Where the money is: Jobs that are booming as economy falters

Our country is rapidly changing, and not for the better — but there are some jobs that are booming, even as the economy continues to dive.

Some jobs are on the way up — and others are on the way out. Picture: SuppliedSource:istock

Australia has turned into a services economy.

Our country is rapidly changing, and one of the biggest ways is that almost everyone who has got a new job recently has ended up in the services sector.

We’re a nation of hairdressers and consultants now. As the next graph shows, we’ve added over a million jobs in household services and business services while losing jobs in manufacturing and mining.

Employment growth by industry. Picture: Supplied

Employment growth by industry. Picture: SuppliedSource:Supplied

Are services sector jobs any good? We better hope so, because they’re what we are all going to be doing soon.

The shocking answer to the question is yes, they are good, mostly.

We tend to get stuck believing facts about the economy that applied 20 years ago, and we can be slow to catch up with the truth. We cling to the idea hard jobs making material things are the best jobs. But the truth is a lot of those good steady factory jobs are not that good any more. And not that steady either.

As the next graph shows, manufacturing jobs used to pay as well as jobs in a bank or a telecommunications company. Not any more. There’s a lot more money in those services sector jobs now. (These industries are some of the ones that are counted as “business services” in the chart above.)

Many service jobs are booming while others are stagnating. Picture: Supplied

Many service jobs are booming while others are stagnating. Picture: SuppliedSource:Supplied

We have this old-fashioned idea that service jobs are burger flipping, and yes, there’s entry level jobs like that, but lots of service sector jobs are doctors and nurses, lawyers and consultants.

Those are good jobs in many ways. Safe, well-paid jobs that you can do until late in life. But they are also good because it is much harder for international trade to undermine them. Chinese manufacturing may have caused the demise of a lot of Australian factories, but Chinese hospitals don’t do much to affect Australian hospitals. (That said, some people do travel to Thailand for cheap cosmetic surgery. There is some trade in medical services!)


Of course, the services economy does include some crappy jobs. Some of those household services jobs are not exactly lucrative. As the next chart shows, a career in hospitality has proved a particularly disappointing choice in the last couple of decades.

Pay growth since 1994. Picture: Supplied

Pay growth since 1994. Picture: SuppliedSource:Supplied

Education and training has also not shot ahead like some of the other services sector jobs. Healthcare and social assistance, which is one of the biggest employing industries in Australia and includes many well-paid jobs, sits just below the middle of the pack for pay growth.


The basic reason is simple: People are spending less on goods than on services. Goods industries fell from 34 per cent of the economy in 1985-86 to around 21 per cent in 2015-16. Services have taken up the slack.

Spending more on services is a good thing. It’s a sign we’re well-off as a nation. The RBA puts it like this: “As incomes rise, households typically spend more of their income on household services, such as health, education and restaurant meals, than on goods.”

That makes total sense to me. If I only had a few dollars I’d spend them on food and clothes. If I had many millions, I’d spend them on travel, advisers to tell me where to put my millions and gardeners to tend my estates.

Basically, after a while of earning more, we tend to admit we have enough stuff. In fact, if you’re aware of Japanese cleaning sensation Marie Kondo, you’ll know we actually have too much stuff. At least one delightfully polite Japanese lady has got rich by inspiring us to get rid of it. (Marie Kondo’s job, by the way, is definitely in the services sector.)

Hopefully, I’ve convinced you that not all services sector jobs are “burger flippers”. But while we are on the topic, how much money do burger flippers make?

McDonald’s pay is changing at the moment as a result of a big fight with the union, but in the first half of 2019, an 18-year old permanent employee at McDonalds would have been earning $14.56 an hour. An 18-year-old casual would have made $18.20/hour, while a 15-year-old casual would have made $10.40/hour.

These, clearly, are not high-paying jobs. But they can lead to higher-paid opportunities in the same organisation as this story shows. All the store managers, marketing gurus and financial people who work at McDonald’s HQ count as service sector employees. That’s the thing about the service sector. The bottom-end jobs are the most visible, but we shouldn’t forget the rest.

Jason Murphy is an economist. He is the author of the new book Incentivology. Continue the conversation @jasemurphy

What’s making education the golden spot for internet economy?

Students today need a personalised approach to learning that is based on their individual academic needs. This simply isn’t possible because of the very framework of coaching classes.

edtech industry, internet economy, global edtech industry, entrepreneurs, investors, coaching classes

By Zishaan Hayath

The edtech industry has been around since late-1990s, but the last six years have seen an unprecedented boom. Since 1997, the global edtech industry has received a funding of close to $38 billion, and over 60% of this has come in the last three years. So, what is it about e-learning that has made it such a lucrative opportunity for entrepreneurs and investors?

After-school learning solution

A few years ago, coaching classes were the primary after-school learning option. Sadly, they didn’t solve the problems students face. Most pack students into large batches, and teach them using a one-size-fits-all approach that does more harm than good. Students today need a personalised approach to learning that is based on their individual academic needs. This simply isn’t possible because of the very framework of coaching classes. In the end, coaching classes were just an expensive but mediocre after-school option. There is a genuine need for edtech apps that personalise learning for every student.

A large, untapped market

There are 250 million schoolgoing kids in India. Parents look for better learning solutions for their children, and e-learning apps fit their needs. Since the e-learning industry entered India just a few years ago, companies have a lot of untapped opportunities and a large market to capture before it’s even close to saturation.

Increasing access to the internet

Internet accessibility has seen a huge improvement even in small towns and villages. That means e-learning apps have the potential to reach out to every child across the country. As long as the child has access to the internet, he/she can learn better.

