New views on competency – comment by CEO Craig Robertson

New views on competency – comment by CEO Craig Robertson

What happens when you mix competency with budget rules in the so called Canberra Bubble?

For competency, it depends whether you are an economist, efficiency expert or educationalist.

The economist only cares about the outcome because competitive self-serving producers will organise the inputs. The efficiency guru will look at the quickest and cheapest way to get to that competency, and prides himself (because it usually is) on stripping out elements of the process. The educationalist views the competency as the target they are aiming for and she (because it usually is) puts her effort into constructing an engaging and enlightened pathway for a learner to reach it.

Budget rules? Any new expenditure must be offset by savings elsewhere.

To answer my own question, let me tell a story, fictional of course, and pretend it’s about me.

In 2012, a sharp young man told me that I was an Adonis-in-waiting and I just needed six months at the gym to realise my true potential! I was offered a free iPad to sign on the spot – to track my progress, he told me. “Here’s a loan to pay the six-month membership upfront,” he offered. “Once you get those modelling contracts it’ll be easy to pay it off.” I signed. Who wouldn’t?

The lender didn’t seem to mind. They only warned about the ‘twenty per cent rule’. “Once you’re past twenty per cent of your membership period there’s no money back”. They had endorsed the gym, so I saw it as trustworthy. If the gym folded during the six-months, there was insurance, I was told, to forgive any unused loan or to transfer me to another gym to finish my Adonis transformation!

That was five years ago. The good life intervened. My Adonis six-pack is more like a keg and the gym has just closed.

I’m still paying off the loan, slowly, mind you, as those modelling jobs didn’t come my way.

Am I at fault? The economist tells me I knowingly entered into the arrangement, didn’t use the gym services that were on offer for the six months, so view it as sunk costs. The efficiency expert left town some time ago because a project he advised on went off the rails – I hear he’s now on the circuit as a motivational speaker. The educationalist took me in at her gym, even though she didn’t need to, and is giving me free sessions to help me realise my dream.

It seems I’m not the only aspiring Adonis. I’m told lots of loans went through that gym – over one billion dollars!

The lender is mighty annoyed, I hear. Well at least they are fearing where the offsets are coming from.

They’re blaming the insurer, I’ve heard. “The six-months is open ended,” they’ve said “except for calculating the no money back point,” they add. “That’s how the competency system works, so you owe for the unused loans,” I’ve heard they demand.

And what about the gym? They loved the twenty per cent rule. I hear the owner skipped the country with the cash and is sunning himself on the Seychelles on his pat-malone.

This ends the fictional story.

The answer: Competency is a fungible term to fight back against inconvenient truths, especially where cash is involved! Little wonder VET is in a mess.

I’ll see some of you at the training awards this Thursday evening, keg in tow.

University VET grant undermines skills system, TDA says

TDA has condemned a decision by the federal government to provide a $212,000 grant to Deakin University to develop the use of Australian VET skills in Indonesia’s logistics industry.

TDA Chief Executive Craig Robertson said the announcement by the Minister for Education and Training, Dan Teahan, and the Minister for Skills and Vocational Education Senator Michaela Cash, showed a lack of faith in the skills bodies at the heart of the Australian VET system.

“Deakin is a laudable organisation but hardly has the credentials or experience to represent Australia in an industry engagement approach for vocational qualifications,” Mr Robertson said.

“Skills Service Organisations are government established organisations dedicated to engaging with industry locally, and overseas, to develop vocational qualifications. They are funded by Minister Cash and managed by the same Department that assessed this project as worthy to go to a university.”

He said that efforts by TDA and TAFEs to reach out across the tertiary sector were undermined by decisions such as this.

Campus Morning Mail reported on Friday that the program will be undertaken by Deakin’s Centre for Supply Chain Logistics, which moved last year from dual sector Victoria University, where it “created a fully articulated pathway in supply chain and logistics courses involving certificate four, diploma, bachelor, graduate certificate, master and PhD in supply chain and logistics.”

It said that in Indonesia it will, among other things “develop national occupation standards, build training programme capacity and create a design strategy for community college curricula.”

Despite Deakin’s defence, the point remains. Why is Minister Cash abandoning her own industry advice arrangements in favour of a university?  That’s the answer that’s needed.

TAFE SA gets new chair and board directors

The South Australian government has announced the chair and new directors to the board of TAFE SA.

Jacqui McGill, a former BHP executive who joined the board in October, has been named as the new chair.

The new directors are Judith Curran, Dr Jennifer Cleary and Andrew Marshall. Existing board member Joanne Denley has been reappointed. They join Sam Scammell and Dr Craig Fowler who were also appointed in October.

Education Minister John Gardner said the appointments would help to revitalise the board and continue restoring the reputation and good governance of TAFE in the state.

“Several of the interim board members will continue supporting the new board until their terms expire on 31 December, and at that time the government will reassess the skill sets and expertise of the board and give consideration as to whether further appointees will benefit the organisation,” Mr Gardner said.

