Let’s imagine bold education policy – comment by CEO Craig Robertson

Let’s imagine bold education policy – comment by CEO Craig Robertson

Its’ fair to say that the policy landscape at present is littered with government reviews and policy positions from the full sweep of stakeholders concerned for tertiary education in Australia.

The review of the Australian Qualifications Framework could resolve the conceptual divide between higher education and training that hasn’t been bridged despite the collective wringing of hands by education policy experts.

For Australians, we conceive of the AQF as an enabler – a ladder to advancement – no matter where one starts.

Many are also hoping it will set a blueprint for sector policy owners to work toward more coherent post-compulsory schooling offers for all Australians.

Peter Coaldrake is examining provider categories within the higher education sector. In essence, he is contemplating whether the allowable types of higher education suppliers form rungs upon which Australians can pursue education outcomes best suited to them.

To complete the landscape, the VET sector, of course, is contemplating Joyce, and schools are assessing their ultimate purpose through revisions to the Melbourne Declaration.

In looking at what may lay ahead I reflect on the work of Jean Blackburn. If Jean were alive today, she would have turned 100 just last month.

Jean is mostly remembered as the deputy chair of the Schools Commission in the 1970s and the champion of the Disadvantaged Schools Program, which has been heralded as one of the more successful interventions to overcome inequality in schooling outcomes.

Jean’s work as chair of the Ministerial Review of Post Compulsory Schooling in Victoria, released in March 1985, captured my attention. Many with an eye to history may sheet home to that report the demise of technical high schools. The merits of that decision are not my focus, rather the philosophy Jean brought to the task.

It’s hard to imagine today, but in the early 1980s Victoria was concerned about its population decline. Figures presented in Jean’s report show that Victoria’s population of 15 to 19 year-olds was forecast to decrease by 40,000 over the decade from 1986 to 1996!

It’s little wonder her recommendations focused on getting more out of the dwindling stock of Victoria’s youth.

Recommendation 32 of her report proposed that from 1988 all technical and high schools “become comprehensive rather than being designated, equipped or staffed as technical or high schools.”

Unlike some reports we are faced with today, the rationale supporting this recommendation, are pertinent.

Curricular reforms have frequently been associated with the reshaping of educational structures. Organisational forms are not ends in themselves but are the means of meeting educational and societal purposes which change over time.

In this present day, why is it that structures and markets seem to be the policy outcome?

The Committee believes that existing high and technical schools should be amalgamated to give all students access to a more comprehensive curriculum and to broaden the opportunities of students in technical schools. The workforce structure to which technical schools originally related no longer exists.

In looking ahead at the obvious changes sweeping work, technology and organisation, why is it that we can’t contemplate new forms of training that meet a new order of capability required of all working adults?

In the interests of developing a higher theoretical basis for technical pursuits, and of giving more students the experience of relating practical and theoretical studies, we are recommending that all public sector secondary provision become comprehensive.

After 34 years of an education policy merry-go-round, why does this education theory, so simply stated, ring as something fresh?

Jean saw the power of education to support economic growth – in this case as an economic rescue mission for a state in decline. Jean was hellbent on education being the great instrument for achieving equality of opportunity – the ladder to success no matter one’s background.

It’s easy to see the VET sector residualised to little more than an expensive labour market program. But it’s not too hard to imagine strong and vibrant vocational education here in Australia led by TAFEs as trusted purveyors of enterprise-centred and industry-focused endeavours on behalf of the Australian community.

It’s all too easy to see our training system divorced from educational intent. But it’s not too hard to imagine educational structures and learning models which enliven learning for students who need a different approach than didactic models we too easily favour in our schools and universities.

It’s far too easy to fear that our competency model will be enshrined forever despite its educational shortcomings. But it’s not too hard to imagine offering opportunity through enlivened vocational education and a supporting AQF.

We see in front of us the majority of school leavers favouring university pathways over the offer of VET. But it’s not too hard to imagine a vibrant tertiary education system with a range of robust learning options from which all who access it can achieve the success they are chasing in their lives, complete with scaffolding that supports further learning as they build upon that success.

It would do us no harm as a country to reflect upon some of the great education reformers of our past and dream big of what could be.

The reviews at our doorstep present that opportunity.

I have extracted notes from a speech I gave at the launch of the Mackenzie Research Institute.

This month Monash University Publishing has released Jean Blackburn – Education, feminism and social justice by Craig Campbell and Debra Hayes. I’m only 40 odd pages in but no doubt I’ll refer to Jean’s work again when I return to the notion of comprehensive vocational education.

Lastly, the extracts from the Ministerial Review of Post Compulsory Schooling was possible because the report is available on VocEd, an immeasurably valuable resource managed by NCVER.

Queensland: Beautiful one day, perfect the next – for VET

There are many reasons to travel to Queensland, but this September Queensland holds real promise as the destination to reset vocational education and TAFEs.

Beautiful one session, perfect the next, rings true if you look at the line-up for the TDA convention in September.

Michael Brennan, the head of the Productivity Commission whose job is to promote competition and markets as the starting point for public policy, will explore what’s next for the VET sector.

