The VET moon shot – comment by CEO Craig Robertson

The VET moon shot – comment by CEO Craig Robertson

There has been some commentary arising from TDA’s submission to the Productivity Commission about the centrality of technology transfer and TAFEs role in it. Surely the advancement of students is the mission, was the question? Walla – what comes first, skills or industry?

Skills are embodied in the individual and Industry utilises them – both the individuals and their skills. Both must progress over time though, and the challenge is how to do that.

Technology transfer – is not just about coding and computers – but is the way a country produces, fabricates, distributes, sells and delivers goods and services, from the smallest of inputs to an end state whether it be a product, a construction, a service or client recovered from a health intervention. These components are no longer exchanged and traded solely within a country but around the globe.

VET provides skills for most of these components. They are part of our economic, health and social activity.

The technology race in on though – more so than the Americans’ race to the moon following the success of Sputnik.

It’s been a while since we’ve used the slide rule for complex calculations, or a ledger book for book-keeping or a pen and paper to write a letter. Technology moves on. There is now plenty of evidence around us that exponential technology change is heading our way triggered by automation, digitisation, 5G and AI. If we think the occupations served by VET are immune from new technology transactions, we need to think again. There is a push for building automation technologies to speed up construction, automatic brick laying machines take over back breaking work and sensors measure the vital signs of a patient previously done by the nurse. Technologies cross fields. Mining industry executives tell me that diesel mechanics also need core electrotechnology skills to service their technology laden heavy loaders. Who would have thought a blow torch is a key tool in the modern kitchen to finish off the meringue?

These are all aspects of the world of work which the VET sector needs to keep up with. Training packages are far from the facsimile for technology transfer. The neatly codified and collated standards upon which packages are made are about the behaviours to be demonstrated in the workplace. They represent some elements of the technology of production but it is hard to see how they gear up an individual for the tough gig of work in the context of rapid change.

The Productivity Commission seems to have built its recommendations for VET on this simple form. It believes a market can deliver for VET in Australia. This can only be based on the notion that competency, as prescribed in training packages underpinned by a loose description of the standards expected of a training organisation, will deliver. A sum of simple transactions begging for the cheapest price and convenient delivery, with quality secured through more loose regulation.

The rate of change – the increase in sophistication in technology transfer – even the exponential increase in consumer expectations – should cause us to stop and think that maybe some new approaches are needed.

Professor John Buchannan in his submission to the Commission concludes, ‘This (VET) system is anchored around formal compliance with fragmented units of competence – not coherent ensembles of skill that define people’s substantive capacity to adapt to changing circumstances. The antidote? ‘Most importantly, there is no substantive institutional basis for education and skills quality,’ he concludes.

TAFEs are the institutional element bringing together the two elements – skills and industry. It is what is often called TAFEs as anchor institutions. If training packages are not the answer to rapid technology change then what is? This is the other element of the institutional capacity of TAFEs. Across many areas of industry and technology they have the capability, part of their public mission, to keep pace with technology. As the leaders in these fields, consistent again with public ownership, they can bring new technology to industries and across industries.

The question is whether a new form of organising for technical and vocational education can be framed that is more than fragmented competency to be delivered by the cheapest bidder.

It’s a new form of vocational education and a much-needed capability secured in the public purpose of TAFEs for the benefit of all.

I invoke JFK:

We choose to go to the Moon…We choose to go to the Moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard; because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one we intend to win, and the others, too.

This is the VET sector’s shot to the moon. The new frontier.

I reckon a workforce skilled by a new form of VET would break barriers we couldn’t even dream of. Skilled and activated individuals can create new industry. Maybe skills does come first?

A quarter of trade apprentices witness workplace bullying, report finds

More than a quarter of traditional trade apprentices witnessed bullying in the workplace, last year, according to new research by the NCVER.

The report, ‘Traditional trade apprenticeships: experiences and outcomes’ found that during 2019, 26.9% of traditional trade apprentices witnessed bullying, with females (49.6%) far more likely to witness the behaviour than males (24.1%).

The highest incidence of reported bullying was in Food Trades (43.6%) and ‘Other traditional trades’ (41.7%).

The report found that traditional trade apprentices reported generally high levels of satisfaction with their off-the-job training, irrespective of whether they completed their apprenticeship.

Those who did not complete their apprenticeship predominantly cited employment-related reasons, highlighting the critical role of employers in supporting apprentice completion.

There were good employment outcomes for those who completed their apprenticeship, with more than 90% in work.

