Employers welcome commitment to making regional Australia stronger

Business Council of Australia

Employers welcome the Government’s commitment today to invest in the infrastructure and education services that regional Australia needs to thrive, Business Council chief executive Jennifer Westacott said.

“Today’s announcement is an important step towards unleashing the full potential of regional Australia by providing funding for regional education and giving young people the opportunity to study locally. We have long called for a comprehensive approach to regional planning and to giving Australians in regional areas the opportunities they deserve.

“Employers want to invest more in new projects, new jobs and higher wages, which they can do if the settings are right. We now need a renewed focus on how businesses can work with communities to help build an even stronger regional Australia.

“The best way to ensure Australians in regional areas can get the new jobs they want is by giving them the skills and training they need over their working lives. That needs to include giving regional learners access to both universities and VET providers like TAFE.

“We need to build on the opportunities in our regions, which are the backbone of Australia. We need to make the regions more attractive, and we need to take the pressure off our capital cities, we can do that by investing in the right infrastructure at the right time.

“Over the past 12 months as we’ve travelled to Bathurst, Gladstone, Busselton, Toowoomba, Geelong, Townsville, Cairns, Hobart, Adelaide, Broadmeadows and Penrith the message from regional Australia has been clear, regional Australians want to get the settings right to get businesses investing in regional Australia. That’s why we developed A plan for a stronger Australia to deliver the practical action Australians want to lock in growth for the whole community.”

The Business Council has developed a to do list to make regional Australia even stronger.

The to do list:

 Audit the strengths and weaknesses of key regional areas.

 Target infrastructure dollars to regional centres with the best potential to grow.

 Consider incentives such as fast-tracking planning approvals to encourage businesses to set up shop and invest in regional Australia.

 Make sure regional centres are connected to other cities with good transport links for people and freight.

 Make sure regional Australia has fast and reliable digital connections, including the National Broadband Network.

 Urgently reform the post-secondary education and skills system. Remove the cultural and funding bias against vocational education and training by moving to a single funding model for both VET and higher education.

 Set up a single information platform so students and workers have a one-stop-shop to find out about jobs in demand, potential earnings, what to study, how long it will take, and what it will cost.

 Give every Australian a Lifelong Skills Account to pay for their training and education needs through their working lives, allowing them to choose where, what and when they study.

 Create a national apprenticeship system that encourages employers to take on young workers.

Download the Business Council’s Plan for a stronger Australia here.

Read the stories of businesses supporting regional Australia here.

/Public Release. View in full here.

Mobile Student Hub begins rolling around the Gold Coast

Study Gold Coast CEO Alfred Slogrove, Study QLD CEO Shannon Willoughby and Gold Coast Mayor Tom Tate in front of new Mobile Student Hub | PHOTO by Monique St Clair, myGC

Study Gold Coast has launched a brand new ‘Mobile Student Hub’, to take their support services directly to the community.

The small van will be able to travel to schools, campuses and the student community, bringing various support services for those looking to study.

It was launched following the success of the Gold Coast Student Hub in Southport, which opened 18 months ago.

It’s believed over 8,500 students have visited the Hub since it opened, coming from over 70 countries.

Carrying information such as careers advice, workshops and professional development programs, the vans roll out across the Gold Coast from today.

Mayor Tom Tate says the Mobile Hub, which was unveiled at Council Chambers this morning, will go a long way to accommodate the Gold Coast’s growing number of students.

“The Gold Coast is a city that invests in its future.

“That’s why the City has made such a firm commitment to its education and training sector.

“By supporting our students and enhancing their experience a student’s time spent studying ad living on the Gold Coast is enriched and as a result they become champions for the city,” Mayor Tate said.


Monash review calls for reforms to funding, student loans

Elizabeth Proust, chairwoman of the Monash Commission. Picture: Chris PavlichElizabeth Proust, chairwoman of the Monash Commission. Picture: Chris Pavlich


A new Monash University-initiated review has called on the federal and state governments to co-operate on reform to tertiary education to create a powerful new national funding agency and expand student loans to all accredited courses.

The review, the first from the newly instituted Monash Commission, recommends closer links between the higher education and vocational education sectors, and an integrated funding system overseen by an independent statutory body that would distribute funding on behalf of federal, state and territory governments.

The commission, chaired by businesswoman Elizabeth Proust, says Australia needs a “seamless” post-secondary education system that delivers lifelong learning to help people gain new knowledge and skills as they move through life and take on new jobs and responsibilities.

It outlines significant challenges, saying that Australia’s post-compulsory education system (meaning education that follows children’s compulsory per­iod of schooling) “lacks a shared sense of purpose and direction”.

