TDA Newsletter- Australia may still be exposed to training college failure

Let’s imagine bold education policy – comment by CEO Craig Robertson

Its’ fair to say that the policy landscape at present is littered with government reviews and policy positions from the full sweep of stakeholders concerned for tertiary education in Australia.

The review of the Australian Qualifications Framework could resolve the conceptual divide between higher education and training that hasn’t been bridged despite the collective wringing of hands by education policy experts.

For Australians, we conceive of the AQF as an enabler – a ladder to advancement – no matter where one starts.

Many are also hoping it will set a blueprint for sector policy owners to work toward more coherent post-compulsory schooling offers for all Australians.

Peter Coaldrake is examining provider categories within the higher education sector. In essence, he is contemplating whether the allowable types of higher education suppliers form rungs upon which Australians can pursue education outcomes best suited to them.

To complete the landscape, the VET sector, of course, is contemplating Joyce, and schools are assessing their ultimate purpose through revisions to the Melbourne Declaration.

In looking at what may lay ahead I reflect on the work of Jean Blackburn. If Jean were alive today, she would have turned 100 just last month.

Jean is mostly remembered as the deputy chair of the Schools Commission in the 1970s and the champion of the Disadvantaged Schools Program, which has been heralded as one of the more successful interventions to overcome inequality in schooling outcomes.

Jean’s work as chair of the Ministerial Review of Post Compulsory Schooling in Victoria, released in March 1985, captured my attention. Many with an eye to history may sheet home to that report the demise of technical high schools. The merits of that decision are not my focus, rather the philosophy Jean brought to the task.

It’s hard to imagine today, but in the early 1980s Victoria was concerned about its population decline. Figures presented in Jean’s report show that Victoria’s population of 15 to 19 year-olds was forecast to decrease by 40,000 over the decade from 1986 to 1996!

It’s little wonder her recommendations focused on getting more out of the dwindling stock of Victoria’s youth.

Recommendation 32 of her report proposed that from 1988 all technical and high schools “become comprehensive rather than being designated, equipped or staffed as technical or high schools.”

Unlike some reports we are faced with today, the rationale supporting this recommendation, are pertinent.

Curricular reforms have frequently been associated with the reshaping of educational structures. Organisational forms are not ends in themselves but are the means of meeting educational and societal purposes which change over time.

In this present day, why is it that structures and markets seem to be the policy outcome?

The Committee believes that existing high and technical schools should be amalgamated to give all students access to a more comprehensive curriculum and to broaden the opportunities of students in technical schools. The workforce structure to which technical schools originally related no longer exists.

In looking ahead at the obvious changes sweeping work, technology and organisation, why is it that we can’t contemplate new forms of training that meet a new order of capability required of all working adults?

In the interests of developing a higher theoretical basis for technical pursuits, and of giving more students the experience of relating practical and theoretical studies, we are recommending that all public sector secondary provision become comprehensive.

After 34 years of an education policy merry-go-round, why does this education theory, so simply stated, ring as something fresh?

Jean saw the power of education to support economic growth – in this case as an economic rescue mission for a state in decline. Jean was hellbent on education being the great instrument for achieving equality of opportunity – the ladder to success no matter one’s background.

It’s easy to see the VET sector residualised to little more than an expensive labour market program. But it’s not too hard to imagine strong and vibrant vocational education here in Australia led by TAFEs as trusted purveyors of enterprise-centred and industry-focused endeavours on behalf of the Australian community.

It’s all too easy to see our training system divorced from educational intent. But it’s not too hard to imagine educational structures and learning models which enliven learning for students who need a different approach than didactic models we too easily favour in our schools and universities.

It’s far too easy to fear that our competency model will be enshrined forever despite its educational shortcomings. But it’s not too hard to imagine offering opportunity through enlivened vocational education and a supporting AQF.

We see in front of us the majority of school leavers favouring university pathways over the offer of VET. But it’s not too hard to imagine a vibrant tertiary education system with a range of robust learning options from which all who access it can achieve the success they are chasing in their lives, complete with scaffolding that supports further learning as they build upon that success.

It would do us no harm as a country to reflect upon some of the great education reformers of our past and dream big of what could be.

The reviews at our doorstep present that opportunity.

I have extracted notes from a speech I gave at the launch of the Mackenzie Research Institute.

This month Monash University Publishing has released Jean Blackburn – Education, feminism and social justice by Craig Campbell and Debra Hayes. I’m only 40 odd pages in but no doubt I’ll refer to Jean’s work again when I return to the notion of comprehensive vocational education.

Lastly, the extracts from the Ministerial Review of Post Compulsory Schooling was possible because the report is available on VocEd, an immeasurably valuable resource managed by NCVER.

Queensland: Beautiful one day, perfect the next – for VET

There are many reasons to travel to Queensland, but this September Queensland holds real promise as the destination to reset vocational education and TAFEs.

Beautiful one session, perfect the next, rings true if you look at the line-up for the TDA convention in September.

Michael Brennan, the head of the Productivity Commission whose job is to promote competition and markets as the starting point for public policy, will explore what’s next for the VET sector.

Vicki Thomson from the Group of Eight Universities, Australia’s elite, will contemplate how TAFEs inhabit the tertiary sector.

Drawing on his findings as chair of Jobs Queensland, the warhorse of higher education, Professor Peter Coaldrake, will argue for a higher order of TAFE if Australia is to educate and train a new the class of worker.

