Time to consider what more our education and training system can do for veterans – comment by CEO Craig Robertson

Time to consider what more our education and training system can do for veterans - comment by CEO Craig Robertson

Australians have been transfixed with the courage and fortitude of the returned service women and men participating in the Invictus Games in Sydney this past week. Rebuilding ability that had been taken by a weapon of war and overcoming the mental demons that haunt the annuls of the mind were the heart of competition. Small steps of improvement were celebrated as much as the medals.

I was fortunate to be invited to an Invictus Games function at the Royal Flying Yacht Squadron hosted by the Australian Defence Force Academy of the University of NSW, titled The Power of Education.

Speakers told of education as the pathway of recovery for many injured service personnel, and – for the close to 5,500 members discharging from the Australian Defence Force each year – the source of confidence to compete for civilian jobs. Yet, they face prejudice and are victims of our stereotypes.

The technical skills acquired in the services are second to none. Leadership, teamwork and communication skills are acquired in a unique setting and are refined sometimes in the most harrowing of circumstances.

A simple suggestion was to give greater recognition of these capabilities in the reshaping of the Australian Qualifications Framework. This way employers can get a more balanced view of the claims of the presenting service personnel. As part of the Skilling Australians Fund, the federal government committed also to fund projects for transitioning retiring service personnel into work. There has been no announcement on that front, but I will follow it up.

Then, why is education so powerful? I’m drawn to the writings of Amartya Sen, the winner of the Nobel Prize in Economics, who writes on the notion of individual agency. He says, “With adequate social opportunities, individuals can effectively shape their own destiny and that of others.” 1  While his thesis concerns developmental economics, Sen sees education as a key plank in building agency.

High quality education and training in a democratic society should have no lesser an objective. We owe it to all students but even more to those who put themselves in harm’s way so we continue to have the freedom to offer such training.

Borrowing again from Invictus, William Ernest Henley’s close of the poem says it better than me:

It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate,
I am the captain of my soul.

Note: I was most proud to share that over recent years four retired Service leaders have been engaged as CEOs of our TAFEs.

1 Sen, Amartya, Development as Freedom, Anchor Books, 2000 p11

Government says apprentice target won't be reached under national skills fund

Federal government officials have confirmed that the goal of creating 300,000 apprenticeships under the Skilling Australians Fund will not be reached.

In last week’s Senate estimates hearing, the Department of Education and Training said the decision of Victoria and Queensland not to sign the agreement meant that the target of 300,000 apprentice commencements over five years would not be met.

“We now need to take into account the fact that Victoria and Queensland did not sign up to the National Partnership Agreement, so that element of the national partnership numbers would not be part of the arrangement,” Acting Deputy Secretary, Skills and Training, Dr James Hart said.

It was seized on by the Shadow Minister for Skills, TAFE and Apprenticeships, Senator Doug Cameron.

“At least there’s a concession now that you won’t make the 300,000,” Senator Cameron said.

The Minister for Skills and Vocational Education Senator Michaelia Cash laid the blame on the two Labor states who “rejected the money”.

“It is the two Labor states of Queensland and Victoria that did not sign by 30th September and, as a result, when a state does not sign up, there will be a reduction, it is not a concession,” Senator Cash said.

Officials also indicated that the federal funding set aside for Victoria and Queensland would be returned to consolidated revenue. Craig Robertson, CEO of TAFE Directors Australia is most disappointed with this approach.

“The Commonwealth would prefer to play politics with Victoria and Queensland than find a way to allocate those funds to increase apprenticeships,” he said.

Finalists announced for Australian Training Awards

TAFEs are among the finalists for the Australian Training Awards, with the winners to be announced in Sydney on November 15.

The finalists which were announced yesterday are:

Large Training Provider of the Year: North Metropolitan TAFE, Wodonga TAFE, and TAFE NSW Design Centre Enmore

International Training Provider of the Year: Holmesglen, TAFE Queensland, and Box Hill Institute.

Small Training Provider of the Year: PEER, Institute of Culinary Excellence, and Wisdom Learning.

Australian Apprenticeships – Employer Award:  Siemens, Assetlink, and Affinity Education Group.

School Pathways to VET Award: Busselton Senior High School, Sunshine Coast Technical Trade Training Centre, and John Eyre High School.

Large Employer of the Year:  International Convention Centre Sydney, Roy Hill Holdings, and PACCAR Australia.

Small Employer of the Year: Rick Maier Paint Plus, Spencer Constructions Queensland, and Caj Hair and Beauty Studio.

Medium Employer of the Year:  North Construction & Building, NEC Australia, and Wickham Flower & Co.

VET researchers provide a look into new fields of study

Leading VET researchers showcased some of the latest fields of academic inquiry at the AVETRA research forum in Canberra on Friday.

Gitta Siekmann from the National Centre for Vocational Education Research (NCVER) gave a glimpse into her latest research project which taps into new data sources to show how the type of training provider can affect student outcomes.

