The Global Race for Skills – comment by CEO Craig Robertson

The Global Race for Skills – comment by CEO Craig Robertson

Industry 4.0 is not the preserve of modern economies. A report from the Asia Development Bank (ADB) shows how developing economies could leapfrog modern economies, similar to their success in getting ahead of COVID.

In a set of reports released in January this year, including for Vietnam[1] the ADB looked at two key industries per country which included transport and logistics for Vietnam.

With 98 million people inhabiting just 331,000 square kilometres the dynamics of transport and logistics is different to that facing Australia with its 25.7 million population spread across 7.7 million square kilometres. We may need long haul transport between warehouses, factories and consumers while Vietnam more likely needs precision logistics to operate across crowded cities.

In both cases, efficiency, speed and accuracy are paramount and Industry 4.0 is the key. For example: networks of sensors and actuators allow for stock to be tracked, wherever; blockchain means information about that moving stock is held securely for easy access by anyone across the supply chain while robots for goods lifting allows for 24/7 warehousing. Suddenly there is immense efficiency in the logistics supply chain. And that is just the start!

Concern that such advances destroy jobs is addressed by the report authors, Alpha Beta. The diagram shows that automation would reduce jobs within the industry but the productivity dividend and lower prices generates demand which compensate for the job losses and more!

Alpha Beta is quick to warn that success for Vietnam rests on a skills transition within Vietnam as other companies, domestic and international, can capture the benefit.

The distribution of skills is central to success within and across countries. Notice the difference in the green (growth) blocks across occupation levels in the diagram below. Computer literacy and ICT skills become key for low level jobs, critical thinking and adaptive learningcommunication and complex problem-solving for intermediate level and social and judgement and decision-making are critical in advanced level jobs.

The same is being said about the changing demands in Australian jobs. This can now be ratified through the Australian Skills Classification (ASC), a beta version of which was released by the National Skills Commission last week. (It’s well worth exploring.)

The missing piece, for Vietnam and the ASC, is the necessary education and training intervention.

The ADB highlights the gap in Vietnam between the expectations of industry and TVET delivery even though TVET providers feel they are meeting the requirements. More formal industry engagement is proposed, along with on-the-job learning but there are few hints about the content of the learning. That is also the case for the ASC but it’s too early to expect that.

In the meantime, the message for Australian VET is loud and clear in several ways. Firstly, if this is the analysis for Vietnam it is true for Australia – technology knows no boundaries. Secondly, the skills transformation is similar – new order skills are key to success in both countries. Thirdly, the question is whether VET can adapt – a challenge for both countries. Fourthly, resting on our laurels diminishes our international education standing – if technology can help countries jump others up the value chain those same countries can do the same in education and training.

Fortunately, the issues of Industry 4.0 are being explored in the VET system. The digital transformation panel established by the Australian Industry Skills Committee is due to release soon its report The Learning Country: Digital Transformation Skills Strategy and the government has established the Digital Skills Organisation. Positive responses are crucial because it has global significance for Australia.

The opportunity is enormous. We are in the Asian Century. The region is home to half the world’s population and has climbed from low to middle-income status within a single generation and by 2040 is expected to generate more than 50% of world GDP and could account for 40% of global consumption.[2]

There is symmetry. Australian Industry Standards, as the host skills service organisation for the digital transformation panel, has also conducted detailed work in Vietnam on transport and logistics. Let’s hope there can be benefit to both countries through collaboration.



NSW to create new tertiary institution –  the Institute of Applied Technology

The NSW government will establish a new tertiary education body known as the NSW Institute of Applied Technology (IAT) that will see industry and universities partner with TAFE, under a fresh reform plan outlined by Premier Gladys Berejiklian.

The first IATs will be established at TAFE’s Meadowbank and Kingswood campuses and will aim to fully integrate theoretical study of university with the practical training of TAFE.

Students will be able to study flexibly, for example, a student can complete a Certificate IV in year one, progress to a Diploma in year two and have the option of achieving a Bachelor in Applied Technology in year three.

Premier Gladys Berejiklian said “If we are serious about having the best skilled workforce in the world, we have to do things a bit differently.”

The new model of education is one of five recommendations that the government has accepted from the Gonski-Shergold Review of VET in NSW. The other recommendations that have been accepted are:

  • The creation of Careers NSW
  • Advocating for the federal government to embrace VET student loans, similar to the HECS model
  • Improving the quality of VET in high schools
  • Consulting with industry experts on VET course curriculums.

See ‘In the Same Sentence’, Bringing higher and vocational education together by David Gonski and Peter Shergold.

See the Premier’s media releas

...what will the new Institutes look like in NSW?

The Gonski-Shergold Review makes it clear what this “bold new approach” to tertiary education, the NSW Institute of Applied Technology (IAT), will look like – as well as what it won’t.

“The IAT will not be a ‘Super TAFE’,” the review declares.

