Research must inform solutions to completions – comment by CEO Jenny Dodd

Research must inform solutions to completions – comment by CEO Jenny Dodd

It was terrific to be part of the AVETRA conference last week and to contribute to a panel titled: ‘Policy, place and partnership: the interoperable tertiary system’ chaired by AVETRA President, Kira Clarke.  Although I was only part of the event for a day, this was a conference that dug deep into the relevant ‘challenges’ facing VET.

I most enjoyed hearing about some of the great work of the various researchers who presented at the conference. I joined the Challenging Times stream which included presentations from Warren Guest from TAFE in Victoria, Peter Schreiner from TAFE NSW and Sally Thompson who has led discourse on VET and equity and access for many years.

Sally’s research explored the Certificate III Individual Support from the perspective of local employers and students. She echoed the voice of students with ‘strong lived experiences’ of the industries they were studying, such as aged care, even though those students had poor ‘school-based literacies’. She quoted students who found the course ‘repetitive’. One of her core findings was that the training package did not support the development of threshold knowledge, which was a key limitation, in the view of her employer research participants. Those employers felt the product was not fit for purpose for their industry as it did not adequately tackle important concepts such as power and abuse, enabling technology and ethics of care.

Warren Guest, a Bakery teacher from Holmesglen Institute followed Sally with a powerful presentation drawing distinctions about the intentions of various industry sub-groups who designed the training package. He found that there were subcultures in this industry which influenced the outcome. His exploration of the training package development process highlighted the impact of the differences in the expectations of those industry sub-cultures and the consequent outcomes of the product. This industry is one of those where apprentice completions are some of the lowest, being around 30%. His research looked at the product and the influence of these subcultures which may well be a contributing factor.

Both had very different research participants, yet both concluded that the training packages were not meeting either employer or student needs. Discussions about product were also explored by Craig Robertson from the Victorian Skills Authority in his opening presentation when he stated, ‘the logic of using competency for all solutions needs consideration’.

TDA has been saying for over eighteen months, that a ‘one training package’ solution does not work. We need to be able to adapt to local employer needs. These examples demonstrate that much more flexibility is needed, and in Craig’s words, ‘localism’ is important. All three of those presenters came to much the same conclusion from very different starting points.

The presentations by the two Peters were also very well received. Professor Peter Dawkins of Jobs and Skills Australia (JSA) highlighted the key components of JSA’s work while Associate Professor Peter Hurley of the Mitchell Institute at Victoria University explored the complexities of VET policy challenges. Through development of the themes of meaning and measures, one of Peter Hurley’s conclusions was the need for VET to ‘put the institution back into the centre’ – a conclusion all TAFEs support, as does Minister O’Connor with his commitment to putting ‘TAFE at the heart of the VET sector’. In the five-year $4.1 billion national skills partnership at least 70 percent of Commonwealth funding for VET will be for TAFE.

Minister O’Connor spoke directly to the researchers in the room. He said ‘some immediate challenges where good research and analysis could make a real difference in informing how to improve VET (include) … why half of the students and workers that start a VET course don’t finish – and how to turn that around. Of all the apprentices and trainees that commenced training in 2017, the latest figures show that just 55.7% reached completion.’

Research by practitioners such as Sally and Warren who have combined decades of experience that includes TAFE teaching and who are diving deeply into issues of their industries must inform future directions.

Commonwealth adds $4.1bn and fee-free places to secure national skills agreement

The federal government has placed an additional $4.1 billion on the table as part of its negotiations with the states and territories on a new National Skills Agreement (NSA).

The Minister for Skills and Training Brendan O’Connor has offered an additional $3.7 billion in funding, as well as $400,000 for an extra 300,000 fee-free TAFE and VET places.

The new five-year NSA is under negotiation with the states and territories and is due to commence next January.

“I will seek an agreement that puts TAFE at the heart of the VET sector, including by directing at least 70 percent of Commonwealth funding for VET to TAFE,” Mr O’Connor told the AVETRA conference last Thursday.

He is also proposing that the states and territories establish new centres of excellence in TAFEs in partnership with industry and universities.

There will also be new measures to advance the delivery of skills and training for First Nations peoples.

See the Minister’s address to AVETRA

Government unveils new direction for apprentice support

The federal government has announced an overhaul of the way that apprentices are to be supported following an extensive consultation across the sector.

The Minister for Skills and Training Brendan O’Connor released plans for a new service model that aims to address poor completion rates.

The reform centres on the work of the seven Australian Apprenticeship Support Network (AASN) providers that are contracted by the Commonwealth to support all apprentices.