Free TAFE courses for NSW veterans

The NSW government has announced a plan to provide returned servicemen and women with access to free TAFE courses in an effort to help veterans return to civilian life.

People who have served up to eight years in the ADF and been discharged in the last five years will be able to access 1400 TAFE NSW Smart and Skilled List courses at no cost.

Premier Gladys Berejiklian and Minister for Veterans Affairs David Elliot said the program aims to help 1,000 veterans find work by 2023.

The government also said that the Veterans Employment Program, which has seen more than 800 ex-servicemen and women find work, will be extended for another four years.

Questions answered on free trade agreements

The opportunities for TAFE and others in the VET sector arising from recent free trade agreements (FTAs) will be explained in a series of webinars and a workshop by Bill Cole, Partner, International Trade at BDO Australia.

Bill is an international trade expert who has worked extensively with SMEs and public sector organisations and will help explain how to use, access and benefit from FTAs with China and South Korea. There will be the chance to ask questions during and after the presentation.

The seminars are open to businesses, TAFE staff and VET stakeholders and being delivered by TDA and TAFEs under Austrade’s Free Trade Agreement Training Provider Grant Program.

Register below for the Webinar session on Tuesday 13 November from 2.00 pm– 4.00 pm AEDT.

Those based in Perth or Adelaide can attend a face-to-face session as outlined below.

Proposed Date Location Registration
13 Nov Webinar – Victoria Development Centre, Melbourne Register here
20 Nov North Metro TAFE
Register here
22 Nov TAFE SA
City Campus

Half of youth have a poor understanding of VET, Year13 says

Fifty-two per cent of youth believe they have either a bad (29%) or no (23%) understanding of VET, according to Year13’s research paper, After The ATAR II: Understanding How Gen Z Make Decisions About Their Future.

In contrast, only 15% of youth say they have a bad (12%) or no (3%) understanding of university,

The paper says there’s also confusion regarding what an apprenticeship actually entails, with 51% of youth viewing them as an employment pathway and only 23% viewing them as an education pathway.

It found that 61% of youth believe social media helps expand their career/life aspirations, however, 74% believe older generations don’t communicate with them effectively.

Year13 says that educators should use the same platforms being used by youth to help get their message across and utilise youth voices to engage with them or work with organisations that specialise in this.

See more.

National youth 'commission' to tackle employment, pathways and career advice

The charitable institution, Youth Development Australia (YDA), plans to conduct another of its “national youth commissions” – this time into the area of “youth employment and transitions”.

YDA says the national youth commission concept is modeled on “a rigorous official inquiry into all aspects of youth transitions but without the government in control of the process or the outcomes.”  It produced the 2008 National Youth Commission into Youth Homelessness.

It says the latest inquiry will address youth unemployment, underemployment, job pathways and career advice.

There will be an added focus on pathways for Indigenous youth, young people with a disability, and other youth facing socio-economic barriers.

Submissions can be made until 30 June 2019 at the inquiry website.

RMIT seeking a dean of vocational education

RMIT is looking for a Dean of Vocational Education in its College of Design and Social Context (DSC).

DSC encompasses RMIT University’s renowned art, architecture, design, built environment, communication, and social science disciplines. The vocational education school within DSC consists of three industry clusters: Media, Art and Communication; Design and Technology; and Social Futures.

The dean will provide vocational education leadership for the college and will foster effective relationships with relevant industry and professional groups.

Applications close 25 November.

See more information here, Any questions can be addressed to Senior HR Advisor, Ann Louis on 03 9925 0101 or

Launch of The DIY Newsroom

One of our presenters at the WFCP Congress in October is launching his new book, The DIY Newsroom, at the Muse, 69 Canberra Ave, Kingston from 5 to 6.30pm on Thursday, 22 November.

Craig Robertson, CEO of TDA is launching the book. If you are interested in attending or need more information go to

ASQA removes college registrations

The Australian Skills Quality Authority has cancelled the registration of The Management School Sydney, and suspended the registration of two training colleges, the New England School of English and the New England Institute of Technology.

See more.

Diary Dates

Taking the Lead: Building Community
Community Colleges Australia Annual Conference
13-15 November 2018
More information

2018 Australian Training Awards
15 November 2018
International Convention Centre, Darling Harbour, Sydney
Tickets can be purchased here.

Engineering Next-Generation Learning
4 – 7 December 2018
Wollongong, NSW
More information 

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
More information

2019 VET CEO Conference
Velg Training
17 May 2019
Doltone House – Sydney
More Information

2019 QLD School VET Conference
Velg Training
9 August 2019
Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre, Brisbane
More Information

VDC 2019 Teaching & Learning Conference
12 & 13 September 2019
RACV Torquay Resort, Great Ocean Road, Victoria
Save the date  

2019 National VET Conference
Velg Training
12 &13 September 2019
Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre, Brisbane
More Information