Lifelong learning: Who pays? – comment by CEO Jenny Dodd

Lifelong learning: Who pays? – comment by CEO Jenny Dodd

The Jobs and Skills Australia (JSA) legislation is on its way through the Parliament – it is through the lower house and now onto the Senate. This new oversighting body is universally agreed to be needed in the skills sector. There is much for JSA to do, and one area being considering, as part of the national skills agreement, is whether funding should be committed to lifelong learners.

As the requirement for continual upskilling exists, who is to fund lifelong learning? Lifelong learning has traditionally been self-funded by individuals or financially supported by their employers. The Productivity Commission review into policy directions could be considered by JSA.

To address some of the key obstacles to lifelong learning, the Productivity Commission “proposes improvements in foundation skills, better credit pathways, an expansion of VET Student Loans (VSL) and a trial of a new financing instrument for mature‑age Australians reskilling and upskilling” (National Agreement for Skills and Workforce Development Review, Productivity Commission Study Report, Dec 2020).

The Productivity Commission argues “there is likely to be a group of mature-age Australians who would like to undertake more flexible training but are stymied by financial and time constraints. Letting older adults flexibly assemble packages of micro-credentials by combining short VET courses and modules from different VET qualifications across multiple providers would provide bespoke solutions for skill gaps while addressing the time constraints.”

It is already possible in VET for learners to acquire multiple skill sets from different providers within a qualification. Credit transfer arrangements are in place to award a qualification acquired through amalgamated skills sets.

However, what the Productivity Commission proposes is more funding and support for skill sets and micro-credentials and broadening of the qualifications they build towards. Additionally, there would be a subtle move away from funding that is currently concentrated on young learners to funding for mature learners.

As we move more towards lifelong learning, the question of who funds the mature, and often employed learner, is important if we are to stimulate continuing skills and knowledge acquisition. This is one of many questions that JSA will need to consider.

TAFEs meeting surging demand for clean energy skills

Ballooning demand for clean energy skills is seeing a raft of new TAFE courses and specialist facilities designed to help grow the renewable energy workforce.

The Sydney Morning Herald has featured the expanding TAFE capability, in conjunction with industry partners, in an article, Clean energy career resources indicate turbocharged opportunities.

It also features the free Clean Energy Careers Guide, produced by the peak body, the Clean Energy Council.

As the Clean Energy Council chief executive Kane Thornton said at the Jobs and Skills Summit, Australia will need to at least double the renewable energy workforce in a very short period of time.

TDA CEO Jenny Dodd noted that in addition to targeted diplomas, such as the diploma of renewable engineering from TAFE NSW, demand for micro-credentials and post-trade qualifications in renewables is booming.

“Two years ago, most of this training wouldn’t have been in play,” she said.

It’s seeing electricians come back to TAFE to do specialty courses in solar or wind; automotive mechanics being trained to service electric vehicles; and TAFEs across the country building specialist facilities in response to requests and partnerships with industry.

Federation University’s partnership with industry on a wind energy training tower that simulates working at heights on a wind turbine is just one example.

TAFE’s new courses have emerged in response to surging industry demand, requests and partnerships with industry, and favourable government policy settings.

Thousands of VET students hit by historic loans debts

More than 10,000 students have been hit with unexpected historic VET loan debts totalling about $24 million after an IT glitch was uncovered by federal departments.

The debts were incurred by students under the former VET FEE-HELP (VFH) and the current VET Student Loans (VSL) programs but are only now appearing on students’ ATO tax records. The loan records relate to study as far back as 2017.

The Department of Employment and Workplace Relations has issued advice for students affected by the discovery of the loan records.

“For some students, this may be the first time the loan record has appeared on their ATO account and for other students, they may notice a change to their loan record on their ATO account,” the DEWR advice says.

“We will be separately contacting affected students and training providers to advise on next steps over the coming weeks,” it says.

The Sydney Morning Herald reports that 10,252 students have been affected by the IT system failure.

The Minister for Skills and Training Brendan O’Connor said he had been made aware that the former government had student loans which should have been issued in 2017, held up in its systems for several years, and that the current government was addressing instances of “carelessness and incompetence”.

