Why harmonisation? – comment by CEO Jenny Dodd

Why harmonisation? – comment by CEO Jenny Dodd

I have been asked a few times recently what I think ‘harmonisation’ means. For context, the question is about harmonisation between higher education and vocational education and training. The ambition for harmonisation has developed higher prominence due to the work of the Universities Accord.

It is fair to say that higher education and vocational education and training have developed as two systems over the last 50 years. As discussed at the TDA Convention 2024, in our most recent TAFETalks webinar, and in this TDA Monday newsletter, the 1974 Myer Kangan report[i] that established technical and further education envisaged equal systems of education; not the great divide that has developed since.

To understand the direction of harmonisation it is essential to read the paper released recently by the Department of Education for consultation on the Australian Tertiary Education Commission (ATEC). In the ATEC consultation, the question is asked “How can ATEC be designed to maximise harmonisation between the two tertiary education systems? What are the steps needed for harmonisation and how should they be timed/staged?” It is an interesting question that firstly needs to be answered for ‘why’, and then, ‘what’ and ‘how’ will follow in due course.

I would argue that the very existence of ATEC will help this process of answering the ‘why’. The fact a body is formed that is providing an overarching view over Australia’s higher education and vocational education investment into skilling for priority industries is one of the answers. ATEC will have a long-term perspective. It will be able to connect the dots on the two systems that will by its very nature lead to better harmonisation. At the moment the two sectors can move quite independently of each other. With a stronger focus on national priority industries, moving hand in glove is a much better long-term strategy. Into ATEC’s watching brief might fall the recent developments contained in TAFE Centres of Excellence.

In its submission to the Universities Accord last year, TDA had ten big ideas. The first was for one tertiary education system. ATEC will be the place for a single vision for tertiary education. The next pertinent TDA big idea was innovation funding to universities that must contain TAFE partnerships and focus on industry. TDA wrote, “these compacts would be long term and would encourage education solutions such as the creation of dual qualifications with both TAFE and university components that meet specific industry needs”. Supporting that big idea was the call for “self-accreditation for TAFE courses to facilitate student mobility and better qualification alignment between TAFE and university”. Pilots for self-accreditation at AQF 5 have been approved, which is a first step towards this innovation. They too could be effectively oversighted through ATEC.

So where does that leave the question of harmonisation? Harmonisation is much more than a set of steps. It is an overriding approach to the vision for ATEC. Again, from the ATEC consultation paper, “The Accord Final Report found the absence of a sector steward has, over time, created a system characterised by … lack of deep thinking and clarity of direction for the sector to be agile to future needs, and fragmented changes to policy and funding, driven by immediate priorities rather than long term strategy.”

Therefore, it is simplistic to think of harmonisation as just about credit transfer. Harmonisation is about looking at the whole tertiary education system. That is, the value of ATEC will be because it includes TAFEs in its perspectives, not just bolting them on as an afterthought. The harmonisation that occurs through ATEC will be its overarching lens on whole of tertiary education developments.

Thus, while there might be a series of steps that might help with better credit transfer and easier student movement between the two systems, goals that are useful in and of themselves, the main value will be in this vision for one tertiary education system. Despite the focus predominantly on higher education, ATEC’s ability to provide long-term oversight of national priority setting that includes both parts of tertiary education, i.e. vocational and higher education, will be key to its success and benefit for Australia.

Apprentice numbers returning to pre-COVID levels

Apprentice numbers returning to pre-COVID levels

The number of apprentices and trainees ‘in-training’ fell 8.8% to 343,640 over the year to December 2023, according to the latest figures from NCVER.

While trades were down less than 1% over the year, there was a 22% fall in non-trades, with the biggest decline in clerical and administrative workers, down 44.5%.

NCVER said the decline is a continuation of the trend seen immediately after the COVID era Boosting Apprenticeships Commencements (BAC) scheme came to an end in mid-2022.

But it says that the trend in apprentice and trainee commencements is returning to historical patterns.

In the December quarter 2023, compared with the December quarter 2022, commencements increased by 2.4%, to 35,240.

Over the same period, completions decreased by 4.2%, to 30,955, and cancellations and withdrawals decreased by 14.3%, to 27,685.