“Nor will it be a ‘dual sector’ institution, offering vocational and higher education in separate streams.

“It won’t take the place of university-based programs that already deliver foundation or bridging courses to higher education students. Rather, the IAT will be a ‘single sector’ tertiary institution,” the review notes.

It stresses that the IAT will be “prestigious”.

“Entry will be competitive. It will be an exemplar institution, demonstrating a new and innovative approach to tertiary education.”

Conceding that the proposal is “ambitious”, the review says the IAT will fully integrate VET and higher education in a cohesive tertiary curriculum, focused on providing students with the industry-based employability skills.

The IAT’s focus will not just be on technical skills, rather the goal will be on the ‘T-shaped graduate’ – students with deep exposure to a practical work-oriented discipline while also having a breadth of employability skills in communication, critical thinking, complex problem solving, creativity and entrepreneurship.

Each IAT will be encouraged to focus on the likely future of work in NSW.

“This may include identifying emerging opportunities in advanced manufacturing and modern construction, horticulture and agribusiness, aeronautical engineering and airport logistics, digital media, and research-based medical technology,” the review says.

Employers will actively participate, with each student having access to industry representatives, and employers invited to deliver their own proprietary training. The focus of the IATs will be on teaching, not research.

Managing the IATs will be a partnership between education providers and business, all of which will be engaged in the planning, design and delivery of course content.

TasTAFE to become autonomous government business 

The Tasmanian government has accepted a key recommendation of an advisory committee to transform TasTAFE into an independent government business with greater autonomy over its operations.

The Minister for Education and Training Jeremy Rockliff said the “bold plan” would enable TasTAFE to take the next steps in its evolution.

“TasTAFE must have the autonomy and the workforce flexibility to continuously align its training offering with evolving workforce needs,” Mr Rockliff said.

“It also needs the financial capacity and flexibility to invest in and manage infrastructure best suited to deliver contemporary training.”

It follows the release of the Premier’s Economic and Social Recovery Advisory Council (PESRAC) report which said that under its current model, TasTAFE “is not sufficiently responsive to help Tasmanians gain the skills needed by employers.”

“The most effective way of achieving the required flexibility and responsiveness is to make TasTAFE an independent government business, so that it has available to it all the tools that other public trading enterprises have. In short, TasTAFE needs to be much more like the businesses that it serves.”

Unusually (and most welcome) for a review panel, PESRAC members have provided their own reflections on the key issues and their approach in this video.

See the PESRAC report

NSC outlines the new way of looking at skills

The National Skills Commission has released a new tool – the Australian Skills Classification – which offers a new way of identifying the range of skills linked to occupations.

Rather than using occupations and qualifications as proxies for skills, the new classification offers a richer understanding of the labour market by identifying common and transferrable skills between occupations, and the connections within, and across, skills and occupations.

The skills classification offers researchers, governments, industry, education and training sectors a common way to identify, measure, assess or compare core competencies.

“The identification of skills clusters offers a new and unique way of looking at the labour market. Skills that are like one another are clustered together – if you can do one task in a skills cluster, you can likely do the others,” National Skills Commissioner Adam Boyton said.

See more

It's time to trade up: The Gordon shouts the benefits of apprenticeships

In a bid to promote the great outcomes students can achieve through apprenticeships, The Gordon has commenced a Trade up campaign.

The campaign features Gordon apprentices and graduates who have gone on to become business owners, managers and executive chefs.

To execute the campaign, hero shots were taken of each graduate in their own workplace wearing Gordon branded apparel – showing both where they are now, and where they came from.

The key campaign message is:

It’s time to trade up
Trade your computer for the great outdoors.
Trade your student loan for earning as you learn
Trade your boss for your own business
Apprenticeships lead to a national qualification and great job outcomes!

The idea, creative and messaging was developed in-house by The Gordon marketing team. It is targeted at a broad audience from school leavers to career changers reflecting the fact that anyone can become an apprentice.

The campaign will use press, radio, social media, direct marketing and online advertising.

See the campaign brochure

Watch the campaign video here

TDA welcomes the Angus Knight Group

TDA values working with partners that are there to help individuals who experience a barrier to employment – partners who  believe in unleashing the potential of Australians and finding flexible and innovative ways to achieve the best outcomes for each job seeker.

Angus Knight prides itself on supporting over one million people since it was founded in 1991 and delivering employment, training and community services across more than 150 locations.

As the Productivity Commission noted in its recent National Agreement for Skills and Workforce Development Review Study Report students experiencing disadvantage report higher satisfaction at public TAFEs (p.37). This includes Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students and students who completed a language, literacy, numeracy, and digital literacy package (p.102).  Importantly, public TAFEs, taking into account their students’ disadvantage and lack of previous employment, still achieved the same level of employment outcomes as the VET sector more generally.

Cameron Judson, CEO & Managing Director, Angus Knight Group said “We are excited to partner with TDA as part of our combined ambition to unleash the potential of Australians. We value working with like-minded organisations to get people skilled and job ready”.

