Skills to the world – comment by CEO Craig Robertson

Skills to the world – comment by CEO Craig Robertson

Kazan, Russia is the top of the world this week when it comes to skills, and we have our Skillaroos drawn from the VET sector conquering that mountain.

Tomorrow concludes the 2019 Worldskills competition and there are 15 Australians competing across trade and other areas including computing, design and fashion.

In Abu Dhabi we ranked tenth, globally, and snared four medals among 59 countries. The size of the task is getting harder because the world is catching up.

In my travels it’s easy to see that other countries are gearing up to climb the skills ladder. Taiwan has been central in organising an Asian region competition to help prepare candidates. Vietnamese officials I met many years ago wore their Worldskills membership badge with pride. And the last time I was in Islamabad in Pakistan, they were already holding competitions even though they only joined in 2017.

Some of you may have seen on social media the spectacular opening ceremony from Kazan. Rumour has it that President Putin saw the power of global standing in skills and worked hard for Russia to host this year’s competition.

WorldSkills International CEO David Hoey recently said, “Russia joined WorldSkills International in 2012, and seven years later it is already organizing the WorldSkills Competition! This event contributes not only to our movement, but to the Russian market as well.”

It’s worthwhile pausing to remember that China is the host of the competition in 2021.

We talk about the impact of globalisation and instant communications across the globe. It’s not too much of a stretch then that skills are increasingly global in design and application. It’s all too easy to think of the differences to us in the countries we visit. (The most pronounced for me is the undrinkability of North American coffee, but these are more the result of taste, while underpinning technology is the same, and so are the skills.)

Worldskills, therefore, is more important than ever to assess how we are maintaining our place as an advanced economy. We must do skills to a world-class standard if we are to maintain our global trade.

Worldskills is the perfect opportunity to benchmark how we are doing. As you can imagine, with a global competition there needs to be fair, yet high, standards for the competition. Worldskills standards set a new aspiration for Australia’s VET system.

In the heady days of the Rudd Government, business leader David Crawford AO conducted a review into sport in Australia. It lit a fuse about whether the priority was toward general sport participation or support for elite sportspeople, or both. The same dilemma applies to our approach to skills, especially if we want to keep pace with the rest of the world. We need to widen participation AND support our best through Worldskills.

In the past month we’ve had many statements about VET holding its own against university outcomes, at least for some of the highly paid jobs such as trades. Worldskills is the ideal avenue to promote a future and inspire participation.  But if we are going to, let’s make sure we get the building blocks right, from the very first day a potential student in primary or high school dreams of a global job, to enrolment in TAFE, to receiving leading-edge training.

I well remember the day I met several 2013 Australian Training Award winners who had just returned from a China youth skills conference and competition, courtesy of the Chinese government. Joel Schwarz, a diesel mechanic, was the winner of the Australian School-based Apprentice of the Year and Henry Kemp, an electrician, was runner-up. For Joel, a country kid from Mildura, the journey was his first overseas! Henry, an electrician from Perth, said he was itching to compete and when he saw what was required, he was confident he could – even with the instructions in Mandarin!

For several of the party they were the first of their family to travel overseas! I can tell you that after hearing those stories I worked a bit harder for the VET sector.

Over 22 experts, drawn from the VET sector, are guiding the competitors. They, as are all our trainers, are critical to the skills transfer that characterises VET.

If you are a trainer reading this, for the next student you enrol think about what may lay ahead for him or her. If you are facing down compliance work think about the passport you are building for those students through the skills you impart. As students wind their way through your TAFE, envision them competing with the best in the world in China.

For our leaders, when advocacy doesn’t seem to be working, contemplate the global workplace we are preparing students for and advocate some more. I will.

Editor’s note: The WorldSkills Australia Board advised during the week that Brett Judd, Chief Executive Officer of WorldSkills Australia, has left to pursue other opportunities. Trevor Schwenke will assume the role of CEO immediately for the foreseeable future.

Trevor can be contacted at the WorldSkills Australia Melbourne office or via email on

TDA thanks Brett for his tireless work in promoting skills and working so closely with TDA.


Governments launch a review of senior secondary education

Commonwealth, state and territory education ministers have agreed to a comprehensive review of the country’s senior secondary education system.

The COAG Education Council has appointed a seven-member panel headed by the former Secretary of the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, Professor Peter Shergold.

The terms of reference say the review will “provide advice and recommendations on how senior secondary students can better understand and be enabled to choose the most appropriate pathway to support their transition into work, further education and/or training.”

