The race of life is pertinent this week – comment by CEO Craig Robertson

The race of life is pertinent this week – comment by CEO Craig Robertson

There’s something about races in November, at least at the quadrennial climax this year! A political race in Queensland, the horse race that stops the nation tomorrow and the race the whole world is watching – for the White House. The latter unearths deep anxiety around the globe, to see whether geo-political tensions can be wound back and, what appears to be a haphazard response to COVID-19, can be stabilised and with it the US economy.

It’s curious that we look on with such interest although not surprising given our close defence, economic and neo-cultural ties with America.

I was surprised by Trump’s result in 2016. Even as an amateur sleuth of the unique voting system, I thought the popular vote to Clinton would be enough, but the rust-belt states of North East US had something for Trump.

Jacob Greber, the US correspondent for the Australian Financial Review recently took a road trip through those rustbelt states, and reported: “Town after town shows the ravages of economic decline, inequality, and absence of real economic opportunity, save for anchor industries such as government-funded prisons or farm work.[1]

The economic decline follows a pattern. Greber goes on to say: “Inside the (city) circle is where Democrats live but as you drive away from the town hall or the downtown coffee shops, through the smart older suburbs, the houses become less cared for, and eventually you hit the scrappier backblocks. It’s at that point that you know you’ve just crossed the line into Trump country.”

Geographic inequality in the US is stark. Just 31 counties out of more than 3,000 nationwide account for a third of the nation’s GDP and more than a third of the jobs in its most innovative industries — technology, computer manufacturing, biotech, telecommunications and the like — are located in just 16 counties.[2]

Still, in the face of what appears to be exaggerated promises, possibly boldfaced lies, why did they vote for him?

Michel Martin, host of National Public Radio’s All Things Considered summed it up well the day after the 2016 election: “…when you are drowning, facing wages that disappear or don’t keep up with your bills, when you feel you can’t get ahead no matter how hard you try, you’ll grab the rope that’s thrown to you. And most people, I dare say, won’t care if the person throwing the rope is black or white or speaks the King’s English or yaps like a junkyard dog, or even, frankly, if the person throwing it to you seems to turn his back on everyone else. That’s how it is when you’re drowning.”

It’s very convenient to think this is a problem of America’s own making; the neo-liberal disposition of governments, or citizens’ strong hold on personal liberty which seem to limit government intervention.

But our geography, demography and education attainment are not dissimilar.

This year’s Education Opportunity outlook[3], on a quinquennial cycle, should jolt us out of any slumber or superiority complex. Australia’s education system is failing one in three children and young people. It would be of little surprise that those falling behind in the race to success are distributed on socio-economic and geographic lines.

It is always easy to discount any comparison – different economic and social constructs. Don’t get me wrong, we have a world-class welfare safety net and good wage setting but these are not a good foil.

OECD’s measures go beyond that. PIIAC – the Programme for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies – in particular. We compare reasonably with our traditional allies but are behind Nordic countries and Singapore. Crucially, we are not well prepared for the next wave of technology – almost half (44.5 per cent) of 20-24 year-olds were assessed with the lowest level of problem solving in a technology rich context.

When I watch footage of Trump devotees I am perplexed by their attitudes, sometimes affronted. But then again, I’m not the one seeing opportunity and security fall out of my grasp.

The race looks distant and successful finishes unlikely for too many Australians. Global we don’t look much better. Senator
O’Neill highlighted in parliament last week that Australia ranks 24th out of 28 OECD countries in spending on VET – wedged between the Slovak Republic and Turkey.[4] There’s a lot of catching up to do otherwise we may be closer to the US on other matters as well.

[1] Australian Financial Review, 16 October 2020

Free TAFE to be extended following Labor's Queensland election win 

Labor’s win in the Queensland state election is set to see the wide-scale rollout of free TAFE courses in key industries to anyone under the age of 25.

The free TAFE pledge was a key commitment of Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk who has secured a near-certain majority, and a third term, following Saturday’s state poll.

The premier promised that if re-elected she would extend the current program of free TAFE and free apprenticeships which has assisted some 24,000 young people.

“Now we’re going further by extending that to under 25s,” Ms Palaszczuk announced at the Labor campaign launch a fortnight ago.

“That means another 37,000 young people throughout Queensland will be able to get world-class vocational training for free.”

The Minister for Training and Skills Development Shannon Fentiman said the extended program will apply to 165 priority qualification areas, including health services, hospitality, engineering, aged and disability support and early childhood education.

Revised apprentice wage subsidy scheme off to a strong start

More than 6,000 applications have already been received from employers for the federal government’s $1.2 billion Boosting Apprenticeships Commencements wage subsidy, Senate Estimates heard last week.

The government made a number of changes to the scheme to restrict existing workers following concerns it could be exploited by some unscrupulous employers or training providers.