Lower company costs

Unlike coaching classes, edtech players don’t have to maintain monthly overhead costs of infrastructure, like classrooms and furniture. At a far lower cost, edtech players can scale to a larger level than coaching classes. When it comes to learning content, edtech players can create high-quality lectures just one time, enabling millions of children to access them at a low price. Most online courses are about 50% cheaper than their offline counterparts. This improves the affordability of the product.

Besides the need to solving challenging student learning problems, the market size of the edtech industry is reasonably large. According to a Google-KPMG report, this industry is set to touch $1.96 billion by 2021, from $247 million in 2016. With a well-designed product, incorporated with advance technology and built on millions of learning pieces, the stage is set for massive growth in the edtech world.

(The author is CEO & co-founder, Toppr, the learning app. Views are personal)

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The education start-up doing what universities can’t

When two coal miners in a small town in West Virginia were made redundant after the mine they worked for shut down, they turned to an Australian start-up to retrain online and launch new careers.

The coal miners are among more than 1 million students worldwide who have completed training with online computing training start-up A Cloud Guru – more than Australia’s present university undergraduate population of 925,000 students.

Sam Kroonenburg, chief executive and co-founder of A Cloud Guru, which provides online training in cloud computing skills.
Sam Kroonenburg, chief executive and co-founder of A Cloud Guru, which provides online training in cloud computing skills.CREDIT:ARSINEH HOUSPIAN

On the sidelines of the Yeah Nah start-up conference in Melbourne, co-founder Sam Kroonenburg says A Cloud Guru is catering for students who are not served by the university system.

“The interesting thing in training is the university model is broken for IT,” he says. “Things change so quickly now. You will learn something and two days later it is out of date. We thought, what if you build something that is by industry and for industry?”

Kroonenburg started A Cloud Guru in 2015 with his brother Ryan, who uploaded a series of training seminars online that went viral, making him “a geek celebrity”.

He built the online training provider in four weeks from his bedroom; now the start-up employs 137 people and has raised $63 million from investors, including Australian venture capital fund AirTree Ventures and US-based Summit Partners and Elephant Partners.

You will learn something and two days later it is out of date.

Sam Kroonenburg

The typical A Cloud Guru online course takes about three months to complete and costs $US250 ($365) for a certification for a business such as Amazon, Google or Microsoft.

“There’s just so much demand for tech talent,” Kroonenburg says. “And there are a lot of smart people out there, but there are a lot of barriers in the way, like going and getting a four-year degree and the money that it costs to do that.”

Based out of Melbourne, A Cloud Guru has been global since day one, with 60 per cent of its customer base in the United States and only about 5 per cent of its revenue from Australia.

Kroonenburg declined to detail the start-up’s turnover but says it is “multimillion dollar” and says A Cloud Guru is mainly profitable.

He juggles his role as chief executive with being a father of five and Kroonenburg says he thinks of A Cloud Guru as a sixth child.

Brothers Ryan and Sam Kroonenburg have grown a global online learning business from Australia.
Brothers Ryan and Sam Kroonenburg have grown a global online learning business from Australia.

“It’s definitely as demanding, if not more demanding,” he says. “My wife and I are very much a team. You know, she’s as much an owner of the business as I am. And she’s been my biggest supporter, and the biggest help through the ups and downs.”

Kroonenburg says he wants to focus on A Cloud Guru making the most of the “huge opportunity” in the market as the world is disrupted by cloud computing.

“Every company on Earth is trying to move to cloud and there’s just not enough talent out there to help them. At the same time, there’s millions of people whose jobs are being displaced by tech,” he says.

James Cameron, partner at AirTree Ventures, says A Cloud Guru is the fastest-growing start-up in the venture capital fund’s portfolio besides Canva.

“They have been quite under the radar; Sam is a guy who has his head down building a business,” he says.

Cameron says the challenge for A Cloud Guru is competing with other start-ups in the same space, including Pluralsight, Coursera and Linux Academy.

“They have to stay one step ahead of the game and continue building great content and finding great educators to provide that content,” he says.

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TDA Newsletter-16 September 2019

In this edition

  • New vocational education to re-gear the economy – comment by CEO Craig Robertson
  • Head of Productivity Commission urges caution on VET reform
  • Footballer-turned-carpenter takes top prize at NSW training awards
  • Dedication and focus see CIT recognised at training awards
  • North Regional TAFE named WA’s top training institute
  • Victoria’s TAFEs urged to collaborate to address enrolment issues
  • See the latest from the World Federation of Colleges and Polytechnics
  • Annual survey of youth gets under way
  • Jacqui Lambi aims her political clout at helping TAFE 

New vocational education to re-gear the economy – comment by CEO Craig Robertson

Red sky at night, sailors’ delight.
Red sky at morning, sailors take warning

Red sky mornings in North Eastern Australia portend the dangers of the fire season facing Australia this summer. As if that’s not enough, the red morning sky forewarns troubling economic times ahead, akin to the 1990s recession. Vocational education rose to the challenge then. Is it ready again?

Last week’s national accounts revealed what many have feared – the lowest level of GDP, certainly since the GFC, and productivity the lowest since the 1990s recession.

The rate of turn-over in the economy, so vital in keeping confidence up and businesses going, is stalling. Per capita GDP, lower than it was a year ago, sheets these economy-wide figures home, literally. Household disposable income is down more than 1 per cent over the past year. “Household incomes per capita are currently at the same level they were in real terms in 2010.”[1]

We also have a productivity challenge – the capacity to achieve more from each piece of input, whether that’s building things or improving efficiency from employees or the way they work. The three-year average annual growth figure of 0.4% is the worst it has been since the 1990s recession.[2]

Students of vocational education in Australia will recall the 1990s recession was the pathogen that triggered structural changes to the sector. Keating called for responsibility for vocational education to fold into the national government. Poor communication at a crucial time with his education minister, Kim Beazley, meant the resistance of the NSW Premier, John Fahey foiled the plan. ANTA[3] was the compromise – a Commonwealth statutory authority to work with the states and territories, even to pool their contributions for national redistribution for skills development where it was needed. It would be horizontal equalisation of skills akin to the fiscal equalisation mission of the Commonwealth Grants Commission.