The best of England and Canada, from a technical and vocational education viewpoint, will see David Hughes talk about the journey of Further Education colleges amid Brexit, and Dr Rick Huijbregts from Toronto reflect on the technology climate facing students.

A dedicated session with ASQA leadership will allow TAFEs  to take steps to a higher order focus on quality.

We will hear from Steven Joyce, whose advice to Prime Minister Morrison will be central in the shape of VET.

Assistant Minister for Vocational Education, Training and Apprenticeships, Steve Irons will reflect on the next steps for TAFEs.

Overall, the Convention will see:

  • 15+ plenary speakers
  • 8 State showcases
  • 55+ workshops speakers
  • numerous networking opportunities

See more about the impressive line-up of plenary speakers.

See the Convention program

Register Now!

TAFE SA’s seven-year registration a sign of confidence

TAFE SA has received a positive response from the Australian Skills Quality Authority (ASQA) to its application to renew its registration as a national registered training organisation (RTO) for local and international students.

ASQA granted TAFE SA the maximum seven-year registration, the first time the organisation has received this length of registration.

ASQA also approved TAFE SA’s application to renew its registration on the Commonwealth Register of Institutions and Courses for Overseas Students (CRICOS) allowing TAFE SA to continue to offer courses to overseas students, also for the next seven years.

TAFE SA Chief Executive, David Coltman, said the positive response was a strong show of confidence in the improvements that have been made across TAFE SA.

“TAFE SA has embarked on a fresh start, we are committed to providing quality outcomes for students and working closely with industry, and this seven-year registration confirms that we are on the right path,” he said.

Job uncertainty, finances, health play on the minds of young Australians

The challenges faced by young Australians juggling work, study and personal finances has been revealed in the latest analysis from the National Centre for Vocational Education Research (NCVER).

The study, Life at 24: Then & Now uses data from the Longitudinal Surveys of Australian Youth (LSAY) to provide a snapshot of how study, training and work have changed for Australians aged 24 in 2018, compared with those of the same age in 2008. It shows:

  • Fewer young people are working in their career job at age 24 when compared to 24-year-olds ten years earlier
  • Young people are becoming more qualified with a  higher proportion obtaining a bachelor degree or postgraduate qualification
  • There has been a slight increase in the proportion with Certificate III or IV, while Diploma and Advanced Diplomas have remain steady, and there has been a sharp fall in the proportion with Certificate I or II, as well as those with no qualification
  • The proportion of young people in full-time work has decreased
  • The proportion of 24-year-olds unable to meet their basic needs due to a shortage of money has increased significantly
  • Rates of underemployment are increasing
  • Rates of volunteering have increasedSimon Walker, Managing Director, NCVER, said young people are taking significantly longer to complete their studies and transition into ‘career jobs’ than they were ten years ago.

“Our data also shows that more than one in ten 24-year-olds aren’t able to get the medical treatment they require, a figure that has almost doubled in the past decade,” he said.

Hear VET news from around the world

Catch up on news from around the globe from the World Federation of Colleges and Polytechnics.

Its new monthly Dispatch gives you a quick update of TVET news internationally.

TAFE Queensland, CQ University and mining giant form skills alliance

TAFE Queensland, CQ University and mining company BHP Mitsubishi Alliance (BMA) have formed a new multimillion dollar skills partnership that will support the introduction of new technology in mining.

The Queensland Future Skills Partnership will fund and facilitate the fast-tracked development and delivery of new autonomy related qualifications in open-cut mining operations in Queensland.

TAFE Queensland CEO Mary Campbell said the partnership will be important in preparing Queensland’s future workforce.

“This partnership gives us an opportunity to work with industry and employers to deliver a range of flexible skilling solutions to ensure employment outcomes for Industry 4.0 jobs of the future,” she said.

CQUniversity Vice-Chancellor Professor Nick Klomp said the partnership was an important step when it comes to engaging with industry and delivering future focused skills training

The scope of training to be delivered is being finalised but it may include a traineeship qualification in autonomous operations and an expansion of existing trade apprenticeships to include autonomous competencies and entry pathway for autonomous mine controllers.

The first of the pilot programs will take place in the Bowen Basin region near BMA’s operations.

Does industry have too much clout in VET reform?

Is too much of the future of VET reform being placed in the hands of industry?

That was the question asked by TDA Chief Executive Craig Robertson in an op-ed in The Australian’s Higher Education last week.

In the face of stalled national productivity and stagnant wages growth, he pointed to the critical place of VET as an instrument of economic growth and opportunity for many working Australians?

He said industry was right to lament the decline in VET participation, “but industry wants to remain in charge of the sector, as was made clear in submissions ahead of COAG”.

“Industry points to the decline in apprenticeships. But it’s industry – employers – who engage apprentices, not training providers.

“In a climate of record employment growth, apprenticeship numbers have plateaued. It seems employers can’t find the right person or are choosing other strategies to solve their staffing issues,” he said.

“Clearly, nuance is required. A VET system without industry is nonsense, just as a VET sector solely in the hands of industry doesn’t make sense.”

He said if the sector is to rebuild, there needs to be serious investment in the trusted TAFE system, where governments can invest to offer deep, quality vocational education in the knowledge that public funds won’t be squandered.

Australia may still be exposed to training college failure

TDA Chief Executive Craig Robertson has warned of the possibility of future upheaval in the VET sector as data design of VET student loans would not foil unscrupulous behaviour by training colleges.

In an article in The Saturday Paper, he spoke of the fallout from the collapse of Careers Australia in 2017, which saw TDA take responsibility for some 7000 enrolments under the national Tuition Assurance Scheme.