Holmesglen graduate named Australia's best pie maker

Holmesglen graduate Chan Khun and his team at Victoria’s Country Cob Bakery have been named Australia’s best pie makers, for the third consecutive year.

Judges awarded Country Cob Bakery’s pepper beef pie the top honour at a national event held by the Baking Association of Australia.

Chan’s passion for baking started in the Holmesglen kitchens where he gained a Certificate III in Patisserie and then studied hospitality management.

The win has been reported widely across Australia through the ABC, SBS and SKY News, and in the UK through the BBC.

Chan came to Australia from Cambodia in 2004. He credits Holmesglen with helping to also build his professional communication and leadership skills. It gave him the confidence to start Country Cob Bakery with his brother, Ryan, in 2016. The brothers now run bakeries in Kyneton and Boronia.

“I learnt a lot from Holmesglen. Without my knowledge, I wouldn’t have come this far. I want people to see where I learnt, and then how I became successful,” he said.

The Victorian lockdown saw the bakery take on extra staff as it navigated to online deliveries. Chan says the Boronia store is now three times busier than usual.

CIT joins STEM-in-agriculture push

Canberra Institute of Technology has participated in the Australian Agriculture Centre’s virtual STEMConnect2020 program, promoting science, technology, engineering and maths to regional primary school students.

Ken Wilson, a CIT teacher and Global Wind Organisation Program Co-ordinator prepared a virtual presentation for students focussed on wind turbine generation and its relationship to STEM and agriculture.

“Our goal was to create a mindset in students around renewables, climate change and innovation in more rural areas, also to promote science and showcase all the different forms it might present itself in terms of a future career or employment,” he said.

“Wind power is beginning to contribute more to the base load power, and this is really good news for the young men and women looking to get into the industry.”

Read more

Mining skills pilot sets a goal of 1,000 new apprenticeships

The new Mining Skills Organisation Pilot project has set a goal of creating 1,000 additional apprenticeships, with an initial focus on heavy duty diesel fitters.

The program, which was announced last November and is run by the Minerals Council of Australia, has agreed to set up three project hubs – apprenticeships, digital transformation and attraction and retention.

According to the latest newsletter, the apprenticeship hub will aim to modernise how skilled tradespeople for the sector are educated, trained and developed.

“It will develop content, delivery and assessment modes that better align industry need and apprentice knowledge, with the goal of creating a flexible model for future use with other trades,” it says.

The digital transformation hub will aim to develop training products relating to automation and the application of digital technologies, with the goal of embedding existing automation training products into the training package framework.

GOTAFE helping jobseekers build skills and confidence

Jobseekers in Victoria’s Shepparton region are finding new work opportunities as a result of a pilot program involving GOTAFE and local community organisation, GROW.

The first cohort of students recently received their certificates, helping them to gain new skills, while building a workforce to meet local industry needs.

GOTAFE Student Pathways director John Lee told WIN News that the program is aimed at developing a pathway for people facing employment barriers so they can use their existing skills to gain a start.

“We wanted to remove the pressure of people needing to be assessed,” he said.

“So, in order to get that confidence you need to have a formal assessment process. And it wasn’t about that – it was about preparing them with a skill set.”

GROW Program Manager Leanne Hulm said the organisation’s links with local industry means there is a ready market for people with skills who are willing and able to work.

See WIN News

LH Martin Institute unveils 'festival of webinars'

The LH Martin institute will replacie its regular conference this year with a Festival of Webinars – or WebFest – which will feature a host of speakers across the higher education and TAFE sectors.

The October WebFest will feature a webinar every Thursday during the month around the theme: Crisis, responsibility and opportunity: Educational leadership during major change.

You can get details here.

SA scholarships to help TAFE students progress

The Playford Trust in South Australia is providing up to five awards of $2000 each for TAFE SA students to assist with their future studies.

The scholarships are available for those undertaking a Certificate ll, lll or Diploma in the following areas: Horticulture, Aquaculture, Agriculture, Conservation and Land Management, Mining and Exploration, Spatial Information and Surveying, and Food Technology.

While students are open to apply at any stage of their TAFE studies, preference will be given to students who have completed at least one semester, or can demonstrate personal and/or professional growth through studying at TAFESA or elsewhere in the VET sector.

Applications are open and will close this Friday, 18 September.

See more.

Diary Dates

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

TAFE NSW: The 4th Bangamalanha Conference (virtual)
23 September 2020
More information

LH Martin Institute
Web Fest
1 – 29 October 2020
More information

National VET PD Week
Velg Training
26 – 30 October 2020
More information

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

Australian Training Awards
20 November 2020
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