Gerald Burke provided his insights into the recent history of training market contestability at the state and federal level, together with the impacts of VET funding decline.

Alex Ferry, Paul Edwards and Michael Wyndham looked at the vexed issue of duplication in units of competency.

Linda Simon imagined a reformed VET sector, while Berwyn Clayton and Roger Harris provided insights into recent academic examination of training research.

Elaine Butler put the case for a national equity policy as part of the VET agenda.

The issue of VET teacher quality and alternatives to the current approach were canvassed in presentations from Teressa Schmidt and Barry McKnight, while the learning environment was under the spotlight from Susanne Francisco and Liam Frost-Camilleri.

The apprentice sector was the focus of several presentations. Erica Smith canvassed her recent project which examined apprenticeships across the G20 countries as well as an upcoming study which will look at the role of intermediaries in the apprentice system.

Phil Toner discussed the opportunities and the limits in the emerging area of higher level apprenticeships, with a focus on advanced manufacturing, while Keiko Yasukawao looked at advanced apprenticeships through a partnership between TAFE and an SME.

A great example of the linkage between teaching and applied research was presented by the team from William Angliss Institute.

Left to right; Andre Diez de Aux, TDA; Paula McKenry, Canberra Institute of Technology; Professor Erica Smith, Federation University; Robin Shreeve, AVETRA; Kelly Fisher, Department of Education and Training; and Dr Damien Pearce, National Youth Science Forum.


Members announced for aged care skills committee

The Australian Industry and Skills Committee (AISC) has announced the 21 members who will make up the new Aged Services Industry Reference Committee (IRC).

The Aged Services IRC has been established to respond to the findings of the recently completed  Aged Care Workforce Strategy and to oversee the skilling requirements of the workforce.

The membership comprises representatives from the health professions, employer representatives and peak bodies, employee representatives, trade unions and education and training peak bodies.

See more.

More colleges having their applications knocked back, says ASQA

The Australian Skills Quality Authority (ASQA) has revealed that the rate of rejection of new entrants into the training market reached a high in the most recent financial year.

ASQA’s annual report shows that it rejected 29.1% of applications for initial registration in 2017-18, up from 19.5% the previous financial year and 12.2% in 2013-14.

ASQA said the relatively high rate rejection rate demonstrates the value of ASQA’s work in increasing the scrutiny on applicants for initial registration.

The rate of non-compliance by training organisations also reached a high of 56.3% in 2017-18, something ASQA says is partly due to regulatory changes in 2016 that removed a rectification opportunity, and the maturing of ASQA’s risk intelligence which better targets poor quality providers.

See ASQA’s 2017-18 annual report.

A new tool to explain the perplexing history of skills and training

The National Centre for Vocational Education Research (NCVER) has helped to unravel the world of VET with the latest addition to its VET Knowledge Bank which includes a series of landmark documents and a history with policies, publications, and a revealing timeline covering the myriad ministers and departments overseeing skills and training over the last 25 years.

Education department skills forum to share progress on VET strategy 

The Commonwealth Department of Education and Training is holding its 2018 Skills Forum in Sydney on Thursday 15 November from 11 am to midday.

The annual event is held on the day of the Australian Training Awards, and this year, will provide an update on the achievements of the VET Information Strategy – 12 months after its implementation to raise the status of VET.

Discussing the strategy will be some of the key partners – the National Rugby League, the Career Industry Council of Australia, Year 13, and Supporting and Linking Tradeswomen (SALT).

The forum will be held at the Theatre and Tasman Light Gallery at the Australian National Maritime Museum.

To attend, provide your details by email to: vetinfostrategy@education.gov.au by Friday 9 November.

VET teaching conference to attract leading researchers 

The Australian Council of Deans of Education Vocational Education Group (ACDEVEG ) is holding its two-day annual conference on VET teaching and VET teacher education in Melbourne on 6 & 7 December.

With the title, ‘Building confidence in VET Practice’ it will feature an afternoon of practitioner-led workshops on Thursday, 6 December, followed by a research-based conference the following day.

Keynote speakers are Christine Robertson, Pro Vice-Chancellor VET at Charles Darwin University, and Lou Mycroft, a further education researcher and teacher-educator from England.

There will also be eight research-based parallel papers, a panel of experts in VET teaching and VET teacher-education, and the presentation of ACDEVEG awards including the new VET teacher-educator awards in conjunction with PwC’s Skills for Australia.

See a list of presenters and papers

See a flyer and the conference website.

Diary Dates

Taking the Lead: Building Community
Community Colleges Australia Annual Conference
13-15 November 2018
More information

2018 Australian Training Awards
15 November 2018
International Convention Centre, Darling Harbour, Sydney
Tickets can be purchased here.

Engineering Next-Generation Learning
4 – 7 December 2018
Wollongong, NSW
More information 

Building confidence in VET Practice: 4th Annual Conference on VET Teaching and VET Teacher Education   
Australian Council of Deans of Education Vocational Education Group
6 – 7 December 2018
More information