Let’s take a global perspective on VET – comment by CEO Craig Robertson

Let’s take a global perspective on VET – comment by CEO Craig Robertson

This week marks a year since the successful Congress of the World Federation of Colleges and Polytechnics on the banks of the Yarra at the Melbourne Convention Centre. Over 850 delegates, some 250 from overseas, including over 30 young people at a leadership retreat at the Lilydale campus of Box Hill TAFE.

Our leaders seem to be worried about the impact of globalisation on our sovereignty. Countries, tribes and villages have been subject to outside forces for centuries. Think of the raids of Genghis Khan on the Eurasian steppes, the rise and rise of the Roman Empire or Charlemagne’s sweep through Europe. Thank goodness that the Bretton Woods agreement forged after the destruction of the Second World War brought a rules-based order, in the main, to inter-country dealings. But that seems to be failing.

Me reflecting on the reshaping of global order though is a bit like Humphrey Bear hosting Q & A – nice enough but with little to add! What I can comment on though, with some experience is the state of post-school education and training across the globe and our position within it. Through the WFCP I am able to engage with other associations like TDA as well as individual institutions. Speakers at our convention last month, David Hughes, CEO of the Association of Colleges in England and Rick Huijbregts from George Brown College, Toronto, are examples.

The Governor of the Reserve of Australia, Philip Lowe, in comments in August[1] this year said of globalisation: “The earlier waves of globalisation mainly affected firms and workers in the manufacturing industries in the advanced economies. But today’s wave is affecting a much broader range of industries, including the service industries. Many more people now understand that somebody, somewhere else in the world, can do their job, perhaps at a lower rate of pay. This is a result of both advances in technology and the globalisation of business.”

And as TDA said recently in its submission to the Joint Standing Committee on Trade and Investment Growth: “If there’s anything Australia has learned as an open trading economy is the need to face these challenges head-on and not retreating to protectionism. The challenge is harder in the education sphere, however, as most other countries have similar priorities and unlike our natural resources we do not hold proprietary ownership of vocational education.”

Several TAFEs demonstrated their global standing in the WFCP Awards of Excellence last year. Queensland TAFE with the Australian Pacific Technical College won gold for Access to Learning and Employment and Holmesglen also won gold for Student Support. The TAFE NSW National Environment Centre was awarded Silver under the Green Colleges category.

TAFEs are global in nature. It’s not only the international projects they delivery or the international students they serve. The most pressing issue is to prepare Australians through TAFEs to take on the world! The last thing Australia should do is seek to protect its VET system through colloquial or out-of-date products. Australia’s vocational education model has some high standing in the world thanks heavily to the work of TAFEs. Our capacity to survive, actually thrive, on a global skills stage is to train for the new world order for skills. It’s not for the sake of the VET system but the future of many Australian workers.

Applications will be open later this week for the Awards of Excellence for the 2020 Congress in San Sebastian this time next October. Let’s continue showing how well we stand up globally.

TAFEs and Community Providers working together

Kerry Penton, Managing Director of TAFE NSW and I were privileged to attend the launch at the NSW Parliament on 25 September of a special report from the Community Colleges Australia – Vulnerable and Disadvantaged Students of NSW Not-for-Profit Community Education Providers: Analysis of 2018 Data

It was great to participate in the occasion and hear NSW Minister for Skills and Tertiary Education, Dr Geoff Lee  launch the report in the presence of 70 NSW parliamentarians and CCA members.

We need community providers and the sector is all the better when TAFEs and community providers work together. We need a strong network of training organisations which are reaching out into the community to bring people into training, especially those who may be reluctant to embark on such a journey. Brokers by design need a financial return and we have found it costs students dearly. Let’s hope together we can enhance outreach.

Training colleges shouldn't need to be 'educated' about quality, says TDA

TDA has queried the state of the VET sector if the latest COAG direction has asked the regulator, the Australian Skills Quality Authority (ASQA) to “educate” some training providers about quality.

In an article in the Financial Review TDA CEO Craig Robertson said ASQA had done a good job turning the sector around after the VET FEE-HELP scandal but says the real issue is that training packages have become too cumbersome.

“There are hundreds of thousands of specificiations for courses and rules and it is just too hard for any provider to keep up,” he said.

“The training ministers know this but it needs someone to look at what has made the sector so complex.”

However, he said if ministers were asking ASQA to do more education there was something wrong. It shouldn’t need education to show providers what was a quality product and what was not, he said.

The COAG meeting of federal, state and territory skills ministers in September agreed that ASQA should improve its engagement with the VET sector and expand its educative role.

