Just what is happening?

VET – Breaking News

ACPET and the Industry were advised on Friday that Government will take responsibility for all tuition assurance matters in 2018. The 2018 interim arrangements will see the Department of Education and Training manage tuition assurance services for VET Student Loans. The Department also intends to extend these interim tuition assurance arrangements to grandfathered VET FEE-HELP students, VET providers (Fee For Service) and FEE-HELP students and providers in 2018.

As identified in the FAQs at www.education.gov.au/help-and-other-information
this in effect means that providers will be exempted from the requirement to hold tuition assurance in 2018 subject to some as yet unknown conditions.

This is obviously a considerable change. While we expect to help Government ensure that industry remains engaged in the design and implementation of such important arrangements, it also means that ACPET will be able to get back to its core.

In that regard, our Board has already firmly established our priorities

This will see ACPET driving:

  • Our industry certification scheme, that will recognises members who deliver the very highest standards and student outcomes
  • Lifting educational and ethical practice requirements and thereby ensuring our membership adheres to stringent ethical principles and are held to high quality standards
  • Comprehensively engaging across the sector, to ensure ACPET better understands and represents the views of members, and delivers highly valued services research
  • Providing tailored and targeted support to Australia’s tertiary education and training exports and transnational initiatives
  • Creating a policy and engagement platform that articulates the value and benefits of Australia’s tertiary education and training sector
  • Creating strategic partnerships that create opportunities for our members and supports the growth of the sector
  • Further to this, we have received a very clear message from our members that we need to strengthen our membership base and be confident in who we are representing.

With this in mind, I am pleased to advise that ACPET has significantly upped the ante and implemented more stringent tests for prospective members. The bar is much higher and together with our ‘associate membership’ period we look forward to working with the very best of private education.

Combined with our Industry Certification program, which is exclusive to members, we look forward to working with Australia’s best educators.

Higher Education

This week I would like to comment on some trends in the regulation of higher education. There has been some pretty interesting, and somewhat worrying commentary in the last week.

No, I don’t mean the reforms that are, or were, before the Senate.

I am referencing what appears to be a regulatory trend, particularly for private colleges.

But first, does the sector produce results?

A quick summary of the most recent ABS data:

  • Degree and above enrolments are 3-4 times that of Cert III/IV
  • Unemployment for those with a post school qualification is at least half that of those without (read that twice)
  • 2.8 million extra people (15-74 years) earnt a Cert III or above qualification over the last decade. The number with the highest being a Degree or above was up 1.67 million.

So, education really does matter! But now some of the worrying trends.

A report, Professional Accreditation: Mapping the Territory, has identified the costs of red tape. The Report says providers are “unanimous” in their concern about the escalating cost of course accreditation, particularly in the health professions where “direct and indirect costs risk becoming prohibitive”. The Report identifies that the burdens being placed are both onerous and extremely expensive.

Well I can say it has a far larger impact on our providers.

Universities are self-accrediting and therefore only need to seek accreditation from professional bodies.

Private colleges and private universities also must have their courses approved by the Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency (TEQSA).

While the costs are an issue so too is the time to get all the approvals in place.

One does wonder how we can expect our higher education institutions to innovate, invest in technology and offer quality education at an affordable price.

This though is not the only issue impacting.

We well know what happened in VET FEE HELP. Enough said. I think we also recognise that the Minister had to make drastic changes as a result. While perhaps not agreeing with all of the changes, the Government did stop the bleeding.

However, perhaps on the principle of when you are onto a good thing stick to it, the same approach is now being taken to higher education. We are now seeing the legislation and rules put in place to address VET FEE-HELP concerns being rolled out across higher education.

My question here though is just what is the problem the Government is trying to fix? And will the raft of new legislative and other requirements really help or simply bog providers and regulators down in compliance?

I remain a fan of TEQSA and how it operates. However, the 2016/17 TEQSA Annual Report identifies some concerning trends that add weight to these concerns.

The report identifies that TEQSA undertook four compliance assessments on registered providers due to increased risk of non-compliance with the HES Framework or the National Code. This work included “very direct and rapid regulatory action regarding the Australian School of Management (ASM), which ultimately led to cancellation of its registration.”

I fear that the actions taken with this provider and the general concern about what happened in VFH is having a larger impact.

Let’s look at the numbers. The Report identifies that the medium number of days to make a decision on an assessment has blown out from 165 days in 2015/16 to 295 days in 2016/17 (almost a year), even though the volume was the same.

In terms of re-registrations, the percentage of decisions made within 6 months has suffered the same trend, declining from 41.2% in 2014/15 to 8% in 2016/17. Again, despite having the same number of providers in operation, the medium time to process these applications is now 377 days. New registrations are on a similar trend. Only 25% of accreditation decisions are being made within 6 months.


I do understand that TEQSA received a record number of new applications and that there were concerns of adding risk to the sector.

This we must support.

However, surely there must be a better way to manage the risks and assure improvements to standards than by adding such significant delays to processing times.

TEQSA, together with the industry has a shared interest in this agenda.

Yes, we in industry must take responsibility for delivering to the highest standards and having those results independently verified. However, the key is that by taking these steps how can we help TEQSA in the identification and management of risk and therefore help ensure good quality providers can keep delivering to their ever growing student cohorts.

I may be boring you but I am not finished.

TEQSA is the regulator – that is a good thing.

However, recent changes to the Higher Education Support Act, in particular, casts some doubt about roles. There appears to be a significant escalation of regulation through the legislation. Without, going into the detail, it is fair to say the approach taken to VET student Loans has been picked up and dropped on private higher education providers.

Again, why? What is the problem they are trying to fix?

My last point today goes to industry. Paul Oslington wrote a stinging piece in the Australian last week. It is well worth a read.

He very effectively laments on the significant conflicts of interest playing out in the design of the sector, and the impact this has – predominantly locking out genuine competitors and increasing regulation for those competitors alone.

