Reflections on a most unusual year – comment by TDA Chair Mary Faraone

Reflections on a most unusual year – comment by TDA Chair Mary Faraone

In this final TDA Newsletter, I have been asked to reflect on 2020, and comment on how the experiences of this year may influence future years. 

Like my TAFE colleagues around Australia, I have been incredibly proud of the way the sector collectively, and individual institutes have responded to the COVID crisis. There are many great examples of innovative practice in the engagement of our learners, industry, the community and partners. TDA has collected and published the story of the amazing adaption by TAFEs to keep learners and businesses engaged in education and training – #THE POWER OF TAFE – The Covid Story. I urge you to have a look but also to use it as inspiration and for marketing purposes.

What I have seen and experienced at my institute, has been a reflection of what we have seen in the wider community. I have gone back to look at the reports to the Board from February through to December, and each report addresses new issues and changed circumstances. Initially our concern was that our international students would not be able to enter the country; however each month had new and escalating challenges. As circumstances changed, we adapted, and always present was the overriding commitment to the safety and wellbeing of our staff and learners.

Throughout all the ups and downs of the year, I have been grateful to have been able to continue our work in delivering education and training, and in ensuring the wellbeing of our learner cohort. I have been particularly proud of our efforts in providing financial, food, accommodation and personal support to our many learners in need. For me, this year has cemented the role of our TAFEs in supporting social inclusion and social cohesion in our communities, and our role in supporting economic recovery and implementing government initiatives.

TAFE is not simply just another provider, and we at TDA, are working for our members to ensure this message is being heard. Whilst we acknowledge that TAFEs are owned by the states and territories, a national voice is paramount in ensuring #THE POWER OF TAFE message is loud and clear in the national agenda.

I sometimes despair at what I hear and read about our sector; some of it is true, some anecdotal, some biased, some ill-informed and some completely untrue. What I see at TAFEs around the country are hundreds of thousands of learners who are graduating with new qualifications, new skills and in many cases a new approach to life. In the midst of reviews, policy changes and constant noise, we must never forget the impact our education and training is having on the lives of our learners.

I do think there will be a rethink within industry and businesses about how they retrain or reskill their employees and we need to be ready to adapt to new working environments and practices. Industry partnerships will continue to be a driving innovative force within TAFEs and our responsiveness to the new world of work and new expectations will be paramount to our future.

I am hopeful that 2021 will be a good year, where we build on the innovation in delivery and work practices to enhance our engagement with our learners, industry and the community. I am also hopeful that in 2021 we have meaningful dialogue about our training system and products to ensure that we are able to capitalise on the opportunities and demands in responding to the changing workplace and industry needs.

Thanks to Craig Robertson, CEO of TDA and his great team for their work in 2020, in continuing to raise the voice of TAFE and providing intelligent discourse on the wider tertiary and VET landscape.

I wish you all a restful and safe festive season and look forward to re-engaging in 2021.

South Australia’s Training and Skills Commission leads the way on micro-credentials

In what is the first coherent move by a government on micro-credentials, SA’s Training and Skills Commission and the state’s Department for Innovation and Skills (DIS) have released findings of their consultation on the subject and are now welcoming applications for new micro-credentials from industry and their tertiary education partners.

While the policy respects the role of industry qualifications on the national register – – it signals a break-out from the national qualification system for VET, or at least a move to alternatives.

The policy is deft.  It acknowledges that proponents first need to look for units of competency that meet their need but is clear that other learning outcomes or new competencies are welcome, including a blending of accredited and non-accredited training. DIS offers support to work with ASQA to formalise the learning as an accredited course if that is needed by industry. Pursuing ‘learning outcomes’ aligns with the core organising principle of the proposed Australian Qualifications Framework. DIS will support industry to develop micro-credentials which will then go to the Commission for endorsement. Endorsed micro-credentials can be delivered by Registered Training Organisations, other education providers and/or industry partners.

Recognition and quality assurance, the protection for students and employers most cited as the rate limiting factor for non-accredited micro-credentials, is also dealt with. Graduating students are ‘issued with a certificate that indicates successful completion of the course endorsed by the Commission’, the guidelines state.  The credential endorsed by the Commission is to cover the expected outcomes, assessment methodology and quality measures, assumed to be built off the back of an education and training provider’s capabilities. This assures the micro-credential is ‘portable and could contribute towards a formal qualification,’ the guidelines state.

In a similar move, the pilot Digital Skills Organisation, instigated as a result of the review of VET by Steven Joyce, announced that its pilot program for training a 100 data analysts has two of the three delivery partners not registered as education organisations. TAFE Queensland is the third.

The signals are clear. Players in the national VET system, including industry players and stakeholders, are looking to alternatives to the national system of industry qualifications and the heavy compliance that follows. The SA model embeds quality elements within the endorsement and doesn’t need external regulation oversight. The DSO would appear to be using employment as a data analyst as the quality indicator with 50 per cent of the payment for delivery contingent on that outcome.

“This will promote the upskilling and reskilling of transitioning workers, improve work readiness and allow for additional skills and knowledge outside formal qualifications,” said a Commission spokesperson.