Skillaroos uniform revealed as WorldSkills declared 'Grande Cause Nationale'


WorldSkills has unveiled the uniforms that Australia’s Skillaroos will wear when they represent their country at the 47th WorldSkills Competition in France in September.

The launch took place at Parliament House last week at an event attended by members of parliament and VET stakeholders.

The Skillaroos uniform design was created by Indigenous artist Jacinta-Rai Ridgeway.

Three members of the 2024 Skillaroos team addressed the gathering ahead of their trip to Lyon in France, where they will join 1,400 of the world’s most skilled young people from over 70 countries.

The Minister for Skills and Training Brendan O’Connor was presented with a framed Skillaroos shirt.

See images from the event on flickr.

The international event last week received the distinction of becoming a Grande Cause Nationale for 2024 in France – a recognition from the French government of the way sport and skills build ambition and excellence.

Max Roche, President of the WorldSkills Lyon 2024 Organizing Committee, said, “To receive the Grande Cause Nationale is incredible. Our hope is that this award will shine an even greater spotlight on those young people who are aiming high through skills.”

First Nations Focus 2024 – story collection

Today we are releasing two more stories as a part of First Nations Focus 2024 – story collection, to highlight the great work of individuals and teams happening nationwide.

Unique case management system breaks down barriers

Box Hill Institute’s (BHI) Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Unit (ATSIU) has introduced a robust case management system called ‘PACS’ (Pastoral Academic and Cultural Support) that has significantly increased engagement with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students.

Read full story

Empowering Indigenous Youth: An initiative on the importance of cultural connection, identity and learning

Through her own experiences in community and family, Melissa Bulger, a Ngunnawal/Wiradjuri woman considered the contribution and change she could bring to youth justice. Mel knew knowledge is power. Empathy and care for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people and finding their potential and enthusiasm for education was the fuel behind this initiative.

Watch her story

JSCs commence review of ‘snakes and ladders’ approach to qualifications

Jobs and Skills Councils have embarked on the task of reviewing key qualifications that serve as pathways into their industry sectors, as recommended in the recent findings of the Qualification Reform Design Group.

The Minister for Skills and Training, Brendan O’Connor, said the overhaul is designed to address a key shortcoming of the current system – a ‘one-size fits all’ approach that doesn’t provide the flexibility industry needs.

“It’s been described to me as a game of snakes and ladders – you get a qualification and climb the ladder but if you then want to do something different, you slide back down,” he said.

“In some occupations there is a tight relationship between the qualifications and a particular job – like an electrician. In others, the course material can have applications to many different career paths.”

As part of the review, AUSMASA will examine the 15 existing Certificate II pathway qualifications in the automotive training package, comprising hundreds of units of competency.

Mr O’Connor said this would ensure budding mechanics and auto technicians weren’t forced to specialise too soon, giving them and their employers broader skills and more options.

“Another project is looking at training across sectors including hospitality, tourism, hair and beauty, and retail to identify how common skills across service industries could be aligned.

“This would recognise and value what workers already know, and not force them to slide down the snake to start up a new ladder at the bottom,” Mr O’Connor said.

TAFE electric vehicle advisory group hits the road

The newly established Electric Vehicle TAFE Centre of Excellence Steering Advisory Group convened its inaugural meeting on June 11.

The advisory group, chaired by Josephine Andersen, Canberra Institute of Technology Executive Director – Education Futures and Students, included representation from nine TAFEs across Australia.

The group will provide a forum to collaborate and share learnings through implementation of CIT’s TAFE Centres of Excellence programs, and discuss current issues and opportunities to strengthen collaboration, capability and capacity to support skills development in the emerging EV industry.

The next meeting will be held online in August. Participation is welcomed and encouraged from interested TDA members. Please contact the Secretariat at electricvehiclecentreofexcellence@cit.edu.au to provide a nomination.

First step in developing a national skills taxonomy

Jobs and Skills Australia (JSA) has released the National Skills Taxonomy (NST) Discussion Paper, a step toward the development of a new national skills taxonomy.

The NST will replace the existing Australian Skills Classification (ASC), offering a more comprehensive and dynamic approach to categorising and organising skills across Australia. The ASC will remain until the NST is developed.