“Consultation identified a consistently low level of awareness amongst apprentices that the AASN providers were there to support them and across many stakeholders there was minimal understanding of what help an AASN provider could offer,” the government’s discussion paper said.

The changes to apprentice support will include:

  • Structured assessment for every apprentice at commencement to identify individual needs and necessary supports;
  • More active and accessible mentoring;
  • More proactive support over the course of the apprenticeship, particularly in the first two years, and;
  • Additional support for women in non-traditional trades, apprentices with disability, First Nations apprentices, and remote apprentices.

The measures are outlined in a discussion paper, ‘Future Directions Paper for Australian Apprenticeship Support Services’.

See Minister O’Connor’s media release.

TAFETalks: A Global Perspective: Understanding the European skills ecosystem and its implications for Australia


Join this Wednesday’s TAFETalks where TDA and guest speakers from the European Commission will discuss the use of skills ecosystems in the European Union (EU).

You will hear from European experts about their innovative approaches to EU VET policy objectives, specifically how they involve both employers and students.

Ragnhild Skaalid from European Commission and Boudewijn Grievink, Coordinator of the Centres of Vocational Excellence Community of Practice will explore the intricacies of the European skills ecosystem at a local level.

This will be followed by a discussion with Jenny Dodd on the relevance of these insights and lessons for Australia’s future.

Register for TAFETalks to deepen your understanding of global trends in vocational education and training, including the use of skills ecosystems in the EU.

To register, please click here

TAFE institutes recognised on the world stage


Australian TAFE Institutes have been recognised with some of the highest honours at the World Federation of Colleges and Polytechnics (WFCP) Awards of Excellence in Montréal, Canada.

Holmesglen Institute received Gold in the Applied Research and Innovation category.

There was also Gold for Chisholm Institute for Teacher Professional Development. Chisholm has developed an Educator Passport which helps teachers to plan, view and track their professional development. CEO Stephen Varty said the award was a testament to staff who support at-risk student communities, including migrants, Indigenous students, and students with disabilities.

TAFE Queensland was awarded Silver for Sustainable Development Goals.

Mish Eastman from RMIT University was awarded Bronze for Leadership in Diversity and Inclusion.

In the coveted Lifetime Achievement categoryPhill Murphy from Bendigo Kangan Institute was awarded Bronze.

In the Outstanding Student Achievement categoryDesirae Kilduff from Bendigo Kangan Institute was awarded Bronze.

Congratulations to all these magnificent TAFE award recipients on their achievement on the world stage!

See all the WFCP Awards of Excellence winners.

TAFE NSW receives seven-year higher education registration

TAFE NSW has been re-registered by TEQSA as an Institute of Higher Education for the maximum term of seven years, with no conditions.

TDA extends its congratulations to TAFE NSW on this significant achievement.

DEWR appoints new head of skills and training

The Department of Education and Workplace Relations (DEWR) has appointed Anna Faithfull as the new Deputy Secretary for Skills and Training.

Ms Faithful was previously Senior Client Partner with global technology consulting firm, Publicis Sapient.

She has worked extensively across the public sector including as Deputy Secretary at Victoria’s Department of Justice and Community Safety, and Executive Director, NDIS, Family Violence and Social Service Reform in the Department of Premier and Cabinet in Victoria.

Ms Faithful also led the employment venture and advisory practice at Social Ventures Australia.

She takes the position vacated by Nadine Williams, who moved to the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet in February.

TDA extends its congratulations to Ms Faithful on her appointment.

TAFE Opens Doors: A focused discussion on access and equity


This virtual event will focus on the important themes of access, inclusion and equity in TAFE. It is aimed at educators, policy makers, and other stakeholders interested in improving TAFE education and creating opportunities.

The event will be hosted on Zoom and will take place on 31 May 2023 from 12pm to 5pm AEST. It is free for all participants. Sessions have been designed for both educators and staff.

TAFE Opens Doors will feature a rich program with a variety of speakers and presentation types, including the opening keynote panel on TAFEs and First Nations Peoples. This panel will be delivered by Professor Peter Radoll, DVC of Victoria University, and Leanne Bell, Faculty Manager of TAFE Queensland and Reconciliation Action Plan Chair.

Click here for more information or register now to be a part of the discussion

Migration review to tighten entry of international students

The federal government is planning tougher requirements for Australia’s international student market and aims to prevent it serving as a backdoor to permanent migration.

The Minister for Home Affairs Clare O’Neil foreshadowed the crackdown while releasing the review of the migration system and the outline of a new migration strategy.