There will be no restrictions on trade commencements by existing workers. But for traineeships, there will be a cap 30 per employer and only where a casual worker is transferring to part-time or full-time, or a part-time worker is transferring to full-time.

Officials from the Department of Education, Skills and Employment told the Senate committee that 6,093 applications had been received, so far, and that modelling suggests that existing workers will make up less than 10 per cent of the 100,000 available places.

The committee was told that one training provider has already been referred to the Australian Skills Quality Authority over possible malpractice.

George Thiveos, First Assistant Secretary at DESE said the behaviour of training providers and employers would be closely scrutinised for unusual activity suggesting a sudden increase in new apprentices or existing workers.

“Because it’s quite strange if you’ve currently got 10 (apprentices) and all of a sudden you think you can do 50, 60 or 70, for example, so we’re actually looking at that in terms of the quality of training,” he said.

South West TAFE scores a double at Victorian training awards

It was a big week for South West TAFE which was named Large Training Provider of the Year at the Victorian Training Awards.

But South West TAFE also celebrated the award of Apprentice of the Year for plumbing graduate, Shona McGuigan.

Due to COVID constraints, the awards are being presented as a series of virtual announcements over a two-week period, with the Minister for Training and Skills Gayle Tierney presenting the main award.

The Industry Collaboration Award went to Sunraysia Institute of TAFE and Chaffey Aged Care.

Vocational Student of the Year was awarded to Simon Watts who is studying a Diploma of Community Services at Wodonga Institute of TAFE.

Small Training Provider of the Year went to Builders Academy Australia. Large Employer of the Year is Swan Plumbing Supplies, and Medium Employer of the Year is Mambourin Business Solutions.

Other awards will be announced this week here on Facebook

Quality, not price, to determine 'efficient' VET courses

National Skills Commissioner Adam Boyton says that the task of determining efficient prices for training courses around Australia will be based around quality, and not just the lowest price.

One of the NSC’s key tasks is to work with states and territories to develop a set of efficient prices for VET courses, including cost drivers.

Mr Boyton told a Senate Estimates hearing last week that the commission’s approach would not focus solely on price.

“It’s not the lowest price – it’s the price that gives you the quality outcome that you want and that, I think, is really quite crucial,” he said.

He said the team working on the project was conscious that to achieve a dynamic VET sector, it was important to have high quality training organisations, and to strike the right balance between quality and price.

Mr Boyton said Deloitte Access Economics has been engaged to design an instrument that will soon go to a sample of high quality training providers to help determine prices, initially for those qualifications with the highest enrolments.

The VET pricing model is due at the end of next year.

Chisholm teacher voted Australia's best make-up artist

A Chisholm Institute teacher and make-up artist has been named as one of the country’s best, taking out the prize for Bridal Make-up Artist of the Year 2020 at the Australian Make-up Industry Awards.

Jane Truong, pictured, is a passionate make-up artist and teacher at Chisholm’s Dandenong and Frankston campuses.

Her brides have featured in publications such as Cosmopolitan Bride, Wedding and Bride, Brides, Polkadot Bride and Aisle Society, and her students have gone on to successful careers in a highly competitive industry.

Jane is renowned for her impeccable bridal looks which combine natural beauty with luxurious glamour.

“I’m all about growth and I’m very in love with the industry I work in so to be nominated as a finalist was very rewarding,” Jane said.

“Pre-COVID I was working 6-7 days a week so didn’t have the time to reflect on how I was going. All I knew was that I was putting 110% in all the bridal bookings I did and thrived in making my clients look and feel as beautiful and happy as possible.”

See more about Jane here

VET FEE-HELP toll expected to hit $3bn

The legacy of the failed VET FEE-HELP saga will continue for some time, with approximately another $1 billion to be re-credited to former students.

Officials from the Department of Education, Skills and Employment told Senate Estimates hearings last week that just over $2 billion has so far been re-credited to 128,400 students.

However, they said another $1 billion was estimated to be added to the bill.

The VET Ombudsman is still receiving around 1200 complaints a quarter from students who were targeted by unscrupulous training colleges until the scheme ended in 2017.

Department Secretary Dr Michele Bruniges told the committee that ongoing actions have recovered $720 million from unscrupulous VFH providers, including $344 million from just nine providers.

Cyber entrepreneurs turn theory into practice 

A group of Canberra Institute of Technology (CIT) cyber graduates have formed their own cyber security business, BaraSOC, and are now developing services and facilities to help smaller businesses navigate the digital world.

The students met while studying a Certificate IV in Cyber Security.

The BaraSOC team members, including CIT teacher Dr Waqas Haider who is acting as manager and mentor, are volunteering their time until the business generates a cash flow.

The BaraSOC team comes from a diverse range of educational backgrounds. Most have previous IT experience, but some also have qualifications in accounting, business studies, science, psychology and child care.

