Tentative steps to tertiary – comment by CEO Craig Robertson

Tentative steps to tertiary – comment by CEO Craig Robertson

This is tertiary education week – or more precisely guerrilla tertiary education week. Universities Australia holds its conference in Canberra later this week and TAFEs are invading the first part. CEOs and chairs are meeting with parliamentarians tonight. In the spirit of true tertiary, several VCs of dual sector universities and other university luminaries will be there.

I’m not a scholar of Brexit or the politics of Ireland in recent decades, however a fabulous podcast got me thinking. Let me explain. The Good Friday Peace Accord to settle the Troubles in Northern Ireland resulted in power sharing – primarily between the Unionists (those wanting to remain tied to the United Kingdom) and the Nationalists (those wanting to unite with the republic of Ireland).

Come the vote to remain or leave the European Union the Northern Irelanders voted to remain. But what to do with the movement of people and goods with the UK which is exiting? Is it a hard border between the Northern and Republic of Ireland splitting the contiguous land mass? Or is the line in the Irish Sea more practical? In the first phase of Brexit negotiations Theresa May relied on the Democratic Unionist Party of Northern Ireland to retain power, so a solution wallowed as did her premiership. Boris won the national poll handsomely so with no need for the bloc, settled for the Irish Sea.

The consequences are fascinating contemplation. Ireland may unite on economic and trade grounds. The Irish of the North may not be as committed to the United Kingdom if they need a passport to travel in their own nation and effectively retain the benefits from the EU zone. The sectarian tensions of the past – in stark form the Catholic Republic and the Protestant North – could return.

When it comes to the wicked problem of tertiary education in Australia, I can’t help but reflect on the Ireland situation. Of minor comparison of course, but of equally messy dimensions. Does it suffer from those darned boundary issues – the universities on the cashed-up Commonwealth side, with VET straddling both and all too easily abandoned by either, with many in VET wanting to remain hitched to the federation rather than one state or territory. Is it some bizarre form of sectarianism – the competency VET system not convinced by the knowledge elites of higher education? Or does it tell us that VET can so easily be tossed aside for politic purpose?

Public policy in Australia has tried on several occasions to bridge the divide, often focusing on settling the interplay at AQF level 5 and 6 – a sort of de‑militarised zone. There’s also been calls for funding and regulation that creates a level playing field between sectors and ultimately for providers and students, so choice is not distorted. Simple really, then why have we failed so spectacularly?

For me the solution must start with sound education policy – funding, regulation (and prejudice) follow policy. Policy in VET, and its curriculum, places the work process needs of industry first. This clashes with a knowledge-first philosophy in higher education directed to the advancement and dissipation of knowledge. It’s little wonder we’ve struggled with credit arrangements.

It doesn’t have to be. The AQF review offers a solution. Knowledge and its progression across eight levels in the form of learning outcomes is the key to the AQF. Skills and application are secondary (as they both can be banded across knowledge levels says the report).

VET qualifications can be recast within a knowledge progression. Before sectarianists have a go at me, let’s look at some interesting work from South Africa. Jean Gamble of the University of Cape Hope presents empirical results of labour studies to show the centrality of knowledge in skills application. The diagram shows the knowledge – formal scientific, systems, craft and ‘how-to’ – in boat building, surely a vocation.

These elements are listed spuriously within units of competency, however, assuming they are picked up in some way and are too easily collateral damage in the tick and flick world of VET.

Deloitte reported last year that work of the future will be “of the head and heart”. What good then is VET where underpinning knowledge is a lucky dip? This doesn’t mean we jettison skills, nor industry, or that all VET students will need to be bookworms. It means the sector is serious about vocational education – of equal standing to higher education.

Solving this dilemma is the gift of the federation. Knowledge and capability are a national asset used to progress our place in the world and to sustain vibrant sub-national regions. Skills Ministers this past week released the draft VET Roadmap for consultation. It’s a positive start but has no impact for three or five years! The urgency must be to kick start the AQF reform process, even experimenting with an education first approach in the demilitarisation zone.

Travel ban on Chinese tertiary students could be eased this week

The travel ban on university and VET students from China could be partially lifted as early as this week following the green light for a limited number of year 11 and 12 students to resume their studies in Australia.

The federal government announced on Saturday that, based on medical advice, up to 760 year 11 and 12 students currently in China will be able to return to Australia on a “case by case” basis, with the agreement of the states, and on the condition they undergo 14 days isolation once they arrive.

Education Minister Dan Tehan described it as a tentative first step to resuming the international education market and said the government would consider this week partially lifting restrictions on tertiary students.

The possibility of a further easing of restrictions is based on medical advice showing the spread of the novel coronavirus in provinces outside Hubei is slowing.

Meanwhile, the Department of Education, Skills and Employment has issued a guide to the delivery of online education to students in China.

The Department has also updated its information on the coronavirus for international students, universities and VET students and staff.

VET the fastest growing area of international education

VET recorded the fastest growth of any sector of international students during 2019.

VET sector enrolments of international students grew by 16.8% to 283,893 students in 2019, compared with growth of 11.1% for higher education, 1.3% for ELICOS,  and falls of 4.3% fall for schools and 3.3% in the non-award sector.

