TAFEs are open for business – comment by CEO Craig Robertson

TAFEs are open for business – comment by CEO Craig Robertson

I have been continually blown away by the sheer volume of work that TAFEs across the country have put in to ensure they continue to deliver for their students, communities, and partners. TAFEs are truly Open for Business, it’s just that they are now different to how they were before.

Governments, communities and families need to thank all the teachers, teams, and support staff for their work to adapt delivery so that vocational education can continue. It hasn’t been easy, nor the path linear. The efforts are a testament to the commitment of TAFE staff to VET delivery. Knowledge and skills acquired today gear Australia up for the future.

Over the coming weeks this newsletter will include examples of the great work being done across TAFEs during the COVID-19 crisis. We want to share how TAFEs are innovating and developing new ways of teaching and learning, while maintaining the quality dividend trusted of TAFEs.

The virus doesn’t discriminate in finding safe harbour, but older Australians bear a heightened health risk. Working and young Australians carry the resulting economic cost. TAFEs will need to be the core of the economic response, as the pathway to fulfilling work, especially for those most at risk.

This is a learning from TAFE SA. David Coltman, one year in the job as CEO, said “I am so proud of TAFE SA and the efforts that have been undertaken to introduce alternative delivery methods for our students. The work we have done is a game-changer, with being able to offer 95% of our courses via alternative means. I believe that this will improve how we deliver to our remote and regional communities and fundamentally address the challenges of access.”

Some TAFEs have already started new terms, delivering differently to what has traditionally been a very hands-on learning environment. We need to take on learnings throughout this process. As Steffen Faurby, Managing Director of TAFE NSW remarked, “on the other side of this pandemic, I believe TAFE NSW will not be the same as it has proven capable of remarkable transformation and that adaptability sets us up to help the NSW economy recover.”

We celebrate the wins, will learn from our mistakes, but continue to deliver for the Australian public. The adaptability of teaching teams and the ability of TAFEs to flex to the changing environment is a clear demonstration of the innovation that our TAFE network provide. TAFEs won’t be, and shouldn’t be, the same on the other side of COVID-19.

The mission of TAFE mixes capacity with commitment and passion in its public service, in and beyond this crisis.

On a final note. On Saturday we reflected in various and new ways about the sacrifices of our forebears to protect the Australia we know and love. It is not too hard to contemplate our front-line health workers in a similar light, fighting to outwit a hidden enemy.

Transformed TAFEs commence Term 2 with off-campus learning

Many TAFEs across the country will be re-commencing for Term 2 this week under extraordinary conditions, with a range of different delivery modes to protect students and staff from COVID-19.

The past few weeks have seen TAFEs undertaking extensive work to build the capability to effectively transition from face-to-face to online learning, with minimal disruption to students.

TAFE NSW will progressively recommence delivery from today through a combination of connected, online, blended, remote, distance, or modified face-to-face learning.

It has adopted state-wide guidelines, and risk management practices to ensure the safety and wellbeing of all staff and students.

See more.

In the ACT, Canberra Institute of Technology will commence Term 2 tomorrow.

Students have been advised to not attend CIT campuses, as the current COVID-19 restrictions prevent face-to-face activities.

CIT says the first few of weeks of Term 2 will be a period of adjustment for students and staff, with teaching and learning only being offered online or remotely.

See more.

TAFE SA will commence today, with more than 90 per cent of its courses transitioned to digitally enabled learning.

TAFE SA Chief Executive David Coltman said that a huge amount of work had been done to ensure training could be delivered from the start of Term 2.

“From when we extended our mid semester break, our staff have been working around the clock to plan and implement alternative delivery methods and models to ensure our students can continue their education and training,” Mr Coltman said.

“Given the practical nature of so much of our training, to have 94 per cent of our courses ready for delivery from April 27 is a wonderful achievement. We are currently assessing how we can deliver the remaining 6% during the pandemic,” he said.

There are currently no plans for face to face delivery in Term 2. TAFE SA has prioritised the theoretical aspects of courses to enable as little disruption as possible, and will undertake further work to support practical learning and assessment components for students.