Ms O’Neil told the National Press Club that the migration system currently sets a low bar for entry of international students who have become “the largest component of our temporary migration program, and the single biggest feeder into our permanent program.”

She said the government would be looking at “simpler, faster pathways” for the international students with the special skills Australia needs.

“But we also need to make sure our international student system has integrity,” Ms O’Neil said.

“Working with my colleagues Ministers Brendan O’Connor and Jason Clare, we will look at tightening the requirements for international students studying in Australia, and ensure that students are actually here to study.”

Updated Treasury forecasts released on Friday show that net overseas migration will reach a record 400,000 this financial year and 315,000 in 2023-24, with international students comprising around half of all arrivals.

ADCET's annual accessibility awards open for entry

Nominations are now open for the Australian Disability Clearinghouse on Education and Training’s (ADCET) annual Accessibility in Action Awards.

In celebration of Global Accessibility Awareness Day (GAAD) on 18 May, ADCET is recognising passion, innovation, good practice, and leadership in accessibility.

The awards provide an excellent opportunity for tertiary education providers including TAFEs and equivalent organisations in New Zealand to showcase the outstanding work of individuals and teams in promoting digital access and inclusion.

Don’t miss this chance to acknowledge the exceptional efforts within your organisation. Nominations close Friday 5 May 2023, with winners to be announced at a virtual celebration on 16 May 2023. For more information about the Awards and to nominate, visit Accessibility in Action Award on ADCET website

Victorian virtual showcase to feature outstanding industry partnerships

The Victorian Workforce Training Innovation Fund (WTIF) is organising a virtual showcase series in May and June.

The WTIF programme is a collaborative effort by the Victorian Government, industry partners, and Skills First training providers to explore new ideas and solutions that enhance workplace productivity and employment growth.

The virtual showcase aims to inspire attendees through presentations of successful projects funded by the program.

It features projects that range from virtual reality to enhance key skills and competencies in underground construction and adjacent industries, to the use of augmented reality scenarios to support simulated and interactive inductions to site equipment and industry operations.

The event includes eight presentations, covering various industries such as agrifooddigital skillselectrical and communicationsrefrigerationemergency servicesinfrastructuresocial services and healthcare.

Industry Boost – TAFE early childhood forum

Registrations are open for the upcoming TAFE Early Childhood industry currency forum this Friday.

Industry Expert Samantha Page, CEO of Early Childhood Australia advocates for quality care, social justice and equity in all issues relating to the education and care of children from birth to eight years and publishes the Australian Journal of Early Childhood.

By attending this industry forum, early childhood educators can discuss upcoming changes in early childcare with Sam and boost their industry currency to improve student outcomes in an area with skills shortages.

The online forum will be on Friday 5 May from 2pm to 4.30pm AEST. Registration is $150 inc GST. Further details can be found at TAFE Industry Boost – VDC

All attendees will receive a certificate of attendance.

See the flyer.

Diary Dates

VET Development Centre and TAFE Directors Australia
Industry Currency Forums – Online
May to June 2023
More information: Child CareElectricalDental Assistant

TAFETalks: A Global Perspective: Understanding the European skills ecosystem and its implications for Australia
3 May 2023, 4 pm AEST
Register here

TAFE Opens Doors: a focused discussion on access and equity
VET Development Centre and TAFE Directors Australia
Industry Currency Forums – Online
31 May 2023 Online 12 – 5pm AEST
Register here

Apprentice Employment Network NSW & ACT
2023 Skills Conference
14 June 2023
Dockside Darling Harbour, Sydney
More information

TAFETalks: Innovations in Clean Energy
21 June, 2 pm AEST
Register here

Journal of Vocational Education and Training (JVET) Conference
13-15 July 2023
Keble College, Oxford, UK
More information

32nd National Vocational Education and Training Research Conference ‘No Frills’
19-21 July 2023
RMIT University, Melbourne
More information

Victorian TAFE Association State Conference
26 – 28 July 2023 – save the date
Mildura, Victoria

National Apprentice Employment Network 2023 National Conference
‘New Skills for a New World’
15-17 August 2023
Marvel Stadium, Melbourne
More information

VET National Teaching & Learning Conference 2023
‘From Competence to Excellence’
17-18 August 2023
Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre
More information

WorldSkills Australia National Championships and Skills Show
17-19 August 2023
Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre, Victoria
More information

National Skills Week
‘What are you looking for?’
21-27 August 2023
More information

Australian International Education Conference
10-13 October
More information

VDC World Teachers’ Day Event
27 October 2023 – save the date

2023 National VET Conference
2-3 November 2023
Gold Coast Convention and Exhibition Centre
More Information