Vocational education and training “has become uneven in funding levels, policy direction and quality”, and the system struggles to deliver equal education access to all Australians, it says.

The report, titled Three Recommendations for Renewal of Post-Compulsory Education in Australia, also says there needs to be more capacity to deal with rapid economic and social change.

A key requirement is to build a system that can offer new skills to a person several times across their lifetime, with courses that are flexible, affordable and time-saving. “Our current system of post-compulsory education and train­ing still seems funded and equipped to educate people only once,” it says.

It also warns that the present funding model for post-compulsory education lacks the ability to deal with new challenges. “It discourages the sort of ­diversity within and between ­institutions needed to make our system agile and flexible enough to serve our needs,” the report says.

The review’s first recommendation, for a national statutory funding and advisory body, is aimed at setting a “stable and non-partisan policy direction” and aligning resource allocation appropriately.

Its second recommendation would spread HECS-style income-contingent loans to all areas of post-compulsory education. It would offer every Australian a learning entitlement, consisting of a loan and a government subsidy, which could be dipped into at any stage of life.

It also would take into account micro-credentials, which add flexibility to the education system.

The final recommendation, for a sustainable financing model, is to separate government funding for teaching and research, with teaching money no longer being siphoned away to pay for university research. Governments would pick up the slack and bear the full cost of research.

Monash University vice-chancellor Margaret Gardner said the Monash Commission would undertake further public policy work. “We thought the university should have a role in bringing independent experts together, saying, ‘Here’s a question, ponder it, gather evidence and put that into the public domain,’ ” she said.

Tim Dodd travelled to Melbourne courtesy of Monash University.


Federal election 2019: Here’s where the major parties stand on education

Graphic of books in a pilePHOTO: Both parties claim to have the best plan to improve declining student results. (ABC News: Emma Machan)

Education is always a major election issue, and after years of school funding wars it will once again be at the forefront of many voters’ minds.

A traditional strength area for Labor, both major parties are pitching themselves as having the best strategy for improving declining student results.

Early education

The Coalition is spending about $450 million to give children access to 15 hours of preschool education a week until the end of 2020.

Labor has promised to commit permanent funding for preschool, replacing the current year-to-year funding arrangement, and extend it to three-year-olds from 2021.

The Opposition describes the plan as a major economic and social reform, however the Coalition has criticised the price tag ($9.8 billion over 10 years) and says it is more important to improve four-year-olds’ attendance rates first.

Major changes were made to the childcare system in 2018, with two existing payments replaced by a new means-tested subsidy, subject to an activity test.

The Coalition argues the changes have left about 1 million families better off, but Labor says it would go further, pledging to spend $4 billion over four years to make child care free for most low-income households and cheaper for families earning up to $174,000 a year.


The ‘Gonski 2.0’ plan, announced by former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull, replaced separate school funding deals in favour of a nationally consistent, needs-based system costing an extra $23.5 billion over a decade.

You asked, we answered

Many of you asked about education as part of the ABC’s You Ask, We Answer campaign. Here are some of the audience questions answered in this article:

  • How much funding for public and private schools do the Libs and ALP provide? – Rachel
  • What is the position of the major parties regarding funding technical education/TAFE and reintroducing quality indicators in relation to learning and teaching that determine government funding? – Michele
  • What priority will be given to improving education during the next term and what steps will be taken to increase education standards in Australia? – Matt
  • Will either major party make university more affordable for country students? – Michael

The Catholic education sector complained loudly about the funding system for non-government schools, eventually prompting a new model based on parents’ income, rather than their postcode, worth an extra $4.5 billion.

The Coalition’s 2019 Budget also included a $30 million fund for school equipment and upgrades.

Labor has pledged an extra $14 billion for government schools over the next 10 years, $3.3 billion of which would flow in the first three years — an amount it says could pay for thousands of extra teachers.

The Opposition would not reverse the $4.5 billion deal for non-government schools.

It has also threatened to cap teaching degree places if universities do not do more to lift standards.

Higher and vocational education

The Coalition argues university funding is at record levels, with more than $17 billion allocated in 2019.

In 2017, it announced a two-year cap on university funding aimed at saving $2.1 billion. The Coalition also reduced the salary threshold at which people need to start paying back student loans to $45,000 a year.

The 2019 Budget included a $94 million scholarships program to encourage students to study in regional Australia.

It also revealed $525 million to improve the vocational education and training sector, including funding to boost incentives to support up to 80,000 new apprenticeships.

While it has been in office, the Coalition has introduced sweeping changes to student loans for vocational education.