“I’d always thought Careers Australia was a fairly respectable operator,” he said.

“It wasn’t until we really looked at the data that we realised what was going on.”

Andrew Norton, the former higher education director at the Grattan Institute, also warned that with some 4000 often quite small providers in the market, regulation can be difficult

“Even though there are providers being deregistered, I wouldn’t be convinced that the industry is clean,” he said.

Craig Robertson also cautioned about the possibility of harmful activity resuming.

“Our point is that in two, three years’ time, when everybody has turned their focus to something else, it could be an easy thing to try to do,” he says.

Australia Pacific Training Coalition recruiting country director

The Australia Pacific Training Coalition (APTC) is recruiting for a senior executive to run key programs in the Solomon Islands and Kiribati.

The position of Country Director will have responsibility for transitioning APTC from an Australian technical college to a vehicle forging coalitions with partner institutions, industry, enterprises, and governments to achieve sustainable TVET reform.

The position is based in Honiara and is contracted until June 2022.  Applications close August 25.

For more information, visit APTC.

For enquiries, please contact Human Resources Manager – Julia Peters on

NT government makes $7m injection into CDU

The Northern Territory government has provided a one-off funding contribution of $7 million to Charles Darwin University, following an independent review of the university’s VET delivery.

CDU’s 2018 annual report, tabled in NT Parliament last week showed a $21 million deficit last year.

The university commissioned professional services firm EY to undertake a review of its VET delivery earlier this year.

The report made seven recommendations CDU should implement over a three year period to improve its fiscal position.

One of the recommendations was that the university ask the NT government to financially support the actions it needs to take to address the deficit.

The $7 million one-off funding contribution comes in addition to the $65 million in ongoing annual funding the government provides to CDU, predominantly for the delivery of VET courses.

The Minister for Workforce Training Selena Uibo said the Northern Territory has one of the highest rates of VET engagement in Australia and CDU is its largest provider of these courses, including in remote communities.

Building leadership – PIN executive leadership conference

In times of change, the leadership of post-secondary education is more important than ever. It’s easy to follow the trends, it’s harder to manage within the trend.

The World Federation of Colleges and Polytechnics is proud of its partnership with the Postsecondary International Network (PIN), whose mission is to build strong leadership and collaboration across leaders of post-secondary institutes focused on technical education and training.

Bellevue College, just outside Seattle, is proud to host the PIN 2019 Executive Leadership Conference. The PIN team look forward to welcoming postsecondary leaders from across the world to beautiful Washington State, 22-27 September 2019.

Registration is still open, and you can register here.

2019 PIN Conference highlights include:

Reception at Microsoft Headquarters

Microsoft is changing its structure for how employees work together. At this reception, you will be able to take a virtual reality tour of Microsoft’s new campus with its $5 billion of restructuring and renovations.


Keynote Address by Anthony Salcito, VP of Worldwide Education at Microsoft


Anthony will discuss the global impact of digital transformation on higher education.


Leith Sharp, Director and Lead Faculty, Executive Education for Sustainability Leadership-Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health
Leith will present on insights gleaned from the “Leaders on Purpose” project. Leith and her colleagues have interviewed over 30 CEOs of the largest international corporations, and she will discuss the strategies of these leaders for adapting to change and for meeting the Sustainable Development Goals of the UN.

Donald Brinkman, Senior Program Manager for Bing eSports at Microsof

Donald will present on the gamifications of learning and the rise of eSports.

Tours of Amazon Headquarters, including the Amazon Spheres, and the Boeing Factory will offer a glimpse into how technology and innovation are driving the future of work

You can learn more about the schedule of events here: 2019 PIN Conference Schedul

ASQA extends transition period for high-risk units

The Australian Skills Quality Authority (ASQA) has extended the transition period for training providers delivering 13 high-risk work units of competency.

ASQA says it is able to extend transition periods where it can be demonstrated that there would be genuine disadvantage to a cohort of learners if an extension was not approved.

Most of the units of competency relate to the operation of cranes and forklift vehicles.

The extended transition covers training, assessment and certification issuance and will end 1 January 2020.


See more.

Diary Dates

National Manufacturing Summit
21 & 22 August 2019
More information

National Skills Week
26 August – 1 September 2019
Locations around Australia
More information

TAFE Directors Australia 2019 Convention
‘The Power of TAFE’
3 – 5 September 2019
More information


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


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

Australia’s outdated official job list leaves students, businesses in limbo trying to get visas

Two people pose in front of a treePHOTO: Zerub Roberts (left) and Neelima Pallanti are aspiring data scientists. (Supplied)

Australia’s fastest-growing jobs are not recognised on the nation’s official list of occupations.

Key points:

  • Australia’s official list of occupations is out of date
  • That means businesses are struggling to fill vacancies and migrants face uncertain futures
  • The Bureau of Statistics states it will cost an extra $4 million in funding for a review, but the Government cannot find the money

It is causing problems in Australia’s immigration program as businesses clamour to find in-demand workers.

None of the five jobs named as Australia’s fastest growing by LinkedIn in 2018 are contained within the standard worker classification, known as ANZSCO, although jobs like weight loss consultant and amusement centre manager are.

That means businesses wanting to recruit overseas workers in these occupations are unable to, or they face extra hurdles to get approval.

And people desperate to live and work in Australia with these in-demand skillsets have no certainty over when they can settle or how to plan their studies.

