The plan for industry engagement – comment by Jenny Dodd

The plan for industry engagement – comment by Jenny Dodd

‘The establishment of Industry Clusters will enhance the role of industry in the national training system with a broader role and greater accountability to industry,’ so writes the Transition Advisory Group (TAG) in its recent advice to Government. Who is the TAG and what will the proposed Industry Clusters do that is different to now?

The TAG comprises representatives from several of the key industry groups such as the Australian Industry Group, Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Business Council of Australia along with the ACTU. It was asked by the Government to provide advice into how to maximise industry engagement as part of the national skills reform.

The proposed industry engagement model will see the formation of approximately nine Industry Clusters which will ‘provide strategic leadership on skills and workforce challenges, such as reskilling and upskilling workers to meet emerging industry needs and jobs in demand … and by equipping learners with the necessary skills across a broad range of career pathways.’

The key difference in the model of Industry Clusters compared to Skills Service Organisations will be the end-to-end approach. This will embrace workforce planning, including the identification of skills needed from both VET and higher education, the development of occupational standards and training products, the establishment of career pathways across industry, and the gathering of industry intelligence about issues impacting that industry in terms of changing skills needs. There is a clear goal to remove barriers, to use data more effectively, and to improve the speed to market of training product development –  all goals to be applauded and supported.

This wider remit is welcomed given the changing nature of work in most industries and the need for a responsive training system that can deliver those skills quickly. As Jennifer Hewett from the Australian Financial Review reported in her piece last Thursday, ‘it’s clear certain jobs may largely disappear over time, but similar skills can be used interchangeably to fill other areas where demand is growing.’

Hewett’s concluding message is ‘there’ll have to be a lot more conversations.’ This is a poignant reminder of how critically important it is for conversations to occur at the beginning and throughout the proposed end-to-end approach. Hence the desired future state of a well-trained workforce will be maximised if conversations between Industry Clusters and the education and training sector occur at every stage. Then training products will be designed so they can be delivered to meet industry needs most effectively.

Pandemic, politics and prospects

As part of the recent TAFE and Industry Roundtable, author and political commentator George Megalogenis presented a stimulating, national overview of Australia’s post pandemic economic recovery and its political implications. He talked about how diverse demographics and the cultural make-up of different states and territories, and their varied responses to the pandemic and recessions, created marked differences in economic and social drivers across the country.

Key messages

  • The sectors of concern include travel, accommodation, hospitality, film production and creative arts. In contrast some professions are booming, including health, care services, aged care, disability care. There will be continued strong demand for jobs and skills in these areas.
  • Australia and New Zealand are among the OECD countries with the lowest death rates because of COVID. This is a success story. However, vaccination rollouts have been slower impacting recovery.
  • This leaves Australia and NZ in a unique situation – other countries are now opening up while Australia is locking down. ‘We can’t be in lockdown for ever otherwise we’ll be left behind’. However, there are marked differences in the approach to internal borders from states and territories.
  • The best way to measure economic progress is jobs, and the story is surprising. Melbourne still has more jobs now than it did this time last year, same in Brisbane and Adelaide. Perth is booming.
  • The decade prior to COVID already saw the changed relative power of cities and regions – apart from Melbourne there was more settlement in the regions from internal and overseas migration.
  • Regional stories will be very important for TAFEs. Australia may well be looking at fundamental shifts in where people will live and work – likely more in regional areas.
  • Understanding diversity of age is important – areas that attract and retain young people will prosper. This has implications for regional areas which have fewer young people; they are migrating to the cities. Governments should be thinking more about population distribution. Perth has a younger population than other capital cities.
  • TAFEs’ mission in the regions is to contribute to regional development – need to retain young people in regional areas.

Watch the video

TDA and ITECA call for action to address onshore international student transfers

TDA has joined with the Independent Tertiary Education Council Australia (ITECA) over concerns that some international students are being improperly encouraged to switch training providers while in Australia.

The joint TDA/ITECA statement says some inducements have taken the form of “excessively low fees and study expectations that may not satisfy educational or industry expectations.”

They warn that the practice risks the viability of some providers, and has the potential to tarnish the reputation of Australia’s international education sector.

“Feedback from TAFEs and independent providers indicates that these transfers are most often being facilitated by onshore agents,” the statement says.