New model needed to boost international VET student market

The federal government has been urged to consider a new model of off-shore delivery of TAFE that would help develop skills capability in the region while boosting Australia’s education exports.

In a submission to a parliamentary committee, TDA has argued that new thinking is needed around the way that Australian VET qualifications are delivered to international students.

The TDA submission says that while the number of international VET students has grown at about 15 per cent a year over recent years and stands at around 225,000 enrolments, only six per cent are enrolled at TAFE.

TDA said there may be many reasons for this, such as TAFEs finding it difficult to get the right agents to secure students, and that many students may be pursuing a travel ‘experience’ or work rights and chose courses accordingly.

However, TDA argues that many countries are attracted to the Australian VET system as well as the industry relationships it offers.

“Australian TAFEs could help drive a stronger international education market of relevance to students, countries and industry sectors if there were reforms to Australian VET qualifications,” TDA says.

“Australia would benefit from a scheme of pre-approved VET experts to represent the interests of Australia in developing more sustainable opportunities off-shore.”

TDA argues this could include VET system design, industry liaison, capacity building and delivery.

See TDA’s submission to the Joint Standing Committee on Trade and Investment Growth Inquiry into supporting Australia’s exports and attracting investment.

Outgoing ASQA chief says agency is ready to offer advice, not just fix problems

Departing ASQA Chief Commissioner Mark Paterson AO says he’s pleased that the regulator has reached the point where it’s being trusted to help providers, rather than focussing predominantly on problems.

In his final message, Mr Paterson says he joined ASQA at a “tumultuous period” amid the VET FEE-HELP scandal, and worked to restore VET’s world-class reputation.

“A new phase is now upon us, providing an appropriate time for me to pass responsibility to others to build on our achievements and work through new challenges,” he said.

“I am proud that we have reached a position where ASQA is trusted to extend our oversight of the sector to include new ways of connecting with providers and delivering advice, rather than overwhelmingly focusing on identifying and removing problems.”

Saxon Rice will take over as acting Chief Commissioner from today.

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TAFE NSW to host new Western Sydney airport skills hub

TAFE NSW will provide key skills training for the new Western Sydney International Airport with the creation of the TAFE Skills Exchange.

Up to 250 workers a year will be equipped with skills in areas including earthmoving, civil construction, safety and traffic control, with the potential to increase numbers as the construction project grows.

NSW Minister for Skills and Tertiary Education, Geoff Lee, said Western Sydney International target of 20 per cent learning workers, combined with the skills exchange initiative, would provide opportunities for workers looking to develop their construction careers.

“This skills exchange provides these learning workers employed in the delivery of Western Sydney’s airport an important opportunity to diversify their skills and develop their careers,” Dr Lee said.

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Global lessons to help shape new careers institute

The federal government’s new National Careers Institute (NCI) will seek out best practice in a handful of countries as part of the “co-design” process being used to get it up and running.

A discussion paper released last week shows that the institute has identified leading examples of quality career development in countries including Norway, South Korea, Canada, Finland, the UK, Switzerland and Germany.

According to the schedule outlined on the NCI website, the new National Careers Ambassador is due to be announced this month.

Consultation on the NCI will occur through a series of workshops in tandem with discussions about the new National Skills Commission and Skills Organisations.

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The Gordon announces new CEO

Joe Ormeno, pictured, has been announced as CEO of The Gordon following a nationwide search.

Joe served as Acting CEO for the past six months and has been with the TAFE for more than 10 years – first as CFO then promoted to COO.

TDA extends its congratulations to Joe on his appointment.

UK government places colleges at the centre of education reform

UK Education Secretary Gavin Williamson has launched a ‘new focus’ on the forgotten 50 per cent of the population that don’t go to university.

At the Conservative party conference in Manchester, he also announced plans for new higher level institutes of technology that will focus on STEM subjects.

“When we have implemented all the reforms in this sector, one of the great challenges is that people may see this route in higher demand than a conventional university route,” he said.

The Chief Executive of the Association of Colleges, David Hughes said the announcement, supported by additional funding, showed that the “the tide, rightly, is changing”.

“I share the Secretary of State’s desire to have a post-16 education system fit for the future that is coherent, joined up and providing the opportunities and choices for those that have been neglected for far too long.

“In fact, that desire seems now to be shared across the political spectrum, as it should be.”

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Diary Dates

Community Colleges Australia 2019 Annual Conference
18 – 20 November 2019
The Stamford Plaza Hotel, Brisbane
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ASEAN Australia Education Dialogue (AAED)
18 – 20 November 2019
Georgetown, Penang, Malaysia
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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
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AVETRA Conference
20/20 vision for VET: Research at the centre of future policy and practice
23 – 24 April 2020
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