Although a review of the list has been almost universally demanded, the Government has confirmed none would occur until after the 2021 census.

Zerub Roberts, who has recently completed his masters at Deakin University, came to Australia from India to pursue local education and work in data science, alongside his partner Neelima Pallanti.

Data scientist or data analyst is not on the list, so he is having to adapt his experience to the occupation of ICT business analyst for his visa application, including spending on a $10,000 course with the Australian Computer Society.

He is now on a two-year graduate visa facing a race against time to collect enough experience and qualifications for his application.

“If I don’t manage to secure permanent residency in two years, that would be very unfortunate,” he said.

“I just hope we won’t end up regretting this major decision we took two years ago to come to Australia.”

Widespread calls for review

Committee for Economic Development of Australia (CEDA) senior economist Gabriela D’Souza said the migration program had become splintered.

“Instead of embarking on new programs like the Global Talent Scheme, we should really be trying to fix the problems with the frameworks,” she said.

She said one of the “faulty” frameworks was the outdated ANZSCO list.

“Our last review was in 2013 — some of the jobs we have today weren’t a thing in 2013,” Ms D’Souza said.

“But now they are heavily part of the growing tech sector and the Government needs to initiate a review soon.”

According to Ms D’Souza, if a business advertises for a position not on the ANZSCO list, it cannot submit those ads in its application as proof that it has tried to find local workers.

Instead, it must advertise again with the listed occupation, prompting months of delays.

And some applications that attempt to shoe-horn new jobs into listed occupations are rejected, triggering delays and additional fees.

Jenny Lambert, the director of employment, education and training at the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said even if the list review was commenced now “it will be closer to 2022 before the review is completed, well over 10 years since the last update”.

“The migration program has had to put in place ‘workarounds’,” she said, referring to recent special migration pathways such as the Global Talent Scheme that do not rely on the occupation codes.

“But these schemes have limitations such as higher salary thresholds which mean they are not a realistic option for many employers who may need the skills.

“The future of work is here now, but the way we measure these changes is being substantially inhibited by the lack of an up-to-date statistical view of the jobs that are in the economy.”

Groups specifically calling for a review to the list in a recent Senate inquiry include:

  • The Australasian Meat Industry Employees Union
  • Tourism Accommodation Australia
  • Universities Australia
  • The Law Council
  • Restaurant & Catering Australia
  • The National Farmers’ Federation

No prioritisation

The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), which manages the list, told the inquiry a review would be labour and resource intensive and would cost over $4 million.

“Unfortunately, at this point in time key stakeholders were not able to offer any user funding to the ABS for this purpose,” it said.

A spokesperson for Assistant Treasurer Michael Sukkar, who has responsibility for the ABS, said work was underway to update skill levels for certain occupations on the list.

“This work, which is expected to be completed in coming months, will assist key agencies using ANZSCO to administer skilled migration policies and will be available on the ABS website.”

However, there will be no prioritisation of the review.

“The ABS has advised that the timing of a full review is currently under consideration but would be unlikely before the 2021 census,” he said.

Chinese international students flee Australia

It is fair to say that China has been the primary driver of Australia’s international student boom.

Over the past six years, Chinese international student enrolments have surged by 94,000, with China accounting for 29% of total international student enrolments at Australian educational institutions:

Chinese students also account for around 40% of Australia’s $35 billion international student market, with the average Chinese student generating around $72,000 of economic activity in 2018, according to the Department of Education.

The bonanza is coming to an end, however, with new enrolments from China flatlining over the first five months of 2019 and overall student visa approvals slowing. From The Australian:

In the first five months of this year 35,825 Indian students started new courses in Australia, 48 per cent more than the previous year.

The number of students from Nepal — another strong growth market — starting new courses was 32 per cent higher.

In contrast, the number of commencing students from China, the main country driving the past six years of export growth, was unchanged in the first five months of this year…

However, the strong education export growth may not continue because of uncertainty about student numbers from India and other countries in the subcontinent where universities and other tertiary education providers are making a strong push for new students amid fears about declining standards…

Education providers recently have seen delays occurring in visa approvals.

International Education Association of Australia chief executive Phil Honeywood said there was a push for “quality over quantity” in international students, and education export revenue was likely to follow a slower growth path.

As noted above, stagnation in Chinese international student commencements is being more than offset by surging enrolments from India and Nepal.

The Department of Home Affairs’ student visa data supports this claim. Visa applications from China fell by 3.3% in the second half of 2018, but this was more than offset by a 53.5% increase in applications from India and a 47.8% increase from Nepal:

However, the outlook is less rosy for a number of reasons.

First, the average economic activity generated by Indian ($53,000) and Nepalese ($57,000) international students is lower than Chinese students ($72,000), because they tend to study at lower-cost second tier universities and vocational education and training centres. They are also more likely to live in group homes than the Chinese, thereby reducing their expenditure on rents and utilities.

Other things equal, this means that more Indian and Nepalese students are required to offset any loss of Chinese students. And the loss of Chinese students appears inevitable given growing concerns in Australia around political interference from China and the souring relationship between the two nations.

Second, as implied by Phil Honeywood above, growing concerns around university entry and teaching standards – which came to a head in May’s Four Corners report – has pressured universities to be more discerning about which international students they take and to focus more on “quality over quantity”.

Students from the Indian Sub-continent featured heavily in Four Corners’ report, and were identified as being key culprits in the decline of university education standards.

