Self-determination can close the gap – comment by CEO Craig Robertson

Self-determination can close the gap – comment by CEO Craig Robertson

Even though NAIDOC week (which was due to start yesterday) has been postponed till November we’ve decided to examine the role TAFEs play in lifting the life choices and chances for the descendants of the original inhabitants of our land.

At the end of this piece we have a link to stories of achievement on our website. Take the time to read them – they will kick your week off to a good start.

In another coincidence, or deft planning, the Joint Council on Closing the Gap met on Friday and signed off new targets for closing the gap which will be put to national cabinet.

Media tells us that the education and training targets for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders are to lift the proportion: of 25-34-year-olds with a tertiary qualification to 70 per cent; youth (15-24) in employment or training to 67 per cent; and 25-64 year-olds in employment to 62 per cent.

Australia’s track record hasn’t been terrific. Prime Minister Morrison in his Closing the Gap speech this past February said closing the gap was ‘a tale of good intentions. Indeed good faith,’ but went on to say the hope turned to ‘frustration and disappointment.’

Only education is on track to meet existing targets – 95 per cent of all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander four-year-olds enrolled in early childhood education by 2025 and halving the gap in Year 12, or equivalent, attainment by 2020.

Perhaps the most far reaching aspect of the plan is the commitment to self-determination in setting actions to meet these targets.

We’ve known about the power of self-determination for some time – it powers centre right and centre left politics and underpins democracy.
This philosophy has been alive in the centre of the Commonwealth bureaucracy for some time. Whatever one thinks of Ken Henry’s performance in the Banking Royal Commission, his ground-breaking work when he was Head of the Australian Treasury sets a useful framework for closing the gap and more.

The Treasury-developed Wellbeing Framework[1] ‘starts with a broad-ranging statement that wellbeing primarily reflects a person’s substantive freedom to lead a life they have reason to value. This language reflects a pluralistic approach to understanding wellbeing, drawn from the capabilities approach of Amartya Sen.

This basic freedom (what many in education would call agency) was beautifully expounded by the Prime Minister in February. He spoke of a note on file from a Commissioner of Native Welfare about whether a boy should be provided pocket money of 75 cents a week. The Prime Minister said, “Bureaucrats making decisions for what they paternally called ‘a good type of lad’. Think about a life where even the most basic decision making is stripped away from you – by governments thinking they know better. Fortunately, that boy was bigger than the times, and I’m honoured that he now sits behind me as the Minister for Indigenous Australians. He knows that responsibility and empowerment is freedom.”

While achievements of the VET sector for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander persons has been good, the Productivity Commission reports that students living in remote or very remote areas have fared worse — 28 per cent fewer students completed a government‑funded VET qualification in 2018 than in 2009.[2]

One of the articles on our web is from Charles Darwin University. Last year they commissioned Dr Melinda Waters to identify the success factors for vocational and tertiary education for Indigenous Australians in remote communities in the NT.

It’s difficult to go past the summary Melinda makes, so I leave you to contemplate it as we seek to work in unison in closing the gap.

One approach to VET will not fit the diversity of regional and remote Indigenous communities. What works for Indigenous VET learners can only be really understood in the context of their local culture and community.

Relational pedagogies based on care, trust and respect, common across all the case studies, are producing positive outcomes for students including the skills, knowledge and attributes students need for work and a range of other benefits such as an enhanced sense of confidence and personal empowerment, general life skills gained through inside/outside learning and opportunities to further a career in their community.

The complex and demanding work of CDU’s VET educators is occurring in partnership with local Indigenous organisations and communities, non-Indigenous employers, regional councils, national park authorities, early learning centres, day respite centres, government agencies and a range of other service providers committed to supporting regional and remote community development for the long-term.

The case studies suggest that VET is most successful for regional and remote Indigenous students when it is directly related to local work opportunities, when delivery models are highly flexible and innovative, when there is strong and consistent learner support embedded in real work activities, and when VET educators – both Indigenous and non-Indigenous – have the right mix of skills, capabilities and attributes to work in regional and remote Indigenous contexts.

Measuring VET in terms of completion and employment outcomes does not capture the full benefits CDU VET is delivering for NT’s regional and remote Indigenous students or the complex and valuable work regional and remote VET educators are doing to support them.

There are broader messages for the sector as it struggles to imagine beyond competency and compliance. Self-determination – capability as the Treasury’s Wellbeing Framework would call it – maybe holds the key.

Enjoy the stories on our web.

Skills commission steps into the future to forecast jobs and skills 

The new National Skills Commission has given the first glimpse of the novel approaches and technologies, including machine learning and big data, it will harness to deliver world-leading intelligence on Australia’s skills needs.

The NSC’s inaugural report ‘A snapshot in time: The Australian labour market and COVID-19’ reveals some of the work already undertaken and planned that will bring new perspectives on the labour market and training requirements.

Interim National Skills Commissioner Adam Boyton says the work is the foundation for evidence and analysis needed for meaningful reform to the education and training system.

It includes NSC’s flagship JEDI (Jobs and Education Data Infrastructure project) which uses machine learning to understand the need for skilling, re-skilling and upskilling of displaced workers.

The NSC will also utilise an innovative “nowcasting” capability to provide a near real-time view of what is happening in the labour market.

“Matching workers to those jobs in this uncertain and evolving environment will require the ability to quickly identify skills needs and retrain people,” the report says.

The need for an urgent response to the COVID crisis has driven the need for tools such as JEDI, which maps connections between jobs and qualifications, and has already developed some 600 skills profiles for a range of occupations.

