Let’s learn from Hawke – comment by CEO Craig Robertson

Let’s learn from Hawke – comment by CEO Craig Robertson

Reflecting on the death of Bob Hawke, the 23rd prime minister of Australia, on the eve of the federal election and contemplating a Morrison government, causes me to think that we’ve lost sight of the heavy lifting VET can do for the economy.

Hawke’s reforms are legendary. They were designed to open Australia to compete on the world stage – reducing trade barriers, floating the dollar, setting wage accords between industry and unions, decentralising wage fixing and restructuring awards.

His reforms also reached into the heart of vocational education and training, courtesy of the union movement.

Australia of the early 1980s was facing under-developed value-add to products and high prices of goods coming from protected Australian industries – jeopardising jobs and wages. At the instigation of the Amalgamated Metal Workers Union and its leading official, Laurie Carmichael, the federal department of Trade supported an ACTU mission to Sweden and other Northern European countries. Carmichael had observed first-hand Sweden’s approach to transforming its industrial base while protecting the rights of workers.

The ACTU’s report on the mission – Australia Reconstructed – released in 1987, recognised there needed to be a closer working relationship with industry to grow the industrial base for the benefit of businesses as well as workers. Narrow job roles, rigid job demarcation and poor levels of skills in workers were a drag on efficiency.

Speaking in December 1988, Carmichael laid out the challenge:

… our current form of work organisation, the current definition of employment in narrow categories of skill, the lack of career pathing in industry, all originated … from Frederick Winslow Taylor’s so called “Scientific Management System” which was taken on board by management all around the world in the early part of this century. And it is that, which we reflect from the workforce into trade unions, into demarcation attitudes. We believe it is necessary and absolutely essential that there be an up-grading in terms of multi-skilling … in terms of career-pathing [and] generally raising the skill level.[1]

Award restructuring embodied a strategy to address the issues and the Metals Award was the instrument. Developed in conjunction with the Metal Trades Industry Association (the predecessor of the Australian Industry Group) the award encouraged multi-skilling and established skill-related career paths accessible by additional training embedded in VET competency-based qualifications. It established fixed minimum rates of pay and relativities between different categories of workers.

The National Training Board, established in 1988 by John Dawkins as Hawke’s education and training minister, was charged with deploying this model across a large sweep of industries and occupations served by the TAFE sector. Competency based training, linked to occupations and tied to the Industrial edifice, was born. Little has changed since – the Carmichael vision still underpins our approach to qualification content and qualification hierarchies within training packages.

Regardless of views on the success of the Carmichael model or its relevance for today, the broader point is that VET was used as a driving force for change across the economy. It is worth keeping in mind that VET reaches about 70 per cent of occupations in Australia and over 5.3 million Australians hold VET qualifications.

Come forward and many commentators lament that the training package model is not fit for purpose. The enquiry into TAFE SA concluded:

The development and use of Training Packages in their current form, particularly when combined with the way they are used in regulation, don’t support the innovation required to meet the emerging skill needs of at least some occupations and industries. Nor do they provide a framework for the lifelong learning workers need to adapt to economic change.
Today we face different industry structures, work organisation practices and industrial arrangements in a services-dominated economy.

Just as Hawke knew he could not hold onto old approaches in the vain hope that the economy would correct itself, I trust that Morrison is similarly brave when it comes to VET.

A footnote: At the same time of these VET reforms, Dawkins expanded higher education by converting Colleges of Advanced Education into universities. It is worth contemplating the autonomy afforded by Dawkins to the expanded university sector compared to the tri-partite mechanisms (complete with wage fixing and work demarcation) he imposed on VET, and which produces the better outcomes and is suited for the times.

Coalition's surprise election win revives the Joyce plan for VET reform

Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s against-the-odds win in Saturday’s election has re-shaped the immediate policy outlook for TAFE, and refocused attention on the Joyce review of VET and the government’s promise of a new body to oversee the  sector.

Labor campaigned heavily on TAFE, right up to the final days when Bill Shorten visited North Metropolitan TAFE in Western Australia, promising a generational overhaul of post-secondary education.

There was also a plethora of ALP promises including free TAFE places, guaranteed funding, and money for campus upgrades, apprenticeships, digital skills hubs, renewables training, an apprentice advocate and a regional training commissioner, as well as uncapped places for universities.

With the Liberal-National party win, the focus has swung back to key coalition commitments, including the findings of the Expert Review of VET conducted by former New Zealand minister Steven Joyce, pictured.