‘‘I have directed the department to further investigate the causes of this issue, with a focus on preventing all unfair impacts to current and former students,” he said.

TDA thanks DEWR for early advice about the problem and for working with TAFEs which have students who have been impacted. TDA will continue to support students and the Department as needed.

Review to develop TAFE SA roadmap

The South Australian government has appointed Associate Professor Jeannie Rea, pictured, from Victoria University to lead a review into TAFE SA.

Associate Professor Rea chairs postgraduate programs in International Community Development and Planetary Health, as well as teaching Gender Studies. She was previously the National President of the National Tertiary Education Union.

Associate Professor Rea will lead an expert panel comprising:

  • Peter Nolan, Ai Group
  • Anthony Kittel, REDARC Electronics
  • Rebecca Brookes, Australian Education Union
  • Jo Denley, TAFE SA Board
  • Madeline Richardson, Skills SA
  • Maria Peters, VET expert
  • Andrea Broadfoot, Employment Facilitator, Local Jobs Program, North West Country SA

The review will examine the role of TAFE SA within the broader education and training system over the next decade, and the opportunities, risks and barriers to be addressed to ensure TAFE SA is able to fulfil its role and operate efficiently and effectively. The review is due next April.

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Report calls for overhaul of apprenticeships in Victoria

A new report has found significant employer-related issues affecting apprentices in Victoria, and recommended that responsibility for apprenticeships be removed from the Victorian Registration and Qualifications Authority (VRQA).

The report from the McKell Institute says that Victorian apprentice completion rates are below the national average and says there is evidence of exploitation.

It cites information from the Young Workers Centre which has seen an increase in apprentices with employment issues, including bullying, harassment, workplace safety, unpaid wages and unpaid TAFE fees.

The report says there is a low level of awareness of the role of the VRQA and that complaints to the VRQA by apprentices are in the single digits each year.

McKell Institute says regulatory powers in relation to apprentices in Victoria should be moved from the VRQA to another statutory body or agency, along with field visits, “to reduce duplication, increase effectiveness and prevent exploitation and poor workplace experience of apprentices.”

The Age reported that the Victorian government will convene a roundtable on apprenticeships and will issue the VRQA with a new statement of expectations setting out requirements to support the state’s apprentices.

TAFETalks: Learning from each other – a TAFE discovery project to improve the future apprenticeships lifecycle


The training and management of apprentices is an important responsibility for TAFEs, as is TAFE’s mission to work more collaboratively together to improve overall training and outcomes for individuals and communities.

The October 19 TAFETalks brings together two Victorian TAFEs with TDA Corporate Affiliate and technology provider ReadyTech, whose technology platform supports the management of Australian apprentices.

Presenters will discuss the results of a pioneering multi-TAFE project designed to evolve apprenticeship management, conducted by international management consultancy Nous Group.

It will explore key findings relevant for other TAFEs, as well as apprentice data insights from ReadyTech, to ask what the practical implications are for the future of apprentice management and TAFE collaboration.

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Gender equality in VET to feature at WAVE national forum

The role of adult and vocational education in empowering women and supporting gender equality will be the focus of the WAVE National Forum in Melbourne on 21 October.

Speakers include Kit McMahon from Women’s Health in the south-east, Kira Clarke from Brotherhood of St Laurence, Sally Thompson from RMIT, Helen Dalley-Fisher from Equality Rights Alliance, Karen Hall (2022 WAVE/Sue Salthouse grant recipient) from Swinburne University of Technology, Jane Newton from Jobs Queensland, Don Perlgut from Community Colleges Australia, Michelle Circelli from NCVER and Linda Simon, WAVE National Convenor.

See the programspeaker profiles and registration.

GI Computer Innovations – working together with TAFE


TDA is delighted to announce its newest Corporate Affiliate – GI Computer Innovations.

GI commenced in 1998, and has remained a consistent player in a dynamic IT industry, mainly because of the GI team’s passion to help businesses grow by offering flexible, fast and scalable solutions. The GI team are experts in the latest technologies and are always keeping up with the latest trends.

The company’s latest innovation is Gibble, a student management system that is agile and perfect for any size training organisation. Gibble handles everything a training organisation will need to efficiently enrol students and track their progress, assessments and reports, including electronic sign-offs, attendance and results.