“After accounting for agent’s commissions, within that transaction the receiving providers will be delivering courses on an even further lower cost basis.”

It says that the high rates of transfers are connected to a number of providers offering courses with excessively low fees and low study expectations, often designed to enable students to maximise working hours beyond what might be facilitated under their student visa.

DESE has responded to the call and is convening a working group to examine the issues.

TDA welcomes Microsoft Australia

TDA values working with industry partners to help Australians fulfill their potential and for employer and industry partners to prosper.  In August last year, with industry partners, TDA made a submission to the Australian Government on the Critical Role of Blue Tech and Digital Skills in Australia’s Economic Recovery.  We continue to seek the Australian Government’s support for this submission as a part of this year’s Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook, due for release in December, and as part of its commitments for the upcoming federal election.

In the meantime, TDA and its member TAFEs with the support of industry partners such as Microsoft Australia, are equipping TAFE students and TAFE partner employers and industries with the knowledge and skills required in an Australian economy that is digitised.  There are four aspects to this:

  • The confidence and the capability to educate and train with personalised learning experiences in digital or virtual environments, and to confidently use technology, software and applications.
  • The confidence and the capability of students to engage in a sector of the economy of their choosing, given the degree of digitisation within that economic sector.
  • The seamlessness of utility of inclusive on-campus and connected learning environments for students, and for educators and trainers.
  • Working with the 99.5 per cent of employing business in Australia, which are Small or Medium Sized Enterprises (less than 200 employees), that are the natural partners of TAFEs and of Microsoft Australia.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said at a National Press Club speech last year, “When I was Treasurer, it used to really frustrate me, I’ve got to say, it used to trouble me that small and medium sized businesses, particularly small, were not yet taking up digital technology as fast as they could. And this was holding them back. That was the frustration.”

TAFEs and Microsoft Australia are the natural partners of Australian SMEs, as drivers of technology transfer across employers, industries, and the economy.  Technology transfer is not a ‘thing’; it is people. TDA and its member TAFEs and Microsoft are committed to equipping all Australians, irrespective of background, with the knowledge and skills, and their application, for an Australian economy that is digitised, so they may have an opportunity to share in economic benefits and the social inclusion that flows from that.

TDA welcomes Microsoft Australia as a TDA Corporate Affiliate and we look forward to an on-going partnership. In joining with TDA, Microsoft Australia also joins with TDA’s existing corporate affiliates in providing informed industry perspectives to TDA and its member TAFEs.

Together we look forward to providing updates as we continue the journey to equip Australians, irrespective of background, for an economy that is digitised and to contribute to the prosperity of firms and industries in Australia.

Measuring 'quality' in VET not as easy as it looks

The measurement of VET “quality” has rarely been more pervasive, but a new study released by NCVER penetrates the mystique surrounding the validity of some of these measures.

‘Unpacking the quality of VET delivery’ by Hugh Guthrie and Melinda Waters notes that the notion of “quality” is largely dependent on who is making the judgement.

“In VET, some see the quality of delivery primarily in terms of outcomes, others as a property of the delivery process, and yet others in terms of value for money or return on their investment in the system.”

The most common measures of quality include data on enrolments, progression, completions, student and employer feedback, employment outcomes and levels of teacher satisfaction.

The study warns that a “one size fits all” approach to measuring delivery quality does not accommodate the diversity of VET and the sheer number of very small and larger RTOs operating within it.

For instance, it’s up for debate as to how such measures should apply – singly or in combination, and whether to an entire registered training organisation, to a program, business unit, teaching team or individual teacher.

“Our initial thinking suggests that it may be better to consider ranking or rating discipline areas rather than institutions overall, particularly where RTOs are larger and have diverse profiles,” the report says.

It also emphasises the need for balance between quality judgments that “can be too concerned with what is immediately and readily measured and less focused on the longer-term value of general educational and personal growth.”

The authors say there is clearly no one right way to deliver VET, and quality is impacted by many external, local and institutional factors.

“We also know that good-quality delivery can be characterised as student-centred, industry-relevant and addressing the need for students’ short- and longer-term 21st century skills and capabilities.”

CIT picks up a host of ACT training awards

Canberra Institute of Technology (CIT) has picked up major prizes at the ACT Training Awards, announced last week by Skills Canberra.