Read the Joyce Review and we are back in the territory again, sort of.  A national skills commissioner is to tell us where the skills demands are, how much governments should contribute to ensure quality and leverage private contribution and then will track the follow-through.

ANTA achieved many things, but funding consistency,let alone funding certainty, was not one of them. I’ve never met a Premier prepared to give up his/her state’s hard earned to support another.

Possibly ANTAs biggest claim to fame was national industry training packages to house competency-based training. The model was for the time – many Australian workers were at risk of displacement from industry restructure and recognising the skills they had acquired on the job (not necessarily in an institution) gave them confidence to transition into new jobs in new industry.

Now, we are concerned about today, and tomorrow.

Philip Lowe, our Reserve Bank Governor warned again just last month[4] that interest rates and a floating dollar are not enough to stabilise our economy. He suggests structural reforms that encourage firms to expand, invest, innovate and hire people.

As if predicting the national accounts, he said of structural reforms:

“Given the productivity challenges that we face, this is probably the best lever. But it, too, is hard to move or is stuck in many countries. Structural reforms are often highly politically contested and our political systems are having trouble building the necessary consensus about what to do, and how to do it.”

Here’s my suggestion for structural reform. Vocational Education reaches millions of workers and prepares many more. We can reach out to bring new-world skills and technology savvy talent to firms to give them the wherewithall to start their innovation journey.

It’s a new form of vocational education design and so easily within reach. One predicated on trust of TAFEs to engage with industry and employers, to build opportunity for individuals that resonate with their aspirations. It’s far more effective than reliance on a centralised model of training specifications which are so easily out of date and out of tune with demand.

Senator Gerard Rennick in his maiden speech this week called for a new focus on vocational education – skills based training through TAFE should take precedence over non-vocational university studies, which of course is welcome. More important were his words on productivity:

“Innovation and productivity are driven from the ground up by individuals’ hard work, not top-down by vested interests shuffling paper. As Adam Smith said: The directors of … companies … being the managers … of other people’s money … it cannot well be expected that they should watch over it with the same anxious vigilance with which … partners … watch over their own … Negligence … must always prevail …”

Facing troubled times we need to ask why there’s been no movement to Australia’s vocational education model – a model that looks backward, has limited guarantee to lifting basic skills like literacy and numeracy (which underpin adaptability) and is stuck like araldite to occupations we know are disappearing or changing.

There may be some form of structural reform in establishing the skills commission. Without structural reform to most vocational qualifications to deliver productivity enhancing skills to the individual – entrenched interests win as Lowe fears and an opportunity is lost.

Here’s hoping for a red sky at night…. in sailors’ parlance in this case but for a bright future for vocational education as well.

Note: Photo is from Bintan Island, Indonesia.

[1] No surprise, but shocking: there’s no other way to spin Australia’s GDP – Greg JerichoThe Guardian, 4 September 2019[2] ibid[3] Australian National Training Authority[4] Remarks at Jackson Hole Symposium https://www.rba.gov.au/speeches/2019/sp-gov-2019-08-25.html

Head of Productivity Commission urges caution on VET reform

The Chair of the Productivity Commission Michael Brennan, pictured, has warned that the next critical phase of VET reform should proceed with caution, in light of recent policy upheaval, and should respect the rights of the states.

In his address to the TDA convention, he noted that the big “disruptions and discontinuities” in VET over the last decade came from three central policy changes – the move to national training entitlements, the introduction and cessation of VET FEE HELP, and demand driven funding of universities.

“My instinct is that we will find it hard to replicate the dramatic pace of change associated with those big three policies of the last decade,” he said.

“All participants would probably welcome a period of relative policy stability to allow the system to find its feet.”

But that did not mean doing nothing, he said.

Rather, the major reforms about to get underway – a National Skills Commission, streamlined qualifications approval and more nationally consistent funding – should proceed with consideration for what already works.

“There are good aspects of the various state and territory systems that are worth considering.

“And we should never pursue harmonisation for its own sake – another point on which the Joyce Review was clear: states and territories need flexibility to adapt national systems to their own skills needs.

“The aim should be for a coherent national framework with flexibility for states to reflect local circumstances,” he said.

See the full address.

Footballer-turned-carpenter takes top prize at NSW training awards

A TAFE NSW carpentry apprentice and a sports education trainee took out the top prizes at the NSW Training Awards in Sydney last week.

Carpentry apprentice Nelson Florimo, pictured, (Certificate III – Carpentry) from the NSW Central Coast was named Apprentice of the Year.

The Minister for Skills and Tertiary Education Geoff Lee congratulated Nelson on his leadership skills and tenacity.

“Nelson’s dad, Greg Florimo, was an outstanding rugby league player and Nelson was following in his father’s footsteps until serious injury forced him to give up the game aged 18 and that led him to discover a passion for carpentry,” Mr Lee said.

Samuel Heffernan (Certificate III – Sport, Fitness and Recreation) from Wagga Wagga was named Trainee of the Year.

Troy Ward (Certificate III – Electrotechnology Electrician) from Epping was presented with the Phil Darby Memorial Award.

See all the award winners.

