Nostra Robertson – comment by CEO Craig Robertson

Nostra Robertson – comment by CEO Craig Robertson

Is it possible to look to a VET future-state?
Yes, if trends of the world we triangulate

Skills are in big data if we infiltrate
Regardless of the country they originate

The vehicle is new micro-credentials
Stripped back to learning fundamentals

VET around the globe collaborating
New learning and skills authenticating

Fair enough, I’m not too good at verse
But it is the future we must traverse

What do you think are the chances there will soon be global skills standards and universal recognition?

Three separate events this past week point in that direction. Big data, combined with global collaboration and micro-credentials, may supercharge the process, let alone the many aspects of production and service processes that are already close to universalised.

On Thursday in the first of TAFETalks, the National Skills Commissioner, Adam Boyton, outlined the potential of big data to guide VET in Australia. I have written previously about the Australian Skills Classification (ASC). The results from long-term and robust analysis of skill components of jobs in the US, referred to as O-NET, have been complemented with Australian data and contextualised to Australian conditions. The beta version has identified 1,925 specialist tasks, many of which are transferable across occupations. As Adam highlighted the NSC wants feedback to further contextualise the ASC to Australian conditions. Regardless, it identifies skills first and foremost and then how they are assembled by employers, employees and entrepreneurs into productive work.

Erasmus+ is just one example of emerging global cooperation. The European Union has committed AUS $41 billion over 2021-27 to promote exchange across and outside of the Union with particular focus on students and colleges. Centres of Vocational Excellence (CoVE) is the flagship for uplift in TVET for Europe and it is atypical compared to the narrow interpretation of TVET rife across the world. Excellence the European way is the strategic alignment of TVET interventions to local economic and social priorities based on respectful partnerships with social partners (industry, unions and communities) with vocational learning and applied research the key input to success.

In the spirit of that collaboration, funding of up to Euro$4 million is available per centre but must be based on collaboration with local partners and industry but, importantly, globally. The expectation is the exchange of ideas and building capabilities.

An Online information session will take place on Friday 30 April from 9h30 to 12h30 (CET) – 5.30-8.30pm on the Eastern seaboard of Australia. As a live cast there is no need to register.

TDA’s sister organisation in Canada, CICan, released a report on the roll-out of micro-credentials across colleges and polytechnics. It is consistent with definitions and commentary here in Australia and the rest of the world so why does it portent to globalism? Whether we like it or not, elements of learning or acquiring skills are going to be packaged up in new ways. Policy makers may claim it’s flexibility they are offering but the more likely cause is education supply breaking out from the strictures of accreditation and regulation. In the competitive world of learning and staying ahead of the game, regular and new providers are seeking to attract new candidates for learning through more attractive and consumable products.

How does this come together? If Australia can align with the skill components of US jobs it is not too difficult to assume many other countries call on the same skills.

While many countries, including ours, fiercely protecting accredited learning and the qualifications they issue, micro-credentials from any point in the globe may well make that protectionism redundant. You might argue that accreditation and regulation assure quality and relevance but that is from the view of governments, not the consumer and ultimately a business which utilises talent which may have other views. We’ve seen the slow march of global platforms in many aspects of our lives – Microsoft and Apple being the most prominent – so it’s not too hard to see it coming for learning. Where it ends is anyone’s guess, but it’s fair to say the journey of globalisation of skills has likely already begun.

All is not lost. An internationalist perspective can free the sector. There are already many global standards that dictate business processes and they haven’t killed industries in countries. They have allowed countries with capable workers to seize opportunities across the globe but importantly for the industry to operate at a global standard. An open approach to the ASC along with global collaboration such as through Erasmus+ can be the means of developing that capability and bring authenticity to what we do.

This issue is clearly on the Government’s mind. As part of the development of the new Strategy for International Education a webinar is being held this week on the significance of qualifications recognition as an essential enabler of student, graduate, worker, academic and institutional mobility.

Nostra Robertson may be too much to claim.

National Skills Commissioner outlines the path to VET reform

National Skills Commissioner Adam Boyton has outlined details of an ambitious plan to develop the key tools that will help underpin the transformation of the VET sector.

