Never forget November – comment by CEO Craig Robertson

Never forget November - comment by CEO Craig Robertson

November is the go-to month in the VET calendar. Each year the best of vocational education is celebrated at the Australian Training Awards.

The awards night stands out in the end-of-year ramp-up of activities leading into the Summer break. It’s the peak for the lifetime and national achievement recipients, the 39 students, 11 VET teachers, 15 businesses and 15 training providers up for national honour.

Whatever the travails facing the sector, and there are a few, the night serves to ground us, re-centre us and enthuse us. It’s a tangible reminder of the transformation we can bring to students, revitalise the passion for teaching and help us look to the new training year with hope and vigour.

We all nodded affirmingly when our host, the Minister for Skills and Vocational Education, Senator the Hon Michaelia Cash, stated that VET options should be treated the same as higher education. Federal Labor has also stated the same ambition for the tertiary sector – equal esteem between the sectors.

I wonder how many then asked, ‘then how?’ One thing is for sure. We need a different starting point. We can no longer afford for industry to solely determine what is valuable training and what is not, sorry Industry! We can no longer afford to frame VET qualifications only by occupation, sorry technocrats! We can no longer afford for qualification content to be a bargaining point between industrial parties, sorry employers and unions!

Don’t get me wrong, these are all important elements for a well-functioning labour market and skills system. But why should industry lead when their objective is to grow, most likely through labour-saving technology? Why should we rely on the fleeting requirements of occupations if it means a qualification is redundant in a few years? Why should capital and labour seek industrial settlement through qualifications when we have a conciliation and arbitration system?

These are hard questions with no easy answers. The answers may well ratify our current system for vocational education and training, but serious examination they need.

These are questions I hope the new panel to review the Australian Qualifications Framework will address.

One thing is sure, though. The place of TAFEs in driving excellence in the sector. TAFEs were the only finalists in large training provider and international training provider categories and 33 of the other 79 finalists were from TAFE. Congratulations to them all.

I’m thinking about setting up an Excellence in VET index for the new year. It’ll be a truer reflection of TAFEs in the sector than Total VET Activity. Am I joking? Let’s see. Another thing is sure. The TDA board has offered to work with Minister Cash to help the full sector strive for the excellence that was on display that night.

Michaelia, you did a brilliant job. When you give up politics, you’d be a great skills ambassador. We couldn’t have asked for more. Enthusiastic! Warm! Genuine!

TAFE luminaries honoured at national training awards

TAFEs have secured some of the top honours at the Australian Training Awards, held in Sydney last Thursday night.

Wodonga Institute of TAFE was named the Large Training Provider of the Year, going up against the other finalists,the TAFE NSW Design Centre at Enmore, and North Metropolitan TAFE in Western Australia.

Wodonga TAFE CEO, Mark Dixon said the recipe for success was their “culture, and having a team that cares for every student who comes through the doors.”

Box Hill Institute was awarded the International Training Provider of the Year, beating finalists, TAFE Queensland and Holmesglen Institute in Victoria.

Central Regional TAFE in Western Australia was a partner in the Industry Collaboration Award, for Integrating Training and Biodiversity Conservation, a project that is protecting and restoring ecosystems in Western Australia..

The other partners are Northern Agricultural Catchments Council, Department of Biodiversity, Conservation & Attractions, Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development, Department of Water and Environmental Regulation, City of Greater Geraldton, and WA Museum.

Asked about the industry engagement strategy, Bill Swetman, Managing Director of Central Regional TAFE said “It works because it’s a vehicle for student training. The biggest beneficiaries are the students and the community.”

A longstanding champion of  TAFE, Marie Persson, was presented with the Lifetime Achievement Award for her extensive service to the VET sector which includes a period as a TAFE institute director and Deputy Director General for TAFE and Community Services in NSW. Marie was appointed last week to the panel that will review the Australian Qualifications Framework (see story below).

Lidia Lipkiewicz from TAFE SA was presented with the Excellence in Language, Literacy and Numeracy Practice Award. Responding to her prize, Lidia put it simply, saying she helps students go from ‘I can’t’ to ‘I can’. “That’s what I do.”

The Australian Apprentice of the Year was Michael Edwards, an outstanding mature age apprentice who studied at TAFE NSW Wagga Wagga campus. After 15 years working as a motor mechanic, his employer, Snowy Hydro offered the opportunity to take on a second trade, completing a Certificate III in Electrotechnology Electrician.

Asked about his journey through TAFE, Michael said, “The opportunities TAFE has afforded me have been beyond my wildest dreams.”

Charles Darwin University student, Kimberly Brewster was named Australian Apprentice (Trainee) of the Year. The mother of two completed a Certificate III in Business Administration at CDU and is doing a Certificate IV in Business Administration while providing administrative support for the ConocoPhillips 200 onshore team.

The award for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Student of the Year was presented to Soleil White, studying at Kimberley Aboriginal Medical Services and North Regional TAFE, WA.