VET commencements also grew by 16.8%, the fastest of any sector.

In the VET sector India contributed the largest share of enrolments (15.9%) followed by Nepal (10.3%) China (8.5%) and Brazil (7.8%). In the higher education sector, the top two source countries were China (37.3%) and India (20.5%).

The figures for VET do not distinguish between TAFE and non-TAFEs but historically TAFEs enrol around 7% of overseas VET students.

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TAFE SA enters partnership with French engineering giant

workforce skills needs in areas including naval shipbuilding, construction and advanced manufacturing,

Groupe FIVA provides contracted engineering services and labour in France and Spain and its local companies, Cadgile and Kadego Engineering, specialise in digital engineering services and enabling industry 4.0.

A key element of the partnership will be to encourage more students to undertake traineeships and to deliver graduates with industry-relevant skills, such as 3D CAD design skills.

TAFE SA Chief Executive, David Coltman, said the partnership will ensure there is greater clarity about the skills needs of industry and promoting the sought-after career opportunities.

“Working with experienced industry partners will ensure our curriculum and skills development aligns with the growing needs of industries, including those in defence and shipbuilding,” Mr Coltman said.

“TAFE SA has a strong track record of supporting the training needs of the naval shipbuilding industry, which makes this alignment with Groupe FIVA a really exciting opportunity.”

Back L-R: Kathleen Drew, TAFE SA; Gary McRae, Cadgile; Gavan Doyle, Kadego; Penny Johnston, TAFE SA; and Simone Gibbs, TAFE SA
Front: David Coltman, TAFE SA, and Serge Boniface, Groupe FIVA

NSW to provide free training to apprentices displaced by drought and bushfires

The NSW government will assist apprentices in bushfire and drought-affected areas who have been laid off by their employers to continue their formal training.

The Minister for Skills and Tertiary Education Geoff Lee announced that displaced apprentices will still be able to access the training component of their apprenticeships for up to 12 months for free.

Mr Lee said the initiative means out of work apprentices in the regions will not be left behind while seeking new employers.

“We want to encourage regional youth to stay connected with their communities while on the pathway towards their future careers,” he said.

Jason Sultana, Executive Officer of the Apprentice Employment Network NSW & ACT said the measure will help apprentices maintain their training while seeking alternative employment.

“At a time when we are facing skills shortage in many sectors, and a need for ongoing investment in skills, we need to do everything possible to help those who have commenced an apprenticeship to fulfill their goal.”

There is no cap on the number of apprentices that will be assisted.

UK vacancy for college principal

Capital City College Group, London, is currently recruiting for an Executive Principal.

CCCG is one of the largest college groups in the UK and offers unique opportunities for growth and development. The group has recently appointed a new CEO who has brought an invigorating and aspirational approach.

The newly created role of Executive Principal will lead in establishing a culture of high aspiration, outstanding pedagogy and exceptional learner experience across the group.

An inspirational leader internally and externally, this individual will enhance CCCG’s reach, reputation and influence, create an innovative curriculum, lead outstanding performance and build relationships for successful growth.

See here for more information.

Wine qualification in strong demand

A thirst for knowledge of the world’s wine regions and styles has seen a globally recognised qualification – being offered in Adelaide for the first time – fully booked within weeks of launching.

TAFE SA’s new Diploma in Wines, a Wine and Spirit Education Trust course, has commenced this term with 25 students and a waiting list for 2021.

The diploma includes a comprehensive study of the world’s wine regions and the development of wine-tasting skills to an expert level, and to date it has only been available in Sydney and Melbourne.

The diploma is a springboard for people wanting to go on to the Master of Wine program, but it’s also seen as an opportunity for upskilling for those working in the wine industry whether as producers or in associated businesses such as exporting.

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Diary Dates

Year13 Youth Engagement Summit
19 March 2020
The Venue, Alexandria, Sydney
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Youth Futures Summit
20 – 21 April 2020
Melbourne Cricket Ground
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AVETRA Conference
20/20 vision for VET: Research at the centre of future policy and practice
23 – 24 April 2020
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VDC 2020 Teaching & Learning Conference
14 – 15 May 2020
RACV Torquay Resort, Great Ocean Road, Victoria
Registrations open

2020 VET CEO Conference
Velg Training
15 May 2020
QT Gold Coast Hotel, Surfers Paradise, Queensland
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Apprentice Employment Network NSW & ACT
Annual 2020 Skills Conference
11 June 2020
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‘No Frills’ 2020, 29th National VET Research Conference
NCVER co-hosted with TAFE WA, North Metropolitan TAFE
8 – 10 July 2020
Perth, Western Australia
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TAFE Directors Australia Convention 2020
12 – 14 August 2020
Westin Hotel, Perth
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Worldskills Australia
12 – 15 August 2020
Perth Exhibition and Convention Centre
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National Skills Week
24 – 30 August 2020
Various locations
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2020 National VET Conference
Velg Training
17 – 18 September 2020
Gold Coast Convention and Exhitbiton Centre, Broadbeach, Queensland
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World Federation of Colleges and Polytechnics
2020 World Congress

14 – 16 October 2020
Donostia – San Sebastian, Spain
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Australian Training Awards
20 November 2020
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