This will include “clarifying the roles and responsibilities of key stakeholders, such as schools, students, parents, VET providers, higher education institutions, and employers, in supporting inclusion and preparing school leavers for life beyond school, whatever pathway they choose.”

Other members of the review panel are Professor Tom Calma, Sarina Russo, Patrea Walton, Jennifer Westacott, Dr Don Zoellner and Patrick O’Reilly.

The panel will report back to the COAG Education Council next June.

See more.

It's time to register for 'The Power of TAFE', Brisbane, just eight days away!

It’s just over a week until the TDA Convention, ‘The Power of TAFE’, which runs from 3 – 5 September in Brisbane.

There are a host of impressive speakers, presenters, workshops and networking events.

The event will showcase best practice and innovation in teaching and learning, curriculum design, student support, industry outreach, international, innovation and new technologies.

With MC Kerry O’Brien, The Power of TAFE will hear from some of the most thought provoking and engaging speakers, including:

Michael Brennan, the head of the Productivity Commission whose job is to promote competition and markets as the starting point for public policy, will explore what’s next for the VET sector.

Vicki Thomson from the Group of Eight Universities, Australia’s elite, will contemplate how TAFEs inhabit the tertiary sector.

Drawing on his findings as chair of Jobs Queensland, the warhorse of higher education, Professor Peter Coaldrake, will argue for a higher order of TAFE if Australia is to educate and train a new the class of worker.

The best of England and Canada, from a technical and vocational education viewpoint, will see David Hughes talk about the journey of Further Education colleges amid Brexit, and Dr Rick Huijbregts from Toronto reflect on the technology climate facing students.

A dedicated session with ASQA leadership will allow TAFEs  to take steps to a higher order focus on quality.

We will hear from Steven Joyce, whose advice to Prime Minister Morrison will be central in the shape of VET.

Assistant Minister for Vocational Education, Training and Apprenticeships, Steve Irons will reflect on the next steps for TAFEs.

Overall, the Convention will see:

  • 15+ plenary speakers
  • 8 State showcases
  • 55+ workshops speakers
  • numerous networking opportunities

See more about the impressive line-up of plenary speakers.

See the Convention program

Register Now!

TAFE to host new VET centre at Western Sydney Aerotropolis

The NSW government has announced a permanent TAFE VET facility at the new  Western Sydney Aerotropolis, with a focus on advanced manufacturing, technology and engineering.

While on an international trade mission in Germany, Premier Gladys Berejiklian said the government is working with Siemens to finalise an MOU that will bring advanced technologies to the new facility.

Ms Berejiklian said Germany’s dual system of on-the-job and classroom training provided trainees with high-level technical skills and has been especially effective at responding to changes in technology and the employment needs of business.

The ‘Siemensstadt 2.0’ innovation precinct is set to transform a 70 hectare industrial area in Berlin into a modern, urban district with offices, residences, laboratories and production plants in place by 2030.

Victoria's manufacturing sector buoyed by major projects

The future of manufacturing in Victoria is strong, the National Manufacturing Summit in Melbourne was told last week.

Hosted by Weld Australia, speakers outlined the growth expected in advanced manufacturing.

Victoria’s Minister for Skills and Higher Education, Gayle Tierney, pictured, spoke of the reforms to state’s skilling system with TAFEs as a driving force.

“The Future Foundries for Defence Capabilities project is delivering an Australian first — a completely new accredited course at Chisholm Institute of TAFE’s Dandenong campus,” she said.

This project will help build a workforce to take advantage of opportunities in the production of complex, high-precision components for jet fighters, submarines, frigates and armoured vehicles.

The Victorian government’s recent budget included $5.6 million for  Victoria’s Big Build and Social Services higher apprenticeships program. This will support the rollout of major infrastructure programs and growth in the state’s human services sector.

“It is an example of how this government is building stronger links between the higher education and the training sectors,” Ms Tierney said.

National Skills Week kicks off around Australia

National Skills Week 2019 has kicked off with the first state launch yesterday at Victoria’s Box Hill Institute, and events around the country in coming days.

With the theme “Succeed your Way”, National Skills Week brings together stakeholders to raise the profile and improve the standing of VET, while highlighting the talents, diversity and benefits of VET pathways.

The Minister for Employment, Skills, Small and Family Business Senator Michaelia Cash said National Skills Week is a great time to reflect on the many success stories that have come from VET, and a chance to introduce VET to those who are looking to move ahead with the career of their choice.

Other launch events will take place today in Queensland today, tomorrow in Sydney and on Thursday in South Australia.

See more

TasTAFE CEO looks to the future with confidence

The CEO of TasTAFE, Jenny Dodd (pictured) says the organisation has reached a milestone, with ASQA’s granting of a seven-year registration, following a period of reform and restructuring.