Under the changes, students can only get loans if they take on approved courses in areas of skills shortages. Students who take on a course that is not approved have to pay upfront.

Labor has criticised the move, but has not committed to reversing it if it wins.

The Opposition has promised to return to a demand-driven university system, which it says would give 200,000 more Australians the chance to go to university at a cost of $10 billion over a decade.

It has also committed to a $300 million fund to upgrade buildings and equipment.

The Opposition has promised a $1 billion vocational education package, including $380 million for 100,000 free TAFE places, $224 million for 150,000 extra apprentice incentives and $200 million for TAFE building upgrades.

It has called for at least one in 10 jobs on Commonwealth projects to be filled by Australian apprentices.

Labor has also set aside $10 million for the creation of 1,300 new scholarships for Indigenous people to study at TAFE if they live outside the big cities.

The Opposition wants to create a new position, an apprentice advocate, to act on young people’s behalf in the workplace.

A Labor government would also hold a national inquiry into post-secondary education, looking at both universities and vocational education and training.


Tibaldo: Learning new skills and becoming entrepreneurial with Tesda

IN CAPACITATING and providing guidance to the country’s trainable sector, the Tesda as I earlier mentioned is mandated to provide national directions for the country’s technical-vocational education and training (TVET) system.

In fact, my daughter who is already in the hotel and resort management is asked by her office to undergo Tesda skills training under National Certificate level two or NC2 for Customer Service.

Crucial to Tesda’s role as authority in technical vocational education and training is the provision of clear directions and priorities for TVET and as such, said office provides an equitable access to programs for the growing clients.

According to Tesda’s website, there are four training modalities – school-based, center-based, enterprise-based and community-based. These are being done with the Tesda’s 57 administered schools, 60 training centers, enterprise-based training through DTS/Apprenticeship and community-based training in convergence with the LGUs.

For the School Based Program, 57,19 are agricultural schools. Seven are fishery schools and 31 are trade schools. These school based programs include post-secondary offerings of varying duration not exceeding three years.

The center based programs refer to training provisions being undertaken in the Tesda Regional (15) and Provincial (45) Training Centers totaling 60 in selected trade areas in the different regions and provinces in the country.

One center is the Tesda Training Center Taguig Campus Enterprise TTCTCE that conducts advanced technology training programs registered under UTPRAS in partnership with industry organizations under a co-management scheme in response to the training requirements of the industry. These programs generate income to support Tesda Development Fund (TDF). The Tesda board approves the training fees. From the training fees, at an agreed sharing scheme contained in a MOA, the industry partners assume all the training expenses, repair and maintain the training facilities of the center. They also bring the equipment to augment Tesda’s delivery system.

Another center based program is the Korea-Philippines Information Technology Training Center (KPITTC) at the Quezon City Polytechnic University compound in Novaliches hopes to become the premier information and communication technology training center in the Asia-Pacific region by producing competent IT practitioners to service the local and global manpower needs. KPITTC Quezon City will also provide training on computer graphics and animation.

Community-based Training for Enterprise Development program is primarily addressed to the poor and marginal groups, those who cannot access, or are not accessible by formal training provisions. They have low skills, limited management abilities, and have few economic options. They have no access to capital – most of them are unqualified for formal credit programs.

The program goes further than just mere skills training provision. It is purposely designed to catalyze the creation of livelihood enterprises that shall be implemented by the trainees, immediately after the training. Likewise, it is designed to assist partner agencies such as LGUs, NGOs, people organizations and other agencies organizations with mission to help the poor get into productive undertakings to help themselves and their communities.

The Enterprise-Based Programs are training program being implemented within companies/firms for an occupation that is apprenticeable. Generally, it aims to provide a mechanism that will ensure availability of qualified skilled workers based on industry requirements. Its objective is to establish a national apprenticeship program through the participation of employers, workers and government and non-government agencies to help meet the demand of the economy for trained manpower.

Locally, the Baguio City School of Arts and Trade located at No. 80 Military Cut-Off offers various Certificate Programs for short-term courses and in fact, my wife who is a government line-agency executive has finished a course on baking and pastry-making. For particulars, check http://www.bcsat.edu.ph/programs/certificate-programs/ for online information or visit the place itself to appreciate better what BCSAT has to offer.


Poor regard for tech-vocational education

When the President signed into law the proposed Tulong Trabaho Act in late February this year, images of the past scandal involving the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) briefly flashed in our minds.

Still fresh in our minds is a Commission on Audit (COA) report on TESDA released in 2013 that highlighted a number of questionable payments to 11 technical vocational institutions (TVIs) found to have overpriced tuition fees or shortened training schedules.