The upshot is that with Chinese student growth slowing, universities would need to further lower both entry and teaching standards in order to encourage greater student flows from India and Nepal, which seems unlikely at this point in time.

Finally, the Morrison Government’s reduction in the permanent migrant intake from 190,000 to 160,000 means there are fewer potential permanent residency places available. This lowers the probability of gaining permanent residency and reduces the incentive for international students to study in Australia.

In short, Australia’s six year international student boom is nearing its peak. Next comes the decline.


Australia’s bogus “$35b” international student market

On Tuesday night, immigration minister, David Coleman, gave a speech to the Sydney Institute where he talked up the immense benefits arising from Australia’s international student trade, which has supposedly delivered $35 billion of export revenue:

We will also maintain a sharp focus on our international student programme, the largest driver of temporary migration to Australia.

Let’s be clear: international education is extremely good for Australia. It’s a $35B export industry, which employs more than 200,000 Australians. It is one of our largest export markets, behind only iron ore, coal and natural gas. To put that $35B in perspective, last year our total wheat exports were worth $4B a year, our total beef exports were worth $8.5B.

It goes without saying that the integrity of our educational standards is fundamental to our success in this area, and Education Minister Dan Tehan is working to ensure that those high standards are always maintained.

The education sector supports high skill, high wage jobs – the exact kind of jobs we want to develop. International education must remain a key feature of our immigration system.

According to David Coleman, international education is Australia’s fourth largest export, “behind only iron ore, coal and natural gas”, but dwarfing other goods like wheat and beef exports. The below table from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade supports Coleman’s claim, at least superficially:

As you can see, footnote (c) contains an important caveat to this $35 billion figure: “includes international student expenditure on tuition fees and living expenses”.

This is important, since international students studying in Australia are legally permitted to work 20 hours per week, and many also do so illegally. To the extent that the income earned is used to pay for either tuition fees or living expenses, it does not represent a true export but merely economic activity.

Indeed, an international student working and supporting themselves is no more an export than a domestic student living away from home and doing likewise.

Hence, international education exports are likely significantly overstated; although we don’t know what the true number is.

This brings us to a related problem with the Government’s attempts to grow international student exports. As we already know, Chinese accounted for 201,000 international student enrolments as at March 2019, way ahead of second placed India (101,301) and third placed Nepal (51,559):

However, the latest biannual student visa data from the Department of Home Affairs shows a strong rotation away from China towards these other two nations. That is, the number of visa applications granted from China fell by 3.3% in 2H 2018, more than offset by huge growth from India (53.5%) and Nepal (47.8%):

According to the Department of Education and Training, the average economic activity generated per Chinese student was $72,000 in 2018, which was well above that for students from India ($52,700) and Nepal ($56,600).

The reason is simple: Chinese international students generally pay higher fees to study at higher quality Group of Eight Universities. By contrast, students sourced from India and Nepal typically study at cheaper second-tier institutions or private colleges, often for the express purpose of gaining employment and future permanent residency in Australia.

Therefore, as Chinese international student numbers inevitably decline – due to factors like rising political tensions – Australia will need to attract increasing numbers of lower quality students from sources like India and Nepal to maintain ‘export’ levels.

May’s Four Corners special on Australia’s international student trade was particularly damning of the quality of students coming from the Indian sub-continent, reporting widespread instances of plagiarism, academic misconduct, and students failing their courses.

So, will Australia’s universities further desecrate both entry and teaching standards, and will the government grant even easier access to working rights and permanent residency, purely to pump up the international student market?

What about the negative impacts on pedagogical standards, wages, and congestion in our crush-load Australian cities?


Queensland facing potential skills shortages in 139 different areas

Queensland could soon be struggling for workers in dozens of skills areas from plumbing to robotics unless changes are made to vocational education, the state’s Premier says.

Annastacia Palaszczuk on Friday identified 139 potential future skills shortages in traditional, but rapidly changing professions.

Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk speaks to the media alongside Tourism Minister Kate Jones about the need to revamp Australia's future skills training system.
Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk speaks to the media alongside Tourism Minister Kate Jones about the need to revamp Australia’s future skills training system.CREDIT:AAP

Electrical works, plumbing, engineering, healthcare, hospitality, early childhood, digital technologies, robotics and utilities all fit the bill.

Skills and training were among a number of issues Australia’s premiers, chief ministers and the prime minister tackled on Friday at the Council of Australian Governments meeting in Cairns.

Ms Palaszczuk’s comments came before the meeting and the council later produced a vision statement for a revamp of Australia’s vocational education training sector.

Ms Palaszczuk said future skills shortages were the reason the Queensland government launched a “free” apprenticeships scheme on August 5, which will cost taxpayers $32 million.

That policy will encourage 60,000 Queenslanders under 21 to take up an apprenticeship.

“They will be in skills areas where we have recognised where we will have skills shortages in the decades to come,” Ms Palaszczuk said.

“Queensland has already done the work and identified 139 skills where there could be shortages into the future.”

After the meeting Ms Palaszczuk said the $32 million funding would pay for the training component for apprentices to make taking on an apprentice more cost-effective for businesses.

“I think we need to make it easier for young people to get a loan if they choose to go into vocational education and training,” she said, adding that traineeship fees needed to be simplified.

At its peak in 2014, total government expenditure in the training sector was more than $9 billion a year but by 2018 this had fallen to well below $7 billion.
At its peak in 2014, total government expenditure in the training sector was more than $9 billion a year but by 2018 this had fallen to well below $7 billion.CREDIT:STEVEN SIEWERT

“There has a been a lot of focus in the past on university education but I think there needs to be an equal focus on vocational education because there is going to be a skills shortage and we need to get young people into these employment opportunities now.”

