Regular to remarkable – comment by CEO Craig Robertson

Regular to remarkable - comment by CEO Craig Robertson

The recent Invictus Games bookend the hundredth commemoration of the Armistice. This Sunday at the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month we will remember the fallen, wounded and returning soldiers from World War 1.

Sixty thousand Australian soldiers were slain in the Great War and 156,000 were wounded, gassed or imprisoned. A great toll on a nation of just five million citizens. It’s little wonder a memorial marks the entrance to most country towns – an honour to the fallen but also a reminder of the toll on their community and many of its families.

This caused me to look up the Victoria Cross recipients from that war. Sixty-four in total, many awarded posthumously. Twenty-five were commissioned officers, leaders of men. The remaining 39 were regular soldiers, 17 of them privates. Many of these men lived ordinary lives – labourers, factory workers, iron-founders and shop keepers. Yet in the face of harrowing circumstances beyond their contemplation when they enlisted, they performed great selfless and sacrificial acts. Remarkable from the regular.

This Sunday we will be asked to contemplate their legacy. Willing sacrifice for freedom. Mateship that bound all the ranks in the heat of battle. A love of family that willed them on. Regular people doing remarkable things.

Against this backdrop I ponder the lessons for modern Australia. In no way diminishing the sacrifice and suffering of these soldiers in the face of adversity we cannot imagine, I am taken by the remarkable feats from these regular men. As educationalists this should be our aim every day.

Jennifer Westacott, CEO of the Business Council of Australia told the assembled at the National Press Club this past week that corporate business believes every Australian should have the opportunity to realise their full potential in rewarding, meaningful and fulfilling jobs with a sense of purpose that allows them to get ahead.

If VET is about responding to the needs of industry and businesses, then Jennifer has raised the bar for the sector. Education (including vocational education) should be about pushing the frontiers of personal achievement. As Skills Service Organisations, Industry Reference Committees, trainers and auditors go about their job this week, I wonder if the notion of personal achievement and helping students find their sense of purpose ranks in their thinking.

We as educators hold the key. Skilled and trusted educators are the only ones who can bring life to qualifications. Go looking on official VET websites for advice on education strategies, commentary on pedagogy or the latest on adult learning and little will be found. Training directed to the needs of our economy remains a central tenet of our sector, but without the cadre of teachers on-side, more specification, compliance and auditing will be for little.

On Sunday I will wish for VET to be the foundation of remarkable lives of many Australians as just one legacy of those who served this country so gallantly.

Correction from last week
Last week in the Newsletter I reported that DET officials at Senate Estimates said that the Skilling Australians Funds not issued to Victoria and Queensland because they have not signed up would be returned to consolidated revenue.  I was reminded that the officials said the Government was yet to decide what would happen with those funds.

Government funding for VET stuck in the doldrums

The tight financial situation facing much of the VET sector has been captured in the latest official figures which show that government funding for VET fell by 8.3% in 2017.

Between 2016 and 2017, revenue from the Commonwealth government fell 22%, largely due to the closure of the VET FEE-HELP scheme.

Revenue from the state and territory governments increased for the first time in several years, but almost all the increase was accounted for by Victoria.

The area with the biggest decline was fee-for-service, where revenue fell by almost 14% to $997 million over the year and is down by almost 23% since 2013.

Between 2016 and 2017, employee costs increased by 2.3%, and expenditure on supplies and services increased by 5.7%.

The figures also show that payments by governments to non-TAFE providers to deliver VET programs increased by 19.5% to $265 million.

See more.

Government backs One Nation plan for 'bush wage' subsidy for apprenticeships

The federal government has announced a pilot program to trial a new $60 million wage subsidy to encourage small and medium sized employers to engage apprentices in rural and regional areas.

The ‘bush wage’ subsidy trial, to commence in January, will provide 75% of an apprentice’s award wage in the first year, 50% in the second, and 25% in the third.

It is aimed at employers who have not previously engaged in the apprenticeship system and will support apprentices at the Certificate III and IV levels in occupations on the National Skills Needs List.

The scheme was negotiated with the support of One Nation Senator Pauline Hanson who said she had “worked hard for many years to see this pilot program come to fruition”.

It has been welcomed by business groups including the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry and Ai Group.

However, the Shadow Minister for Skills, TAFE and Apprenticeships Senator Doug Cameron said the trial has caused concern in the group training sector because of fears that employers could “hand back” existing apprentices so they can access the new scheme.

“The so called ‘bush wage’, based on One Nation’s costly apprenticeship policy, has set off alarm bells throughout the group training industry which has been told it is ineligible for the scheme,” Senator Cameron said.

See more.