The cost of this? Less student choice, less competition and diversity and higher costs for students.
In terms of my concerns identified above, he also points out that while the problems in VET are used against changes to allow private colleges to operate fairly in higher education, it actually has a very different market structure from VET and there is also a much stronger regulatory framework, with public universities and private institutions accredited according to the same standards by the same body. Additionally, there have been no signs of the wholesale predatory behaviours evident in VFH.

If you need any further convincing, look at the data in the QILT surveys.

High performance indeed.

Rod Camm
Chief Executive Officer

ACPET and Velg Training collaborate to deliver a successful 2017 National VET PD Week

Velg Training in collaboration with The Australian Council for Private Education and Training (ACPET)recently hosted their inaugural National VET PD week which proved to be a great success.

Both organisations are leading providers of professional development, dedicated to upskilling trainers and assessors. The opportunity was recognised for the two organisations to join forces and offer a blockbuster week comprising the top five attended webinars from each organisation in 2017.
During the National VET PD week this past October, the partnership saw over 1200 trainers and assessors from various training organisations attend the 10 sessions on offer.

ACPET CEO Rod Camm said, “Continual professional development is critical to ensuring a skilled workforce for our sector and I am pleased with the uptake we received, it shows dedication and commitment from providers”.
“Working with Velg Training to meet the needs of our sector has been really rewarding and I hope this will set the precedent for future endeavours” Mr Camm said.

Velg Training CEO Michelle Weaver said, “The intention of this joint initiative was to upskill, extend knowledge and provide practical guidance to VET practitioners across the country, in the most accessible and affordable way possible.  My passion has always been providing quality professional development opportunities to the sector and I am delighted that the National VET PD week has reached so many”.

Velg Training Director of Content and Strategy, Kerri Buttery and ACPET’s National Professional Development Manager Sharyn Bellingham closed out the week with complementary webinar discussing workforce capability and opportunities for the sector.

Thank you to all who participated throughout the week.

Register now for Professional Development this week!

Validation of assessment – much more than the tools alone
National – Essential Series
Mon 13 Nov 2017, 11:00am to 12:00pm AEDT

What is validation? What, when, and how do or should RTOs validate? Who can undertake validation?

Perhaps you have read 1.9 – 1.11 of the Standards for RTOs 2015, but like many RTOs you are struggling to know what it actually means, where to start or how to actually implement effective validation within your organisation?  Or maybe you just want to check you are on the right track?

This webinar will explore the requirements for validation according to the standards, and will present some practical suggestions about how to implement effective validation.

Learning Outcomes

  • Understand the meaning and requirements for validation as per the Standards for RTOs 2015
  • Develop effective validation plans and processes
  • Implement effective validation

Facilitated by: Maree Thorne

Maree has over 20 years working in the VET environment including as an educator and manager. As a consultant, Maree currently works with RTOs and other organisations conducting quality auditing, developing quality management systems and effective business and compliance solutions and developing RTO staff capability, as well as managing her own RTO which specialises in the delivery and assessment of an accredited course in vocational education and training quality and compliance.


Contributing to quality and compliance with the standards for administration staff
National – Essential Series
Mon 13 Nov 2017, 2:00pm to 3:00pm AEDT

Providing a quality student experience involves more than just the quality of the training and assessment.

In fact, ASQA’s ‘new’ student-centred audit approach is organised around five key phases of the student experience—marketing and recruitment; enrolment; support and progression; training and assessment; and completion.

This webinar will focus on interpreting, understanding and applying key requirements of the standards specifically related to administration and support roles, including marketing, provision of information to prospective learners, record keeping and reporting, and issuing certification.

Learning Outcomes

  • Review (and or develop) organisational processes and materials that enhance the student experience, in compliance with the standards (particularly 3, 4, 5)
  • Understand the requirements of the standards (particularly 3, 4 & 5) and their criticality to the student experience

Facilitated by: Maree Thorne

Maree has over 20 years working in the VET environment including as an educator and manager. As a consultant, Maree currently works with RTOs and other organisations conducting quality auditing, developing quality management systems and effective business and compliance solutions and developing RTO staff capability, as well as managing her own RTO which specialises in the delivery and assessment of an accredited course in vocational education and training quality and compliance.


Using social media to engage learners, create communities of practice and grow your alumni
National – Essential Series
Tue 14 Nov 2017, 12:00pm to 1:00pm AEDT

Many Australians spend a lot of time using social media.  This highlights that these sites are highly engaging and interactive but not just for socialising.  Social media allows people to learn from and connect with others.  They also provide an opportunity for people to as showcase themselves in their industry or network with experts in their field.

See examples of how social media is being used in

  • The trades and other VET programs to provide a more individualised approach to training, building foundation skills and showcasing learners’ work
  • High school and higher education programs for delivering content and facilitating group work

Join this session to learn how you can use the social media sites in your training and assessment, as well as walk away with a step-by-step guide of how to get started.

Learning Outcomes

  • Explain why social media can  be used with learners
  • Understand which social media site is good for what
  • Consider ways of using social media based on examples from the field
  • Plan the implementation of using social media with learners

Facilitated by: Allison Miller

Allison Miller has been a professional learning and business development leader for over 20 years. She is the Director and Lead Consultant of Digital Capability, an organisation which specialises in cutting edge e-learning and e-business solutions which help people succeed online. More recently, Allison has also been helping businesses work smarter in a digitally disrupted environment so they can implement innovative ideas using entrepreneurial approaches. Allison has a Master of Learning and Development (Organisational Development).  She also leads the ePortfolios Australia professional network and the annual Australian Eportfolio Forum


Meeting ASQA requirements for clause 1.7
National – Essential Series
Thu 16 Nov 2017, 1:00pm to 2:00pm AEDT

Sarah Marshall and Michelle Potts from the SA Department of State Development will report on their Upfront Assessment of Need (UAN) process including L&N pre-assessment tools now in place in SA to ensure that students are undertaking qualifications that are appropriate for them, and are getting additional assistance where necessary.

They will be joined by representatives from three SA RTOs who deliver DSD funded Learner Support Services to their own students and to students attending other SA RTOs. These providers were involved in the development and early trialling of the UAN and provide mentoring to other RTOs to understand and implement the processes.