Prime Minister Scott Morison said the “jobs of the future” weren’t just in technology, but increasingly in human services areas such as aged or disability care.

He said parents should be confident about their child’s future if they chose to pursue a trade or a skills-based education.

“It is not second prize,” he said.

The federal government funded a National Skills Commission in its April budget to better identify and plan for skills shortages and work with industry to design training courses, but it is yet to be established.

A new COAG Skills Council will present leaders with a reform road map for the sector in early 2020.

A detailed federal government study, Strengthening Skills, released earlier this agreed changes were needed to simplify student loans.

“The Commonwealth and the states and territories agree to develop a simpler, nationally consistent funding policy for all government-subsidised qualifications, which provides confidence and certainty to trainees, industry, employers and all funded providers, public or private,” the Joyce report says.

Ms Palaszczuk said work to restrict Australia’s waste export industry and control plastics and packaging was also commendable.


Morrison urges states to act on skills

PM Scott Morrison and state and territory leaders hold a formal COAG meeting in Cairns on Friday.

 PM Scott Morrison and state and territory leaders hold a formal COAG meeting in Cairns on Friday.

The nation’s leaders will grapple with the best way to give Australians the skills they and employers need for the jobs of the future.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said he had a good discussion on the topic with premiers and chief ministers over dinner in Cairns on Thursday night and expects to make further progress during the formal Council of Australian Governments meeting on Friday.

“Qualifications and accreditations aren’t keeping pace with the modern economy and employers are not getting people out of the training system they need that can actually make their business work better,” he told 2GB radio ahead of the meeting.

Queensland premier Annastacia Palaszczuk – the only leader to speak heading into the meeting – expects the issue to be front and centre of the discussion.

“We need to make it easier for young people to get a loan if they choose to go into vocational education and training,” she told reporters.

“There has been a lot of focus in the past on university education and I think we need to have an equal focus on VET education because there is going to be a skill shortage.”

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian wants a national approach to look at vocational training and universities as a single sector, something the Business Council of Australia has also been pushing for over several years.

The federal government funded a National Skills Commission in its April budget, to better identify and plan for skills shortages and work with industry to design training courses, but it is yet to be established.

Federal Labor’s education spokeswoman Tanya Plibersek accused the government of having gutted TAFEs and now offering to put back a paltry amount of cash.

“When will the Liberals do something serious to fix the skills crisis they have created?” she told AAP.

“By locking Australians out of TAFE and training, the Liberals are locking Australians out of jobs. By presiding over a skills crisis, the Liberals are holding Australian businesses back.”

But Mr Morrison pointed out more than four in five Australians in training went through private providers, with only about 16 per cent studying at TAFEs.

“The problem I’ve got at the moment is the way the system is funded and the way the system is run,” he said.

Ahead of the main COAG meeting, leaders in the Murray-Darling Basin states signed an agreement about the management of the basin plan, in line with what water ministers decided last Sunday.

The COAG agenda is also expected to cover mental health and suicide, domestic violence, infrastructure, preschool education, population planning, and indigenous disadvantage.

Leaders are expected to agree on a plan for tackling plastic waste, which is reaching crisis point after China stopped accepting foreign recycling imports.

“I know this, as you all do, is an issue of great concern right across the community and I’m very encouraged by some progress we’re already making on that front,” Mr Morrison said in his opening remarks.

Outside the Cairns Convention Centre, about two dozen protesters gathered calling for action on climate change.

A woman wearing a pink Extinction Rebellion shirt said she was there to perform a citizen’s arrest on Mr Morrison and ministers Angus Taylor and Matt Canavan for crimes against humanity and the environment.


Australia hit by the biggest skills shortage in a decade


Australia is facing a growing skills shortage as apprenticeship and traineeship numbers fall to a 10-year low.

Australian Industry Group has written to the Prime Minister with concerns employers won’t be able to meet an increasing demand for skilled workers as apprenticeship and traineeship numbers have fallen from 446,000 in 2012 to 259,385 last year.

In response, the Prime Minister has called on the states to agree to a $500 million plan to reform the TAFE sector.

Australian Industry Group Head of Workforce Development Megan Lilly tells Steve Price the efficiency of the apprenticeship system is not consistent.

“We’ve got this huge pipeline of work coming ahead of us and we need to prepare ourselves to deliver on that effectively right now.

“We really need a focused attention by both the Commonwealth and state governments… to actually commit to working hard on the VET system, to actually make it fit for purpose going forward.”

Click PLAY to hear the full interview

Thinktank: Australia has too much uni and not enough TAFE

The Mackenzie Institute believes that Australia’s economy has become “hollowed out” by a misguided belief that universities must be research intensive, as well as policies that preference higher education over vocational alternatives:

In a paper coinciding with its launch, the institute condemns the 2008 Bradley review – which spawned Australia’s recently abandoned demand-driven system of higher education funding – for producing a glut of graduates and exacerbating the funding decline in vocational training, particularly among public technical and further education colleges.

The paper blames the Bradley review for cultivating one of the worst skills mismatch profiles in the world. It cites figures showing that Australia ranks sixth among 33 Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development nations for “high skills” development, but 27th for technical skills.

