Rethinking compulsory work placement – comment by CEO Jenny Dodd

Rethinking compulsory work placement – comment by CEO Jenny Dodd

There has been much discussion, including as part of the Australian Universities Accord (Accord) review, on the cost of compulsory work placements for learners. This impacts TAFE students as much as university students. The problem is that to take the time to do the work placement means students have to be absent from their regular full or part time jobs. For most students that is a considerable imposition and significant loss of income.

Universities Australia in its submission to the Accord panel proposes much stronger student income support payments. For example, Universities Australia propose “changing income support payment arrangements, including eligibility tests around independence, part-time study and unpaid work placement.”

Many TAFEs have introduced scholarship programs which assist some students to overcome some of these costs. While worthwhile, that is not a systemic solution and does not benefit all students.

Other solutions proposed are that students on work placement should get the minimum wage. While there is merit in that solution, there are several questions, such as who pays and are there consequences where the workplace is not incentivised to take students for learning but prefers skilled workers. Additionally, there would be significant legislative change required to achieve this outcome.

This work placement issue is not a new problem. I experienced it myself in my late twenties. After ten years working in industry and used to a certain wage, when I decided to shift to education as my career, I encountered the high cost of “teacher prac” weeks with loss of income. So, the question arises has industry sufficiently stepped into this problem?

In The Conversation on 15 September 2023 there was an interesting perspective proposed by Christine Morley, Professor of Social Work, Queensland University of Technology. Professor Morley suggested that there needs to be a review of the “arbitrary ‘placement hours’ approach”. She stated that “demonstrated learning outcomes” should be more highly weighted by “professional regulatory bodies”.

Given the focus in vocational education on recognition of prior learning and competency outcomes, we could move away from work placements that are hour driven towards outcomes. Those outcomes should be about holistic learning. If we move to outcomes, the skill of the educator in making a professional judgement is essential. While this approach won’t deal with the cost of work placement for students, it has the potential to change the conversation to quality outcomes, rather than hours of input.

Not only will the Accord panel need to deal with this issue, so will the new Jobs and Skills Councils (JSC) in qualifications where compulsory work placement occurs. As representatives of industry, the JSCs must bring industry into this conversation. Measuring student success by hours served is not the best method. A more holistic approach of demonstrated learning outcomes is what is needed.

Australia to roll out a national skills passport

A digital skills passport that will enable students and workers to share their qualifications with employers will be a key element in the federal government’s employment white paper to be released today.

The skills passport would serve as a digital record-keeping platform like the Medicare app, with the federal government investing $9.1 million to establish the initiative.

The skills passport will be able to be used to store training and education qualifications from high school to VET and university.

“Our goal is to make it easier for workers to have their qualifications recognised and easier for employers to find the well-trained, highly qualified workers they need,” Treasurer Jim Chalmers said.

A national skills platform for students and graduates to access, compile, display, and share their higher education qualifications, micro credentials and general capabilities was one of the recommendations of the interim report of the Universities Accord.

Mr Chalmers will release the employment white paper – a key outcome of last year’s Jobs and Skills Summit – in Adelaide today.

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WA receives its share of fee-free TAFE places

Western Australia will receive 22,200 Fee-Free TAFE places and a share of more than $8 million for TAFE improved facilities, under an agreement between the state and federal governments.

Fee-Free TAFE will provide 300,000 places across the country, starting next January.

Under the joint partnership, 22,200 Fee-Free TAFE and VET places will be available for Western Australians from January.

“This is a $44.5 million investment in skills and training in Western Australia,” the Minister for Skills and Training Brendan O’Connor said last week.

“In WA, plans are also underway to implement the Albanese Government’s $8.2 million TAFE Technology Fund to improve training facilities in the state, yet another way we’re supporting the training of workers for vital industries that are in demand now and in the future,” he said.”

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Register for TDA's online conference – Linkages: One tertiary education system, 18 October 2023

Registrations are open for TDA’s free online conference, Linkages: One tertiary education system, which will explore the policy and practice of better alignment between higher education and vocational education and training.

The online conference will take place from 1.00 pm to 4.30 pm AEDT on Wednesday 18 October and features a range of high profile speakers from vocational education and training, higher education, government and industry.