Learning Outcomes

  • A best practice approach to learner recruitment and support (Standards for RTOs clause 1.7)
  • Holistic student assessment – it’s not just LLN
  • Supporting L&N assessment implementation through, mentoring and professional development
  • Implementing an holistic L&N approach, including expert interpretation of assessments and responding to individual need through integration of foundation skills bridging units into vocational training

Facilitated by: SA Department of State Development

  • Sarah Marshall, Principal Policy Officer Skills and Employment, Department of State Development, Government of South Australia
  • Michelle Potts, A/Manager Skills and Employment, Department of State Development, Government of South Australia
  • Linda Emaus-Cox, RTO Contracts and Administration Manager, ATEC – Adelaide Training and Employment Centre
  • Lynda Turner, Trainer/Assessor and Learner Support Services, Training Prospects
  • Fletcha Pearce-Cane, Business Development, MADEC


Something’s gone badly wrong with teaching

It’s taken an eternity, but the econocrats have finally twigged that the big problem with the nation’s education and training system isn’t its high-cost to budgets, but its failure to provide enough of our youth with the skills they need to get and keep a decent job.

When the Productivity Commission set out to find a “new policy model” that could “shift the dial” on productivity improvement, the penny dropped. It decided that “if we had to pick just one thing to improve … it must be skills formation”.

That’s because the adoption, use and spread of new technology – the long-run drivers of productivity – require people with the right skills.

As befits its obsession with productivity, the commission doesn’t bother to acknowledge that knowledge is valuable for its own sake. Humans value knowing things about their world.

But the more prosaic role of education and training is to equip people with the skills that help them earn a living.

As economists go, however, the commission’s more broad-minded than most: “There is additional value in improving skills formation – from foundational to advanced – because it gives people better job security, income and job satisfaction.

“These effects are not well measured in the official statistics, but have major implications for prosperity and quality of life more broadly.”

Trouble is, the commission finds our present education and training performance – from schools to vocational education and training, to universities – is falling well short of what it should be.

Illustration: Glen LeLievre
Illustration: Glen LeLievre

“A good school system ensures that people have the key foundational skills – numeracy, literacy, analytical skills – and the capacity to learn so that they can easily acquire knowledge throughout their lives,” the commission says.

What shocks me most about our schools’ performance is their high failure rate. Evidence the commission doesn’t quote is the Mitchell Institute’s estimate that 26 per cent of students fail to finish school or a vocational equivalent.

It seems so many kids have been getting behind and dropping out for so long that schools and their teachers have come to accept this as part of the natural order, not as a sign something’s going badly wrong with teaching.

The commission notes that, while the regular testing under the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development’s PISA program shows Australian school students’ academic achievement is still above the OECD average, our average scientific, reading and mathematical ability is falling in absolute terms.

We have a growing proportion of lower performers and a falling share of high performers. Other evidence shows our rates of participation in year 12 physics and advanced maths fell by about a third between 1992 and 2012.

One of the worst inhibitors to gains in learning is “learner [dis]engagement” – being inattentive, noisy or anti-social. About 40 per cent of our students are involved in such unproductive behaviour.

The commission fears our youth may now be less capable than earlier cohorts. For example, an Australian 15-year-old in 2015 had a mathematical aptitude equivalent to a 14-year-old in 2000.

“Australia’s growing group of low performing students will be increasingly exposed to unemployment or low participation in the future world of work,” the commission says.

Its review of the evidence on school performance concludes we need to focus on improving the quality of the teaching workforce and on methods of teaching that have been proved to be more effective.

We’ve gone for decades underpaying teachers relative to other graduates, so we shouldn’t be surprised our brightest people don’t go into teaching.

Many teachers are teaching “out of field” – subjects for which they have no qualifications.

We’ve done too little testing of the effectiveness of different ways of teaching, and too little dissemination of the results of what testing we’ve done. It’s obvious our classroom teaching isn’t as effective as it needs to be, but we’ve done little about it.

The commission has less to say about the failings of VET – vocational education and training – except that it’s a “mess” and still recovering from a “disastrous intervention”.

This was the utterly misguided attempt to drag TAFE into the 21st century, not by doing the hard yards with the teachers union, but by applying the magic answer of “contestability” – allowing private businesses to sell taxpayer-subsidised training for profit. Many rorted the system and cheated students until the government belatedly woke up.

Turning to universities, their performance is also falling short. In 2014, more than 26 per cent of students had not completed their degree within nine years of starting – a significant loss of time, effort and money for the students, as well as taxpayers.

And this is before we see any effect from the leap in uni admissions following Julia Gillard’s (misguided) decision to provide government funding for any students the unis choose to enroll.

The proportion of recent graduates finding full-time employment is falling, with the under-employment rate among recent graduates rising from 9 per cent in 2008 to more than 20 per cent.

But the fact that graduate full-time starting salaries have fallen from 90 per cent of average weekly earnings in 1989 to about 75 per cent in 2015 suggests this has more to do with the weak state of the labour market than with a decline in the quality of degrees.

Which ain’t to say quality hasn’t fallen. More than a quarter of recent graduates in full-time jobs believe their roles are unrelated to their studies, with their degree adding nothing to their employability.

Australian unis continue to perform poorly on student satisfaction measures relative to unis in Britain and America.

There’s a lot more to the commission’s critique of the unis’ performance, but I’ll leave that for another day.

Sufficient to say the commission has convincingly demonstrated the case for putting the quality of the nation’s teaching at the top of our list of things needing urgent improvement.
Ross Gittins is the Herald’s economics editor.

In this edition

Australia and Pakistan extend their partnership on skills training

Australia is playing a key role in assisting Pakistan to enhance its capacity in technical and vocational education and training (TVET), with high-level meetings over recent weeks.
A delegation from Queensland University of Technology is visiting Islamabad to provide training for Pakistani TVET professionals, following a recent three-week course in Australia to develop Pakistan’s TVET capability.
It follows a visit by TDA Chief Executive Craig Robertson to Islamabad at the invitation of National Vocational and Technical Training Commission (NAVTTC) Executive Director, Zulfiqar Ahmad Cheema to attend the National Skills Competition.
TDA signed an MoU with Pakistan on TVET cooperation in July, as the two countries forge a closer partnership, exchanging ideas and information that will strengthen Pakistan’s TVET capability.
See an article in the Pakistan Observer

‘Nudge theory’ shows promise in NSW apprentice trial

There are early promising signs from a NSW government program that is trialling the use of ‘nudge theory’ to lift the rate of apprentice completions in the state.