Read the whole article at:

Australians prioritising non-salary benefits to offset cost of living and slow wage growth

Andrew Morris, Director of Robert Half Australia

A new report from the Australian Bureau of Statistics Consumer Price Index indicates that the cost of goods and services have increased 1.6 per cent over the past year. As employees are faced with the rising cost of living coupled with slow wage growth, they are looking to increase their total remuneration and offset living expenses through additional non-financial benefits.

  • 62% of Australians say non-salary benefits have become more important to them than base salary when considering a job offer, compared to five years ago.
  • 80% say they would consider additional non-financial benefits if a potential employer was unable to meet their salary expectations.
  • 79% of Australian employees would be motivated to stay with an employer if they offered flexible/remote working options, followed by bonus (62%) and training and development (39%).

New independent research commissioned by specialised recruiter Robert Half and published in the 2019 Robert Half Salary Guide reveals changing employee attitudes towards salary and benefits. While salary negotiation is a standard part of starting a new job, almost two-thirds (62%) of Australian employees say non-salary benefits have become more important to them than base salary when considering a job offer, further highlighting the need for employers to look beyond salary when tailoring remuneration packages. Yet 31% of Australian companies do not offer non-salary benefits. 

Non salary benefits offered to Australian employees

Andrew Morris, Director of Robert Half Australia said: “As the Consumer Price Index shows, everyday essentials have undergone the greatest price increase of all consumer costs. Coupled with slow wage growth, this is creating upward pressure on the cost of living and increased employee concern about their remuneration. Particularly in a market characterised by low unemployment and skills shortages in many industries, this can mean that professionals are particularly open to changing employer in order to secure a more competitive remuneration package.

“Employers stand to benefit as they are in a prime position to win the war for talent by offering above-average packages as a key incentive to attract and secure the best talent. While salary remains a key component of a remuneration package, in a period of slow wage growth, companies may be unable or unwilling to meet requests for significant salary increases. Other financial benefits have become increasingly popular amongst employees and companies are leveraging these cost-efficient opportunities to offset increased salary requests by offering perks, such as company-wide discounts on fitness memberships, salary packaging healthcare or even offering novated car leases which may reduce income tax and cost of living expenses for the employee.”

Millennial employees top the list with 67% saying benefits have become more important than their salary, compared to five years ago, followed by Generation X professionals (59%) and Baby Boomers (54%).

Additionally, 80% say they would consider additional non-financial benefits if a potential employer was unable to meet their salary expectations.

Aside from attracting talent by offering non-financial incentives, such benefits also prove their worth in the context of staff retention. Almost eight in 10 (79%) Australians say they would be motivated to stay with an employer if they offer flexible/remote working options, followed by bonus (62%) and training and development (39%), which in turn highlights that employees would consider moving roles if certain benefits would not be on offer.

Indeed, Australian employers acknowledge that the desire for more benefits is on the rise with 37% of them saying that candidates ask for more benefits in their total remuneration package compared to two years ago. Yet almost a third (31%) of Australian hiring managers do not offer non-salary related benefits to their employees.

Flexibility tops the ranks

The vast majority (85%) of employers surveyed confirmed flexible working hours and the option to work from home are the top non-salary benefits most requested by jobseekers, followed by bonuses (40%) and company-paid mobile phones (26%). Businesses are hearing this loud and clear with 84% of employers saying they currently offer flexible working options to their staff.

“The days when companies solely focused on salary to attract top talent are well and truly over. Employers are finding jobseekers want a more holistic approach to working, with a remuneration package that not only includes a competitive salary, but also non-financial benefits that suit the individual jobseeker’s lifestyle needs,” Andrew Morris said.

“Flexible working hours, the option to work from home and remote working are gaining in popularity as jobseekers not only request these additional perks more often, but they’re expected to be included in a total remuneration package for many roles – particularly when Australia’s slow wage growth is pushing many professionals to consider perks other than a pay rise.

“Employers hoping to win the war for talent, and those that may not be in a position to award pay rises, are increasingly diversifying their incentives offering in order to attract and retain skilled professionals and tailoring each benefits package to the individual employee’s wishes – where possible. This strategy can be a cost-effective measure in both attracting and retaining high-performing staff as it gives companies a competitive edge in a skills-short market where businesses are vying for top talent.”

To find out up-to-date salaries, you can download the full 2019 Robert Half Salary Guide. The salaries listed are based on actual placements made by our offices in Australia and New Zealand, as well as an analysis of the demand for the role, the supply of talent and other market conditions. The industries covered are Finance & Accounting, Financial Services, IT & Technology and Admin and Office Support.

Andrew Morris joined Robert Half in 2002 and has held numerous senior positions during his tenure with the company. Over the last 17 years he has run business operations for Robert Half in Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth, Hong Kong and Sydney. Andrew holds a degree in Business, Economics and Marketing from La Trobe University, and currently oversees a team of 100 that specialise in placing permanent and temporary staff in the Finance, Accounting, Technology and Administration sectors.


TAFE vs Uni: ‘University Is For Learning, Vet Is For Earning’ Says Skills Minister

What’s better, uni or TAFE?

In short, VET Vocational Education and Training is better than uni if your aim is to find a job and make good money.

 ‘University is for learning, VET is for earning‘ said Skills Minister Michaela Cash recently at a business breakfast, and it makes sense, according to the statistics. VET graduates earn higher salaries and have better job prospects while spending less time and money getting qualifications.

If your aim is to make money and achieve financial success, TAFE courses and VET  courses are the way to go, and following the Joyce Report government spokespeople have been highlighting TAFEas the better option for many people.

