Let’s go forward with confidence – comment by CEO Craig Robertson

Let’s go forward with confidence – comment by CEO Craig Robertson

Wilfully throwing yourself over a cliff with only the safety of a rope tethered to something solid. That’s how I’d describe abseiling.

I am hearing from TAFE leaders about staff venturing into new ways of teaching and training as the necessary response to social distancing forced to beat COVID-19. At first, they were apprehensive, fearing the unknown of teaching away from the relative comfort of the classroom.

One of the reasons abseiling features so strongly in outdoor education is the chance to conquer uncertainty and fear – in a safe way tethered to a rope. I have seen many a hesitant teenager brim with confidence once they’ve conquered the cliff.

There has been plenty of activity across the TAFE network in the past two months as they have responded to the challenges presented by COVID-19. It’s only possible from a team effort – the encouragement and support offered to each other and the freedom to experiment offered by the circumstances.

This week we launch on the TDA website stories from TAFEs about the responses they have taken. Jenny Dodd, CEO of TasTAFE chats on-line about the team-based approach they have taken, pulling together and achieving more by using the strengths of each team member.

Several TAFEs share the responses they have put in place. And we start the story of the support TAFEs are giving to their international students.

In a recent article Francesca Beddie, former National Manager for research at NCVER, asks key questions about the future of tertiary education after COVID. The article is posted on our COVID site and I encourage you to read it.

The stories don’t stop here.  There are lots of stories we are keen to share.  If you are reading this and have a story to tell, then contact us on memberservices@tda.edu.au.

Abseiling is a curious thing. The more you trust your full weight on the rope the more straightforward the descent. It’s not helped that a novice needs to go over the edge back first, with the unseen heightening the unknown.

Perhaps it has been all too easy for us over recent years to lament the policy and funding environment TAFEs find themselves in. We mustn’t lose sight of the muscle TAFEs have brought to the COVID-19 task that sets us up with confidence for the future.

I bet the tether for most has been the sense of public service, acting beyond self-interest for the interest of the student and the passion of teaching and training. Clearly, this is not solely the domain of the public sector, however, it is a mission that underscores the rationale for public providers.

The government took its first step in trusting providers to get on with their job. The Rapid Review of the Australian Skills Quality Authority’s Regulatory Practices and Processes recommends a move to self-assurance and excellence in training outcomes away from input and compliance controls. TAFEs, for their part, even if only based on the COVID response, justify the trust because public service underscores its approach.

Go to tda.edu.au to see the COVID-19 response.

Government accepts all recommendations of ASQA review

The federal government will accept all 24 recommendations from the “rapid review” of the Australian Skills Quality Authority’s (ASQA), released last week.

The Rapid Review Final Report says that while ASQA’s overarching vision and purpose remain appropriate, some “significant adjustments” are needed to ASQA’s regulatory approach.

It finds that the existing system of provider regulation has a strong focus on inputs and compliance controls, and that there is a “significant trust deficit” between the regulator, peak bodies and some regulated entities.

It says ASQA audit reports are “currently dense, contain significant templated text and do not always effectively describe the identified non-compliance in a meaningful way”, and give limited information about some of the regulatory decisions.

The review suggests a changed organisational structure and a focus on strengthening strategic oversight and managerial capacity.

The Minister for Employment, Skills, Small and Family Business, Senator Michaelia Cash, said the review provides a clear blueprint that will help equip VET students for jobs, especially during the recovery phase from the COVID-19 pandemic.

ASQA welcomed the release of the review and said work was already underway to support its move beyond compliance to a greater focus on quality assurance.

TAFEs on board in support of elite athletes

A new program will support Australia’s elite athletes to combine study at TAFE with their high level sporting commitments.

TAFE Directors Australia and the Australian Institute of Sport (AIS) have established the Elite Athlete TAFE Network (EATN), ensuring athletes can access TAFE institutes across Australia for applied education and training, including specialised support.

The program is an expansion of the existing Elite Athlete Education Network and is based on feedback from athletes who were looking for the types of courses TAFEs provide; applied education and skills training that is flexible, utilises online study, and is connected to the career they may pursue outside of their elite competition.

The AIS has signed agreements with the Canberra Institute of Technology, Holmesglen, TAFE SA and TAFE Queensland, and is working with TAFEs in other states to expand the reach for athletes. Several TDA member dual sector university TAFE divisions (RMIT, Swinburne University, Federation University and Central Queensland University) are also on board as part of the EATN.

“We are delighted to partner with the AIS in this way,” Craig Robertson, CEO of TAFE Directors Australia said. “It’s a natural extension of the way TAFEs operate. They work with all students, whether they are already working or with other commitments in life. TAFEs give the know-how and the industry knowledge for successful careers,” he said.

