What’s in the pie? – comment by CEO Craig Robertson

What’s in the pie? – comment by CEO Craig Robertson

They say if you saw what goes into a meat pie you’d never eat one again.

Now that the National Skills Commissioner has been confirmed in his role he will have to prise open that soft soggy pastry to see what fills the VET qualification pie.

The National Skills Commission has the task of establishing a consistent national price for VET qualifications. The heads of agreement for the proposed National Agreement for Skills and Workforce Development – the one that prescribes funding and operational relationships between the feds and states and territories when it comes to VET – says that the commissioner will release efficient prices for common VET qualifications by 1 July 2021 and all VET qualifications by 1 July 2022.

More to come on this in future weeks but I thought it might be useful to understand the making of the current qualifications pie and how a price would be set. Let me give you the current recipe for a qualification.

First. Call on the Industry Reference Committee to define the competencies they see as roles in the occupation in the industries they represent.

Second. Make sure that same committee abides by the Job Competence Model by specifying competencies that cover: specific technical aspects of the role; how to manage tasks, contingency management skills and how to manage the job environment.

Third. Ask that same committee to specify how units can be assembled into qualifications that line up with the Job Competence Model. List core and elective units and other combinations that can make an issuable qualification that industry needs.

Fourth. Ask the Australian Industry Skills Committee to ratify the committee’s work by endorsing the qualification, its units and how they can be assembled.

Fifth. Refer the endorsed qualifications to the BP sponsored Curriculum Maintenance Managers – the quiet achievers of the sector.

Sixth. Allow enough time for them to have a little chuckle and a chance to say, ‘you’ve got to be kidding’.

Seventh. Give them time to determine nominal hours for each unit of competency.

Eighth. Distribute the nominal hours to each state and territory to use to formulate funding decisions.

Ninth. Give some leeway as states and territories may not have the budget to afford so many hours.

Tenth. Tell training organisations the qualification and funding is available for delivery.

Eleventh. Let providers to make some decisions.

  • Is it for students in a classroom, or in the workplace, for novices or the experienced?
  • Is it an apprenticeship or traineeship because that has cost implications as do compulsory work placements?
  • Does it need high cost equipment and can it attract a full class?
  • Can cheaper units be imported and what fees can be charged without putting students off?
  • Is it worth investing in course design if others will just undercut on quality?

Twelfth. Report each qualification as if there is no difference in how each is delivered.

There are pies and there are pies. The VET qualification pie is no different. Let’s see how we put a price on it.

Budget boost for apprenticeships and skills training

Ahead of tonight’s federal Budget, the government has announced a $1.2 billion program to boost apprentice and trainee commencements.

Starting yesterday, businesses that take on a new apprentice or trainee will be eligible for a 50 per cent wage subsidy, regardless of geographic location, occupation, industry or business size.

The Boosting Apprenticeship Commencements scheme is open to employers for new or recommencing apprentices and trainees for the period up to 30 September 2021, to a maximum of $7,000 per quarter, with an overall cap of 100,000 on the number of apprentices and trainees.

There is also speculation that the Budget might advance the government’s VET reform agenda, following comments from the architect of the VET reform blueprint, Steven Joyce, at last week’s Australian Financial Review Higher Education Summit.

Mr Joyce, who has been given a role in implementing his reforms, pointed to the recent Skills Organisation pilots as examples of industry playing a constructive role in training requirements.

‘‘If you look at some of the examples where there has been good seamless qualifications development, that’s where industry has been given the opportunity to take quite a leap,” he said.

‘‘The mining industry and the IT sector … are well-known examples.

“[They are] both instances where the system has got out of the way sufficiently to allow the sectors to have a strong relationship directly with key providers and [have] the financial arrangement.

‘‘That is certainly something we are looking to see happen through the sectors. It’s something that is probably more incumbent on the VET sector because it has got so many different providers,’’ Mr Joyce said.

The Joyce Expert Review of Australia’s VET System said Skills Organisations should be given control of training packages in their industries, covering areas such as assessing skills needs, marketing to prospective trainees and school students, managing apprentice support, and endorsing preferred training providers.

Foreign 'arrangements' laws could hit TAFE offshore partnerships

The federal government’s proposed laws to veto arrangements between state and territory agencies and foreign government entities could have a significant impact on TAFEs and could derail some of their international agreements.

In a submission to the Senate committee overseeing the legislation – Australia’s Foreign Relations (State and Territory Arrangements) Bill 2020 – TDA says there is no general exemption for TAFEs or for any arrangements usually entered into by TAFEs with foreign government entities.

The proposed laws cover arrangements between state and territory governments and their entities and foreign governments and their entities. The Minister for Foreign Affairs will be given powers of veto over these arrangements.

TDA estimates that are more than 300 individual TAFE agreements in place, with more than 90 in Victoria alone. .

“The majority of Australian TAFEs are active offshore delivering vocational and higher technical education to meet these skills development needs,” the submission says.

The exchanges typically entail formal accredited qualifications, part-qualifications, professional advice for skills development, organisational capability development and trainer professional development.

“These arrangements, especially the potential for Ministerial over-ride, may result in some TAFEs and other entities reducing international cooperation and trade. This has the potential to dampen otherwise strong ties between countries and peoples,” TDA says.

“Overseas entities may choose other partners if they perceive heightened risks, ambiguity and costs in engaging with Australian TAFEs.”

See TDA’s submission to the Senate Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Committee

Government waives student loan fees and training charges

The federal government has cut a number of student loan levies and training provider charges in response to the COVID-19 crisis.