“I would say that we’ve really only started to scratch the surface on VET,” he said in the inaugural TAFETalks webinar last Thursday.

“We’ve collected an enormous set of data on prices as they exist in the system at the moment.

“We’re now starting to do some work understanding costs of delivery for high quality VET.

“We’re also starting to build some linked data assets that will enable us to really look at how the system performs and see the qualifications that really do well in the labour market and identify those,” he told TDA CEO Craig Robertson.

Among the various pieces of data that the NSC is aiming to tie together is information on the income of student before and after training, designed to estimate the real impact of skills uplift.

There is also ongoing work on skills needs and employment growth by industry and occupation, and the recently released Australian Skills Classification (in beta version) which identifies skills that may be common across occupations.

“When we’ve built these things by the end of this year, it’s the aggregation of intelligence that I think will be quite powerful,” Mr Boyton said.

“By getting those pieces of information out there, we can create at least a core set of data that the sector can use.

“If we know the emerging occupations and the skills in those occupations –  how do we re-orient, if we need to, training packages and the like?”

On the issue of national VET pricing, Mr Boyton said the recent VET Average Price Benchmark report was the first step in a simple, transparent and consistent approach to achieving efficient pricing of VET qualifications Australia wide.

He stressed that an “efficient” VET price did not mean the lowest price. Rather, it would reflect a quality outcome, some regional variation and the need to address emerging skills.

Listen to the TAFETalks webcast


Government looking to expand VET student loan program  

The federal government is considering extending the VET student loan program to students at Certificate IV level, as recently recommended by the Productivity Commission.

The NSW Minister for Skills and Tertiary Education Dr Geoff Lee said discussions are currently underway with the Commonwealth about a pilot program for an extension of the income contingent VET loan program as part of a new skills funding agreement with states and territories.

“We’re working with the federal government and will have more news as soon as we have some resolution,” Mr Lee told an ITECA business forum in Sydney on Friday.

The former VET FEE HELP scheme, which was subject to widespread abuse, was replaced in 2016 by the VET Student Loans (VSL) program which is available for diploma courses and above at approved course providers.

In its January report into the national skills funding agreement, the Productivity Commission recommended extending VSL to Certificate IV but with a list of ineligible courses.

Meanwhile, the fallout from the VET FEE-HELP program continues. The value of VET FEE HELP debts that have been wiped for those students who were victims of scams is now approaching $3 billion.

Kathy Dennis, Assistant Secretary at the Department of Employment, Skills, Small and Family Business said approximately 150,000 students had had VFH debts re-credited, totalling $2.85 billion.

State-of-the art TAFE trade centre opens on the Gold Coast

TAFE Queensland has officially opened its new state-of-the-art building and construction workshop at its Ashmore Trade Training Centre on the Gold Coast.

The new facility offers world-class trade training from Certificate I to Diploma level building and construction qualifications. It is part of a $27.6 million campus transformation, featuring automotive and electrical trades facilities and a new student hub.

The new building and construction facilities include an elevated working-at-heights training area, open-plan classrooms, viewing platforms and interactive technology.

First year carpentry apprentice Sarah Bowlder was one of the apprentices employed by the building contractor, ADCO, to build the new facility and will complete her Certificate III in Carpentry in the building she helped to construct. Sarah is one of the first female apprentices employed by ADCO.

After graduating from university with a Bachelor of Criminology and Criminal Justice, 22-year-old Sarah decided a career in building and construction was what she really wanted.

“I feel blessed to have a carpentry apprenticeship and even more so having one with ADCO as one of their first female apprentices,” Sarah said.

Construction of the new facility commenced in April 2020 and was completed in late January this year. The next project scheduled for the Ashmore TAFE campus is the new $5.7 million plumbing tower, due for completion next May.

NSC to undertake six-month review of care workforce

The National Skills Commission is commencing an in-depth study into Australia’s care and support sector workforce.

In early March, National Skills Commissioner Adam Boyton was tasked by Prime Minister Scott Morrison to undertake the study into the factors affecting the supply and demand of care workers, both in the near term and out to 2050.

Among the terms of reference, the study will examine:

  • the current profile of the care and support sector workforce
  • the balance of labour supply and demand in the sector
  • factors affecting the supply for care workers including education and training pathways

The final report is due to be provided to the Minister for Employment, Workforce, Skills, Small and Family Business by 30 September this year.