Founding member Greg Haron said the team is now developing cyber security training materials for other students and workers in small business.

“Our initial emphasis will be on training, but we have ambitions to expand into other areas,” Greg said.

Read more about BaraSOC and see more about Cyber courses at CIT.

Private college sector's 80% claim not the full story: NCVER

The claim that private colleges account for 80 per cent of the VET sector was put under the spotlight at a Senate Estimates hearing last week.

Appearing before the committee, the Managing Director of NCVER Simon Walker was asked whether it was true that of the 4.2 million VET students, more than a third, or 1.5 million, were in courses of eight hours or less, mostly at private providers.

“I think you’d have to say it is more prevalent to do those short courses through non-TAFE providers,” Mr Walker acknowledged.

West Australian Labor Senator Louise Pratt then asked whether Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s assertion that more than 80% of training was done outside of TAFE referred to these short courses.

“That’s a huge component of it,” Mr Walker said, noting that the 80 per cent figure was only accurate in terms of “student counts”.

“But if you’re talking about student loads – so that takes into account higher level qualifications – it’s a different story,” Mr Walker said.

Senator Pratt noted NCVER’s response to an earlier question on notice, which showed that “very short courses” such as first aid CPR, basic life support, RSI, gambling services, and work health and safety accounted for more than 3 million of the 4.2 million VET students.

“So, in terms of how many people are in substantive training, it’s certainly not 4.2. million,” Senator Pratt said.

Mr Walker said that the most up to date data for 2019 was likely to show TAFE as the dominant provider for the trades, with private providers attracting large numbers of students in community services and health

Vacancy for VET academic at Federation University

Federation University is advertising for a new academic position as a result of increased numbers in its teacher education programs.

The position is for a VET academic at either Lecturer or Senior Lecturer level. It is a full-time position in the School of Education, and is located at the Mt Helen Campus.

Federation University also hosts the successful research group, RAVE (Researching Adult and Vocational Education), and the candidate would be expected to play an active role in research.

Details about the position are available here or on the website.

Anyone wanting further information is invited to contact Professor Erica Smith from Federation University’s School of Education by email: or on 03 5327 9665.

Applications close November 8.

Regional VET scholarships now open 

Young Australians in ten selected regions experiencing high youth unemployment can now apply for a VET scholarship, under the third round of the Commonwealth Scholarships Program for Young Australians.

The program provides scholarships of up to $5,000 a year, for around 400 young Australians from select regions to undertake an approved course of study. The scholarships target occupations in projected growth industries and in-demand occupations within each region.

Recipients also complete a 20-day paid internship, for which they receive an additional $3,000. Host employers receive $1,500 per intern hosted.

See more

Diary Dates

AVETRA 2020 Researcher Development Series
Webinars designed for early career, emerging and practitioner researchers
June 2020 – March 2021
More information

OctoberVET 2020
A series of online events in October showcasing VET research and discussion.

‘Social justice research and vocational education: A conversation with Professor Liz Atkins (University of Derby, UK)’

Host: Dr Teressa Schmidt (CQUniversity) Member of AVETRA Executive Committee

Date: This is a pre-recorded interview, which is available here: Recording

Enquiries: Dr Teressa Schmidt

Flyer: Attached

The multi-stakeholder engagement model (the ecosystem) for applied research and innovation in the Basque Country: insights from TKNIKA’ withIñigo Araiztegui and Unai Ziarsolo (TKNIKA).

Host: Andrew Williamson (Holmesglen Institute of TAFE)

Date: 5th November, 9am – 10.30 (AEDT)

Webinar Link: Provided upon registration


Flyer: Attached

Register here

‘How can VET teachers apply the Principles of Universal Design in Education to support learners of all abilities?’ with Annemaree Gibson and Annie Carney (Teaching and Learning Enhancement, Box Hill Institute)

Date: 4th November, 12.30pm – 1.30pm (AEDT)

Webinar Link: Provided upon registration


Flyer: Attached

Register here

‘Learning in turbulent times’, hosted by Federation University, featuring Anthony Mann (OECD) speaking about ‘Young people and the COVID-19 Labour Market’ along with three Federation University presentations focusing on Men’s Sheds; Community learning in adversity; and People’s learning about the COVID-19 pandemic.

Date: 16th November, 6pm – 8pm (AEDT)

Webinar Link: Provided upon registration


Flyer: Attached

Register here

VDC 2020 Virtual Teaching & Learning Conference
19 & 20 November 2020
Registrations Open

Australian Training Awards
20 November 2020
Virtual event
More information

Velg Training & MRWED
30 November – 4 December 2020
More information

TAFE Directors Australia Convention 2021
29 – 30 April 2021
Westin Hotel, Perth
More information coming soon

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