The Behavioural Insights Unit in the Department of Premier and Cabinet has been working with Training Services NSW on a pilot program that targets both apprentices and their employers with questions, emails and SMS prompts.
Nudge theory is a relatively new approach that uses subtle interventions to change behaviour, and has been used successfully in areas such as health and crime. In NSW, the completion rate for apprentices is 54%, and most drop out in the first year.

The trial  involved a series of interventions to explain roles, challenges and obligations to both apprentices and employers, followed by personalised follow-up messages at regular intervals. Field work finished in March and results showing the impact on completion rates is due in April next year.
Dr Jenny Chalmers, a data analyst with the Behavioural Insights Unit told the National Apprentice Employment Conference that, to date, the results are “promising”.
Derek Hennessy, Regional Manager at Training Services NSW said that, if successful, the approach could be customised to particular industries or scaled up to apply across the state.

Victoria seeking support services for apprentices and trainees

Victoria’s training regulator, the Victorian Registration and Qualifications Authority (VRQA) is seeking providers who can deliver support services for the state’s apprentices and trainees.
VRQA has published an invitation for Expressions of Interest for the Provision of Regulatory Field Services to support apprentices and trainees.
VRQA says that since the services cover a diverse range of skills and capabilities, it wants to encourage a range of industries to consider responding, “including those industries that may not consider themselves as typical suppliers” of such services.
See details of EOI.

Education providers invited to participate in Austrade Philippines skills mission

Australian education providers have an opportunity to provide technical assistance in project preparation, sector studies, economic research studies and training, through an upcoming skills mission to the Philippines.

Austrade Manila is organising an international aid opportunity for Australia, called the “Austrade Education and Consulting Firms Mission to the ADB Skills Forum” on 12-14 December 2017.
Australia is a founding member of the ADB (Asian Development Bank) and is currently represented on the board and in its executive.
In 2016, Australia was the third largest contractor in the ADB in terms of providing services to project loans, grants and technical assistance, having been awarded 14 contracts valued at US$8.86 million, behind the US and the UK.
Delegates will learn about the latest project and business opportunities from ADB-funded development programs, and will have briefings and networking opportunities with ADB officers and key local and international stakeholders

See more

Victoria announces funding to improve the welfare of international students

The Victorian government has announced 14 new projects worth $337,000 to help the state’s international students through the International Student Welfare Program.

The projects include cricket matches, legal education seminars and cultural celebrations designed to address areas including student wellbeing and mental health, safety and community engagement.
One of the key projects is a $75,000 grant for Inner Melbourne Community Legal to provide legal support for international students studying at universities, TAFEs and private education providers.
The funding will go towards delivering legal education that will help nearly 600 newly arrived international students with important issues like practical legal knowledge, personal safety and common legal issues.

See more

Expressions of interest in entrepreneurial skills mission to Chile

As a UNESCO-UNEVOC Centre, TDA is seeking expressions of interest for members to represent Australia at a UNEVOC forum being hosted in Santiago, Chile from December 5-7, which aims to discuss and compare practices for developing entrepreneurial skills in VET.
The meeting is expected to be attended by up to 25 participants from as many as ten countries, and aims to:

  • Identify and discuss different ways through which entrepreneurial skills are mainstreamed in TVET policies and programs;
  • Share country experiences and challenges faced;
  • Examine the role of TVET teachers and implication on TVET teacher training;
  • Elaborate the analytical framework for the country case studies to be conducted in selected countries in 2018.

For information, please contact André Diez de Aux at TDA: adiezdeaux@tda.edu.au

Thousands of students and academics selected for international scholarships

The federal government has announced the successful recipients who will be supported to study and undertake research overseas under two programs.

Approximately 3,400 students and academics have been selected under the Endeavour Mobility Grants, and the Endeavour Scholarships and Fellowships programs.
Under the Endeavour Mobility Grants program, 62 tertiary institutions will be offered funding to support more than 2500 students across 66 locations around the world, and for over 200 international students to study in Australia.
Under the Endeavour Scholarships and Fellowships program, almost 700 students will be given the opportunity to study abroad.

See more

Local organisations invited to participate in Kiribati skills project

Education providers and consultants have been invited to participate in a tender to further develop technical and vocational education and training (TVET) in Kiribati.

The project management company, Scope Global has invited organisations to tender to participate in the Kiribati Facility through a prequalified supplier panel.

The Kiribati Facility is an Australian aid investment program managed by Scope Global on behalf of the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, and includes support for the the Kiribati Institute of Technology.
The consultancy will have a particular focus on increasing the Kiribati Institute of Technology’s local academic and administration staff competencies, including the provision of accredited and non-accredited TVET course delivery, support for the institute’s local capacity development needs, and support mechanisms to develop domestic and international labour mobility training programs.

See more

Australian Institute of Training and Development joins with EduTECH for 2018 national conference

The Australian Institute of Training and Development (AITD) has announced that its national conference will be held in partnership with EduTECH, 7-8 June 2018 in Sydney.

AITD CEO Naomi Dinnen said that the partnership with EduTECH would allow delegates an unprecedented opportunity to build networks and connect with a wider audience.

“It will give members and delegates exposure to some of the most advanced technologies and practices, as well as world-renowned speakers.”