Dedication and focus see CIT recognised at training awards

Canberra Institute of Technology (CIT), its teachers and students were recognised for their commitment to innovation and outstanding achievement at the ACT Training Awards last week.

CIT received the Large Training Provider of the Year Award.

The Cyber Security Skills Collaboration, an initiative to develop the cyber security workforce of the future through a collaboration betweenCIT, Fifth Domain and AustCyber received the 2019 Industry Collaboration Award.

CIT’s High Risk Programs Teacher Ken Wilson took the ACT VET Teacher/Trainer of the Year Award, and Facilities Manager Ivan Radic received the 2019 Norm Fisher Award.

CIT’s student Amelia Gulliford (Certificate III in Business Administration) was named ACT Trainee of the Year, while James White (Certificate III in Carpentry) was named ACT Apprentice of the Year, and Taylor Williams (Diploma of Government) was ACT Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Student of the Year.

Acting Chief Executive Andrew Whale said the awards reflect a diverse team at CIT with industry experience and a dedicated focus on students and their needs.

See all the award winners.

North Regional TAFE named WA’s top training institute

North Regional TAFE was named as the Large Training Provider of the Year at the 2019 West Australian training awards on Friday.

Other award winners were:

  • Apprentice of the Year – Anthony Di Cristofaro
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Student of the Year – Rekeisha Voss
  • Trainee of the Year – Rebecca Lee Hudson
  • School-based Apprentice of the Year – Tiffany Heelan
  • Vocational Student of the Year – Chloe Baigent
  • Cultural Diversity Training Award – Elena Smirnova
  • International Student of the Year – Dushica Poposki
  • Trainer of the Year – Matthew King
  • Industry Collaboration Award – the Electrical Industry Female Participation Program

Victoria’s TAFEs urged to collaborate to address enrolment issues

The Victorian Auditor-General has urged the state’s TAFEs to share knowledge and resources as a way of managing the influx of students under the Free TAFE initiative.

The Auditor-General’s report examined the efficiency of enrolment processes under the initiative, as well as the Department of Education and Training’s oversight and support to TAFEs.

It examined the situation at four TAFEs and one dual sector university: Box Hill Institute; Melbourne Polytechnic; Sunraysia Institute of TAFE; William Angliss Institute of TAFE; and Swinburne University of Technology.

It found that the experience of prospective students was generally positive, but urged greater consistency in enrolment procedures.

“While respondents to our survey most commonly reported that their overall experience was easy, there was considerable variability in the time and effort reported by individuals to finalise their enrolment,” the report said. 

The audit was critical of the process of literacy and numeracy testing required for each student before they can commence training, describing it as “time-consuming and onerous for both the TAFE and the prospective student.”

The report said the audited TAFEs were working to improve their enrolment processes and develop more integrated information management systems.

“These initiatives should lead to efficiency gains and an improved enrolment experience.

“However, the sector could significantly improve its efficiency if TAFEs worked together, as they face similar challenges, and – in most cases – use similar underlying software. By sharing their knowledge and resources, TAFEs could collaborate on system development, without duplicating effort.”

See the latest from the World Federation of Colleges and Polytechnics

The World Federation of Colleges and Polytechnics is now sharing news, views and reports from its members around the world through its newsletter Dispatch.

In this edition it covers topics including the road to gender equality, integrating social, emotional and sustainable learning into education materials, the consumer rights of international students, and how emerging technology links with training.

Annual survey of youth gets under way

The annual survey period for the Longitudinal Surveys of Australian Youth (LSAY) has commenced – a process that follows young Australians as they move from school into adulthood.

Around 10,000 young people aged 19 and 25 will be contacted about a wide range of topics, including future aspirations, vocational and higher education, employment and job seeking, health, living arrangements, volunteering, social support, financial stress, and their satisfaction with various aspects of life.

“LSAY has provided a rich source of information about young people and their pathways for over 20 years,” said Simon Walker, Managing Director of the National Centre for Vocational Education Research (NCVER), which has managed the survey since 2007.

LSAY participants are recruited at age 15 from schools that take part in the OECD’s Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) and are contacted once a year until they are 25.

See more.

Jacqui Lambi aims her political clout at helping TAFE 

The state of Tasmania’s TAFE system is in the sights of independent Senator Jacqui Lambie, according to an article in The Examiner.

The paper says that Senator Lambie, who holds the balance of power in the Senate, is ready to ramp up her efforts to get a better deal for TAFE.

“There’s many kids [in Tasmania] that do not want to go to university,” she said.

“And I do not believe we’re giving them the [same] opportunities as those who get educated – they get an opportunity to go into university, but we don’t seem to be giving the opportunity to the other side and that’s not fair.”

Senator Lambie said there was “discrimination” against young Tasmanians who preferred to take up a trade rather than go to university.

Senator Lambie’s influence in the parliament saw the federal government recently waive Tasmania’s $157 million public housing debt to the Commonwealth following the senator’s support for tax cuts.

Diary Dates

Community Colleges Australia 2019 Annual Conference
18 – 20 November 2019
The Stamford Plaza Hotel, Brisbane
More Information

ASEAN Australia Education Dialogue (AAED)
18 – 20 November 2019
Georgetown, Penang, Malaysia
More information

Australian Training Awards
21 November 2019
Brisbane, Queensland
More information

Australian Council of Deans of Education Vocational Education Group
5th Annual Conference on VET Teaching and VET Teacher Education
9 – 10 December 2019
Charles Sturt University Wagga Wagga Campus
More information


My family are all tradies – I know TAFE isn’t what it used to be and I know why

I come from a family of tradies.

My dad was a brickie. His dad was in the building game. As far as the eye can see in our family tree, on my dad’s side, are brickies, chippies, gyprockers, a sparkie or two, labourers, mechanics and builders. All blokes, of course. We’re talking about history here.