Employer trust vital for micro credentials, Canadian report says

The growing popularity of micro credentials and the implications for students, employers and education providers has been explored in a new paper by Colleges and Institutes Canada (CICan).

The Status of Microcredentials in Canadian Colleges and Institutes is an environmental scan that looks at the emergence of short and stand alone courses and how they are being delivered and viewed by users.

Some 56% of Canadian colleges are offering microcredentials either online, in-person or both, and 33% are planning to do so, the paper says.

But it cites a lack of clarity around the understanding of microcredentials, and says they can be confusing for learners and potential employers.

“For microcredentialed training to be effective, it must be recognized and valued in the labour market,” CICan says.

“Potential employers must understand what the credential means and be assured that they can trust the quality of delivery as comparable to that of other programs offered by Canada’s network of colleges and institutes.”

The paper includes an international perspective, including a section on Australia and New Zealand, “arguably the countries that have been most active in microcredentials.”

South Australia opens consultation on skills reform

The South Australian government is continuing its reform of the state’s training system, with public consultations starting tomorrow on new regulations and standards that will take effect in July.

The changes cover regulations and standards that will sit under the South Australian Skills Act 2008.

The SA Training and Skills Commission has scheduled a number of information sessions to explain the planned changes.

See more

Applications open for Bert Evans apprentice scholarships

Up to 100 scholarships worth as much as $15,000 each are now open to NSW apprentices under the Bert Evans Apprentice Scholarships program.

First launched in 2014, the scholarships are aimed at assisting apprentices who have experienced hardship.

They are open to first year apprentices who were in an apprenticeship arrangement that commenced between 1 March 2020 and 28 May 2021.

The scholarships are worth $5,000 each year for up to three years.

See more

Conference to explore impact of new qualifications on TVET 

The Bridging Innovation and Learning in TVET (BILT) project team is holding its online conference on Bridging Asia-Pacific and Europe: New Qualifications and Competencies in TVET, co-hosted by the UNEVOC Centre Temasek Polytechnic, Singapore, 27 and 28 April 2021.

It addresses challenges and practical solutions with regards to new qualifications and competencies in the fields of digitalization, entrepreneurship, greening and migration in TVET.

It will explore successful practices around the identification of new qualifications and competencies, their integration into curricula and training regulations, and their implementation in teaching and training.

The full program is on the event webpage.

Register here

Diary Dates

AVETRA Annual Conference 2021
Recover, rethink and rebuild: All eyes on VET
19 – 23 April, 2021 (Online)
More information

The Real Future of Work
Career Development Association of Australia
Three-part program, early April – early May
More information

CICan (Colleges & Institutes Canada) 2021 Connection Conference
April 26 – 28
More information

Year13 Expo
17 – 19 May 2021
More information

National Careers Week
Career Industry Council of Australia
17 – 23 May 2021
More information

Student Voice Australia Symposium 2021
25 & 27 May 2021
More information

Apprentice Employment Network, NSW & ACT
Skills Conference
16 June 2021
Dockside Darling  Harbour, Sydney
More information

VET in Schools Forum
25 June 2021
Southern Cross Catholic Vocational College, Burwood, NSW
More information

30th National VET Research Conference ‘No Frills’
Past informing the future
National Centre for Vocational Education Research (NCVER)
7 – 9 July 2021 (Online)
More information 

Journal of Vocational Education and Training
Vocational and Technical Education Keynotes Conference
9 July 2021 (online)
More information

TVET World eConference
International Vocational and Training Association
28 – 30 July 2021
More information

QLD Schools VET Conference
Velg Training
6 August 2021
Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre
More information

National Apprentice Employment Network
National Conference
17 – 19 August 2021
Grand Chancellor Hobart, Tasmania
More information soon

National Skills Week
23 – 29 August 2021
More information

Worldskills Australia
25 – 29 August 2021
Perth Exhibition and Convention Centre
More information

2021 National VET Conference
Velg Training
9 – 19 September 2021
Gold Coast Convention and Exhibition Centre
More information

Australian Training Awards
18 November 2021
Perth, Western Australia
More information