“Employers can now access timely and targeted training, delivered by skilled practitioners, to satisfy their current and future skills needs.”

The focus across the post school education and training system is likely to be the content and nature of education and training outcomes for a post-COVID economy. The Commission sums it up well. It says micro-credentials, ‘provide wider recognition of the skills, knowledge and attributes gained by the learner.’

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A tipping point for digitisation of education campuses

A new study suggests nearly half of universities and TAFEs would re-consider their real estate assets to fund urgent technology projects in the wake of COVID-19.

The study by Vector Consulting, commissioned by TDA corporate affiliates Cisco and Optus Enterprise, surveyed more than 50 executives representing 80 per cent of Australia’s universities and TAFEs.

It found that 79 per cent of institutes see COVID-19 as creating major, permanent change in the way campuses are designed, while 74 per cent believe their institution is now more likely to spend discretionary dollars on digital platforms and tools than capital works.

The leaders surveyed unanimously agreed that “digital” will be an increasingly prominent consideration in campus master planning.

Digital services like remote access to live classes, the ability to book spaces in libraries and classrooms, and the availability of smart lighting and security were found to be “must haves” in a contemporary education institute.

Given significant discussions occurring around COVID-19 induced restructuring of CBDs across Australia and globally, the Tipping Point for Digitisation of Education Campuses report is a timely must read for tertiary education leaders and decision makers.

TDA convention cancelled

The TDA national board has made the difficult decision to cancel the TDA Convention 2021 planned for Perth on 29-30 April 2021.

Further details on a replacement event will be provided in due course.

Robert Adams retires to a more ordered life on the coast in Queensland

Robert Adams, long term CEO of Australian Industry Standards (AIS)  and its predecessor Transport and Logistics Industry Skills Council (TLISC) announced his retirement this past week.

Robert has been a very strong advocate and channel for industry guidance and input to vocational education. Hailing from the transport industry, Robert headed up TLISC from 2011 under industry advisory arrangements that many in the sector would look back on as the stable years of VET.

The quality of the operations for TLISC resulted in expanded industry coverage with the establishment of AIS under the skills service organisation model. Major achievements have been the endorsement of the new electro-technology training package, the innovative Future Skills Forum hosted by Kerry O’Brien during 2018 and 2019 throughout the country and the steady update of training packages.

AIS is also coordinating the Digital Skills Transformation project on behalf of the Australian Industry Skills Committee and all in the sector and beyond are looking forward to seeing the results of that work early in the new year for insights on new approaches to digital skills and literacy across the VET sector. Robert also participated in TDA’s study tour of Canada and the US in early 2019, another indication of his strong commitment to the sector.

Paul Walsh, previously chief operating officer for AIS, has commenced as CEO. It’s believed Robert is already dabbling his toes in the waters of Hervey Bay!

WFCP launches cyber security affinity group

The World federation of Colleges and Polytechnics (WFCP) has launched its new Cyber Security Affinity Group, designed to bring together like-minded educationalists to share effective practice, and develop joint initiatives in cyber security.

To launch the group, WFCP and Burton and South Derbyshire College in the UK, along with Victoria’s Box Hill Institute, hosted “Cyber Security: It’s Everyone’s Business” – a webinar to engage interested institutions and individuals in membership of the Affinity Group.

For those who couldn’t attend the virtual launch, there is a recording of the event and details on how to become involved.

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WFCP's first teacher development webinar this week

The first webinar of the World Federation of Colleges and Polytechnics (WFCP) Teacher Professional Development Affinity Group will be held online later this week, focusing on the challenges and countermeasures in teacher professional development in the post-pandemic era.

The webinar will be on December 15 from 7.00 – 8.30 pm, Beijing time (10.00 – 11.30 pm Sydney, Canberra, Melbourne time).

Registration is free but essential. Speakers include:

  • Mr Shyamal Majumdar, former Director of UNESCO-UNEVOC International Center
  • Dr Hong Huaqing, Director of Center for Learning, Research and Development, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore)
  • Professor Andreas Mahr, Vice-president of Baden-Wuerttemberg Cooperative State University, Germany
  • Professor MA Weijing, Sheridan College, Canada

ASQA releases details of online VET review

The Australian Skills Quality Authority (ASQA) has released the terms of reference for its strategic review of online learning in the VET sector.

The review is seeking to identify the extent to which providers have shifted to online modes of delivery in response to COVID-19, including the nature and range of delivery. It also aims to assess the challenges and risks to the quality of VET as a result of this transition.

As part of the public consultation, ASQA will undertake a survey of all providers and direct consultation with key stakeholder groups and current and former students.

ASQA says that it will consider establishing an external reference group if required.

The final report is due by mid-2021.

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Diary Dates

AVETRA 2020 Researcher Development Series
Webinars designed for early career, emerging and practitioner researchers
June 2020 – March 2021
More information

Australian Council of Deans of Education Vocational Education Group (ACDEVEG)

VET teacher development around the world: 6th Annual Conference on VET Teaching and VET Teacher Education  
14 – 15 December 2020
More information

VET CEO Conference
Velg Training
19 March 2021 (Online)
More information

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

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