Recognising the skills of learners should be easy – comment by CEO Jenny Dodd

Recognising the skills of learners should be easy – comment by CEO Jenny Dodd

Two Fridays ago at the NSW VET symposium, the three student speakers were asked if there was one piece of advice they would give about what to change with the VET system what would it be. Without hesitation one of the students jumped in and said RPL.

Jordan was a qualified diesel mechanic. He had completed his apprenticeship and then he decided to do a second apprenticeship. He was extremely frustrated when he got zero RPL for the second apprenticeship.

When we apply a competency framework to what students know and can do, it should be very simple to give RPL. Indeed, that is what competency used to be all about. In its original inception, competency equated to outcomes. A person was competent if they had the knowledge, skills and the ability to apply both to achieve the outcome.

However, as we know, the current training package structure did away with an outcomes approach and replaced it with inputs. More and more content and tighter and tighter controls were imposed on learners. Despite the rhetoric, units of competency do not easily enable a potential learner to apply for RPL. It is generally more straightforward for a student to complete the unit than to try to show evidence for RPL.

Given there is reform proposed to qualifications it would be opportune for RPL to be treated completely separately to the unit of competency compositions that make up qualifications. Respect for students who have already completed qualifications and have experience should become central.

If we are to genuinely embrace a career learning approach over a person’s life, we need to make it easier. We also need to genuinely accept people do have transferrable skills and create easy opportunities for experience and prior knowledge to be able to be recognised.

It’s time to listen to the voice of the student. They want RPL to be possible.

Fee-free TAFE enrolments surge

Enrolments in fee-free TAFE across Australia have reached 300,000 since the beginning of the year, beating the original target by 120,000.

Latest figures show that fee-free TAFE enrolments reached 296,107 at the end of September – well ahead of the forecast 180,000 for the full year.

“We are seeing a large number of enrolments and commencements in all of our priority industries, from aged care to agriculture, construction to nursing, education to disability services,” the Minister for Skills and Training Brendan O’Connor said.

“Businesses in the bush are facing significant skills shortages, so it’s great that over 105,000 Australian living in regional and remote areas have enrolled in a Fee-Free TAFE course this year.”

Women make up 60% of enrolments, while there are more than 65,000 job seekers, 22,000 people with disability and more than 14,000 First Nations people. There have been 65,500 enrolments in the care sector, 26,600 in technology and digital, and 21,000 in construction.

The federal government has committed a further $414 million to make another 300,000 places available from January.

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TDA Convention 2024 – Keynote speaker


TDA is excited to welcome David Hughes, Chief Executive of the Association of Colleges in the UK as a keynote speaker at the TDA Convention 2024TAFE at the Heart. The Association of Colleges represents and supports further education colleges in the UK to fulfil their role as anchor institutions, supporting over 2 million students each year.

David was awarded a CBE for services to further education, particularly during the Covid-19 response, in the 2022 Queen’s Platinum Jubilee honours list. David has worked in post-16 education for over 25 years, including a decade as a senior civil servant. Before that he worked in Australia and the UK in community development, regeneration, welfare, employment and social housing. David holds several Board positions including with the World Federation of Colleges and Polytechnics and the Bell Foundation.

Get involved!
There are many ways to get involved with the TDA Convention 2024, which will explore TAFE’s role at the heart of vocational education and skills development in Australia.

Submit a proposal to present or facilitate a workshop: If you would like to be a part of the program, TDA invites you to share your knowledge, research and experience on a range of topics which align to the overarching theme of TAFE at the Heart. The submission guidelines and portal can be accessed here. The call for proposals closes on 23 January 2024.

Register: The TDA Convention 2024 commences with an optional site visit to TAFE NSW’s Meadowbank campus on the afternoon of Tuesday 7 May. The program continues over two full days on 8-9 May 2024 at the Sofitel Sydney Wentworth Hotel. Delegates can take advantage of numerous networking opportunities including the convention dinner on 8 May at the Sofitel and a networking reception at the iconic Sydney Opera House on 9 May. Early bird registrations are open until 23 February 2024. Further information on registration is available here.

Sponsorship and exhibition: Align your brand with ours through exclusive sponsorship and exhibition opportunities enabling you to connect and engage with convention delegates. For a discussion on sponsorship opportunities, please contact TDA’s Sponsorship Manager Chad Murphy at ASN Events at or on 03 8658 9530.

We look forward to welcoming you to Sydney in May 2024 for TAFE at the Heart!

Australian Jobs 2023 report released

The National Careers Institute and Jobs and Skills Australia have released the latest instalment of their comprehensive labour market analysis – Australian Jobs 2023.

The publication examines the labour market across states and territories, industries and occupations, and is a valuable guide for anyone looking for work or recruiting.

It also includes guidance about the skills employers need and educational pathways.

See Australian Jobs 2023

Universities Accord review panel wrapping up

The chair of the Australian Universities Accord panel, Mary O’Kane has provided an update, as the review nears the end of its task.

Ms O’Kane said that the review has, so far, met 45 times, and has received more than 785 responses over three rounds of submissions.

“There have been well over 150 formal engagements with various stakeholders, and a large number of informal engagements,” Ms O’Kane said.

“There have also been three meetings of the Ministerial Reference Group, with the most recent meeting of this group chaired by the Minister for Education, the Hon Jason Clare MP, in Rockhampton on 2 November.”

The review’s Interim Report was released in July and the final report is due to be handed to the government this month.

Government responds to adult literacy inquiry

The federal government has committed to doing more to tackle adult language, literacy, numeracy and digital literacy, while tabling its response to a parliamentary committee.

The House of Representatives Standing Committee on Employment, Education and Training made 15 recommendations in its inquiry into adult literacy, Don’t Take it as Read.