My three brothers are tradies, or once were tradies. Two of my three sons went through vocational training. My middle son went to TAFE when training to be a chef, and went again a decade later when he made the switch to become a carpenter.

TAFE colleges have been invaluable in helping many people start their careers. Picture: Louise Kennerley
 TAFE colleges have been invaluable in helping many people start their careers. Picture: Louise Kennerley

My youngest son was a mechanic for a few years before doing a teaching degree and working with challenging teens.

My eldest son owns a cafe and employs apprentices working their way through TAFE. 

I went to TAFE years ago to learn typing and shorthand as a cadet journalist. I went again with two of my sisters some time later for a semester of learning how to do basic sewing. Why I did that is lost in the mists of time. I’m rubbish at anything crafty. Possibly, I was there because I was the only one with a driver’s licence.

All I can remember is sitting in the back of the class where everyone else seemed proficient, and being banned from using sewing machines by myself because my threading skills were crap and I snapped way too many needles.

The other thing I remember clearly from that time is the first name of the woman who tried to teach us how to sew, and the pained expression and little sigh she gave every time I put my hand up for help. That’s not a complaint, by the way. I would have had a pained expression if I’d been trying to teach me.

Anyway, the TAFE colleges where I live – or “tech” colleges as I think of them, which gives the game away about how old I am – have always been significant institutions, because so many people around here attended them.

I live in a neighbourhood of tradies of a certain vintage. It’s close to the beach and we’re all on our seventh, eighth or tenth houses after buying land young years ago when there was land available that was reasonable to buy, and building and selling, building and selling until we own the ones we’re in. The great Australian dream.

The ratio of utes to homes around here is very high. And not just the pretty pretend utes whose owners spend too much of their weekends buffing and polishing them to a dazzling sheen, and bark orders to their kids about dirty shoes and sticky fingers.

No. I’m talking about proper utes, where a few bangs and dings from wheelbarrows, ladders and tools of trade thrown in the tray after a hard day on the job are a badge of honour. Those utes drive around here with a fine layer of dust and a bit of mud on the wheels. Their blokey owners give a smile and a nod and a fingers-up wave while their hands remain on the wheel, as a way of acknowledging they know you’re a local.

They sling boards on the back when the surf’s up. In summer salt-crusted towels join the crap in the tray or the crap around a passenger’s feet.

Every so often these real-ute tradie owners will hose their utes down but the interiors remain true tradie – dust on the dash, food wrappers and empty drink containers on the floor, pens and bits of paper here and there, sometimes ciggies, and a glovebox that could contain anything, from sticking plaster to measuring tape, car records to ticket stubs from a 1989 AC/DC concert, or tax documents that should have been lodged three years ago.

Being a tradie where I live means having control of your life, running your own race, having the ability to work hard and reap the profits of that. It also means being able to be flexible with your work hours and time – like when the surf’s up or a new baby is born.

For the past few months the federal and NSW governments, among others, have been talking up vocational training. The Business Council of Australia has been talking up vocational training. Everyone’s been talking up vocational training because we have, according to them, a skills shortage, and industries crying out for skilled workers.

But the way these spruikers of vocational training have been doing it is insulting to anyone with half a brain who’s watched, despairing, as governments of all stripes, over years, have trashed that education sector, or where the sector itself has kicked own goals.

“We have to address the cultural and financial bias that treats VET (vocational education training) like a second class citizen,” said Business Council of Australia chief executive Jennifer Westacott (a high school classmate of mine).

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian weighed in with: “We want universities and VET to be thought of in the same sentence for workers looking to prepare themselves for the high value jobs of the future.”

This week NSW Minister for Skills and Tertiary Education, Dr Geoff Lee, a former TAFE teacher and university lecturer, repeated the “cultural bias” refrain, saying there was a “cultural bias towards university”, as if the problem with falling TAFE enrolments is an attitudinal thing alone, and we, the people, are snobs.

How about we frame it this way.

The public lost confidence in the vocational sector when governments supported the introduction of private colleges for “competition”, when that led to extraordinary rorting of the system and students, and when “diplomas” and “certificates” were thrown around like confetti but didn’t lead to jobs or careers.

How about some honesty about NSW TAFE “reforms” resulting in wholesale closure of regional TAFE colleges, the collapse of courses on offer, the sacking of staff and a dramatic jump in course costs for students, many of whom once saw TAFE as a way to get ahead, often after difficult childhoods where their schooling took a battering?

And what about the $600 million NSW TAFE IT system debacle that left thousands of students – my son included – unable to get final results that were needed before they could start work as licensed tradies.

The “cultural bias” towards university, or against TAFE, didn’t exist in my neck of the woods before vocational training was disrespected and plundered, internally and externally, over a long period. The TAFE college in Gosford, where I grew up, was on the hill as a prominent and respected local institution.

If vocational training is going to offer a great pathway again for young people into well-paying tradie careers – and particularly young people who deserve a break – how about our leaders be honest about who actually showed the bias that caused the mess.


Business lobby urges radical overhaul of school funding based on job success

Former students’ tax returns, Centrelink data and further study would be used to determine school funding under a radical proposal put to the state government by the business lobby.

The NSW Business Chamber has called for a version of “outcomes-based funding” where schools are paid based on the performance of their students and teachers, rather than the current “needs-based” model shaped by businessman David Gonski.

Premier Gladys Berejiklian at Seven Hills North Public School last year, when the NSW government reached a funding deal with the Commonwealth.
Premier Gladys Berejiklian at Seven Hills North Public School last year, when the NSW government reached a funding deal with the Commonwealth.CREDIT:AAP

The chamber’s submission to upper house member Mark Latham’s school funding inquiry gives “in principle” support to abandoning the needs-based funding model that has taken years to agree between states in the Commonwealth, and replacing it with a performance-driven system.