TAFE Queensland commenced Term 2 last week, with a number of courses moved online.

Campuses will remain open for essential practical training only.

Events and gatherings that do not entail delivery of education and training, including graduations, have been postponed until after April.

See more.

TasTAFE commences Term 2 today, either through online or distance learning.

Students are asked not to come onto the campuses in Hobart and Launceston unless they have pre-booked a computer.

Campuses in Burnie and Devonport are currently closed to students and staff following a coronavirus outbreak in the state’s north-west.

See more.

Victorian TAFEs commenced Term 2 after Easter, largely delivering courses remotely and online. Face-to-face training will still occur for courses where remote learning is not possible.

Teaching staff have been working hard to develop flexible remote learning alternatives to minimise potential disruption and to help students continue their studies.

TAFEs in Western Australia commence tomorrow, with a transition to a blended learning model.

This will entail use of online resources, interactive distance learning, printed and electronic workbooks, increased communication with lecturers via email, phone and other online platforms, with face-to-face learning only where advised and with social distancing and hygiene protocols.

Government kills university hopes for JobKeeper lifeline

The hope that some public universities would be eligible for the federal government’s JobKeeper payment were dashed late on Friday, when Treasurer Josh Frydenberg issued a JobKeeper Update that will require Commonwealth payments to universities to be included in the turnover test.

Previously, the requirement for a 30 per cent decline in turnover (for organisations with turnover of $1 billion or less) was based on GST turnover.

However the revised advice for universities states that the changes “will clarify that the core Commonwealth Government financial assistance provided to universities will be included in the JobKeeper turnover tests.”

It followed a report in the Sydney Morning Herald that The University of Sydney was urging its staff to apply for the JobKeeper wage subsidy, saying it could help the university reap up to $140 million in funding.

A statement issued by La Trobe University said it had applied for the JobKeeper program in good faith, based on the published ATO guidelines, and “by moving the goal posts a second time, this will cost jobs in universities”.

Another late change in the update saw the JobKeeper eligibility removed for full time students aged 17 and younger. This would have seen some school-based trainees receiving the $1500 per fortnight payment.

South Australia delivers support for international students

The South Australian government has unveiled a $13.8 million support package for international students who are facing hardship due to COVID-19.

The International Student Support Package includes:

  • $10 million for the University of Adelaide, Flinders University and University of South Australia to distribute to their pathway and international students.
  • A $500 emergency cash grant to other international students
  • And a one-off $200 assistance payment per student living with South Australian families provided to homestay families.

The Minister for Trade and Investment, David Ridgway, said it was important to keep the sector strong as it underpins many thousands of jobs, which will be critical on the other side of the pandemic.

“International education plays an important role in South Australia’s economy as the state’s largest export sector and we know students are having a tough time at the moment as they don’t qualify for Commonwealth Government income support in response to the COVID-19 impacts,” he said.

More information and registration

Online VET conference free to TAFEs and WFCP members

The COVID-19 crisis has put a dampener on scores of conferences, but the Vocational Training Council, Hong Kong, and the Hong Kong Education Bureau have joined up to organise a major online conference in May.

The original face-to-face Vocational and Professional Education and Training (VPET) International Conference 2020 is now online and free to TAFEs and members of the World Federation of Colleges and Polytechnics.

Some 25 speakers from around the world have been lined up to explore VPET strategies on future skills development, workplace training, applied education, and more.

More information

Group training secures key change to JobKeeper payments

The group training sector has been successful in addressing an anomaly in the JobKeeper program that would have seriously disadvantaged some apprentices employed by group training organisations and their host employers.

The Minister for Employment, Skills, Small and Family Business Senator Michaelia Cash advised last week that the government has agreed to remedy a situation where a host employer was eligible for the JobKeeper payment, but their GTO was not, because they did not meet the ‘decline in turnover’ test.

“To address this, the Government will increase the value of the Supporting Apprentices and Trainees wage subsidy to $1,500 per fortnight for GTOs, where the Host Employer of any size is receiving the JobKeeper Payment and retains their apprentice,” Senator Cash said.

