Skills development central to a prosperous nation – comment by CEO Jenny Dodd

Skills development central to a prosperous nation – comment by CEO Jenny Dodd

For the last three weeks we have been watching horrific images of what is happening in Ukraine. We have seen national buildings and people’s homes destroyed. TDA pays tribute to the bravery and tenacity of the people of Ukraine as they defend their communities.

As we reflect on what is happening overseas, it is a stark contrast to our own country. On Saturday in South Australia, we witnessed the outcome of a peaceful, free election. How lucky are we to live in a democratic country where we have the freedom to choose – this is something that must always be celebrated and treasured.

As leaders in the vocational education and training sector, TAFE people know that when the horror ends and Ukraine must rebuild, it will rely on those with qualifications and capability to contribute to the recovery. We know that in Australia we also rely on a skilled workforce, while acknowledging at this moment the current demand for skilled workers is greater than the supply.

Skills are at the heart of all nations and their future. A skilled and qualified workforce contributes to the prosperity of that country.

While we may have differences of opinion in Australia about how the VET reforms should play out, there is agreement that we must educate and skill our people. The differences are therefore at the edges – at the heart is overwhelming support for investment in skills development and education that will meet both the aspirations of individuals and the workforce requirements of industry.

Minister hints at extension of apprentice wage subsidy

The Minister for Employment, Workforce, Skills, Small and Family Business, Stuart Robert has given a strong hint that next week’s federal Budget could see the Boosting Apprentice Commencements wage subsidy extended, most likely at a lower rate than the current 50%.

The employer wage subsidy has seen apprenticeship enrolments rebound, with trade apprentices at the highest level on record. The wage subsidy is due to expire at the end of March.

Mr Robert told last week’s National Apprentice Employment Network conference in Hobart that the government would continue to invest in apprenticeships to meet skills shortages.

“We’ll need to wait for the budget to hear more about that,” he said.

Mr Robert noted that before the pandemic, employer incentives for apprenticeships were less than 3%, but were ramped up to 50% “as we stared into the abyss”.

“So you’ve got one of those rare opportunities in public policy. You know what didn’t work – which was 3% – and you know what seriously worked, and that was 50%,” Mr Robert said.

“So, you’ll have to wait for the budget to see where we land.”

Labor's SA election win to see five new trades colleges built

Labor’s win in South Australian state election on Saturday will see the establishment of five new high school technical colleges which will be closely linked to TAFE and industry.

The trades colleges were a centrepiece of Labor’s skills policy and will see $200 million spent on the five technical colleges – three in metropolitan Adelaide and two in the regions – which will cater to year 10-12 students.

Labor’s skills policy states that the technical colleges will be associated with a TAFE campus for direct support in the quality of VET courses, and will also connect to industry training providers as

In the policy statement, Premier-elect Peter Malinauskas said the trades colleges will be set up in new buildings with the latest equipment and state-of-the-art technology.

“They will be run in conjunction with nearby high schools to make sure that their students complete their SACE as well as getting trade qualifications,” he said.

Labor also promised a University Merger Commission to look at the future of the state’s three universities, which it says are “too small and too undercapitalised to make it into the list of top international universities.”

Human services workforce near breaking point, report finds

Systemic and urgent workforce issues across the human services sector are rapidly overwhelming an already strained system, according to a new report.

The Human Services Workforce Forum report calls for immediate and permanent changes to address burgeoning demand issues.

While critical staff shortages in nursing homes recently drew national attention, the report says the crisis is impacting all parts of the sector, including aged care, disability services, early childhood education, allied health and veteran’s support.

“The innate difficulty of the task that lies ahead is the need to move the dial on everything at once,” the CEO of the Human Services Skills Organisation, Jodi Schmidt said.

“It is not an incremental evolution – it is a significant revolution that requires immediate change, while simultaneously adopting even more change.”

Ms Schmidt said stakeholders, including employers and training organisations at a forum in Hobart last week were vocal about the need to take a fundamentally different approach to tackle the problems.

“We need to encourage all Australians to advocate for quality care. We need to take greater responsibility and ownership of it. We need to make a choice and set the standard for all vulnerable Australians,” Ms Schmidt said.

See the Human Services Workforce Forum report

Labor says unions must have a role in industry clusters

If a Labor government is elected at the upcoming federal election, it would expect unions to have a key role on the new Industry Clusters that will be the centrepiece of a reformed VET system, according to the Deputy Leader of the Opposition Richard Marles.