However, the chamber says performance should not be measured solely by test results but by  students’ success in finding work or further education. This would be assessed partly by tracking former students’ Centrelink data, tax returns and further study records.

Schools that produced students who were gainfully employed, or in vocational training or university, would get more money.

“Moving to outcome-based funding should look at incentivising outcomes such as skills attainment and job outcomes rather than just focusing on test-scores such as NAPLAN and HSC results,” the business chamber’s director of policy Chris Lamont told The Sun-Herald.

Needs-based funding aims to distribute resources to schools based on how much they and their students need it. Financial disadvantage is a key component, including for private schools serving poorer communities.

Under outcomes-based funding, schools are rewarded for their students’ achievements, although this is typically measured by improvement rather than raw results.

Mr Latham, who chairs the upper house education committee, previously said schools shouldn’t lose money because of poor results, but if those with stronger results received a greater share of funding there would be “a strong demonstration effect in the system.”

The NSW government effectively rejected that proposal in its submission to the inquiry, affirming it is “committed to the Gonski principles of a needs-based, sector-blind approach to funding”, and that the current system is designed to lift student outcomes.

That was despite moves toward “outcome budgeting” across the public service announced in this year’s budget, with the education department the first cab off the rank. There was “no suggestion” school funding would be cut as a result, the government said.

Adrian Piccoli, the former NSW education minister who now runs the Gonski Institute for Education at the University of UNSW, said he did not make a submission to the inquiry because Mr Latham “doesn’t know what he’s talking about”.

Mr Piccoli said outcomes-based funding was an unfair and unworkable concept.

“You can’t fund a school system like that. Could you fund hospitals like that? No one would take sick patients,” he said.

“The experience in the US when they do this is people start dodgy-ing the figures. You can be guaranteed people will start manipulating the numbers.”

Other groups told the inquiry they vehemently opposed any move away from needs-based funding, including the Country Women’s Association, which has “serious concerns” about outcomes-based funding for regional schools.

The Association of Independent Schools of NSW said the state’s neediest students could lose funding under Mr Latham’s vision, “entrenching disadvantage through a cyclical process of

However, the right-leaning Centre for Independent Studies think tank endorsed the idea, advocating merit-based pay for teachers and sanctions for those who under-perform.


Industrial Revolution 4.0 and the world of work: It’s complicated

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industrial revolution

AS companies gain from digital technologies, the world of work grapples with the challenge of fitting young people with the right skill sets and overall makeup suited to emerging jobs under the Industrial Revolution (IR) 4.0; and upskilling the employed so machines will not replace them.

A key component of IR 4.0, or what’s sometimes referred to as “FIR” (Fourth Industrial Revolution), is the Internet of Things that is characterized by connected devices to help internal operations.The use of cloud environment allows companies to store data while equipment and operations can be optimized by leveraging the insights of others, using the same equipment or to allow smaller enterprises access to technology.

Education and industry experts recently gathered at the 8th International Skills Forum at the Asian Development Bank (ADB) in Manila, and, while confronting the challenges, raised optimism on the benefits of IR 4.0 in spurring innovation in the workplace, leading to economic growth.

Still, the lingering digital divide aggravates the situations of young people who are already missing the benefits from the second wave of globalization due to poverty.

Beyond literacy, numeracy

Bambang Susantono, vice president for knowledge management and sustainable development of ADB, said governments need to take giant steps to help young people fulfill their potential.

“Young people are inheriting a world affected by inequality, conflict and climate change. These are daunting challenges for the next generation to deal with and they need a broad range of skills to succeed,” said Susantono in his speech at the opening of the three-day forum in Manila.

Governments, he said, need to ensure that education works for children by offering them skills beyond literacy and numeracy. Young people must develop higher levels of skills needed by industries, such as problem solving and critical thinking.

Lant Pritchette, director of US-based Research on Improving Systems of Education (RISE), said developing countries should rethink their “logic of logistics” that only ensures young people have access to schools and prepare for the 21st century.

The logic of logistics in the education sector is a simple task of bringing every child to school, but it leaves behind a vast majority who fail at basic skills of literacy and numeracy.

He said a lot of countries treat the “education system as a selection system,” where few get ahead and majority are left behind because the curriculum is beyond their understanding.

At a minimum, every learner must come out of school with universal, early, conceptual and procedural mastery of basic skills or literacy and numeracy.

“In the interest of producing an elite capable of performing at a high level, the curriculum moves ahead so fast and the vast majority of children are left behind completely and stop learning, because the curriculum is far beyond what [learners] can understand,” said Pritchette in his speech.

Lack of employment for many countries is not a problem of shortage of jobs but the steady rise of unemployable youth, he said.

To cope with the challenges of digital technologies, Pritchette said schools need to design a structured pedagogue that focuses teaching at the right level where children can master reading and math and, eventually, the relevant sets of skills.

He said a third grader who can’t read and do arithmetic will fail in the fourth grade where the curriculum is tough and fast-paced.  “At 6th grade, the child is bored and will hate formal sector schooling; thus, it will be too late when, at age 15, adults will train them for a craft.”

In 2014, the Unesco Global Monitoring Report stated that 250 million children are unable to read, write, or do basic mathematics, and, ironically, 130 million of those children are in school.

Potential for AI

Kate Behcken, vice president of Microsoft Philanthropies, said there is an enormous potential of Artificial Intelligence, a key feature of IR 4.0, to increase incomes in the Asia-Pacific region.