See more

Diary Dates

Australian Training Awards
23 November 2017
National Convention Centre, Canberra
More information

STEM in Defence Summit
Australian Defence Magazine

30 November 2017
Hyatt Hotel, Canberra
More information

Australian Council of Deans of Education Vocational Education Group (ACDEVEG) 
VET Teaching and VET Teacher Education Conference
7 & 8 December 2017
TAFE Queensland, Southbank Campus
More information

2017 Asian Development Bank Skills Forum Mission
11-14 December 2017
Manila, Philippines
More information

Australian Institute of Training and Development (AITD)
National Conference

7 – 8 June 2018
International Convention Centre, Sydney
More information

VET Practitioner Research Conference
AVETRA, VET Development Centre, and Victorian TAFE Assoc.
26 & 27 April 2018
More information

ASQA: A divided and broken system of regulation

Back on the 20th of September I posted a piece entitled ‘One set of rules for all providers?‘, suggesting that far from it being the case, as ASQA so vehemently pronounces, that there is one set of rules for every provider regardless of there size, or whether they are publicly or privately owned, the State owned providers are treated far more leniently than any private provider and given access to modes of rectification which are simply not available to non-public entities.   So now six weeks or so later and after the lapse of the month deadline TAFESA was supposedly given by ASQA to rectify the debacle that was, and probably still is their training and assessment practices what has happened?


Why has nothing happened you may well ask, and that really is the burning question here.  But first let me remind everyone that the last sanction listed on the ASQA decisions database against a TAFE was back in 2012.  So why time and time again do we see public providers, TAFEs, being caught out breaching the RTO standards, having poor, or in some cases it appears non-existent assessment practices and never do we see any of these breeches met with any sanctions.  We see this because despite what ASQA might claim and want us to believe, the regulatory system for the VET sector in this country is broken and divided and certainly not one system for all.  In fact I am amazed that ASQA representatives can claim that all providers are treated the same with a straight face, when there is overwhelming evidence that this is not the case.  The issues with TAFE SA alone are enough to show this.  If the level of non-compliance that has allegedly been found there was found at a non-public provider, they would have been deregistered by now. Will that happen to TAFE SA?  Not a chance, they will apologize, say that have changed their systems and processes and will do better, and at worse they might stop delivering some of the programs for a few months, but then it will be straight back to business as if nothing has happened.

How then have we got to a system that is so broken and so badly weighted against non-public providers.  To be fair at least some of it is our own fault.  As a sector we saw the issues of VET Fee Help and the actions of the Careers, ACNs and Pheonixs and we (or at the very least those bodies who were supposed to be acting on our behalf) didn’t speak up or take action against them.  This of course played into the hands of the media and those like the AEU and others whose agenda is to end non-public delivery of VET, by giving them ammunition to smear the entire sector.  So bad were the excesses of the few that Ministers had little choice but to react with a big stick, if for no other reason than to save their own political skins.  If we then add to this the fact that TAFEs are state owned entities, which the state utilises not simply as educational facilities but as weapons of policy enactment across a range of areas, and in  addition so heavily heavily unionised, that whenever something happens which the unions don’t like, the social media storm which erupts is of category five proportions.  It is no wonder the system is broken. Any minister or even the regulator itself that ever suggested closing or curtailing the activities of a TAFE due to non-compliance, would be met with such a media storm, both through traditional and social channels, that it is unlikely they would emerge with their skins, let alone their careers, still intact.  So as a result of this we now have a system of regulation which is deeply skewed in favour of the public provider and which actively over regulates and over sanctions private providers while all the while claiming this is not the case.  ASQA has become a political weapon rather than a fair and equitable regulator.

So what is the answer?  It is simply that peak bodies like ACPET need to step up and call out this atrocious and unfair treatment and the inequity which exists, because this is supposed to be a level playing field and ASQA is supposed to treat all providers the same.  In fact everyone needs to step up, everyone needs to voice our opinions and call out these issues.  We need to embarrass and force the regulator to do its job properly and the government to let it.  Lone voices in the wilderness are not enough here.  If as non-public providers you want to actually see some change to this, if you actually want to be treated fairly, you, yes you, need to step up and you need to force those bodies that are supposed to represent you to step up as well.  Create a storm on social media, don’t let the news stories die, be loud.  Why do you think so many people believe the rhetoric from the AEU, it’s not because they are right it is just because they are loud.  And if you don’t step up then this situation will continue because no one else is going to do anything about it.

Anyway that’s just my opinion.

In this edition

  • Students in government-funded training in decline
  • World congress an opportunity for TAFEs to engage on a global stage
  • TAFE Queensland’s Jenny Dodd appointed to head TasTAFE
  • Skills funding projects close to finalisation, says minister Karen Andrews
  • Career opportunities open through senior roles in TAFE NSW
  • ASQA gets a tick in its latest report card
  • Diary

Students in government-funded training in decline

The number of students in government-funded VET fell by 45,000 or 5.3% to 804,700 in the six months to June, compared with the same period the previous year.
While the number of apprentices and trainees rose by 3,900, there was a drop of almost 49,000 in other areas of government-funded training, according to the National Centre for Vocational Education Research (NCVER).
Student numbers in TAFE were down 6.1% to 460,100 while those in private colleges were down 4.4% to 295,400
Over the six-month period, student numbers increased in the ACT (3.6%) and the Northern Territory (3.0%), while there were falls in South Australia (-19.6%), Western Australia (-10.8%), Victoria (-5.2%), Queensland (-4.4%), Tasmania (-4.3%) and New South Wales (-2.2%).
See Government-funded students and courses: January to June 2017

World congress an opportunity for TAFEs to engage on a global stage

Australia will be at the forefront of a global conversation on the future of skills and training when it hosts the World Federation of Colleges and Polytechnics (WFCP) Congress in Melbourne next year, alongside the annual TDA convention.

The congress, to run 8 – 10 October, 2018,  will bring more than 700 delegates from over 50 countries and one of the most impressive groups of TVET leaders and practitioners ever assembled in Australia.
With the theme ‘Preparing for the Skills Future, Now’, the congress will showcase leading education and workforce strategies, helping to make a difference for millions of vocational professionals and students worldwide.
Attending will be college and institute leaders, policy makers, government officials, researchers, practitioners, teachers, industry representatives, education leaders and service providers.
The congress will be a significant opportunity for the TAFE community, with numerous ways to be involved over a week-long support program, including through speakers, sponsorship, exhibitions, the TAFE Professional Showcase, the Leadership Institute, the Youth Camp, and site and host visits.