Vicki Thomson from the Group of Eight Universities, Australia’s elite, will contemplate how TAFEs inhabit the tertiary sector.

Drawing on his findings as chair of Jobs Queensland, the warhorse of higher education, Professor Peter Coaldrake, will argue for a higher order of TAFE if Australia is to educate and train a new the class of worker.

The best of England and Canada, from a technical and vocational education viewpoint, will see David Hughes talk about the journey of Further Education colleges amid Brexit, and Dr Rick Huijbregts from Toronto reflect on the technology climate facing students.

A dedicated session with ASQA leadership will allow TAFEs  to take steps to a higher order focus on quality.

We will hear from Steven Joyce, whose advice to Prime Minister Morrison will be central in the shape of VET.

Assistant Minister for Vocational Education, Training and Apprenticeships, Steve Irons will reflect on the next steps for TAFEs.

Overall, the Convention will see:

  • 15+ plenary speakers
  • 8 State showcases
  • 55+ workshops speakers
  • numerous networking opportunities

See more about the impressive line-up of plenary speakers.

See the Convention program

Register Now!

TAFE SA's seven-year registration a sign of confidence

TAFE SA has received a positive response from the Australian Skills Quality Authority (ASQA) to its application to renew its registration as a national registered training organisation (RTO) for local and international students.

ASQA granted TAFE SA the maximum seven-year registration, the first time the organisation has received this length of registration.

ASQA also approved TAFE SA’s application to renew its registration on the Commonwealth Register of Institutions and Courses for Overseas Students (CRICOS) allowing TAFE SA to continue to offer courses to overseas students, also for the next seven years.

TAFE SA Chief Executive, David Coltman, said the positive response was a strong show of confidence in the improvements that have been made across TAFE SA.

“TAFE SA has embarked on a fresh start, we are committed to providing quality outcomes for students and working closely with industry, and this seven-year registration confirms that we are on the right path,” he said.

Job uncertainty, finances, health play on the minds of young Australians

The challenges faced by young Australians juggling work, study and personal finances has been revealed in the latest analysis from the National Centre for Vocational Education Research (NCVER).

The study, Life at 24: Then & Now uses data from the Longitudinal Surveys of Australian Youth (LSAY) to provide a snapshot of how study, training and work have changed for Australians aged 24 in 2018, compared with those of the same age in 2008. It shows:

  • Fewer young people are working in their career job at age 24 when compared to 24-year-olds ten years earlier
  • Young people are becoming more qualified with a  higher proportion obtaining a bachelor degree or postgraduate qualification
  • There has been a slight increase in the proportion with Certificate III or IV, while Diploma and Advanced Diplomas have remain steady, and there has been a sharp fall in the proportion with Certificate I or II, as well as those with no qualification
  • The proportion of young people in full-time work has decreased
  • The proportion of 24-year-olds unable to meet their basic needs due to a shortage of money has increased significantly
  • Rates of underemployment are increasing
  • Rates of volunteering have increasedSimon Walker, Managing Director, NCVER, said young people are taking significantly longer to complete their studies and transition into ‘career jobs’ than they were ten years ago.

“Our data also shows that more than one in ten 24-year-olds aren’t able to get the medical treatment they require, a figure that has almost doubled in the past decade,” he said.

Hear VET news from around the world

Catch up on news from around the globe from the World Federation of Colleges and Polytechnics.

Its new monthly Dispatch gives you a quick update of TVET news internationally.

TAFE Queensland, CQ University and mining giant form skills alliance

TAFE Queensland, CQ University and mining company BHP Mitsubishi Alliance (BMA) have formed a new multimillion dollar skills partnership that will support the introduction of new technology in mining.

The Queensland Future Skills Partnership will fund and facilitate the fast-tracked development and delivery of new autonomy related qualifications in open-cut mining operations in Queensland.

TAFE Queensland CEO Mary Campbell said the partnership will be important in preparing Queensland’s future workforce.

“This partnership gives us an opportunity to work with industry and employers to deliver a range of flexible skilling solutions to ensure employment outcomes for Industry 4.0 jobs of the future,” she said.

CQUniversity Vice-Chancellor Professor Nick Klomp said the partnership was an important step when it comes to engaging with industry and delivering future focused skills training.

The scope of training to be delivered is being finalised but it may include a traineeship qualification in autonomous operations and an expansion of existing trade apprenticeships to include autonomous competencies and entry pathway for autonomous mine controllers.

The first of the pilot programs will take place in the Bowen Basin region near BMA’s operations.

Does industry have too much clout in VET reform?

Is too much of the future of VET reform being placed in the hands of industry?

That was the question asked by TDA Chief Executive Craig Robertson in an op-ed in The Australian’s Higher Education last week.

In the face of stalled national productivity and stagnant wages growth, he pointed to the critical place of VET as an instrument of economic growth and opportunity for many working Australians?

He said industry was right to lament the decline in VET participation, “but industry wants to remain in charge of the sector, as was made clear in submissions ahead of COAG”.

“Industry points to the decline in apprenticeships. But it’s industry – employers – who engage apprentices, not training providers.

“In a climate of record employment growth, apprenticeship numbers have plateaued. It seems employers can’t find the right person or are choosing other strategies to solve their staffing issues,” he said.