Senator Cash encouraged more people to take on VET qualifications like Diplomas, Certificates III and IV, and Advanced Diplomas, saying that it’s a better path to a good income – since the skills taught in VET and TAFE are in high demand in Australia.

‘University is for learning, VET is for earning’Michaelia Cash, Skills Minister

VET makes economic sense for Australia, too. Australia’s national skills shortages in jobs like bricklayers, carpenters, plumbers and bakers, occupations demanding practical skills that are best learnt in vocational courses, or in care sectors like healthcare and community service.

By choosing a field in demand, you become a more valuable employee, enjoying higher salaries and benefits as companies compete to hire and keep you.

How is TAFE different to university?

TAFE and VET qualifications take from 6 months to 2 years, unlike university degrees which take 3 years minimum full-time. And while bachelor degrees can often cost over $30,000, TAFE and VET courses are usually much cheaper, especially as the fees for government-subsidised students are often heavily reduced.

Let’s not forget that courses in skill shortages are eligible for free TAFE – meaning that the student pays zero, zip, nada.




and you don’t even need an ATAR to get in. In fact, often you don’t even need to have finished high school.

Of course, university education has its place, but it’s not for everybody. For those who are truly interested in learning and pursuing a field of knowledge for its own sake, becoming a university student and pursuing higher education can be a gateway to a wider world of education.

Further, employment prospects are not solely determined by whether you choose VET or university, rather they depend upon the subject you choose: in-demand industries like IT and health will always have better job prospects than low-demand ones with high competition.

The problem lies in expecting that the traditional path – from high school to university to a job – still applies, or that it’s the best way to a good career path.

But generally, if you’re looking to graduate with work-ready skills, VET qualifications are the better option.

“What we are hearing from employers is that we need to ensure that you have work-ready employees from day one… that is exactly what vocational education is going to give you – for both the employee and yourself as the employer.”

– Senator Cash

Job-ready Skills

The expectation that going to uni guarantees you a good job (and a decent income) doesn’t reflect the 2019 work reality. University alone often isn’t enough to equip you with the skills to be job-ready when you graduate.


of University graduates surveyed in 2015 said their degree didn’t prepare them enough to find a job in their field.

Compare this to


of VET graduates who find employment after graduating.

Once a few years have passed and you’ve got your first full-time job, employment and levels even out to be about the same for TAFE and uni grads. Right out of the gate, though, TAFE qualifications are paid more and have a better chance of finding jobs.

Most employable degrees and qualifications

Projections from the Department of Education show that most jobs in the next 5 years (2019-2023) will require a post-secondary qualification. Out of the 10 fastest growing occupations, 7 require a TAFE or VET qualification such as a diploma or certificate.

So perhaps we should be talking about ‘most employable diplomas’ rather than degrees. The Australian industries with the highest job growth in the next four years are:

  • Medical and healthcare services: 116,000
  • Food and beverage service: 91,000
  • Construction services: 77000
  • Professional, Scientific and Technical Services (Excl Computer System design): 72,000
  • Social assistance services: 66,000

  • Public administration: 64,000
  • Preschool and school education: 57,000
  • Computer system design and related services: 54,000
  • Adult, community and other education: 40,000
  • Building and construction : 39,000

The specific jobs set to boom are:

  • General Clerks +22,200
  • Truck Drivers +16,200
  • Software And Applications Programmers +15,100
  • Advertising, Public Relations And Sales Managers +14,800
  • General Practitioners And Resident Medical Officers +14,500
  • Aged And Disabled Carers +77,400
  • Registered Nurses +65,300
  • Child Carers +25,800
  • General Sales Assistants +24,900
  • Education Aides +21,900

Source: Australian Government Department of Jobs and Small Business: National, State and Territory Skill Shortage Information

How much does it cost to go to TAFE? Is TAFE cheaper than uni?

TAFE courses usually cost significantly less than university degrees. And with high HELP debts on the rise, students are considering whether university is worth it, when they’re graduating with considerable debt.

High HELP debts are on the rise. The average owing HELP (formerly HECs) debt in Australia is $21,557, but debts over $50,000 have increased 30% from 2018’s data, and there are now 9x more debts over $100k than there were 10 years ago.

If you’re a government-subsidised student, TAFE courses may cost you anywhere between a couple of hundred dollars a few thousand, though it varies by course.

After the 2018 introduction of Free TAFE in Victoria, you may not even have to pay for your course at all if you meet the criteria of age, location, citizenship and education history. Eligible courses in skill shortage areas are fully subsidised by the government – meaning you pay nothing and have no HELP debt when you graduate.

Eligible courses fall into the following areas:

  • Nursing
  • Accounting
  • Agriculture
  • Building & Construction
  • Automotive
  • Aged Care & Disability Care Support
  • Hairdressing
  • Signage & Graphics
  • Food
  • Services

So, what’s the best choice? It depends what you want out of your study.

If you’re interested in learning for its own sake, and working with knowledge in a more abstract sense; or you have a particular interest in a field that requires a degree, a bachelor degree could be the first step on a fulfilling journey and an engaging career.

Some people aren’t suited to the classroom, however, and do much better learning practical skills on the job. If that sounds like you, consider VET qualifications as your pathway to a great income and employability.

You can even use them as an entry pathway to a course later on if you want to dive deeper into the theory. You’ll come out with work-ready skills and good earning potential straight away, and your job prospects will be solid, especially if you choose an in-demand field.

Wondering if uni is really for you? VET and TAFE are fantastic options and better suited to many people.