TDA will need the support of TAFE institutes and, equally, there will be an unprecedented opportunity for TAFEs to demonstrate their capability on a world stage.
TDA has prepared ‘Opportunities for Australian TAFEs’ which explains the event and sets out the various ways to be involved.
You can also see the ‘Call for Speaker Proposals’ by visiting the TDA website.

TAFEs can also discuss ideas, opportunities and find out more by contacting:
Jen Bahen, Director, International Engagement jbahen@tda.edu.au or
Craig Robetson, CEO crobertson@tda.edu.au

TAFE Queensland’s Jenny Dodd appointed to head TasTAFE

The Chief Academic Officer at TAFE Queensland, Jenny Dodd, has been appointed as the new CEO of TasTAFE, to commence in early 2018.
The Minister for Education and Training Jeremy Rockliff said Ms Dodd brings a wealth of knowledge, experience and skills from senior vocational education and training roles including Deputy Chief Executive of Canberra Institute of Technology, and most recently with TAFE Queensland.

“Ms Dodd is nationally known for her work in online learning and change management, and will be moving to Tasmania to take up the position from February,” he said.

Jenny is known for her expertise in flexible learning and was a member of the Flexible Learning Advisory Group for seven years. She is also a board member of the TAFE Directors Australia National Scholarships Foundation.
TDA extends its congratulations to Jenny on her appointment.

TAFE Queensland’s Jenny Dodd appointed to head TasTAFE

The Chief Academic Officer at TAFE Queensland, Jenny Dodd, has been appointed as the new CEO of TasTAFE, to commence in early 2018.

The Minister for Education and Training Jeremy Rockliff said Ms Dodd brings a wealth of knowledge, experience and skills from senior vocational education and training roles including Deputy Chief Executive of Canberra Institute of Technology, and most recently with TAFE Queensland.

“Ms Dodd is nationally known for her work in online learning and change management, and will be moving to Tasmania to take up the position from February,” he said.

Jenny is known for her expertise in flexible learning and was a member of the Flexible Learning Advisory Group for seven years. She is also a board member of the TAFE Directors Australia National Scholarships Foundation.

TDA extends its congratulations to Jenny on her appointment.

Skills funding projects close to finalisation, says minister Karen Andrews

The federal government’s $3 billion Skilling Australians Fund is getting close to finalising projects that will  be given the green light, according to the Assistant Minister for Vocational Education and Skills Karen Andrews.

Ms Andrews told the National Apprentice Employment Conference that discussions were well under way with the states, at both a ministerial and official level, to determine the projects that would proceed.

Many of the states were “quite advanced” in developing projects, the Minister said.

“I can assure you that while there might not be as many visible signs that work is happening as some people would like, there is a tremendous amount of work behind the scenes and I’m very confident that its coming towards a conclusion,” Ms Andrews said.

The fund will see the states nominate eligible projects and provide matched funding, with the aim of creating some 300,000 apprenticeships over four years.

The Shadow Minister for TAFE, Skills and Apprenticeships, Senator Doug Cameron told the conference that the government’s reliance on funding the program through a levy on firms importing skilled migrants meant it was likely to fail.

“If the number of skilled migrants goes down under the Coalition, so will funding for skills development and apprenticeships,” he said.

Career opportunities open through senior roles in TAFE NSW

A total of 38 senior positions are currently being advertised across TAFE NSW.

The roles are associated with the TAFE NSW modernisation program and extend across three divisions – the Regional Business Group, the Education and Training Group, and TAFE Digital. There are openings in both metropolitan and regional areas.

The closing date for all positions is Sunday 12 November.

See details of all the positions open in TAFE NSW

ASQA gets a tick in its latest report card

The VET regulator, the Australian Skills Quality Authority (ASQA), has received an overall positive rating from training providers in its latest report card, but has been chastised over the speed and quality of some of its responses.

ASQA was viewed as an effective regulator by 77% of registered training organisations (RTOs), a result that was in line with the previous annual survey.
The best rated features were ASQA’s communication channels, which all scored above 90% positive rating.

The lowest scores related to issues surrounding reviews of RTO license applications, something ASQA says “is not surprising considering applications for a reconsideration of a decision follow an adverse decision.”

ASQA’s email service and info line each attracted some negative feedback in relation to issues such as speed of responses, knowledge of staff, and completeness of answers.
ASQA says that many RTOs are supportive of its compliance actions but they also want swifter action against the “cowboys” bringing down the reputation of the sector.

See ASQA’s annual survey of training providers for 2016-17

Diary Dates

Australian Training Awards
23 November 2017
National Convention Centre, Canberra
More information

STEM in Defence Summit
Australian Defence Magazine

30 November 2017
Hyatt Hotel, Canberra
More information

Australian Council of Deans of Education Vocational Education Group (ACDEVEG) 
VET Teaching and VET Teacher Education Conference
7 & 8 December 2017
TAFE Queensland, Southbank Campus
More information


A war on TAFE? Some VET facts and myths.

Recently again, my news feeds, social media and other outlets have been jammed with the AEU, Greens and Labor people talking about the war on TAFE and that non-public providers are causing the death of TAFEs in Australia.  To be fair I understand what is going on here;

  1. A not insubstantial number of AEU members in various states are TAFE workers.  In fact the overwhelming majority of AEU members from the VET sector come from TAFE.  It therefore makes sense that the AEU vigorously pushes the TAFE bandwagon.  Less TAFE staff means (probably) less AEU members, making them a less relevant voice in the VET sector.
  2. The Greens with their deep ideological commitments to public provision of a wide range of things including education and a VET policy that says no funding should go to non-public providers at all, coupled with a solid understanding of their voting base, means that there is a war on TAFE, resonates with their political agenda and makes them more palatable to their voters.
  3. Labour.  Well with deep connections to the Union movement, a lean towards the left, and again a good understanding of their ‘true believers’ talking up the death of TAFE makes sense.  It also helps that they can use it to kick the government as well.
    The fact that these are the main groups behind the various save our TAFEs movements makes it pretty clear that a lot of the rhetoric around this and a lot of the negative press leveled at the non-public side of VET is, well, driven by political and ideological agendas.
    Now two things before I go on.  Firstly let me make it abundantly clear that the position taken by the government and its advisory groups are, just as much as with the groups above, driven by ideological and political agendas.  Secondly, as I have said so many times before, we need to have a strong efficient and effective public VET education system in this country, losing it would be a loss for Australia.  However, we also need a vibrant and well supported non-public system as well.
    Let us then jump away from the rhetoric and agendas and just look at some facts however, and then perhaps we can make some considered conclusions about some of the recent rhetoric.  Now bear in mind these facts have come from data publicly released by NCVER.