“Clearly, nuance is required. A VET system without industry is nonsense, just as a VET sector solely in the hands of industry doesn’t make sense.”

He said if the sector is to rebuild, there needs to be serious investment in the trusted TAFE system, where governments can invest to offer deep, quality vocational education in the knowledge that public funds won’t be squandered.

Australia may still be exposed to training college failure

TDA Chief Executive Craig Robertson has warned of the possibility of future upheaval in the VET sector as data design of VET student loans would not foil unscrupulous behaviour by training colleges.

In an article in The Saturday Paper, he spoke of the fallout from the collapse of Careers Australia in 2017, which saw TDA take responsibility for some 7000 enrolments under the national Tuition Assurance Scheme.

“I’d always thought Careers Australia was a fairly respectable operator,” he said.

“It wasn’t until we really looked at the data that we realised what was going on.”

Andrew Norton, the former higher education director at the Grattan Institute, also warned that with some 4000 often quite small providers in the market, regulation can be difficult.

“Even though there are providers being deregistered, I wouldn’t be convinced that the industry is clean,” he said.

Craig Robertson also cautioned about the possibility of harmful activity resuming.

“Our point is that in two, three years’ time, when everybody has turned their focus to something else, it could be an easy thing to try to do,” he says.

Australia Pacific Training Coalition recruiting country director

The Australia Pacific Training Coalition (APTC) is recruiting for a senior executive to run key programs in the Solomon Islands and Kiribati.

The position of Country Director will have responsibility for transitioning APTC from an Australian technical college to a vehicle forging coalitions with partner institutions, industry, enterprises, and governments to achieve sustainable TVET reform.

The position is based in Honiara and is contracted until June 2022.  Applications close August 25.

For more information, visit APTC.

For enquiries, please contact Human Resources Manager – Julia Peters on jobs@aptc.edu.au

NT government makes $7m injection into CDU

The Northern Territory government has provided a one-off funding contribution of $7 million to Charles Darwin University, following an independent review of the university’s VET delivery.

CDU’s 2018 annual report, tabled in NT Parliament last week showed a $21 million deficit last year.

The university commissioned professional services firm EY to undertake a review of its VET delivery earlier this year.

The report made seven recommendations CDU should implement over a three year period to improve its fiscal position.

One of the recommendations was that the university ask the NT government to financially support the actions it needs to take to address the deficit.

The $7 million one-off funding contribution comes in addition to the $65 million in ongoing annual funding the government provides to CDU, predominantly for the delivery of VET courses.

The Minister for Workforce Training Selena Uibo said the Northern Territory has one of the highest rates of VET engagement in Australia and CDU is its largest provider of these courses, including in remote communities.

Building leadership – PIN executive leadership conference

In times of change, the leadership of post-secondary education is more important than ever. It’s easy to follow the trends, it’s harder to manage within the trend.

The World Federation of Colleges and Polytechnics is proud of its partnership with the Postsecondary International Network (PIN), whose mission is to build strong leadership and collaboration across leaders of post-secondary institutes focused on technical education and training.

Bellevue College, just outside Seattle, is proud to host the PIN 2019 Executive Leadership Conference. The PIN team look forward to welcoming postsecondary leaders from across the world to beautiful Washington State, 22-27 September 2019.

Registration is still open, and you can register here.

2019 PIN Conference highlights include:

Reception at Microsoft Headquarters

Microsoft is changing its structure for how employees work together. At this reception, you will be able to take a virtual reality tour of Microsoft’s new campus with its $5 billion of restructuring and renovations.

Keynote Address by Anthony Salcito, VP of Worldwide Education at Microsoft

Anthony will discuss the global impact of digital transformation on higher education.

Leith Sharp, Director and Lead Faculty, Executive Education for Sustainability Leadership-Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health
Leith will present on insights gleaned from the “Leaders on Purpose” project. Leith and her colleagues have interviewed over 30 CEOs of the largest international corporations, and she will discuss the strategies of these leaders for adapting to change and for meeting the Sustainable Development Goals of the UN.

Donald Brinkman, Senior Program Manager for Bing eSports at Microsoft

Donald will present on the gamifications of learning and the rise of eSports.

Tours of Amazon Headquarters, including the Amazon Spheres, and the Boeing Factory will offer a glimpse into how technology and innovation are driving the future of work.

You can learn more about the schedule of events here: 2019 PIN Conference Schedule

ASQA extends transition period for high-risk units

The Australian Skills Quality Authority (ASQA) has extended the transition period for training providers delivering 13 high-risk work units of competency.

ASQA says it is able to extend transition periods where it can be demonstrated that there would be genuine disadvantage to a cohort of learners if an extension was not approved.

Most of the units of competency relate to the operation of cranes and forklift vehicles.

The extended transition covers training, assessment and certification issuance and will end 1 January 2020.

See more.

Diary Dates

National Manufacturing Summit
21 & 22 August 2019
More information

National Skills Week
26 August – 1 September 2019
Locations around Australia
More information

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
More Information

Australian Training Awards
21 November 2019
Brisbane, Queensland
More information

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