The Romance of Capability – comment by CEO Craig Robertson

The Romance of Capability – comment by CEO Craig Robertson

Leaves are wilted, colour pallid, petals limp. The soaring passion is now grounded in the reality of life – it’s a week since Valentine’s Day[1]!

In what can only be a sad reflection on my reflections, I’ve wondered how the VET system would assess the competency of romance. Stupid. Silly. Out of touch you might say, but it’s not too far from the realms of possibility. It doesn’t take much scanning of to find something similar; a unit on emotional intelligence – BSBPEF502 – Develop and use emotional intelligence (EI).

One conceptual shuffle and emotional intelligence falls into the general capability category, or as a 21st Century Skill, which is often the term used in the US. In a seminal piece[2] co-authored by Dr Jim Watterston, Dean of Melbourne Graduate School of Education and released this week he eloquently outlines the challenge facing school education (and education more broadly):

For humans to thrive in the age of smart machines, it is essential that they do not compete with machines. Instead, they need to be more human. Being unique and equipped with social-emotional intelligence are distinct human qualities … that machines do not have (yet). In an AI world individual creativity, artistry and humanity will be important commodities that distinguish us from each other.

Modesty prevents me from broadcasting my own competency in the romance stakes, but I can tell you about the experience of a close friend of mine. He proposed late one summer evening at the foot of the bell tower on Lake Burley Griffin followed by a picnic, only for the sprinklers to come on! It had followed a day of the couple retracing their favourite spots around Canberra. Filling the car with petrol on his way to the potential in-laws to ask in that old fashioned way for permission, his mind was so distracted he took off without paying.

The EI unit is faithful to the training package competency template – expression of learning and assessment in behavioural terms. There are 13 behavioural outputs (performance criteria), five knowledge elements and seven foundation skills which all must be demonstrated in two work tasks (or simulation) and one of promoting development of EI in others.

In what is a green shoot for the sector, the unit is an attempt at capability. Capability is a different concept to competency, however. Capability is a set of knowledge, aptitude and attitude of the individual which has a lifetime return and, just like reading and writing (and now digital), is the springboard for adaptability across a career.

The process-focused methodology in training packages is temporal and will be found wanting when it comes to foundation skills which is up for review on two fronts – a federal parliamentary enquiry and the review of foundation skills for the new national partnership. Foundation skills and capability are acquired through a learning journey, not as tidbit add-ons which seems to be the model in mainstream VET.

On economic grounds, capability makes sense. It has a far longer shelf-life for each of us which can be applied in more domains, whether in work, enterprise, citizenship, or democracy.

If we are serious about capability (and foundation skills) as the building blocks of success in an automated world, then we may need to seriously question the centrality of the occupation-competency nexus in VET. Sure, let competency frame training for process aspects of a job (where they remain) but let’s develop a new form of qualification guidance which builds capability and better reflects the intent of vocational education.

Curiously, if romance is measured in competency where there must be evidence of all designated observable requirements, I’d be far from competent if it were roses for each 14 February. Even on normative assessment grounds I’d still fail – I checked with my wife and its three or four out of thirty-one!

Some other things to contemplate.  There were 965 subject enrolments in the EI unit in 2018!  Speaking of foundation skills, my ability to construct this news piece could be assessed against FSKWTG011 – Write highly complex workplace texts but I’m not sure I’d bother as it’s only available in a Certificate II qualification.  No wonder there were only 65 subject enrolments in 2018. Appears writing isn’t that important!  My column next week will be a drawing!?

Seems we have a ways to go for the sector to come out smelling of roses.

[1] I dare not speculate how many Victorians managed to smuggle the long stem red roses to their loved ones!

Key aged care and disability support training package open for review

The first draft of a revised training package covering aged services, client care and disability support has been released for consultation and comment.

Three Industry Reference Committees – Aged Services, Direct Client Care, and Disability Support – have released Draft 1 of the Certificate III in Individual Support with specialisations in Ageing and Disability, along with the Certificate IV in Ageing Support and the Certificate IV in Disability Support.

A key objective of the consultation is to ensure that the qualifications and units of competency meet the needs of the relevant industry sectors. To assist with this, there is a consultation guide which lists key questions where comment is sought.

The consultation period is open for four weeks and closes on Friday 12 March.

All the information and feedback is being managed on the SkillsIQ Online Feedback Forum.

President Biden revives apprenticeships, dumps industry-led training

United States President Joe Biden has taken a decisive step to reinvigorate the country’s apprenticeship system by endorsing Registered Apprenticeships, and scrapping a Trump-era model of industry-led training.

President Biden has officially endorsed the bipartisan National Apprenticeship Act of 2021, which is expected to create nearly a million new registered apprenticeships, youth apprenticeships and pre-apprenticeships.

He is reversing the system of Industry Recognized Apprenticeship Programs (IRAPs) – a scheme introduced by former President Donald Trump, which, the White House says “threaten to undermine registered apprenticeship programs”.

“Industry-recognized apprenticeship programs have fewer quality standards than registered apprenticeship programs – for example, they fail to require the wage progression that reflects increasing apprentice skills and they lack the standardized training rigor that ensures employers know they are hiring a worker with high-quality training,” a White House statement says.