Myth Number One: Private RTOs have grown out of control.

Fact Number One:  A small number of private providers (and some TAFEs) substantially increased their enrolments mostly on the back of the flawed VET fee help scheme.  However 47% of all non-public VET providers have less than 1,000 Students.

Myth Number Two: TAFE provides a far better quality of training than non-public providers.

Fact Number Two:  If we look at the Employers’ use and views of the VET system 2017 report from NCVER we can see that Employers report a 91.5% satisfaction with private providers against 85.6% with TAFE as well as an 82.9% satisfaction rate for the delivery to apprentices and trainees as opposed to 81.8% for TAFE.

Myth Number Three: Private providers cherry pick students and courses and leave TAFE to do the heavy lifting with remote, disadvantaged, disabled and indigenous students.

Fact Number Three:  Private providers actually deliver to 50% of all indigenous students, 43% of all students with a disability, 54% of the most disadvantaged students, and more than half of all remote and very remote students.

Myth Number Four: TAFE does the vast majority of the training of trainees and apprentices.

Fact Number Four: Non-public providers delivered 45% of apprentice and trainee enrollments.

So I am just going to leave those here for you to think about for a little while and remember the old saying ‘Never let the facts get in the way of a good story.”
Have a great weekend everyone.

Trainers back commission on skills, graded qualifications

Higher Education reporterSydney






Training experts have backed the Productivity Commission’s criticism of tightly prescribed skills courses and its proposal for graded qualifications.
The vocational education and training chapter in the commission’s five-year productivity review, Shifting the Dial, says training packages, documents that specify the skills required in narrowly defined occupations, and how they are combined and assessed, have had their day.

The report says training packages are too specific and take too long to develop, often passing their use-by date before students graduate.
It says the packages are unpopular, and that half of employers opt instead for unaccredited training, and that satisfaction levels are higher for informal than formal courses.
The commission says colleges need to focus on more generic and transferable skills. It also wants “better signalling” of graduates’ skills than the pass-fail ­approach of competency-based training.
“Proficiency grading” would encourage students to try harder, boost the status of VET and deliver better information to recruiters, the report says. It says that while Canberra should not mandate graded assessment, it should start laying plans for its adoption.
As a first step, the federal government should consult states and territories and examine how and where graded proficiency could be introduced, it says.
Federal Skills Minister Karen Andrews said all of the report’s recommendations were up for consideration. She said she was “not ruling anything in or out”, but any changes would involve stakeholder consultation.
Ms Andrews said the government’s immediate priority was to establish the Skilling Australians Fund announced in the May budget, and to review the National Vocational Education and Training Regulator Act.
Ruth Schubert, VET expert with the University of Melbourne’s LH Martin Institute, said introducing graded assessment would not be hard for colleges. Many TAFEs already graded their students, she said. “It is a more accurate reflection of skill level, more nuanced than a black and white yes or no.”
Dr Schubert said training packages had become too narrowly focused on vocational outcomes. Most VET graduates work outside the areas in which they had trained, so the narrow focus was inappropriate and would become more so as automation transformed the labour market.
SkillsIQ, one of the six service organisations that develop training packages, said they needed to strike the right balance.
Chief executive Yasmin King said prescriptive approaches were easier to regulate, and overly generic qualifications ended up being “everything to no one”.
“Employers don’t want really broad,” she said. “They want flexible, but they don’t want broad.”
Ms King said generic qualifications would allow providers to deliver the cheapest electives, not the most appropriate ones. She said training packages took a long time to develop because endorsement was needed by every state and territory.
TAFE Directors Australia said training packages could never keep pace with the changing economy.
“Why not turn the problem on its head, and say we’ll make sure we train people with the capability to adjust?” chief executive Craig Robertson said.
He also backed the proposal for graded assessment, saying a “pass-fail competence” approach did not encourage students or teachers to strive for their best.
The Australian Council for Private Education and Training said graded assessment was not incompatible with a competency-based framework.
Chief executive Rod Camm said employers wanted to know how good graduates were, not whether they could do something.

In this edition

VET system “a mess”, says Productivity Commission

The Productivity Commission has delivered a blunt assessment of the state of the vocational education and training (VET) system in its landmark five-year review of the economy.
“The VET system is in a mess, and is struggling to deliver relevant competency-based qualifications sought by industry,” the report says.
The report, ‘Shifting the Dial: 5 year productivity review’, recommends a move to proficiency-based assessment, so that rather than providing a qualification based on a minimum standard, there is grading based on relative performance.
“A comprehensive consultation process with employers, training providers and students should be used to identify suitable areas for early adoption. This would also provide lessons about the best pathways to developing proficiency‑based assessment more broadly,” the commission says.
“Models would be the subject of employer and VET provider review, with a process that supported early adopters to trial and deliver proficiency assessments.”
The commission also says that training packages are too numerous, too detailed and too specific to current job requirements.
“They need to be broadened to ensure they also equip people with sufficient skills to adapt to changes in the workplace.”