Soleil is doing a Certificate IV in Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander Primary Health Care Practice. She recently completed a Certificate IV in Aboriginal/Torres Strait Islander Primary Health Care and is now undertaking a Diploma of Nursing.

Asked what she believed TAFE could do for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, Soleil reflected that “TAFE leads to so many opportunities for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, and really does change your life.”

Caitlan Noble from North Metropolitan TAFE, WA was awarded Vocational Student of the Year. Caitlin is studying a Diploma in Anaesthetic Technician.

Caitlan came to TAFE after having completed university, because she was struggling to get into the industry. When asked, “Why TAFE?” she said, “TAFE gave me the transferable skills, the relationships, and connections helped me break into the industry.” Caitlan had secured permanent, full-time employment prior to even completing her TAFE qualification.

TDA congratulates all the winners, and we highlight in particular TAFE students and staff who received these prestigious honours.

See all the finalists and winners from the 2018 Australian Training Awards.

Auditor-General's report on VET student loans misses critical point, says TDA

TDA has hit out at the Australian National Audit Office (ANAO) report into the Design and Implementation of the VET Student Loans program released last week.

CEO Craig Robertson said the ANAO audit found that the Department of Education and Training had implemented the program well, but overlooked the vital fact that hardly any students were using the scheme.

The report says that only eight per cent of the available $4.1 billion in loans over two years has been taken up.

Yes Minister and the world class hospital with no patients springs to mind,” Mr Robertson said.

“The department should be congratulated on a consultative design and implementation process. These were difficult times as providers intent on profit needed to be rooted from the system, and it was not easy to confront.

“But as is often the case within government, replacement schemes can swing too far the other way,” he said.

See TDA’s media release.

Panel members named for qualifications overhaul

The federal government has named the remaining panel members that will oversee a review of the Australian Qualifications Framework (AQF).

The three final members of the AQF Review Panel, nominated by the COAG Education Council and COAG Industry and Skills Council, are:

  • Marie Persson, Chair, Industry Reference Group of the NSW Skills Board
  • Allan Blagaich, Executive Director, School Curriculum and Standards, WA Department of Education and Training, and
  • Leslie Loble, Deputy Secretary, NSW Department of Education

They will join the previously announced members:

  • Professor Peter Noonan, Professor of Tertiary Education Policy, Victoria University, who will chair the AQF review.
  • Megan Lilly, Head of Workforce Development, Ai Group
  • Professor Sally Kift, former Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Academic), James Cook University
  • Professor Elizabeth More, Dean, Australian Institute of Management Business School.

A discussion paper is expected to be released later this year and will be followed by public consultation.

See the review’s terms of reference.

TAFE Queensland wins funding for digital workforce plan

TAFE Queensland is among a group of organisations that will share $3m in funding under the new Training in Emerging and Innovative Industries (TEII) Fund, designed to promote new technologies in the workforce.

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said the recipients of the funding would help industry to ensure Queensland had the skilled workforce for the future.

Some 2,600 workers are expected to benefit from 16 projects in the initial round of funding.

Other recipients include the National Retail Association, Queensland Farmers’ Federation, Queensland Resources Council, Queensland Tourism Industry Council and the Pharmacy Guild of Australia.

Apprenticeships produce the best results for youth, survey finds

An apprenticeship results in the highest level of wellbeing among young people out of all post-school pathways, according to a report by the organisation, Skillsroad.

The Skillsroad 2018 Youth Census gathered more than 30,000 responses from youth aged 15-24 and found that those undertaking an apprenticeship, traineeship, or working in some capacity were happier overall and experienced higher levels of ‘meaning,’ ‘resilience’ and ‘optimism’ than all other pathways after school.

Skillsroad is an initiative of NSW Business Chamber and the survey was commissioned by Apprenticeship Support Australia.

ASA National General Manager, James Moran said the census highlighted the value of apprenticeships, and vocational work more broadly, as a meaningful after school career choice.

“Among census participants who had left school, apprentices cited a wellbeing score that was well above the national average, followed closely by those in traineeships, taking a full-time job, and going on a ‘working’ gap year.

“Meanwhile, getting a part-time job, going to university or not working at all scored either on or below the national wellbeing average,” he said.

See more.

Diary Dates

Engineering Next-Generation Learning
4 – 7 December 2018
Wollongong, NSW
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Building confidence in VET Practice: 4th Annual Conference on VET Teaching and VET Teacher Education   
Australian Council of Deans of Education Vocational Education Group
6 – 7 December 2018
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2019 VET CEO Conference
Velg Training
17 May 2019
Doltone House – Sydney
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2019 QLD School VET Conference
Velg Training
9 August 2019
Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre, Brisbane
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VDC 2019 Teaching & Learning Conference
12 & 13 September 2019
RACV Torquay Resort, Great Ocean Road, Victoria
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2019 National VET Conference
Velg Training
12 &13 September 2019
Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre, Brisbane
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