The NST will categorise and organise skills to provide a common language of skills, to help bridge the gap between education, employment and economic productivity.

This is an opportunity to contribute to shaping the future of the NST. Specifically, JSA are interested in views on:

  • the benefits and limitations of existing skills taxonomies
  • how an NST could help across education, training or the labour market
  • the principles and key features you want in an NST
  • what data should inform an NST and how it should be maintained.

There will also be a series of in-person and virtual workshops that will explore the range of views on the development of an NST. All times are local and virtual times are AEST:

  •       Virtual session one: 9 July, 10am-1pm
  •       Brisbane: 16 July 2pm-5pm
  •       Perth: 17 July 2pm-5pm
  •       Melbourne: 18 July, 9am-12pm
  •       Virtual session two: 23 July, 10am -1pm
  •       Sydney: 25 July 9am-12pm

You can register for a workshop here. For more information please contact NationalSkillsTaxonomy@jobsandskills.gov.au

Consultation closes on Friday 9 August 9.

Building and infrastructure courses given priority in South Australia

Building and infrastructure courses will be prioritised in South Australia, with more than 30,000 new training places planned over the next five years.

This represents an increase of 1000 extra training places a year and is part of the Construction Industry Training Board’s (CITB) annual training plan, released by Premier Peter Malinauskas.

The plan includes:

  • Increased funding of short course training programs by 11% to $6.4 million
  • $500 work equipment vouchers to help apprentices get trade ready
  • Increasing the number of supported mature age apprentices from 250 to 300

“The housing crisis is complex and won’t be fixed overnight, but we are doing everything we can to address the urgent needs now and into the future,” Mr Malinauskas said.

AVETRA extends call for abstracts for 26th annual conference

AVETRA (Australian Vocational Education and Training Research Association) has extended the deadline for abstracts for its 26th Annual Conference in Sydney.

The 2024 AVETRA Conference will be held 3-4 October at the University of Technology Sydney.

The theme is ‘Impetus and Impact: Research that Challenges and Shapes VET Policy and Practice’.

Keynote speakers include Professor Barney Glover, Commissioner of Jobs and Skills Australia, and Bob Boughton, Adjunct Professor of Education at the University of New England.

The closing date for abstracts is now July 8.

“As we commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Kangan Report, our conference theme calls for a reflective and forward-looking dialogue on the role of vocational education and training (VET) in shaping our economic and social landscapes, especially in the context of a more integrated tertiary sector,” AVETRA says.

AVETRA has also announced two pre-conference workshops on Wednesday October 2.

See more

Federal government names new providers for SEE program

The Department of Employment and Workplace Relations (DEWR) has released the names of the 22 organisations that will deliver services under the redesigned Skills for Education and Employment (SEE) program.

Following a request for tender, the organisations will deliver the General SEE Delivery training stream of the SEE Program, commencing 1 July 2024.

The new providers will deliver the SEE Program across 58 contract regions, and nationally, if they are delivering Distance Learning. The program runs until 2028.

See outcomes of the Skills for Education and Employment Request for Tender 2024-2028

Diary Dates

33rd National VET Research Conference ‘No Frills’ 
‘VET partnerships powering a dynamic workforce’
10-12 July 2024
North Metropolitan TAFE, Perth
More information

National Apprentice Employment Network
National Conference ‘Skills for Life’
23-25 July 2024
Hilton Adelaide
More information

Victorian TAFE Association
TAFECreates 2024 State Conference
8-9 August 2024
More information

VET National Teaching & Learning Conference 2024
‘From Competence to Excellence – Strive to Inspire’
15-16 August 2024
Melbourne Convention & Exhibition Centre
Register here

National Skills Week 2024
‘It’s a Game Changer’
19-25 August 2024

47th WorldSkills Competition
10-15 September 2024
Lyon, France
More information

WFCP World Congress 2024
22-27 September 2024
St James, Jamaica, West Indies
More Information

AVETRA 2024 Conference
3-4 October 2024
Deadline for abstract extended to July 8
University of Technology, Sydney
More information

2024 National VET Conference
31 October – 1 November 2024
Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre
More information