President Biden is also reinstating the National Advisory Committee on Apprenticeships which will appoint stakeholders, including unions, employers, apprentices, community colleges and other institution. The advisory committee will look at expanding apprenticeships into areas such as clean energy, technology, and healthcare.

“The Advisory Committee must also focus on making sure that Black and brown Americans, immigrants, and women can access the training and jobs of the future,” the White House says.

See the White House fact sheet on apprenticeships

NSW offers new VET courses following curriculum review

Real estate, robotics and entrepreneurship are among 20 new virtual VET courses being offered to NSW government high schools as part of the recent curriculum review.

The courses will also provide credit towards qualifications in apprenticeships in high demand areas such as engineering and robotics.

In addition to existing face-to-face VET, Year 11 and 12 students will have the opportunity to study teacher-led, digitally-enabled virtual TAFE NSW courses that will give them in-demand skills for the workplace. The courses will form part of the HSC and contribute to the ATAR.

Other courses being offered include Big Data, Cloud Computing, Construction and Virtual Design, Game Design, and Allied Health.

First meeting of WFCP group on Sustainable Development Goals

The World Federation of Colleges and Polytechnics (WFCP) will kick off the inaugural meeting of its new global affinity group on the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) this Wednesday (Sydney time).

The SDG Affinity Group, in collaboration with UNESCO-UNEVOC, is chaired by Colleges and Institutes Canada (CICan), and co-chaired by TAFE NSW, Instituto Nacional de Capacitación Profesional (INACAP) in Chile and the Kenya Association of Technical Training Institutes (KATTI).

The first guest speaker will be Charles A. Hopkins who holds the UNESCO Chair in reorienting education towards sustainability in Toronto, Canada. Hopkins is advisor to the United Nations University´s Global Network of Regional Centres of Expertise on Education for Sustainable Development, and Co-Director of the Asia-Pacific Institute on Education for Sustainable Development in Beijing, China.

Ongoing meetings will be held for an hour on the fourth Tuesday of every month. The exact time of each meeting will vary to accommodate circumstances. Continued conversation and engagement will occur in the UNESCO-UNEVOC TVET Forum.

If you are interested in learning more or joining this affinity group, please complete the application form. Once you have registered, you will receive a separate link for the event.

More information is available here.

COVID may be set to reverse the 'stigma of the trades'

The stigma of the trades – familiar to many in the VET sector – has emerged in the US as millions of people are looking for work, yet employers are facing skills shortages.

US network, PBS News Hour’s segment ‘Work Shift’ examines the clamour for university (or college) education, in the face of dire skills shortages and rising wages in many trades.

It features Mike Rowe, who appears as an apprentice on the TV series Dirty Jobs, and whose foundation spearheads a national campaign for skilled labor.

“The push for one form of (college) education, in my view, really was the beginning of a long list of stigmas and stereotypes and myths and misperceptions that to this day dissuade millions of kids from pursuing a legitimate opportunity to make six figures in the trades,” Rowe said.

“If you look at the way colleges have been able to raise their tuitions, and if you look at the speed with which the skills gap has widened, and if you look at the number of kids who are out there well-educated, but hopelessly in debt and not trained for a multitude of good jobs that actually exist, you begin to see the degree to which we’re disconnected.”

Reflecting on his career as an electrical engineer, Brian Lamorte tells the program he imagined he would end up working for a major company as a systems analyst.

“But, in reality, I eventually came to find, you can become replaced very easily. You can become very comfortable and then become obsolete very fast in the tech world.”

Rowe believes that the experience with COVID may spark a change of thinking, noting a new word that has entered the lexicon – “essential”.

“When things get back to normal, this country is going to enter a new age of work, a new age of making things and fixing things and building things, an age where skilled workers are going to be in demand like never before,” he says.

Regional universities peak body recruiting executive director

The Regional Universities Network (RUN), the peak body for regional higher education providers, has commenced the search for a new Executive Director.

Dr Perkins, the inaugural Executive Director of RUN, will finish in the role in the middle of this year and will move to the UK in late 2021 to spend time with her family and pursue further studies.

Dr Perkins had planned an earlier departure from the role, but will extend her tenure to ensure a smooth transition to a new chair and an incoming executive director.

The chair of RUN and CQUniversity’s vice-chancellor, Professor Nick Klomp, said that Dr Perkins had made a fundamental contribution in overseeing the growth and development of the group over more than nine years.

“Over this time, RUN has grown from six to seven member universities, and has become a highly influential body advocating for policies and programs to assist our institutions, students and communities,” Professor Klomp said.

For further information on the role, email:

Diary Dates

WFCP (World Federation of Colleges & Polytechnics)
Lessons from the pandemic – Resilience

26 February 2021 (Sydney time)
More information

Workforce of the future event series: What do Employers Want?
Department Of Education, Skills And Employment
26 February 2021
More information

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

VET CEO Conference
Velg Training
19 March 2021 (Online)
More information

Year13 Expo
17 – 19 May 2021
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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 

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
Hobart, Tasmania
More information soon

National Skills Week
23 – 29 August 2021
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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