It was during the time when the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF), also known as pork barrel, was still in existence, and where 19 legislators were implicated in the TESDA anomalies, mainly for having supported the questionable TVIs.

With billions of pesos made available to TESDA in recent years, either through the national government, the pork barrel system, or donations, the COA not only revealed “non-compliance” to TESDA training standards, but even the presence of “ghost” students.

While the pork barrel scandal still rings loud in our consciousness, the PDAF is no longer at the center of today’s political corruption schemes after the Supreme Court declared its unconstitution on Nov. 19, 2013.

Tulong Trabaho

Five years after PDAF and the 2013 COA report on TESDA, the government’s push to promote technical vocational learning through TVIs continues, albeit with more transparency, accountability, and new standards.

The Tulong Trabaho Act, or Republic Act 11230, supports the Universal Access to Quality Tertiary Education Act (UAQTEA), more popularly known for its provision of free tuition fees in state universities and colleges, as well as technical-vocation education and training (TVET), that was signed into law in 2017.

The Tulong Trabaho law will have its own funds to ensure that special training programs (STPs) that will be identified through a Philippine Labor Force Competencies Competitiveness Program will be able to attract workers through the provision of free tuition and miscellaneous fees.

Close coordination with industry boards

STPs will be closely coordinated with industry boards or bodies to respond to the continuing discrepancies in job skill requirements by employers and job skill levels and competencies of those seeking jobs and job promotions. It will also attempt to improve the low employability of TVET certification holders with improved skill levels fit for higher paying jobs.

The law also recognizes the emergence of artificial intelligence in the workplace by constantly improving on TVET programs consistent with global standards.

The law’s implementing rules and regulations (IRR) are being drafted, and consultations with industry boards are ongoing. Hopefully, a meaningful IRR will be able to address the problems of job mismatches, but more so, the availability of training facilities for specialized skills.

Largest learning network

TESDA can be considered as the largest learning network for Filipinos in the country, overseeing the services of more than 7,200 institutions, of which over 60 percent belong to the private sector the remaining in public sector.

Last year, TESDA graduated in excess of two million students, majority of them undergraduates who chose not to pursue higher education. A large part of the TESDA graduates were from community-based short courses.

For its operations, TESDA draws funds from the national government, but also receives donations from other sources. Last year, it was given an increased budget of P7 billion in recognition of the UAQTEA’s provision to provide free tuition for technology vocational students in state universities and colleges and other designated schools.

Low value for tech-voc education

Yet, for all its responsibilities and expanded coverage, there remains a poor regard for tech-vocational education and certifications – particularly at the early levels – given by TESDA. These are often poorly regarded to have significant value.

In 2004, TESDA institutionalized a ladder approach to learning that allowed its graduates to use TVET credits when pursuing higher education. In reality, however, majority of TESDA graduates still choose short courses.

Even with the Ladderized Education Act of 2014, only a minority aspire to pursue higher skill levels, which partly explains the predominance of entry level training courses offered by private schools, and the perennial problem of underutilization of government funds assigned to TESDA.

Consequently, too, only a handful of schools offer a full suite of skills that lead to a mastery of the chosen technical-vocational education. This was highlighted by the recent spurt in skilled labor demand in the construction industry as the government’s Build Build Build program escalated.

Industry linkages

A more recent trend supporting the need of industry for qualified manpower has been the growing number of cooperation agreements inked by TESDA with companies that have become impatient over the government’s inability to supply better skilled labor.

In the construction industry, for example, companies like Aboitiz Construction have partnered with TESDA to fill up a high demand of 200,000 workers with construction-related higher skill levels, like welding, masonry, scaffolding, and heavy equipment operations.

In spite of all the resources being mobilized by the national government to encourage technical vocational learning through the decades, no other formula seems to work as best as when the concerned stakeholders in the private sector galvanize to act.

Industries that partner with TESDA are capable of providing facilities, as well as trainers and assessors, where interested TVET graduates of entry level skills may find better-paying jobs.

As they say, there is no better incentive for people to pursue higher education – or in this case, higher skill levels – than when there is demand. Perhaps, as the country embraces further industrialization in the future to sustain economic growth, TESDA will be ready to become a true guardian of technology vocational learning.

Facebook and Twitter

We are actively using two social networking websites to reach out more often and even interact with and engage our readers, friends and colleagues in the various areas of interest that I tackle in my column. Please like us on www.facebook.com/ReyGamboa and follow us on www.twitter.com/ReyGamboa.