“The Government believes this will be a welcome measure for those Host Employers and apprentices to ensure the same level of wage assistance as other employees, and to help keep apprentices where they need to be – in work and training.

“This change will apply retrospectively to wages paid from 1 April 2020, and will be rolled out in line with existing processes for the Supporting Apprentice and Trainees measure, with payments made quarterly in arrears,” Senator Cash said.

The CEO of the National Apprentice Employment Network, Dianne Dayhew said it was an extremely welcome development in response to the feedback provided by the group training network.

AATIS social media hubs to support apprentices, trainees and industry

The Australian Apprenticeships and Traineeships Information Service (AATIS) has expanded its support of apprentices with its new online initiative Active AATIS.

Active AATIS has launched two Facebook groups that will provide individuals with resources, job opportunities, networking opportunities and general support throughout the COVID-19 crisis.

Active Apprentices will support apprentices or trainees, displaced apprentices or trainees or individuals interested in commencing an apprenticeship or traineeship.

Active Industry will support individuals working in the apprenticeship and VET industries. The key aims of these hubs are to:

  • Promote accurate information about covid-19 and what this means for apprentices and the industry
  • Promote the activities of key organisations in the Australian Apprenticeships system, including AASNs, GTOs, RTOs, and governments
  • Answer questions from group members, in a similar manner to the enquiry service
  • Allow for social connections with peers during times of isolation

“These hubs have been designed to keep individuals engaged whilst working from home, or during times of joblessness,” Dr Peta Skujins, AATIS Director, said.

“We know that the next few months are going to be a critical time for the skills and apprenticeship sector, and we want to ensure that when the upturn occurs, we have an engaged community ready to hit the ground running.” she said.

More Information

ASQA seeking members for stakeholder liaison group

The Australian Skills Quality Authority (ASQA) has launched an Expression of Interest (EOI) for membership of a new Stakeholder Liaison Group (SLG).

The purpose of the SLG is to engage and consult with providers and other key stakeholders on ASQA’s approach to engagement and education, and to identify and respond to key issues facing providers.

It is open to all ASQA-regulated VET providers and to VET sector consultants, with selection criteria that reflect the diversity of ASQA’s regulated community.

In selecting the mix of providers, ASQA will take into account factors relating to the nature of training delivery, including scale, modes, locations, diversity of student populations, and provider performance.

ASQA says selection will be based on those who hold leadership positions and have a high level of operational authority in their respective organisations, are motivated to advance the interests of providers in their cohort, and are committed to developing the broader VET sector.

See the Terms of Reference, including membership and selection criteria and functions, and complete your EOI application by May 15.

Diary Dates

Vocational and Professional Education and Training (VPET) International Conference 2020 (Live Online)
“Skilling for the Future”
15 May 2020
More information

2020 VET CEO Conference (postponed)
Velg Training
15 May 2020
QT Gold Coast Hotel, Surfers Paradise, Queensland
More Information

Velg Training & MRWED
22-26 June 2020
More Information

National Manufacturing Summit 2020 (cancelled)
Manufacturing a Sustainable Future
6 & 7 July 2020
Gold Coast, Queensland
More information

‘No Frills’ 2020, 29th National VET Research Conference (cancelled)
NCVER co-hosted with TAFE WA, North Metropolitan TAFE
8 – 10 July 2020
Perth, Western Australia
More information

TAFE Directors Australia Convention 2020 (cancelled)
12 – 14 August 2020
Westin Hotel, Perth
More information

Worldskills Australia (re-scheduled to April-May 2021)
12 – 15 August 2020
Perth Exhibition and Convention Centre
More information

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

2020 National VET Conference (postponed)
Velg Training
17 – 18 September 2020
Gold Coast Convention and Exhitbiton Centre, Broadbeach, Queensland
More Information

World Federation of Colleges and Polytechnics (cancelled)
2020 World Congress

14 – 16 October 2020
Donostia – San Sebastian, Spain
More information

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

VDC 2020 Teaching & Learning Conference
19 & 20 November 2020
RACV Torquay Resort, Great Ocean Road, Victoria
Registrations Open

Australian Training Awards
20 November 2020
More information

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