Taiwan and Australia embark on new phase of VET collaboration

TAFE institutes will benefit from a new agreement with Taiwan’s Workforce Development Agency (WDA), with an MoU exchanged between TAFE Directors Australia and WDA during a ceremony in Taipei last week.
Taiwan and Australia have a strong history of collaboration in VET, having completed two joint projects over the past four years. These saw Australian VET experts support the introduction of a competency based training system in Taiwan, as well as deliver training to TVET trainers in Taiwan’s large training centres – training which has now been embedded within Taiwan’s system.
The MoU was exchanged during the Asia-Pacific International Symposium on Competency Application and Talent Application.
TDA’s Director for International Education, Jen Bahen, represented TAFE during the ceremony, and said “This third phase of the agreement between TDA and WDA represents more opportunities for Australian TAFEs to participate in the continued reform of Taiwan’s TVET system and to build relationships with partner institutions in Taiwan.”
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Closer agreement between Taiwan and Australia; Deputy Minister Lin, Minister for Workforce Development (centre) and Workforce Development Agency Director-General, Ms Huang Chiu-Kuei (third from right, front) with attendees
Closer agreement between Taiwan and Australia; Deputy Minister Lin, Minister for Workforce Development (centre) and Workforce Development Agency Director-General, Ms Huang Chiu-Kuei (third from right, front) with attendees

Responsibility for TAFE shifts in mini-reshuffle of Labor frontbench

Responsibility for TAFE under the federal ALP has been handed to Senator Doug Cameron, under minor changes to the shadow ministry announced by leader Bill Shorten.
It follows the decision by the former shadow minister, Kate Ellis, to step down and not contest the next election.
Senator Cameron adds TAFE to his current responsibilities as Shadow Minister for Skills and Apprenticeships.
Deputy Opposition Leader Tanya Plibersek adds Training to her existing responsibilities as Shadow Minister for Education and Shadow Minister for Women.
Amanda Rishworth  joins the shadow cabinet as Shadow Minister for Early Childhood Education and Development, in addition to her current role as Shadow Minister for Veterans’ Affairs.

Employers show high rate of satisfaction with training

Employer satisfaction with the quality of the vocational education and training (VET) system remains at relatively high levels, according to the National Centre for Vocational Education Research (NCVER).
Its latest research shows that 75.4% of employers were satisfied that vocational qualifications provided employees with the skills they require for the job, similar to the result in 2015.
A total of 77.5% of employers were satisfied that apprentices and trainees were obtaining skills they require from training, down 4.2 percentage points from 2015.\
For TAFE, the highest rate of employer satisfaction was with unaccredited training, at 99.5%, followed by nationally recognised training (85.6%) and apprentice and trainee training (81.8%).
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Input invited into digital economy blueprint

The federal government has released a Digital Economy Strategy consultation paper which will be used to guide the development of a digital blueprint to be unveiled in the first half of next year.
The consultation paper sets out a series of themes and questions for consideration. Among the question’s posed, it asks, “What opportunities do we have to equip Australians with the skills they need for the digital economy, today’s jobs, and jobs of the future?”
Among other things the strategy will set out how Australia can develop world-leading digital business capability, and address the ‘digital divide’ in skills.
The consultation is open until 30 November.
There is also a new online tool called Dialogue where it’s possible to engage and provide feedback

Gender stereotypes and VET image problem hurting students

Gender stereotypes and negative perceptions about a vocational career still pervade much of the thinking among students considering their future, according to research from the National Centre for Vocational Education Research (NCVER).
The paper, “Choosing VET: aspirations, intentions and choice”, finds this is contributing to misunderstanding among students about their ultimate career goals, and the study pathways needed to get there.
“Some mistakenly believe they require a university degree for a VET-related occupation, including aspiring hairdressers who thought they required a university qualification, and aspiring surgeons who intended studying at TAFE,” the paper says.
“It suggests that schools and/or VET providers have more to do in ensuring that students and their parents or carers have a greater awareness of the range of education choices that vocational training offers and where they might lead,” it says.
It finds that primary and junior secondary students have formed negative perceptions of VET or TAFE which do not reflect contemporary realities, while gender stereotypes persist.
“Some students indicated to the researchers that their school organised TAFE excursions for them to try out different courses, but the girls had to do hairdressing and the boys had construction-related experiences.”
The Assistant Minister for Vocational Education and Skills, Karen Andrews, said the government is committed to raising the status of VET to encourage more school students to consider a VET pathway.
Minister Andrews said the government plans to add an RTO dashboard to the MySkills website which will enable consumers to use training provider quality and outcome information to make decisions about a training provider.

Aviation Australia joins with TAFE Queensland

Queensland aviation training college, Aviation Australia, is to become part of TAFE Queensland.
The Minister for Training and Skills Yvette D’Ath said the move would allow Aviation Australia to leverage the size and experience of TAFE Queensland to expand its presence across the aviation and aerospace industry.
Aviation Australia was established by the state government in 2001 and delivers a range of pilot, cabin crew and aircraft maintenance and engineering programs.
TAFE Queensland interim CEO Mary Campbell said the move was positive for both Aviation Australia and TAFE Queensland and would strengthen their presence in local and global aviation markets.
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UK association of colleges conference

There’s still time to register and attend the pre-eminent further education conference in the world – the Association of Colleges annual conference in Birmingham, England on the 14 and 15 November.
There are exciting speakers and topics in concurrent sessions that are relevant world-wide, particularly here in Australia.
It will bring together experts in education and business to present the latest in the field of further education, both nationally and internationally, and from experts across the country.
If you are attending would you mind letting us here at TDA know: memberservices@tda.edu.au.
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Diary Dates

OctoberVET 2017
AVETRA (Australian Vocational Education And Training Research Association)
October & November 2017
Victoria, NSW, Western Australia, Queensland & South Australia
More information

International Australasian Campuses Towards Sustainability (ACTS) Conference
THINK BIG for Global Goals
1 – 3 November 2017
RMIT University, Victoria
More information

National Apprentice Employment Network
National Conference
1 – 3 November 2017
Radisson Blu Hotel, Sydney
More information

Australian Training Awards
23 November 2017
National Convention Centre, Canberra
More information

STEM in Defence Summit
Australian Defence Magazine

30 November 2017
Hyatt Hotel, Canberra
More information

Australian Council of Deans of Education Vocational Education Group (ACDEVEG) 
VET Teaching and VET Teacher Education Conference
7 & 8 December 2017
TAFE Queensland, Southbank Campus
More information