Should you wish to share any insights, write me at Link Edge, 25th Floor, 139 Corporate Center, Valero Street, Salcedo Village, 1227 Makati City. Or e-mail me at reydgamboa@yahoo.com. For a compilation of previous articles, visit www.BizlinksPhilippines.net.


Private providers warn Labor against prioritising TAFE

Labor will not be able to meet demand for skilled workers unless it changes its election campaign policy on the TAFE sector, according to private training organisations.

Labor leader Bill Shorten and education spokeswoman Tanya Plibersek have promised to revive training by focusing on the public TAFE system, spending $200 million on building upgrades and offering 100,000 free places.

But the Australian Council for Private Education and Training said the majority of students in the training sector get their qualifications with private providers.

In 2017 (latest available) 4.2 million students were enrolled in the training sector, but of this the public TAFE system accounted for less than 682,000.

Chief executive Troy Williams said the public system had been run down by successive state and federal governments to a point where it no longer had the infrastructure to work with even if Labor poured money into it.

But demand for skilled workers had never been higher. Last week the tourism industry said it had a shortage of about 150,000 skilled workers.Behind Labor’s promises are structural problems. State governments runthe public TAFE system.

“Private providers are more nuanced to local demand whereas the bureaucracy of TAFE stops it from being responsive to demand,” says Troy Williams, CEO of ACPET. Jonathan Carroll

Canberra injects money into it through National Training Agreements which have relatively few conditions attached to them as far as state governments are concerned.

Or it can earmark money for specific purposes and get the states to sign up to National Partnership Agreement.

These have had limited success. The Coalition put $1.5 billion into the Skilling Australians Fund but Queensland and Victoria refused to sign up and eventually their share of the money was spent on other programs.

Private providers are self-financed or financed by state governments. They have no access to federal funding except through VET Student Loans.

Mr Williams said state and federal governments should make funding fully contestable and provider agnostic.

“The independent sector is more flexible in working with students and it has strong partnerships with business. Some industries have their own training schools, like Master Builders Australia.

“Private providers are more nuanced to local demand, whereas the bureaucracy of TAFE stops it from being responsive to demand.”

He said the Victorian government promised 100,000 free places in last year’s election but the state’s TAFE system was struggling to meet the demand.

“We’re pleased Labor has made vocational education and training a priority.”

— Jenny Lambert, director of employment, education and training, ACCI

The director of employment, education and training at the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Jenny Lambert, said Labor’s TAFE promise is pre-empting its own review of post-secondary education which is meant to investigate the balance between the training and university sectors.

She said TAFEs are structured not to compete with each other but to service regions instead. Private providers are able to meet short-term demand or shortfalls in skills. The training system would work best if public and private worked side by side.

“We’re pleased Labor has made vocational education and training a priority. VET is in desperate need of more funding and better planning. But focusing on the public providers without thinking about the private sector is a concern to us.”

The Housing Industry Association, which offers 1300 courses and had 6000 graduates from its own training organisation in 2018, said the success of different providers depends on the market they service and it should be student choice that determines where the money goes.


Protecting The Reputation Of International Education

National Monday Update – 06 May 2019
Troy Williams, ACPET Chief Executive

This week, the reputation of Australia’s international education exports will come into question as the ABC television Four Corners program focuses on a select number of public universities that have allegedly waived English entry standards in order to grow.  It’s a debate that the nation needs to have but will provide an unwelcome focus on students visa in the middle of a heated federal election campaign.

From the outset, it needs to be stated that the Australian Council for Private Education and Training (ACPET) supports those requirements, set by government and providers themselves, which set high standards for course entry.  Put simply, ACPET believes that both public and independent providers should select only academically capable students.  In no circumstances should standards be waived simply to boost enrolment numbers.  This approach is fundamental to maintaining the reputation of Australia’s international education exports.

Policy makers and the general public often fail to fully appreciate the economic impact of education exports.  Education exports rank only behind iron and coal in terms of value with the Australian Bureau of Statistics, showing that international education earned the nation $32.4 billion in FY2017-18.  The enrolment data is impressive with the February 2019 sector noting the following enrolments:

  • Higher Education – 324,161 (56%)
  • Vocational Education & Training – 151,841 (26%)
  • English Language Intensive Courses for Overseas Students – 60,444 (10%)

Five countries are responsible for 58% of the international student intake, these being China (30%), India (14%), Nepal (7%), Malaysia (4%) and Vietnam (4%).  ACPET’s direct engagement with these markets show they are sensitive to issues surrounding quality.