Private training colleges face too much scrutiny, says ACPET

Excessive scrutiny of detailed regulatory issues by the national skills regulator is forcing private colleges into legalistic compliance, according to the Australian Council for Private Education and Training (ACPET).

ACPET has called for a review of the quality standards for VET following the latest annual report of the Australian Skills Quality Authority.

“While it is now common to critique the VET sector on the basis of often minor non-compliance, this does very little for the quality of VET education or for the reputation of Australia’s internationally recognised VET sector,” chairman Bruce Callaghan said.

“ACPET is confident that independent providers are delivering innovative and high-quality training across Australia,” he said.

ACPET claims that under ASQA’s current audit regime, it is possible for small administrative errors and gross deliberate acts of misconduct to render the same “non-compliance” outcome.

“Serious compliance breaches lead to de-registration, and the fact that the number of incidents in this category is, in actuality, contextually small is being overlooked”, acting CEO, Peter Mr McDonald said.

ACPET noted that “Negativity emanating from government bodies can damage one of Australia’s great assets.”

VET loans swing back to TAFE students

The split of total VET loans between students at TAFE and private providers has narrowed to its smallest in six years, following the clean-up of the former VET FEE-HELP program.

Updated figures released by the National Centre for Vocational Education Research, from the Department of Education and Training, show that in 2017, payments for VET loans totalled $500 million, with $275 million or 55% going to private providers, and $225 million (45%) to TAFE.

This is in contrast to the average over the period 2009- 2017, where private providers reaped 78% of VET loans, against TAFE’s 22%.

Under the reformed VET Student Loan Scheme which commenced in 2017, $192 million was paid out in that year, with almost 70% going to TAFE.

However, 2017 payments under VET FEE-HELP, which is now closed, but ‘grandfathered’, continue to flow overwhelmingly to private providers.

See more.

Skills for a global future: TAFE Queensland providing pathways for migrants

TAFE Queensland has rolled out a program that harnesses the existing skills and experience of recently arrived migrants and refugees.

The program gives students in existing programs information about future work and study pathways.

It identifies, recognises and promotes students’ previous study and work experience in their home countries, while also supporting recognition of their skills by other education providers and employers. It focuses on tailoring follow-ups that set learners on pathways that consider their backgrounds, and reflect their personal and professional aspirations.

So far, the program has provided guidance to over 350 students across five of TAFE Queensland’s campuses.

The program also provided TAFE Queensland with insight into the educational backgrounds and aspirations of recent migrants. For instance, it found that two-thirds of learners already possess a diploma, degree, or post-graduate qualification.

It also found that most enrolments following the initial settlement program were at or above the Certificate III level. Most importantly, the program has underlined the desire and commitment of recent migrants to contribute to Australian society, while being able to live out their dreams in their new country.

Two of the inspiring stories can be found here and here.

TDA and AVETRA announce winner of innovation scholarship

TDA and the Australian Vocational Education and Training Research Association (AVETRA) are delighted to announce that this year’s innovation scholarship has been awarded to Justine Rofe (pictured) from Wodonga TAFE. 

Justine’s proposal is titled ‘Using applied research in VET to enhance student learning at Wodonga Institute of TAFE’.

We congratulate Justine and all the other TAFE employees who submitted proposals. There were many exciting research proposals, and we look forward to being able to offer a further scholarship next year.

Queensland skills summit to tackle workforce challenges

The Queensland government is holding a major skills forum later this month to address upcoming skilling and workforce challenges.

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk will host the Skills and Industry Summit in Brisbane on November 28.

It will begin with an Industry Skills Roundtable, where leading CEOs and board chairs will discuss future skills needs, and will be followed by a Skills and Industry Summit, where 200 delegates and key speakers will discuss the future of work.

In addition to the Premier, it will be attended by the Deputy Premier, the Minister for State Development and the Minister for Training and Skills.

“I’ve said it before and want to make it clear again: if we don’t have the skills that industries need for these jobs, employers and companies will look elsewhere, go elsewhere and operate elsewhere,” Ms Palaszczuk said.

“I want to share the challenges of the future with industry, universities, the skills training sector and unions.”

Western Australia to revamp VET-in-schools

The West Australian government is to embark on an overhaul of VET qualifications delivered in secondary schools with the aim of broadening student choices.

Education and Training Minister Sue Ellery said the changes would allow students to take a wider range of subjects to qualify for the Western Australia Certificate of Education (WACE).

Currently, students not pursuing an ATAR are required to complete a Certificate II or higher VET qualification, in combination with other senior secondary courses, to achieve a WACE.

“The consultation will explore if there is scope for other options for Year 11 and 12 students, such as completing at least five general courses,” Ms Ellery said.

The School Curriculum and Standards Authority will begin consultation with school leaders, training providers and parents, on broadening the scope for students to achieve a WACE.

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