“JEDI can identify skills that hospitality workers have and illustrate how they can transfer to other jobs. For example, a Waiter could transfer their existing skills and experience to jobs such as Bar Attendants and Baristas, Pharmacy Sales Assistants, Information Officers and ICT Sales,” it says.

The NSC is using CGE (computable general equilibrium) scenario modelling to provide a picture of what the labour market will look like, including by regions and occupations.

The NSC will produce an annual State of the Skills report and its analysis will feed into the National Careers Institute to help students with career decisions.

WA slashes TAFE fees, adds more free short courses

The West Australian government has announced a sweeping VET recovery plan that includes free short courses, big cuts in TAFE fees, and employer incentives to take on displaced apprentices.

The package includes $25 million for free TAFE short courses that have been developed in consultation with industry.

The government has added a further 39 priority TAFE courses to a list that now totals 73 where fees have been cut by up to 72 per cent.

The latest package includes six diploma courses in areas such as nursing, early childhood education and community services, and a further six pre-apprenticeship courses in areas including automotive electrical technology, engineering, plumbing and building.

The new additions are expected to increase annual TAFE enrolments by more than 6,000 students and provide fee relief to more than 27,000 enrolments over the second half of 2020 and during 2021.

The government also announced an incentive of up to $6,000 for employers who take on a displaced apprentice and $3,000 for a displaced trainee under the new Apprentice and Traineeship Re-engagement Incentive.

TasTAFE starts search for new CEO as Jenny Dodd prepares to depart

The three year appointment committed to by Jenny Dodd as CEO of TasTAFE draws to a close at the end of 2020 and the board has begun the process of recruiting for her replacement for when her term expires next January.

The Minister for Education and Training Jeremy Rockliff said Ms Dodd has made significant achievements in building TasTAFE culturally, academically and administratively during her three years at the helm.

“Under Ms Dodd’s leadership TasTAFE has become a more responsive and industry focused training provider which is reflected in high employer satisfaction levels,” he said.

“It is also worth noting that Tasmania has the highest apprentice and trainee completion rate in Australia thanks to TasTAFE.”

“More recently, Ms Dodd has ensured TasTAFE has acted quickly in relation to student safety during COVID-19, overseeing the temporary transition to digital learning and she is now leading the transition of students back onto TasTAFE,” Mr Rockliff said.

National Skills Week to showcase TAFE success

National Skills Week (NSWK) will be celebrated in the week 24 – 30 August 2020.

Now in its tenth year, NSWK will showcase the many pathways to success and dispel some of the out-dated myths often associated with vocational training.

TAFEs around the country have an opportunity to take part and highlight the opportunities and diversity of TAFE training. Some of the key campaign messages this year are:

  • VET is the Plan A
  • A VET course does not just provide a set of skills – it leads to successful job outcomes and pathway to success
  • VET is a personally, professionally, and financially rewarding career choice
  • VET is responsive, innovative and innovative
  • VET in schools- including SBAT programs- increase the likelihood of an early entry to full-time work pathway and training.
  • Industry and the Vocational Skills Training sector work together to increase positive economic outcomes

National Skills week has been, and continues to be, a strong supporter of TAFE. There will be extensive media coverage nationwide, once again.

SkillsOne is keen to support TAFE events and activities, particularly those that connect to the key messages.

NSKW’s new website will be launched in the next few weeks. If you would like any further information or to develop ideas SkillsOne is happy to talk to you – contact Anne Cazar on 0438 808 848

VET leaders dissect Productivity Commission review

For those wanting a comprehensive overview of the recent Productivity Commission interim report into the VET system, last week’s AVETRA policy webinar is now online.

The webinar covers all aspects of the PC report into the National Agreement for Skills and Workforce Development, including contestability, the role of markets, student vouchers, VET loans, and the place of TAFE in the training system. The key speakers are:

  • Robin Shreeve, AVETRA past President
  • Associate Professor Teressa Schmidt, CQU
  • Craig Robertson, TDA Chief Executive
  • Troy Williams, ITECA Chief Executive
  • Dr Don Zoellner, Charles Darwin University

There are also valuable contributions from AVETRA members and researchers.

Submissions to the interim report are due by July 17, with a final report to be completed by November.

Listen to the AVETRA policy webinar

Australian Training Award applications extended

The deadline for applications to this year’s Australian Training Awards has been extended to Sunday July 19.

The extension applies to direct entry categories including Australian Apprenticeships – Employer Award, International Training Provider of the Year, Lifetime Achievement Award, and National Achievement Award.

The awards – the Logies of the training system – will be held in Melbourne on November 20, hosted by Scott Cam.

See more

Diary Dates

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

‘No Frills’ 2020, 29th National VET Research Conference Online
National Centre for Vocational Education Research
7 – 10 July 2020
More information

Council of International Students
10th Anniversary National Digital Summit
15 – 17 July 2020
More information

National Skills Week
24 – 30 August 2020
Various locations
More information 

Apprentice Employment Network NSW & ACT
Annual 2020 Skills Conference
5 November 2020
More information

VDC 2020 Virtual Teaching & Learning Conference
19 & 20 November 2020
Registrations Open

Australian Training Awards
20 November 2020
More information

TAFE Directors Australia Convention 2021
29 – 30 April 2021
Westin Hotel, Perth
More information coming soon

Worldskills Australia
28 April – 2 May 2021
Perth Exhibition and Convention Centre
More information