The government’s Budget skills package committed $48 million to progress one of the key Joyce recommendations – the establishment of a National Skills Commission “putting industry at the forefront of national leadership on workforce needs and VET funding”. The government has committed to appointing a National Skills Commissioner by September.

The Budget also committed $42 million to pilot new Skills Organisations, that will “put industry at the forefront of setting VET qualifications”. The new bodies would also develop standards for industry to accredit RTOs and pilot industry validation of student competency.

During the election campaign, the government promised to add $60 million to double the size of the current apprentice wage subsidy trial to an extra 1600 apprenticeships. There will also be a complete overhaul of apprentice incentive payments.

While a ministerial reshuffle is imminent, Prime Minister Scott Morrison indicated during the campaign that education minister Dan Tehan is likely to remain in the portfolio.

Proposals invited for historic Queensland rural training centre

The Queensland government has invited proposals for the use of the Queensland Agricultural Training College facilities at Longreach and Emerald which are due to shut down by the end of the year.

The Minister for Agricultural Industry Development and Fisheries Mark Furner said the project management office (PMO) overseeing the QATC transition was looking for commercial partnership proposals for the community assets.

“The PMO is looking for proposals to repurpose the facilities to create reinvigorated training opportunities in central western Queensland, and to consider alternate commercially sustainable future uses for the college assets,” he said.

The college closures were announced last December following a review by Professor Peter Coaldrake.

Proposals can be submitted to qatc_pmo@daf.qld.gov.au

Unique scholarship opportunity for VET experts

The Fulbright Program, in partnership with the Commonwealth Department of Education and Training, is offering funding for Australian VET experts to undertake research and/or training anywhere in the U.S. for 3-4 months.

The Fulbright Professional VET Scholarship suits employees within the vocational education and training sector, or training leaders in business and industry. It involves the undertaking of an educational program concerning current vocational education and training policy or practice, such as a short course and/or research. The outcomes of the scholarship must inform and benefit the wider VET sector in Australia.

Examples of those who may apply include:

  • employees, including teachers, managers, and administrators, of public and private registered training organisations and those who teach vocational education and training in dual sector universities.
  • people who are leading vocational education and training strategies within their business.

Preference will be given to those who have a record of achievement and are poised for advancement to senior levels.

Past awardees: Sean O’Toole (NSW Department of Family and Community Services to the State University of New York); Caroline Smith (Skills Australia to Rutgers University); Damien Pearce (Canberra Institute of Technology to the John Jay School of Criminal Justice).

Applications close Monday 15 July 2019.

Two weeks to apply for national training awards

The Australian Training Awards are the peak, national awards for the vocational education and training (VET) sector. The awards recognise and reward individuals, businesses and registered training organisations for their contribution to skilling Australia.

Watch this video to find out why you, your business or registered training organisation should apply for national recognition in one of the following awards:

Registered Training Organisation:

Individual Awards:

*Applications for the Small Employer of the Year Award is available by direct entry to the Australian Training Awards in only in WA and NSW.

Applications close on Friday 31 May 2019.

The 2019 Australian Training Awards will be in Brisbane on Thursday 21 November.

More: www.australiantrainingawards.gov.au

Industry skills forecasts open for review

The Skills Service Organisation, SkillsIQ, has issued draft industry skills forecasts for key sectors.

The draft 2019 industry skills forecasts which are open for consultation are:

  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Worker
  • Children’s Education and Care
  • Direct Client Care and Support
  • Local Government
  • Sport and Recreation

The closing date for feedback is Friday, 31 May.

See more.

Register now for ‘No Frills’ 2019

Join NCVER and co-host TAFE SA in Adelaide this July as presenters and delegates from across Australia and around the world come together for the 28th National VET Research Conference ‘No Frills’.

Don’t miss your chance to hear guest speakers from the world stage, with keynotes Dr Fiona Kerr (Founder, the NeuroTech Institute) and Ms Gabrielle Kelly (Director, the Wellbeing and Resilience Centre), and dinner speaker Mr Glenn Cooper AM (Chairman, Coopers Brewery).

The conference will also feature a lively panel discussion on ‘Lifelong learning: VET’s role now and into the future’.

With over 40 presentations and 6 pre-conference workshops to choose from, ‘No Frills’ 2019 has a range of registration options to suit everyone.

Date: 10 – 12 July 2019
Venue: TAFE SA Adelaide Campus, 120 Currie Street, Adelaide, South Australia
Theme: The student journey: skilling for life
Register: on the NCVER Portal