The ABC Four Corners program has obtained documentation from several universities advertising “English waivers” to agents who recruit international students.    This is concerning as such an approach undermines not only the reputation of Australia’s international education export market, but also the underpinning student visa system.

During the course of the election, some commentators have argued for large and sustained cuts to Australia’s international student visa program and sadly the debate on waiving the English language requirement serves only to support such calls.  This outcome would threaten the employment of many Australians.  Last December, the Department of Education and Training estimated that the full-time equivalent jobs supported by international education in Australia  reached 241,783 in 2017, a figure that grew by 3.0% over the year.

ACPET will continue its work with independent providers in the higher education, vocational education and training sectors to maintain the reputation of Australia’s international education sector.  It’s supported by activities, as recent as this week, with the Department of Home Affairs to strengthen the integrity of the student visa system.

Finally, the federal election isn’t the only poll on the minds of so many in the education sector.  Last week our membership unanimously endorsed the vote to approve the transition from ACPET the Independent Tertiary Education Council Australia (ITECA).  This establishes one unified, informed and influential body for independent providers in the higher education, vocational education and training sectors which will be launched later this month.



Small business backs Labor’s job incentive

The small business council boss has welcomed Labor's incentives to boost jobs for the young and old.The small business council boss has welcomed Labor’s incentives to boost jobs for the young and old.Image: AAP

Federal Labor’s $141 million promise to help young and old people get work has received the backing of small business, provided the red tape is kept under control.

The opposition’s policy would give small businesses an incentive to employ additional employees aged under 25, over 55 and carers returning to the workforce.

Companies with turnover of less than $10 million operating for more than two years will be eligible for an additional 30 per cent tax deduction for up to five new workers’ salaries for their first year of employment, capped at $50,000 per company.

Council of Small Business Organisations Australia chief executive Peter Strong said employers paying workers $50,000 would get a rebate of $1500.

“It’s not an awful lot but it’s not petty cash either,” he told ABC Newsradio on Monday.

“It makes you think about a group you might not have thought about which is really good news.”

Mr Strong said employment service providers needed to be careful not to create undue red tape for businesses.

“You can make a really good policy but if the process or communications are poor, then the policy fails. There’s got to be red tape that is easy to manage,” he said.

He said the program needed to be connected to vocational training programs.

Source AAP:7news.com.au

TDA Newsletter-TAFE and university must be equals, Labor’s Tanya Plibersek says

In this edition

  • CBE holds promise, but be careful – comment by CEO Craig Robertson
  • Labor says TAFE should lead renewables innovation
  • Incentives, bureaucracy and employer attitudes among issues impacting apprenticeships
  • Small VET providers delivering diversity through niche qualifications
  • TAFE and university must be equals, Labor’s Tanya Plibersek says
  • Four weeks left to apply for the 2019 Australian Training Awards
  • Reliance on foreign students compromising standards: Four Corners
  • Strategic leader sought for Tonga skills role
  • Diary

CBE holds promise, but be careful – comment by CEO Craig Robertson

My item In last week’s newsletter where I said I’d explore the dimensions of competency-based training (CBT), triggered by my discomfort that competency-based education (CBE) appears ready as the breakthrough for North American tertiary education.

I’ve read, I’ve meditated on grand old texts (literally), sought counselling and searched my soul. How could I question the miracle of competency-based education when it fulfilled the same for vocational education and training in Australia?

Like all penitents I had to divine the issues. We bring three attributes to mind when we talk competency here in Australia: the efficiency aspect; the economic aspect and the education aspect. The education aspect deals with the learning wrought through CBT, and economic is the return of CBT to industry – both of which I will deal with in later newsletters. The efficiency aspect is the first of my purgings.

The Americans might be on to something with CBE. Their tertiary education is built on the credit hour: 15 hours of teaching to create a credit point. Graduates need 120 credit points, accumulated 15 per semester over a four-year period. Nice and neat. Straightforward even. Time in class, or seat-time, tends to determine graduation – the learning outcomes come in second.

This suits the 14 per cent of American undergraduates who live and study full-time on campus but not the others who tend to study part-time, as their circumstances allow, and often in more than one institute.

These students pay the price for poor recognition practices across the system – poor recognition of learning between institutions (based on rivalry, I suspect) but also little recognition of work experience, and no recognition of the capacity to complete units early or outside of the semester system.

The US is paying the price. It’s ranked 14th in the world with 42% of 25-34 year-olds with a higher education. Around 54 per cent of students graduate within six years but the socially disadvantaged are less likely by at least 10 percentage points. Community college graduates fare even worse. Obama set a target of 60 per cent by 2020 which means an extra 10 million students above the existing 8 million!