See more

Victoria comes to the rescue of international students

Victoria is the latest state to offer financial assistance for international students as part of a $45 million relief package.

Students in need will be able to claim a one-off payment of up to $1,100 each.

The government estimates that up to 40,000 international students enrolled at Victorian universities, TAFEs, private providers and English language colleges have lost wages and work due to the coronavirus pandemic.

It is estimated that international education generated almost $13 billion in revenue for Victoria last financial year, supporting around 79,000 jobs.

“We’ll continue to work closely with the sector to give international students the support they need so they can continue to focus on their studies,” the Minister for Training and Skills and Higher Education Gayle Tierney said.

TAFE NSW 'steals a march' with added free short courses

The NSW government has added 13 new fee-free TAFE NSW short courses, following exceptional demand that has seen 85,000 people enrol in three weeks.

Premier Gladys Berejiklian added the 13 new courses after some had reached their capacity.

“The incredible uptake to the initial 21 fee-free short courses shows that while many businesses across NSW are in hibernation there is a strong desire to upskill and gain new qualifications during this challenging time,” Ms Berejiklian said.

About 33,000 people who enrolled in the courses are studying at TAFE NSW for the first time.

It prompted one long-time policy watcher, quoted in Campus Morning Mail last Friday to observe that universities were being left behind in the race to offer new online short courses.

“I think TAFE NSW has stolen a march on the universities by offering these courses quickly and free,” the source said.

“The core question is, are people prepared to pay $1500 for a university credential compared to a free TAFE one? The subject/industry areas seem similar.

“The language the universities are using like ‘up-skilling’, ‘workforce re-entry’ seems very VET.”

TAFE fee debate features in NCVER podcast

The future of TAFE, the issue of who pays for training, and myths about the fee-for-service market were key issues debated in the latest NCVER Vocational Voices podcast.

Titled “The future role of public providers” it features TDA CEO Craig Robertson, NCVER Managing Director Simon Walker, and Adjunct Professor at Federation University Robin Shreeve, hosted by Steve Davis.

You can listen or download the podcast here or see the transcript.

COVIDSafe app has a vital role in arresting pandemic

TAFEs are being encouraged to support the COVIDSafe app as a key tool to help protect the health of the community by quickly alerting people who may be at risk of having contact with the virus.

While use of the COVIDSafe app is voluntary, all Australians are encouraged to download it to help ensure a prompt response to any new cases.

Collection and use of information from the app is consent based and consistent with the Privacy Act and Australian Privacy Principles. The Health Minister has also made a Determination under the Biosecurity Act to protect people’s privacy and restrict access to app data to state and territory health authorities for contact tracing. It will be a criminal offence to use the app data in any other way.

For more information on the COVIDSafe app, please visit: https://www.covidsafe.gov.au/help-topics.html

To download the COVIDSafe app for your iPhone please visit: https://apps.apple.com/au/app/covidsafe/id1509242894

To download the COVIDSafe app for your android device please visit: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=au.gov.health.covidsafe

Diary Dates

Vocational and Professional Education and Training (VPET) International Conference 2020 (Live Online)
“Skilling for the Future”
15 May 2020
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2020 VET CEO Conference (postponed)
Velg Training
15 May 2020
QT Gold Coast Hotel, Surfers Paradise, Queensland
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Velg Training & MRWED
22-26 June 2020
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National Manufacturing Summit 2020 (cancelled)
Manufacturing a Sustainable Future
6 & 7 July 2020
Gold Coast, Queensland
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‘No Frills’ 2020, 29th National VET Research Conference (cancelled)
NCVER co-hosted with TAFE WA, North Metropolitan TAFE
8 – 10 July 2020
Perth, Western Australia
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TAFE Directors Australia Convention 2020 (cancelled)
12 – 14 August 2020
Westin Hotel, Perth
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Worldskills Australia (re-scheduled to April-May 2021)
12 – 15 August 2020
Perth Exhibition and Convention Centre
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National Skills Week
24 – 30 August 2020
Various locations
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2020 National VET Conference (postponed)
Velg Training
17 – 18 September 2020
Gold Coast Convention and Exhitbiton Centre, Broadbeach, Queensland
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World Federation of Colleges and Polytechnics (cancelled)
2020 World Congress

14 – 16 October 2020
Donostia – San Sebastian, Spain
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Apprentice Employment Network NSW & ACT
Annual 2020 Skills Conference
5 November 2020
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VDC 2020 Teaching & Learning Conference
19 & 20 November 2020
RACV Torquay Resort, Great Ocean Road, Victoria
Registrations Open

Australian Training Awards
20 November 2020
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Worldskills Australia
28 April – 2 May 2021
Perth Exhibition and Convention Centre
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