Some of our high profile speakers include the Hon Brendan O’Connor MP, Minister for Skills and Training who be providing an opening address at the conference. The Hon Jenny Macklin, Vice-Chancellor’s Fellow, University of Melbourne and Panel Member Australian Universities Accord will be discussing the Australian Universities Accord Interim Report.

Members of the 2019 AQF Review, Professor Sally Kift, President of Australian Learning and Teaching Fellows and Vice Chancellor’s Fellow, Victoria University, and Megan Lilly, Executive Director, Centre for Education and Training, AiGroup will be speaking on the proposed changes to the Australian Qualifications Framework (AQF) reform.

View the full program and register here

All set for national training awards in Hobart

The South Australian Training Awards last week wrapped up the state and territory training awards around the country.

It has been a resounding celebration of all the best in VET, and a great showcase of the many magnificent TAFE institutes, trainers, students and businesses they partner with.

Winners in eligible categories will now progress to the Australian Training Awards to be held on November 17 in Hobart – not Melbourne as we incorrectly reported last week.

AVETRA OctoberVET presents: The Future of VET Curriculum

This event will be hosted by the Future of VET Curriculum Project team, a group of VET researchers associated with Griffith and Victoria universities.

The team has commenced a long-term program of work aimed at understanding how innovative training providers span the gap between rigid industry standards and responsive learning. They define curriculum as the stuff that fills this gap – the design, organisation and other factors that determine the experience of learning.

They believe that in disruptive times it is essential that the VET sector learns from its innovative educators and shares knowledge of how to provide the skills learners need to thrive and contribute to sustainable industries and communities.

Project Director, Steven Hodge from Griffith University will open the event. MC Hugh Guthrie will talk with four guests on different perspectives on the VET learning ecosystem:

  • Craig Robertson, CEO Victorian Skills Authority
  • Margot McNeil, Chief Product and Quality Officer at TAFE NSW
  • Warren Guest, Lecturer and Researcher, Holmesglen Institute Melbourne
  • Andrew Shea, CEO Builders Academy Australia

The event will be on October 20 from 11.30am to 1.00pm in-person at the VET Development Centre Level 8, 379 Collins St Melbourne, or online.

Register here

MYOB Partner Awards 2023 – Education Finalists

Congratulations to all the organisations and educators that have been named Finalists for the Education Partner of the Year and Educator of the Year Awards as part of the MYOB Partner Awards 2023, especially those that are part of the TAFE community.

The MYOB Executives were very impressed with all the nominations they received from MYOB’s education partners, but in particular by the finalists who’ve gone above and beyond to help their students succeed.


Communication, flexibility the key to effective RTO-employer partnerships

Understanding an employer’s business, being flexible about how training is delivered, and creating long term connections with employers have been identified as key elements in successful RTO-employer partnerships, in a new NCVER study.

The project investigated the drivers for RTO—employer partnerships and the benefits and challenges in building and sustaining partnerships.

The report, ‘Building effective RTO-employer partnerships’, includes a series of case studies of partnerships between RTOs and employers, covering a range of industry areas, geographical locations and employer sizes.

It cites four key elements in effective partnerships: quality training and service delivery; customer focus through agile and flexible delivery of training and customisation on demand; strong communication and collaboration when working together; and long-term, trust-based relationships.

“Closely listening to an employer and gaining a clear understanding of the nature of their business means RTOs can better support current and future training needs,” the report says.

“Being flexible about where and when training is delivered is important for employers, with delivery in the workplace preferred by employers,” it says.

The report includes a companion Good Practice Guide that provides detailed insights from the case studies.

Diary dates

Community Colleges Australia (CCA) Annual Conference
Building ACE Futures
10-11 October 2023
More information

Australian International Education Conference
10-13 October
More information

OctoberVET 2023
October 2023
On-line and face-to-face
See all events

TDA online conference – Linkages: One tertiary education system
18 October 2023, 1 pm AEDT
See more and register here

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

Australian Training Awards 
17 November 2023
Hobart, Tasmania
More information

TDA Convention 2024, ‘TAFE at the Heart’ – Save the date!
8-9 May 2024
Sofitel Wentworth, Sydney
More information