To attain this, more than 50 percent of the workforce in Asia Pacific will need to reskill and upskill by 2020 to retain and get jobs.

She said young people need to be equipped with unique skills to thrive in the fast-paced digital technologies.

Among the top skills that will be required of young people are analytical and digital skills, as well as adaptability in the workplace.

She said so-called soft skills such as effective communication, problem solving and critical analysis are highly essential to find and stay in jobs.

Microsoft Philanthropies continues to engage companies to rethink the sets of qualifications in hiring, from certificates to skills-based hiring.

Premium on real skills

Companies, she said, should hire people in new roles based on the skills gained, and not solely on formal education.

Pritchette cited Switzerland as a model in occupational training, where there is no premium on a college degree. “People are valued based on real skills, such as automotive repair, which leads to social equity and productivity.”

Education and industry experts at the forum agreed that countries need to strengthen and design relevant Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET), which provides knowledge and skills for employment, mostly for young people in deprived situations.

Michael Fung, deputy chief executive officer of Singapore-based Skills Future, said businesses should invest in employee training as digital technologies rapidly change the nature of jobs.

He urged leaders to rethink the paradigm of education and training to address skills gaps caused by the digital disruptions.

“The traditional education system is fairly linear. We frontload a lot of learning [information] in the first 12 to 16 years, send out graduates of high school and colleges into the real world, and we say good luck,” said Fung.

He said progressive businesses invest in the upskilling of their employees through TVET and lifelong learning.

While Asia is viewed as the next powerhouse of jobs and business opportunities as a result of digital technologies, millions of its population, mostly children, continue to live behind the walls of poverty, conflict and marginalization. The traditional notion that education is the best ticket out of poverty will fail them if, after all their family’s efforts to send them to school, they will spend the best years of their young lives being shaped by an irrelevant, outdated kind of pedagogy.

Estrella Torres is the head of communications at Save the Children Philippines.


Victorian TAFEs fail Process Review

Friday, September 13, 2019 – 12:23

An Audit Victoria review of Enrolment Processes at Technical and Further Education Institutes has highlighted limited uptake of document automation with duplicative information collection, and manual processing still common.

The audit was undertaken to examine the efficiency of enrolment processes for government-subsidised training at four Technical and Further Education Institutes (TAFEs) and one dual sector university: Box Hill Institute; Melbourne Polytechnic; Sunraysia Institute of TAFE; William Angliss Institute of TAFE; and Swinburne University of Technology. 

This audit used process mining software to examine prospective students’ pathways through the enrolment process at four of the five audited TAFEs.

It found that three institutions, Melbourne Polytechnic, SuniTAFE and William Angliss, still rely on manual processes to enrol students, which are inefficient and costly. In some cases, these TAFEs require prospective students to visit campus on one or more occasions to finalise their enrolment, which can be inconvenient for students and burdensome for staff.

Melbourne Polytechnic, SuniTAFE and William Angliss mostly use paper‑based and some electronic forms to capture critical enrolment-related information. In contrast with Swinburne and Box Hill, these electronic forms do not automatically feed into the TAFEs’ information management systems.

Admissions staff must manually copy the information into the relevant SMS field. This double handling often occurs after the individual has finalised their enrolment, which may delay TAFEs’ access to consolidated data.

SuniTAFE and Melbourne Polytechnic use additional staff resources to manage the manual activity in their processes. SuniTAFE has previously hired a temporary admissions officer to scan enrolment-related documents for storage, while Melbourne Polytechnic contracts a third-party records management company for the same purpose. These resources put a financial burden on SuniTAFE and Melbourne Polytechnic, which may divert funds from other initiatives.

In contrast, Box Hill and Swinburne have an online enrolment process, while providing on-campus help to those who need it.

All TAFEs use a combination of third-party software programs to capture information about prospective students. TAFEs use a customer relationship management (CRM) system to communicate with individuals when they enquire about training, and a student management system (SMS) to collect and administer information about key enrolment steps. Some TAFEs also employ a separate finance system to process tuition fees. Most TAFEs use different versions of the same CRM and SMS products, which they configure differently.

The report concludes that All TAFEs face similar challenges to integrate their information management systems and move more enrolment steps online.

“Rather than working in isolation to address the same issues, there could be significant sector‑wide efficiency gains if the department and TAFEs work together on system development.”

The Full Report is available HERE.


The’most promising’ professions by 2028

The 'most promising' professions by 2028

BY Rachel Ranosa 12 Sep 2019Share

The rise of workplace automation may cast a shadow on the future of work for those in labour-intensive industries such as manufacturing.

But for knowledge workers – particularly those in management – some professions will only continue to grow in the next decade, according to data compiled by the Wall Street Journal.

Among the professions expected to enjoy a steady rise in employment by 2028 is human resources management. It ranks #35 out of the 800 careers analysed by the WSJ.

READ MORE: Is the future of HR, no HR?

In the US, the projected annual openings for HR managers, all the way through to 2028, is at 14,400. Last year, the industry employed 152,100 managers – with a median salary of US$113,300.

The number is predicted to rise by 7.1% to 162,900 positions in total, or the equivalent of 10,800 new HR manager jobs created in the span of a decade.

Top 10 professions by 2028
The three “most promising careers” by 2028 all require management expertise:

  • General and operations managers (165,000+ jobs)
  • Financial managers (104,700+)
  • Managers, all others (68,500+)

Other professions in the top 10 call for highly technical and specialist knowledge as well as years of training and experience:

  • Application software developer (241,500+)
  • Lawyers (50,100+)
  • Computer and information systems managers (46,800+)
  • Sales managers (20,600+)
  • Management analysts (118,300+)
  • Systems developers (42,600+)
  • Medical and health services managers (71,600+)

“Many of America’s fastest-growing jobs, such as personal-care aides and fast-food workers, pay the lowest wages in the nation, while the highest-compensated professions, like doctors and lawyers, have few openings a year,” writes Soo Oh of WSJ.