The changes include:

  • An extension of the VET Student Loan fee reprieve for students at VSL approved institutions until 30 June 2021.
  • An extension of the FEE-HELP loan fee reprieve for private higher education students to 30 June 2021.
  • The waiving of the Tuition Protection Levy for the Higher Education Loan Program (HELP) and VET Student Loans (VSL) program at a cost to government of $6.3 million.
  • $6.3 million in funding to the Tuition Protection Service to ensure student protections are maintained.


The loan fee exemption is expected to assist approximately 21,000 VET students.

The Minister for Employment, Skills, Small and Family Business Michaelia Cash said the waiving Tuition Protection Levies would save, on average, 88 HELP providers about $41,000 each and 140 VSL providers about $10,000 each.

See more

'White collar' apprenticeships could avert youth labour crisis: Mitchell Institute

Australia should create a national job cadet program to help young people into work, according to a new report from the Mitchell Institute.

The report, Averting an Escalating Labour Market Crisis for Young People in Australia: A Proposed National Job Cadet Program, argues that utilising parts of Australia’s apprenticeship platform in new occupations, not covered by the current system, will create the tens of thousands of jobs needed to avert a major crisis in the youth labour market.

“There is very strong evidence that combining an employment contract with formal education and training improves employment outcomes,” report co-author and Vice-Chancellor of Victoria University, Professor Peter Dawkins said.

“This job cadetship program will help reverse the long-term deterioration in youth employment outcomes that the pandemic has intensified.”

The report outlines two streams of a cadetship program – a longer form ‘higher apprenticeship’ program of one to four years, which extends current apprenticeship arrangements into higher-level occupations, and a second, shorter stream of six months to one year aimed at young people who already have some skills or training.

To support the program, the report recommends an employer incentive of between $14,000 and $28,000 per year depending on the cadet and the employer. These amounts align to support the federal government already provides as part of the JobSeeker payment and Supporting Apprentices and Trainees initiative.

See Transform the struggling economy with white-collar apprenticeships in The Australian.

 AIEC Braindate – making meaningful connections in a virtual world

AIEC Braindate is a drop-in forum where people working in the international education sector will come together for two days of virtual knowledge-sharing and peer-learning.

A ‘braindate’ is a topic-driven virtual conversation with up to five people that happens over video chat on the Braindate e-180 platform.  It could be the place where your next big idea is formed, where you meet your future mentor, where you find the answer to your most urgent challenge.

This free event takes place on 20 & 21 October and is organised by the Australian International Education Conference (AIEC).

Sign up here

FBT removed from skills training

The federal government has removed Fringe Benefits Tax from employer-provided retraining where an employee is redeployed to a different role in a business.

The announcement by Treasurer Josh Frydenberg does away with a significant obstacle to reskilling within firms, especially as businesses adjust to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Currently, FBT is payable if an employer provides training to its employees that is not sufficiently connected to their current employment. For example, a business that retrains their sales assistant in web design to redeploy them to an online marketing role in the business can be hit with FBT.

The Treasurer said that by removing FBT, employers will be encouraged to help workers transition to new employment opportunities within or outside their business.

The exemption will not extend to retraining acquired by way of a salary packaging arrangement or training provided through Commonwealth supported places at universities, which already receive a benefit.

The Treasurer said the government will also consult on potential changes to the current arrangements for workers that undertake training at their own expense.

Currently, any tax deductions are limited to training related to current employment, which the government says, may act as a disincentive for Australians to retrain and reskill to support their future employment needs.

See more

TAFE and university join in WA Industry 4.0 'testlab'

Western Australia’s South Metropolitan TAFE is playing a key role as a vocational partner in the University of Western Australia’s i4.0 ERDi Testlab that was launched recently.

The UWA i4.0 ERDi Testlab is one of five Testlabs that were established across Australian universities in 2019 under the Department of Innovation, Science, Energy and Resources i4.0 TestLab network program.

Each Testlab provides innovation support for SMEs in priority industry growth sectors and harnesses the opportunities presented by Industry 4.0.

The UWA testlab is focussed on energy and resources digital interoperability, and is strongly linked to the training that South Metropolitan TAFE delivers from its Australian Centre for Energy and Process Training (ACEPT).

The TestLab is the first of its kind with respect to interoperability services and will enable energy and resources companies and technology suppliers to take advantage of the latest i4.0 interoperability.

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South Metropolitan TAFE, a vocational partner of the UWA I4.0 ERDi Testlab. At the launch, Executive Director Strategic Partnerships Darshi Ganeson, Managing Director Terry Durant and  Executive Director Jonathon Maile.

'Your Career' – one-stop website launched

The National Careers Institute has launched ‘Your Career’ – its new one-stop career information website.

The site contains a wide range of information to help people of all ages plan, navigate and manage their careers.

Key features include career quizzes to explore jobs that match a person’s profile, information about study or training options, tips on successful job search including resumé writing, links to support services, and an A to Z of occupations, including detailed career descriptions, pay and outlook.

See Your Career

TEQSA recruiting integrity unit head

The Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency (TEQSA) is advertising for a Director of its Higher Education Integrity Unit.

Based in Melbourne, the Director is responsible for the unit, whose task it is to identify and analyse emerging integrity threats in areas such as academic integrity, student safety and wellbeing, admissions standards, fraud and corruption.

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 range of free online events on VET and VET research, hosted by AVETRA organisations and members.
October 2020
More information

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

AIEC Braindate: Making meaningful connections in a virtual world
20 & 21 October 2020
Virtual event
Register here

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

Beyond 2020: Creating the Future with Work Integrated Learning (virtual) 
Australian Collaborative Education Network Limited (ACEN)
27 – 28 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