We were issued a similar qualification uplift challenge in the late 2000s. As we already had the flexible CBT system, all we needed to do was open up funding to broader competition, convinced that student choice in the VET marketplace would draw more into the sector and onto attainment. We had the National Entitlement up to a Certificate III, on-tap VET FEE-HELP (with no fee control) and demand-driven funding for undergraduate places in universities. The fraudulent responses from some VET providers have written their own column inches and the rapid clamp-down by governments has caused us all to pause. What is clear from recent commentary, though, is our post-school education system is out of whack with distorted funding arrangements and incoherent qualification systems, which could be sheeted home to CBT, or its poor application and regulation.

What hope, therefore, for the US? I’m not sure to be honest. On the one hand, given strong private for-profit interests I fear outcomes similar to ours. On the other hand, if they deploy CBE drawn from an education-first perspective the efficiency uplift could be pronounced and attainment levels high. There’s some hope in the definition of CBE from the Competency-Based Education Network (C-BEN):

Competency-based education combines an intentional and transparent approach to curricular design with an academic model in which the time it takes to demonstrate competencies varies and the expectations about learning are held constant. Students acquire and demonstrate their knowledge and skills by engaging in learning exercises, activities and experiences that align with clearly defined programmatic outcomes. Students receive proactive guidance and support from faculty and staff. Learners earn credentials by demonstrating mastery through multiple forms of assessment, often at a personalized pace.

See, they are starting with learning outcomes and adding a competency measurement and progression approach. Under our current incarnation of CBT, we can’t guarantee this – which I will deal with in future weeks.

If you are interested in a fascinating rundown on credit point history in America – back to Andrew Carnegie in the late 1800s – and the foundations of CBE I recommend Cracking the Credit Hour. It’s an easy read and makes you think about the conundrum of CBT in Australia. Let me know what you think.

In the meantime, Iook at the beautiful Niagara Falls on a clear Spring day here in Canada. I am with others from TAFEs and the sector at the start of the TDA Cisco-Optus Study Tour of Toronto and Washington, DC and about to attend the conference of Canada Colleges and Polytechnics. We have lots to learn from the Canadians. I needed to walk to get the picture, while others have a spectacular view from their room – but that’s a sore point that stays on tour!

Labor says TAFE should lead renewables innovation, education

The federal Opposition has pledged to put TAFE at the forefront of renewables innovation and education if it wins government in less than a fortnight.

Labor leader Bill Shorten last week announced a $75m renewables training package as part of the ALP’s election focus on renewables and clean energy. It includes:

  • $20m in TAFE upgrades to ensure apprentices and TAFE students work with latest equipment, including batteries, solar panels, turbine and grid components.
  • a $10m clean energy training fund to support industry partnerships for the training and upskilling of workers in clean energy industries, through partnerships between TAFEs, RTOs, unions, and industry.
  • $45m for 10,000 apprenticeships in the renewables industry through an $8000 employer incentive and a $2000 apprentice incentive payment.

Mr Shorten said the TAFE upgrades would also support building, construction and design students to integrate renewables into their studies and make sure “TAFE is at the forefront of renewables innovation and education”.

Incentives, bureaucracy and employer attitudes among issues impacting apprenticeships

Red tape, confusion and employer resistance may be some of the factors that are working against greater uptake of apprenticeships, according to a discussion on ABC radio.

TAFE Directors Australia CEO Craig Robertson and Apprenticeship Support Australia Senior Manager Lena Constantine, discussed the issue on ABC Radio’s Focus program last week.

The program explored the issues facing both apprentices and employers and received calls and texts about what could be done to improve the system. Issues canvassed included red tape, government incentives, retention and completion rates, and the question of support for employers who take on apprentices.

See ABC Radio’s Focus program Apprenticeships and traineeships – is the system delivering for our young people?

Meanwhile, the RMIT ABC Fact Check has delivered its verdict on Opposition Leader Bill Shorten’s claim that apprenticeships have slumped since the Coalition took office, finding the claim “misleading”.

“Maybe the VET system needs to take the blame for this given it helps little in clarifying the differences between apprenticeships and traineeships, and new entrants and traineeships for existing workers,” Craig Robertson commented.

Small VET providers delivering diversity through niche qualifications

Approximately 500 VET providers with less than 100 students make up almost a quarter of all training providers, but comprise less than 1% of students, according to new research from the National Centre for Vocational Education Research (NCVER).

The study by Patrick Korbel and Kristen Osborne found that small, stable VET providers (those that maintained enrolments of fewer than 100 students across a three-year period) contribute to the diversity of VET through niche qualifications they offer to students.