TDA welcomes the Angus Knight Group as a TDA Corporate Affiliate and looks forward to an on-going partnership.In joining with TDA, Angus Knight also joins with TDA’s existing corporate affiliates in providing informed industry perspectives to TDA and its member TAFEs.

Finally, the Productivity Commission noted that governments must consider the public value of policy interventions, with one of the main rationales being to remove the barriers to participation for students facing disadvantage and groups affected by structural change in the economy (p.109).  As the partnership between Angus Knight and TAFEs develops and matures, we will let you know how together TAFEs and Angus Knight are practically addressing this public policy problem in Australia’s national interest.

Student ratings slip in latest higher education quality survey

TAFE dual sector institutes and other non-university higher education institutions (NUHEIs) experienced the fallout from COVID-induced student lockdowns in the latest student quality survey results.

The 2020 Student Experience Survey (SES) shows a decline in most key measures across both university and non-university institutes. The SES is part of the Quality Indicators of Learning and Teaching (QILT) program undertaken by the Department of Education, Skills and Employment.

The SES measures five aspects of the student experience: Skills Development, Learner Engagement, Teaching Quality, Student Support, and Learning Resources. The latest survey included for the first time, 92 NUHEIs, in addition to all 41 Australian universities. But because of the smaller number of students at NUHEIs, the survey pooled NUHEI data for two years, effectively diluting the impact of COVID, and meaning they are not directly comparable with university data.

Both university and non-university sectors saw declines across most of the key measures of student experience.

For NUHEIs, the overall quality of the student experience declined from 79.7% positive rating in 2018-19 to 75.2% in 2019-20. Skills development fell from 82.5% to 80.9%. Teaching quality was down from 83.0% to 81.5%, while student support rose from 77.8% to 78.3%

The university sector suffered a nine percentage point fall in the overall quality of the student experience, from 78% in 2019 to 69% in 2020.

See the 2020 Student Experience Survey Results

20th anniversary for Global Education Network

The Global Education Network (GEN) was established in 2001 by Box Hill Institute and the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology, Canada, with Kirkwood Community College, USA joining in 2004, and the Institute of Technical Education, Singapore joining in 2006.

A collaboration of premier post-secondary education institutions, GEN enhances the employability of students through global education and cultural exchange and provides a variety of study abroad options, as well as work and collaborative project opportunities for students, exposing them to global markets, along with teaching secondments at a member institution.

Celebrations of GEN’s 20th birthday are occurring this week. All member institutions are not-for-profit, publicly-funded colleges specialising in two-year associate degree or diploma programs, with each member college having a reputation for excellence in its home country.  If you fit the bill and your institute would like to join, please contact GEN.

Canberra Institute of Technology seeking senior executive 

Canberra Institute of Technology (CIT) is recruiting  for the role of Executive Director, Education & Training Services.

The successful person will work collaboratively as part of the executive team. They will have responsibility for the integrity of teaching and learning, delivery of contemporary quality education and training, positive student experiences, and enhanced partnerships with industry.

The role requires an experienced strategic leader who has dealt with large scale and scope in a complex operating environment. They will have led significant change and developed or deployed contemporary practices and systems for the provision of high quality teaching and learning outcomes.

Applications close 5pm, Wednesday 31 March.

See details.

Diary Dates

AVETRA Annual Conference 2021
Recover, rethink and rebuild: All eyes on VET
19 – 23 April, 2021 (Online)
More information

The Real Future of Work
Career Development Association of Australia
Three-part program, early April – early May
More information

CICan (Colleges & Institutes Canada) 2021 Connection Conference
April 26-28
More information

Year13 Expo
17 – 19 May 2021
More information

National Careers Week
Career Industry Council of Australia
17 – 23 May 2021
More information

Apprentice Employment Network, NSW & ACT
Skills Conference
16 June 2021
Dockside Darling  Harbour, Sydney
More information

30th National VET Research Conference ‘No Frills’
Past informing the future
National Centre for Vocational Education Research (NCVER)
7 – 9 July 2021 (Online)
More information 

Journal of Vocational Education and Training
Vocational and Technical Education Keynotes Conference
9 July 2021 (online)
More information

TVET World eConference
International Vocational and Training Association
28 – 30 July 2021
More information

QLD Schools VET Conference
Velg Training
6 August 2021
Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre
More information

National Apprentice Employment Network
National Conference
17 – 19 August 2021
Grand Chancellor Hobart, Tasmania
More information soon

National Skills Week
23 – 29 August 2021
More information

Worldskills Australia
25 – 29 August 2021
Perth Exhibition and Convention Centre
More information

2021 National VET Conference
Velg Training
9 – 19 September 2021
Gold Coast Convention and Exhibition Centre
More information

Australian Training Awards
18 November 2021
Perth, Western Australia
More information