Mr Marles told the National Apprentice Employment Network conference in Hobart last week that Labor was broadly supportive of the Industry Cluster initiative and understood the amount of work that has gone into the tenders. He said that, if elected, Labor “would not be going back to square one”.

“One point I would make is that we are very keen in relation to the tenders that are put forward that there is strong industry participation, both in terms of employers and unions in that process,” he said.

“We are big believers in tripartitism, which is a sort of ugly word, but we do think that when we bring people around the table – governments, employers and workers – you do get the best results.”

The Industry Clusters will replace the 67 Industry Reference Committees and six Skills Service Organisations and are due to commence in January 2023.

Applications for the first stage of the process close on March 31.

TAFETalks: Imagining an Integrated VET and HE Future, Wednesday 6 April

The new Industry Clusters will focus on both vocational education and training (VET), and higher education (HE) as they develop skills solutions for their workforces. We have been discussing combined VET and HE solutions for a long time. What will be different under these new industry cluster arrangements which come into effect in 2023?

Please join TDA CEO, Jenny Dodd for a panel discussion with three leaders of industry about how they think VET and HE integration might be different from 2023 onwards.

Guest speakers include:

  • Jodi Schmidt, CEO of the Human Services Skills Organisation (HSSO)
  • Paul Walsh, CEO at Australian Industry Standards (AIS)
  • Phil Clarke, General Manager, Industry Engagement from Innovation and Business Skills Australia (IBSA)

To register for this event, please click here

Thousands of apprentices to join in digital skills pilot

The Digital Skills Organisation (DSO) and the National Apprentice Employment Network (NAEN) have established a pilot program to examine ways to better assess, incorporate and fast-track digital skills in the apprenticeship sector.

Under the initiative, DSO will provide access to digital assessment and upskilling tools, and NAEN will facilitate the engagement of member group training organisations that employ apprentices and trainees.

The DSO says that over 87% of jobs now require digital skills, meaning that digital skills training needs to be more accessible.

“To succeed, we need more organisations across all industries to recognise the urgent need to upskill and train people in digital skills,” said DSO Chief Executive Patrick Kidd

NAEN CEO Dianne Dayhew said the need for digital literacy and fluency is growing across all industries, and apprentices and trainees are at the forefront of that change.

See more

ASQA has major Federal Court win over college decision

The Australian Skills Quality Authority (ASQA) has won an important case in the Federal Court, with a unanimous decision dismissing an appeal over ASQA’s refusal to renew the registration of training college, Site Skills Group (SSG).

The Federal Court decision comes after a lengthy history of legal proceedings and regulatory decisions, including ASQA’s decision in 2018 to reject SSG’s application to renew its registration.

SSG applied to have the decision reviewed by the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT), which affirmed ASQA’s decision and found that SSG’s sole director and former CEO Vernon Wills was unable to satisfy fit and proper person requirements.

In 2017, ASQA cancelled the registration of Productivity Partners Pty Ltd, a subsidiary of the same parent company of SSG, Site Group International (SGI), based on evidence of systemic non-compliance.

ASQA’s decision in relation to Productivity Partners is still before the AAT.

Diary Dates

CCA National ACE Summit
5 April 2022
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TAFETalks: Imagining an Integrated VET and HE Future
6 April 2022
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AVETRA 2022 Conference
Are we there yet? Building a research community to share VET’s future
28-29 April 2022
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VET CEO Conference
Velg Training
16-20 May 2022
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Disability Employment Australia Conference
31 May – 2 June 2022
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World Federation of Colleges and Polytechnics
2022 World Congress 

15-17 June 2022
Donostia-San Sebastian (Spain)
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Apprentice Employment Network NSW & ACT
2022 Skills Conference
15 June 2022
Dockside Darling Harbour, Sydney
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31st National VET Research Conference ‘No Frills’
National Centre for Vocational Education Research (NCVER)
6-8 July 2022, Melbourne
Call for abstracts open now!
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National Skills Week 2022
22-28 August 2022
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WorldSkills Shanghai 2022
12-17 October 2022
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Australian International Education Conference 2022
18-21 October 2022
Gold Coast & Online
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2022 National VET Conference
Velg Training
3-4 November 2022
Gold Coast Convention and Exhibition Centre
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VDC Teaching & Learning Conference
VET Development Centre
17 & 18 November 2022 (Online)
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