CIT once again won the ACT Large Training Provider of the Year. CIT was also awarded the ACT Industry Collaboration Award for a Renewable Energy Industry partnership with Neoen and Vestas, and staff member Maggie Hall was the recipient of the Norm Fisher Award for her outstanding commitment to VET.

Outstanding individuals and organisations were recognised across 14 categories:

Individual Award Categories

  • ACT Apprentice of the Year – Morgan Sutton (CIT)
  • ACT Trainee of the Year – Sophie New (CIT)
  • ACT Vocational Student of the Year – Banda Ramadan (CIT)
  • ACT Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Student of the Year – Philip Khalu-Reindl (CIT)
  • ACT Australian School-based Apprentice of the Year – Hannah Holford
  • ACT VET Teacher/Trainer of the Year – David Moore
  • Norm Fisher Award – Maggie Hall (CIT)

Organisation Award Categories

  • ACT Small Employer of the Year – Pacific Facilities Maintenance Group
  • ACT Medium Employer of the Year – Pups4Fun
  • ACT Large Employer of the Year – Communities@Work
  • ACT Industry Collaboration – CIT Renewable Energy Industry Collaboration
  • ACT Small Training Provider of the Year – Academy of Interactive Entertainment
  • ACT Large Training Provider of the Year – Canberra Institute of Technology

CIT CEO Leanne Cover said the awards showcase the commitment, innovation and outstanding achievements of all those involved in the ACT vocational education and training sector.

“Award winning students studied in many areas including education support, cybersecurity, government and electrotechnology. This shows the diversity of pathways and skills available through VET.”

Call for Contributions: AVETRA's Research Today

AVETRA is Australasia’s only national, independent association of researchers in vocational education and training (VET). Amongst the range of services AVETRA offers are VET research publications, including Research Today – an e-magazine to share and celebrate VET practitioner and applied research.

Here, VET practitioners share innovative skills and knowledge creation projects they are working on, often in partnership with industry and community. AVETRA hopes the dissemination of VET practitioner research methods and outcomes will help to build the capacity of the whole sector.

Research Today is published twice a year, usually in May and October, with the most recent edition available online.

Contributions for the next Research Today magazine should be:

  • Of 1000-1500 words, on topics of interest to AVETRA members and the wider VET community (including researchers, academics, and VET practitioners).
  • Articles should include the aims of the research, how information was collected, and key findings.
  • If you refer to academic literature, your piece should include the references and a reference list.
  • If you refer to information owned by your industry or community partner, it is vital the partner has granted permission for you to submit your article.

Contributions are due by Thursday 30 September 2021 to Andrew Williamson at or on 0400 403 755 (including for more information).

Live webinar to feature skills pilot CEOs


The National Apprentice Employment Network is holding the next in its series of live webinars – this one examining the work of the three Skills Organisation pilots in the areas of mining, digital and human services.

‘Turbocharging Skills: Industries to Watch’ will feature the CEOs of the three Skills Organisation pilots, Dr Gavin Lind – Mining; Jodi Schmidt – Human Services; and Patrick Kidd – Digital Services.

The three CEOs will be joined in conversation by Dr Peta Skujins from the Australian Apprenticeships and Traineeships Information Service.

The live webinar is presented with the support of the National Careers Institute.

More information

TAFE graduate, now MP, to be Victoria's TAFE ambassador

Victorian MP and TAFE graduate Sonja Terpstra has been appointed as the Victorian government’s new TAFE Ambassador.

The member for Eastern Metropolitan says TAFE formed the foundation of her career. She studied typing and shorthand at TAFE before securing a job in administration which opened the door to representing working people within the union movement and eventually led to a career in politics.

“I wouldn’t be where I am if it wasn’t for TAFE – it has opened so many doors for me and gave me the vital foundational skills I needed to get straight into the workforce,” Ms Terpstra said.

The Minister for Training and Skills Gayle Tierney said Ms Terpstra will visit TAFEs and engage with staff and students to share their TAFE stories, strengthen industry partnership models, work with employers to make TAFE graduates their first choice, and provide advice and ideas to government.

ACCC examining Turnitin’s proposed acquisition of Ouriginal

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has released a statement of issues outlining preliminary competition concerns regarding Turnitin’s proposed acquisition of Ouriginal.

Turnitin is the dominant provider of anti-plagiarism software (APS) to Australian higher education institutions. Ouriginal is one of its two main competitors.