It can be fully customised to an organisation’s needs, and can be used in the field, at the desk, on a phone or desktop. It is packed with features, including:

  • seamless, fully automated integrations into
  • fully supported competency-based learning
  • the facility to manage all student levels
  • tracking of reports within student groups
  • the ability to keep an active list of student notes and recording of results
  • recognition of any prior learnings, along with any transferred credits

GI is also a managed service provider (MSP) – a third-party company that remotely manages a customer’s IT infrastructure and end-user systems. More than half the world’s top companies have shifted to using MSPs, and almost half of those using MSPs have cut their technology spending by at least 25%.

The GI team believes in providing clients with the highest quality service and support, including IT Support Services, Cloud Server hosting, web design and development, and digital marketing.

Learn more about Gibble’s student management system. See more about GI Computer Innovations or call one of their friendly team members with any questions: +61 (3) 9744 2887.

Register now for TDA Convention 2022


If you haven’t registered for the TDA Convention 2022 in Adelaide from 15-17 November, now is the ideal time.

For further information on registration packages and inclusions, and to register for the event, please click here.

ASQA releases latest model of self-assurance for training providers

The Australian Skills Quality Authority (ASQA) has released a report on the outcomes of the third phase of research into a working model of self-assurance for the VET sector.

The co-designed working model provides a framework for training providers to identify systems and practices to monitor quality and compliance. Providers can then use these to support continuous improvement against the Standards.

Ninety-six representatives of RTOs participated in the third phase of the process.

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Discussion paper explores HE international and postgraduate admissions

The Higher Education Standards Panel has released a discussion paper for public consultation on ways to improve the transparency of admissions information for prospective international and postgraduate students.

The latest paper builds on earlier work aimed at improving the usefulness of information available to prospective domestic undergraduate students. It includes an agreed approach to the presentation of admission information using common language, terminology, data definitions and ATAR-related measures.

Written submissions will be accepted until 2 November 2022.

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WFCP launches 2023 Awards of Excellence

The World Federation of Colleges and Polytechnics (WFCP) has opened entries for its 2023 Awards of Excellence which recognise outstanding contributions from member institutions and associations in the global colleges and polytechnics sector.

The awards are on offer in 13 categories and are open to all WFCP members.

Award recipients will be announced at WFCP’s 2023 World Congress in Montréal, Canada, 23-25 April, 2023.

Entries must be submitted by 5 December 2022 (11:59 p.m. Canada/US Eastern Standard Time).

To learn more, visit the website or contact WFCP.

JVET invites contributions to Oxford conference

The Journal of Vocational Education and Training (JVET) is inviting contributions to its 75th anniversary international conference being held at Keble College, Oxford, 13-15 July next year.

JVET’s two keynote speakers are John Buchanan from the University of Sydney and Nandini Gooptu from Oxford University.

Conference presentations are welcome relating to the theme of the context and purpose of Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET). The theme is intentionally broad, to allow for a diverse range of perspectives on a diverse range of topics in TVET.

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Diary Dates


October 2022
More information
Reforming the Australian Qualifications Framework for the future
4 October 2022
More information

Australian International Education Conference 2022
18-21 October 2022
Gold Coast & Online
More information

TAFETalks: Learning from each other: A TAFE discovery project to improve the future apprenticeships lifecycle
19 October 2022
More information

WAVE National Forum
21 October 2022
VET Development Centre, Melbourne
More information

2022 National VET Conference
Velg Training
3-4 November 2022
Gold Coast Convention and Exhibition Centre
More information

TDA Convention 2022
Courage, Change and Challenge – the Future of TAFE
15-17 November 2022
More information

VDC Teaching & Learning Conference
VET Development Centre
17 & 18 November 2022 (Online)
More information

TEQSA Conference
23-24 November 2022
Sofitel Melbourne on Collins (and online)
More information

Journal of Vocational Education and Training (JVET) Conference
13-15 July 2023
Keble College, Oxford, UK
More information

World Federation of Colleges and Polytechnics (WFCP) 2023 World Congress
23-25 April 2023
Montréal, Canada