The Minister for Skills and Training Brendan O’Connor said the government’s initiatives include $436 million for redesigning the Skills for Education and Employment (SEE) program.

The recently signed National Skills Agreement is also committing up to $142 million over five years to improve foundation skills training quality and accessibility, including within the Adult and Community Education (ACE) sector.

TDA’s foundation skills network is also sharing strategies between TAFEs and meets again this month.

AWS and WorldSkills Australia collaborate on Cloud Computing Competitions

Earlier this year TDA Corporate affiliate AWS, in collaboration with WorldSkills Australia, ran the National Cloud Computing Championship. The WorldSkills Australia Cloud Computing Competitions begin at a grass roots level in one of 42 Australian regions. The Cloud Computing Regional Competitions test the skills and knowledge of 4000+ apprentices, trainees and students, who have the opportunity to win gold, silver and bronze medals and gain the chance to go on to compete at a national level. WorldSkills Australia competitions operate on a two-year cycle. The next Cloud Computing Regional Competition rounds will run from February to November 2024 across the country. Register your interest to compete in Cloud Computing

Hear directly from AWS in conversation with WorldSkills below on 2023 National Tournament.

Q. Why was Amazon Web Services (AWS) interested in supporting the 2023 WorldSkills Australia National Tournament?
A. Research highlights the need for digital skills given the gap that currently exists in Australia, in addition, the recent Gallup “Australia Digital Skills Study,” commissioned by Amazon Web Services revealed that a digitally advanced workforce contributes an estimated $41 billion to the annual GDP thanks to their higher income and productivity. As a leader in the tech industry, we are committed to helping learners develop their cloud technology skills and understanding what job opportunities are available. WorldSkills Australia enables us to connect with learners and help them as they progress along their cloud technology learning journey in a fun yet competitive way!

Q. How does AWS extend its support to the education sector beyond its involvement with WorldSkills Australia?
A. AWS believes it is time to move beyond business as usual to create the conditions for success where skills can be acquired in hours, and credentials acquired in days. To do that, we need to develop a culture of lifelong learning – right through from school to the workforce – to skill Australia at scale and nurture a digitally-skilled talent pool for the future. We are excited about the number of people we are helping across the region to get access to vital digital skills training that will set them up for success. So far, AWS has trained over 300,000 individuals in Australia on cloud skills since 2017, through skilling initiatives such as AWS Skill Builder which offers a digital learning experience that allows anyone with an internet connection and a desire to learn to access over 500 free, on-demand courses, in 16 different languages.

AWS offers a variety of free resources to students and teachers who desire to learn more about cloud technology. Some of the programs we offer include: AWS Educate, AWS Academy, AWS Cloud Quest, and AWS Skill Builder. These programs are designed to help learners, whether they are at the beginning of their learning journey or preparing for jobs in IT. In addition, our Skills to Jobs Team works hand-in-hand with academic institutions by delivering training to learners that is aligned to real-world skills and connecting those learners to our global network of over 1.4M partners/customers looking for employees.

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Stay up-to-date on latest Jobs and Skills Council events!

Now that all ten Jobs and Skills Council (JSC) are up and running and engaging in diverse activities, the TDA newsletter will aim to provide timely updates of key JSC events.

Starting this week, a dedicated section on JSC events will be included immediately after Diary Dates at the end of the newsletter.

We hope to provide summary information on webinars, conferences and consultations. Brief information for this section can be emailed to

New resources for disability support workers

The NDIS Commission’s Workforce Capability Framework has released resources to support workers, providers and participants in areas such as recruitment, career planning and supervision.

New resources including Easy Read resources, animation videos, community language translations, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander guides and other handy tips and templates are now live.

The Framework describes the attitudes, skills and knowledge expected of all workers funded under the NDIS and establishes a shared language of ‘what good looks like’ for participants receiving supports.

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JSA seeking input into 2024-25 work plan

Jobs and Skills Australia (JSA) is seeking input into its 2024-25 work plan, which will guide its work agenda for the next 12-months.

The work plan will set out the outcomes and priorities for the financial year, including major in-depth studies, research and analytic projects.

Feedback is open until 24 January 2024.

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Building and construction survey to identify emerging trends

TAFE NSW, in conjunction with the NSW Building & Construction ITAB, are undertaking a survey of construction sector employers to gather insights on emerging industry trends that may impact the type of training that is required.

The findings will help to identify some of the main innovations and emerging technologies in the building and construction sector that are shaping they way people work and acquire new skills.

The survey is open until December 22.

Take the survey

Updated application requirements for initial VET registration

The Australian Skills Quality Authority (ASQA) has updated its application forms and supporting evidence requirements for all new entrants to the VET sector.

Effective 27 November 2023, all applications for initial registration must be in the new form and accompanied by the required supporting evidence.

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Diary Dates

Empowered Women in Trades
Gala and Awards 2024
23 February 2024
The Trust, Melbourne
More information

TDA Convention 2024, ‘TAFE at the Heart’ – Register now!
8-9 May 2024
Sofitel Wentworth, Sydney
Call for presenters open now
Early bird registrations

VET National Teaching & Learning Conference 2024
15-16 August 2024
Save the date

47th WorldSkills Competition
10-15 September 2024
Lyon, France
More information

Jobs and Skills Council Events

For all upcoming Jobs and Skills Council (JSC) events, including webinars and consultations, please go direct to the relevant JSC website.

Industry Skills Australia
Maritime: Monday 11 December 1-2 pm AEDT

Powering Skills Organisation
Electrotechnology: Monday 11 December 2-3 pm AEDT
Electricity supply generation: Tuesday 12 December 11-12 AEDT
Gas: Tuesday 12 Dec 3-4 pm AEDT