In an interview with The Mercury in Hobart, Ms Dodd outlined some of the challenges faced since taking on the top job at TasTAFE in February 2018.

“We had 29 business units operating in 29 different ways, and you can’t run a single registered training organisation like that,” she said.

But the reforms have borne fruit with the regulator recently providing the longest available period of registration.

“Seven years’ registration is hard to get, and it’s a big deal for Tasmania,” she says.

Part of the new focus will be on programs that enable existing workers to upskill as their jobs transform, including both advanced and foundational digital skills.

There is also a closer partnership with the University of Tasmania in the area of co-delivery of some short-course programs, including some nursing classes.

Ms Dodd, who is also a TDA Board Member, joined TasTAFE from TAFE Queensland where she was Chief Academic Officer.

Photo: Zac Simmonds, The Mercury

VET to drive SA's international student strategy

The South Australian government is counting on a doubling in the state’s VET student numbers as the main driver of a new $3 billion strategy to attract international students.

A strategy paper International Education 2030 says that VET is expected to be the fastest growing area of international education in the state, more than doubling from 7,000 students in 2018 to 14,500 in 2030, and outstripping the national growth rate.

Higher education is expected to increase from 19,500 students in 2018 to 36,100 in 2030, making up more than 50 per cent of total enrolments in the state.

The current top four source markets for enrolments in South Australia – China, India, Hong Kong and Vietnam – are expected to remain the top performing markets to 2030.

TAFEs able to apply for grants to promote regional studies

Tertiary education providers including TAFEs are eligible to apply for grants to enable international and domestic students to study in regional Australia.

The first round of the $94 million Destination Australia Program is now open and aims to attract 4,720 students to study at regional campuses from next year with scholarships of $15,000.

The scholarships are available for qualifications from a Certificate IV through to a PhD.

Students are not able to directly apply for the scholarships.

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NZ's displaced construction workers need to 'live in Australia': Steven Joyce

The architect of Australia’s recent VET review, New Zealander Stephen Joyce has warned that his country’s road infrastructure program has been hijacked by the Greens and that policy makers should look to Australia for job-boosting initiatives.

He also says that out of work construction employees will find plenty of jobs if they’re prepared to move to Sydney or Melbourne.

“Everyone knows the Green Party is anti-road and anti-development,” he says in an article in NZ’s Sunday Star Times.

“The surprise for most people is just how much the Greens are now controlling New Zealand’s roading policy, and how radical that policy has become.”

“The construction workers will be okay. There is tons of work coming up for them, although they will need to live in Australia.

“Melbourne and Sydney in particular are crying out for skilled road builders as Australia ramps up its infrastructure investment,” he says.

See more

Researcher finds the key to making a good argument

A Queensland education researcher has argued that the Australian curriculum places too much emphasis on emotive writing and not enough on encouraging students to develop their powers of reasoning.

Luke Zaphir, a researcher with the University of Queensland Critical Thinking Project, says there are three things present in all good arguments, and that teachers need to encourage children to start putting across their points of view from an early age.

“One shortcoming in the Australian Curriculum is that it asks students to write persuasively, by using emotive language,” he says.

“We should be teaching our students to provide the reasoning behind their opinion as well as backing it up with evidence, not to manipulate emotions,” he says in an article in The Conversation.

See “How to make good arguments at school (and everywhere else)” in The Conversation.

ASQA clarifies third party training for VET-in-schools

The Australian Skills Quality Authority (ASQA) has sought to clarify new third-party arrangements for training providers that will apply for VET-in-schools.

It follows the release of guidance on third-party training arrangements that will take effect soon.

ASQA says it has been asked to clarify the impact where a school engages an RTO to deliver a course to VET-in-schools students, and the school provides some support in the delivery.

Essentially, the arrangements will depend on whether the school is registered as an RTO under the National Vocational Education and Training Regulator Act 2011.

See the new guidance for VET-in-schools.

Diary Dates

National Skills Week
26 August – 1 September 2019
Locations around Australia
More information

TAFE Directors Australia 2019 Convention
‘The Power of TAFE’
3 – 5 September 2019
More information

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

Community Colleges Australia 2019 Annual Conference
18-20 November 2019
The Stamford Plaza Hotel, Brisbane
More Information

Australian Training Awards
21 November 2019
Brisbane, Queensland
More information

Australian Council of Deans of Education Vocational Education Group
5th Annual Conference on VET Teaching and VET Teacher Education
9-10 December 2019
Charles Sturt University Wagga Wagga Campus
More information