“Many of them deliver specialised training, often in areas that receive little to no government funding or don’t attract enough students to warrant a larger provider having the qualification on scope,” the study said.

Described as “quiet achievers”, the small providers had a relatively higher percentage of students with a disability or Indigenous students, indicating that they may be delivering very specialised and targeted services to those students.

However, it found there were no substantial differences in student outcomes achieved by the small providers, saying graduates recorded similar levels of satisfaction with teaching and training as those that graduated from medium or larger providers.

See ‘The role and function of small VET providers’

TAFE and university must be equals, Labor’s Tanya Plibersek says

The Deputy Leader of the Opposition and Shadow Minister for Education and Training Tanya Plibersek has vowed to address the anomaly in fee help between university and TAFE, and place both sectors on an “absolutely equal footing”.

In an interview with the Financial Review, Ms Plibersek said one of her biggest concerns was the different approach to fee help between university and TAFE, which would be addressed in Labor’s promised post-secondary education review.

She warned that universities should not expect any extra money for research and that Labor’s focus would be squarely on the training sector.

Ms Plibersek said she was especially worried by the state of TAFE and would apply tougher standards to private training providers because so many “shonks” had got into the business and the Coalition government had been slow to shut down “rapacious and poor-quality” operators.

Four weeks left to apply for the 2019 Australian Training Awards

The Australian Training Awards are the peak, national awards for the vocational education and training (VET) sector. The awards recognise and reward individuals, businesses and registered training organisations for their contribution to skilling Australia.

Watch this video to find out why you, your business or registered training organisation should apply for national recognition in one of the following awards:



Registered Training Organisation:

*Applications for the Small Employer of the Year Award is available by direct entry to the Australian Training Awards in only in WA and NSW. 

Applications close on Friday 31 May 2019.

Reliance on foreign students compromising standards: Four Corners  

Commentary against foreign students is set to step up a gear with tonight’s ABC Four Corners which probes the higher education system’s reliance on foreign fee-paying students.

A preview of the program, titled Cash Cows, is said to lift the lid on the billions of dollars being raked in by universities from students without the qualifications or language requirements.

It quotes academics and students who are speaking out to reveal a picture of “compromised academic standards”.

“I think it’s a train wreck. I think it’s, it’s coming and it’s coming hard and the incoming government’s going to have to deal with (it),” an education consultant says.

Strategic leader sought for Tonga skills role

A person with strategic leadership and management experience in an international development environment is sought to become a Team Leader to manage Tonga Skills for the Tonga Skills for Inclusive Economic Growth – a key investment of the Australian government in Tonga.

Based in Nuku’alofa, the role is available until September 2021, subject to ongoing funding.

Recruitment is being undertaken by Scope Global, a specialist project management company delivering international development, education, and inclusion programs.

Applications close this Sunday.

See more on the job and person specifications.

See here to find out more about the role and to submit an online application.

Diary Dates

VDC 2019 Teaching & Learning Conference
16 & 17 May 2019
RACV Torquay Resort, Great Ocean Road, Victoria
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2019 VET CEO Conference
Velg Training
17 May 2019
Doltone House – Sydney
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TechnologyOne Showcase
Empowering industry transformation
Brisbane: 29 May 2019
Sydney: 4 June 2019
Melbourne: 6 June 2019
More information

2019 EduTech
6-7 June 2019
International Convention Centre, Sydney
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Skills Conference 2019
Apprentice Employment Network NSW & ACT
13 June 2019
Dockside Darling Harbour
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22nd Annual Conference of the Australian Vocational Education and Training Research Association (AVETRA)
No future for old VET’: Researching for the training system/s of tomorrow
17-18 June 2019
Western Sydney University and University College, Parramatta, Sydney
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No Frills
28th National Vocational Education and Training Research Conference
10-12 July 2019
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National Apprentice Employment Network
2019 National Conference
31 July – 2 August 2019
Crowne Plaza, Gold Coast
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QLD School VET Conference
Velg Training
9 August 2019
Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre, Brisbane
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VTA 2019 State Conference 
15 – 16 August 2019
RACV City Club, 501 Bourke Street, Melbourne
Save the date

National Manufacturing Summit
21 & 22 August 2019
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National Skills Week
26 August – 1 September 2019
Locations around Australia
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TAFE Directors Australia 2019 Convention
4 – 6 September 2019
More information coming soon

2019 National VET Conference
Velg Training
12 &13 September 2019
Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre, Brisbane
More Information

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

Australian Training Awards
21 November 2019
Brisbane, Queensland
More information

Source AAP:www.tda.edu.au