time).
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)
21 October 7pm – 8pm (AEDT)
Register here

One hundred and fifty years of Australia Technical Education: An overlooked sesquicentenary, with Dr John Pardy (Monash University)
27 October, 2pm – 3pm (AEDT)
No need to register, just join the Zoom link on the day.

An introduction to VET and Australian Apprenticeships Data
Australian Apprenticeships and Traineeships Information Service (AATIS), with Phil Loveder from the National Centre for Vocational Education Research (NCVER)
28 October, 2pm – 3pm AEDT
Register here

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 and  Michelle Circelli, Senior Researcher, NCVER.
29 October 1.30pm – 3.30pm (AEDT)
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).

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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