The ACCC is considering if by removing one of the only competitive constraints on Turnitin, the proposed acquisition may lead to higher prices and/or lower service levels for Australian higher education institutions who acquire APS and/or the proposed acquisition may lead to reduced global innovation that results in reduced product innovation and lower product quality for Australian higher education customers of APS.

The ACCC invites submissions from interested parties by 5pm on 27 September 2021, to with the subject line as: Submission re: Turnitin/Ouriginal.

If you would like to discuss this matter with ACCC staff, or have any questions, please contact the ACCC’s Steven Lee on (02) 6243 1347 or Sidd Sharma on (02) 9102 4011.

The ACCC anticipates making a final decision on 18 November 2021, however, this timeline can change. To keep updated with possible timing changes and to find relevant documents, interested parties should visit the ACCC’s Mergers Register.

Beta version of My Skills website open for review

The federal government has released a BETA version of the new My Skills website which contains a series of new features and is open for feedback.

The My Skills BETA website can be accessed from the current My Skills website. There are five new features that can be tested. For each of the five features, you will be directed to the new BETA site to perform the following activities:

  • the list view search results page
  • the comparison page (any 2 courses only)
  • the course details page
  • the RTO details page
  • a course at RTO details page.

A popup survey will appear and feedback is able to be provided until September 21.

Virtual AIEC Conference, 5-8 October 2021

The 2021 Australian International Education Conference is less than a month away!

As with every year, AIEC is an opportunity to meet with industry leaders and peers to learn, share, network and make meaningful connections.

This year’s virtual event will explore the theme ‘new horizons’ through five key subthemes: global challenges, digital innovation, life and learning, policy and politics and strategic insights.

Please also note two VET focused sessions chaired by TDA:

  • Challenges and Opportunities of International VET, with speakers from Holmesglen, TAFE Queensland and Melbourne Polytechnic
  • The role of Chisholm Institute in the Vietnam TVET reform program.

See here for more information and to register.

Diary Dates

2021 National VET Conference
Velg Training
9 – 19 September 2021
Gold Coast Convention and Exhibition Centre
More informationVictorian TAFE Association
2021 State Conference: ‘Connecting the Dots’
16 – 17 September 2021 (virtual)
More informationNational Symposium on the Student Experience
University of Melbourne
17 September 2021
More information

Human Services Workforce Forum Adelaide
22 September 2021
Register your interest in attending this event via the below links:
Employers / Service Providers – 1:30pm (Online event)

Human Services Workforce Forum Adelaide
23 September 2021
Register your interest in attending this event via the below links:
Training Organisations – 1.30pm (Online)

Human Services Workforce Forum NT
27 September 2021
Register your interest in attending this event via the below links:
Training Organisations – 9.30am
Employers / Service Providers – 1.30pm

Free online OctoberVET events

National Skills Commission
Training Product Similarity Research using innovative advanced techniques
11 October 2021
More information

Aotearoa New Zealand’s Reform of Vocational Education and Training (RoVE)TePūkenga (NZ Institute of Skills and Technology) aspirations and promises
13 October 2021
More information

Join the authors featured in the May 2021 edition of the Research Today magazine to hear more about their research
19 October 2021
More information

The relationship between migration to Australia and international education history and future directions
20 October 2021

Australian International Education Conference 2021
5 – 8 October 2021
Gold Coast & Online
More informationHuman Services Workforce Forum Melbourne
7 October 2021
Register your interest in attending this event via the below links:
Employers – 9.30am
Training Organisations – 1.30pmHuman Services Workforce Forum Sydney
14 October 2021
Register your interest in attending this event via the below links:
Employers / Service Providers – 9.30am
Training Organisations – 1.30pm

Human Services Workforce Forum Canberra
26 October 2021
Register your interest in attending this event via the below links:
Employers / Service Providers – 1.30pm (Online event)

Human Services Workforce Forum Canberra
27 October 2021
Register your interest in attending this event via the below links:
Training Organisations – 1.30pm (Online event)

Australian Training Awards
18 November 2021
Perth, Western Australia
More information
2021 VDC Virtual Teaching & Learning Conference
VET Development Centre
18 – 19 November 2021 (Online)
More information

National Apprentice Employment Network
National Conference
15 – 17 March 2022
Hotel Grand Chancellor Hobart, Tasmania
More information