“Registered nurses and software developers hit the sweet spot, pairing relatively high wages with robust demand – making them among the most promising careers in our analysis.”


Exploitative visa system undercuts Australian workers

Federal Minister for Employment Michaelia Cash has called on businesses to invest more in workforce training. Noting that it costs companies on average $28,000 to replace an employee, Cash claims that one of the main reasons why people leave their job is that they are unsatisfied with their skills development. Cash says that spending more on workforce training would help to boost productivity. From The AFR:

“The reality is that business investment in workplace training has been going in the wrong direction for some time,” Senator Cash said.

“But business needs to play its part. Workforce planning is not simply a problem for government, and the solution will lie with industry as well.”

Work-related training has fallen across all age groups, dropping from 26.9 per cent in 2013 to 21.5 per cent in 2016–17…

“That’s stark evidence and a call for employers to invest more in the skills development of their employees to make their businesses more sustainable. A trained workforce brings greater productivity returns and better wages,” Senator Cash said.

Why would Australian businesses bother to employ and train locals when they can instead grab a cheap migrant worker?

The pool of migrant workers has swelled across Australia, many of whom work for below-market rates:

The federal government has also set the pay floor for temporary ‘skilled’ migrant workers at just $53,900, which is $34,349 below the current average full-time Australian salary of $88,249, as well as $14,720 below the median full-time wage of $68,620, each of which comprise both skilled and unskilled workers.

This appallingly low pay floor has strongly incentivised businesses to ‘grab’ a cheap migrant worker over employing and training a local. As noted by Joanna Howe in the recent book, Wage Crisis in Australia:

Scarcely a day goes by without another headline of wage theft involving temporary migrant workers… it exposes a very real wages crisis facing workers on the Temporary Skill Shortage (TSS) visa (formerly the 457 visa) in Australia. This crisis has been precipitated by the federal government’s decision to freeze the salary floor for temporary skilled migrant workers since 2013… the government has chosen to put downward pressure on real wages for temporary skilled migrants, thereby surreptitiously allowing the TSS visa to be used in lower-paid jobs…

Renowned Australian demographer Graeme Hugo observed that employers ‘will always have a “demand” for foreign workers if it results in a lowering of their costs’. The simplistic notion that employers will only go to the trouble and expense of making a TSS visa application when they want to meet a skill shortage skims over a range of motives an employer may have for using the TSS visa. These could be a reluctance to invest in training for existing or prospective staff, or a desire to move towards a deunionised workforce. Additionally, for some employers, there could be a belief that, despite the requirement that TSS visa workers be employed on equivalent terms to locals, it is easier to avoid paying market salary rates and conditions for temporary migrant workers who have been recognised as being in a vulnerable labour market position. A recent example of this is the massive underpayments of chefs and cooks employed by Australia’s largest high-end restaurant business, Rockpool Dining Group, which found that visa holders were being paid at levels just above TSMIT but well below the award when taking into account the amount of overtime being done…

Put simply, temporary demand for migrant workers often creates a permanent need for them in the labour market. Research shows that in industries where employers have turned to temporary migrants en masse, it erodes wages and conditions in these industries over time, making them less attractive to locals…

Not surprisingly then, migrants took 83% of Australian jobs created between 2011 and 2016, according to research from Professor Peter McDonald from Melbourne University:

From July 2011 to July 2016, employment in Australia increased by 738,800. Immigrants accounted for 613,400 of the total increase…

The ACTU has also blamed unfettered employer access to migrant workers for limiting the job opportunities and training of local workers [my emphasis]:

Wright and Constantin (2015) surveyed employers using the 457 visa scheme and found that 86% state that they have experienced challenges recruiting workers locally. Despite identified recruiting difficulties, the survey found that fewer than 1 in one hundred employers surveyed had addressed ‘skill shortages’ by raising the salary being offered. Labour ‘shortages’ should first be addressed through a readjustment in the price of labour – increased wages. An inability to find local workers to work at a specified wage rate, coupled with an unwillingness to offer higher wages, does not necessarily imply a skill shortage – particularly where local workers would be willing and able to work if the wage rate was lifted. This differs from a skill shortage in which there are simply not enough people with a particular skill to meet demand.

The relatively recent availability of a large and vulnerable pool of temporary migrant workers has undoubtedly contributed to current record low levels of wages growth and a growing reluctance by employers to train local workers…

While there are approximately 1.5 million temporary entrants with work rights, the overseas worker team at the Fair Work Ombudsman consists of only 17 full time inspectors to investigate cases of exploitation – over 80,000 visa workers per inspector. Inadequate enforcement and penalties act as an incentive for employers to exploit temporary workers when the benefit from doing so outweighs the cost of the penalty. or where the probability of being caught is sufficiently low….

Allowing the mass importation of migrant workers bypasses the ordinary functioning of the labour market by enabling employers to source cheap foreign labour in lieu of raising wages, as well as abrogating the need for training.

So rather than waxing lyrical about investing in workforce training, the federal government should place a minimum salary floor of $100,000 on each skilled visa, both temporary and permanent, as well as stem the flow of international students into Australia’s universities, which has hit plague proportions.

Implementing these measures would ensure the visa system is used only for specialised high skilled workers that Australia cannot foster domestically, rather than being used by employers as a general labour market tool to undercut local workers and reduce wage costs.

Australia’s weak wage growth, and the lack of job opportunities and training, won’t improve otherwise.