AIIA calls on re-elected Coalition Government to focus on Australia’s digital skills shortage

Canberra, Australia – 20 May 2019 — The Australian Information Industry Association (AIIA), the peak member body for the ICT industry, congratulates the Liberal–National Coalition on their federal election win.

Ron Gauci, CEO of the AIIA said, “On behalf of the AIIA, I would like to extend my warmest congratulations to the Liberal–National Coalition on being elected on Saturday. The AIIA looks forward to working with Prime Minister Morrison’s government and incoming ministers to help them deliver on commitments made in their pre-election campaigns.

“It’s imperative that industry, government and research institutes collaborate closely to foster a vibrant and innovative digital and technology sector, supported by a regulatory framework that encourages the economic growth, productivity and sustainability of our nation.”

Reflecting on the past few months of regulatory activities, Mr Gauci said, “We are looking for a commitment that changes to the Assistance and Access Act, proposed by Labor in February, be passed through parliament in the first 100 days of the new government.

“It is time to execute these amendments so that industry and users of encrypted services have certainty over these new laws. The AIIA has made significant contributions and recommendations with respect to these amendments – but has yet to see the recommendations considered or adopted leaving industry unclear on the operational requirements.”

AIIA members are also concerned about the lack of consultation and the reach of the Sharing of Abhorrent Violent Material Bill passed in April this year. “We look forward to greater two-way dialogue between government and industry to address the concerns that have been raised by our members about these pieces of legislation,” said Mr Gauci.

It is well recognised that there is a significant shortfall of available digital skills and expertise in the Australian workforce.

“The industry looks forward to contributing to the skills programs announced by the Coalition government. $41.7 million will be provided for two pilot Skills Organisations, in the areas of digital technologies, cyber security, and human services care. AIIA members are delighted that the Government also intends to establish the National Skills Commission to oversee the $2.8 billion annual investment in Vocational Education and Training (VET),” said Mr Gauci.

“Some of our members have successfully led and are rolling out alternative pathways to developing digital skills in school children. These programs have seen collaboration between government departments, Universities, research institutes and industry. Our members would be delighted to share their success stories and learnings from these programs with the new government to further provide the crucial evidence of the success of these initiatives.”

For a summary of the Coalition’s Digital Skills policy, visit AIIA’s website for the analysis undertaken by AIIA.

“We look forward to working with the incoming government and fostering collaboration between industry, government and research institutes to ensure that Australia realises its economic potential in the fourth industrial revolution,” concluded Mr Gauci.

Australian construction industry says new technologies will increase productivity and revenue

SYDNEY, Australia – 15 May 2019 – Procore Technologies, Inc., a leading provider of construction management software, in partnership with ACA Research, today released the findings of an Australian construction industry benchmark report, How We Build Now – Tracking Technology in Construction 2019. Highlights from the report show that 86 percent of respondents think increasing technology usage is an important means of improving productivity, but an existing skills gap could prove to be an issue with 92 percent of respondents stating that upskilling the workforce is equally important. The survey provides insights on technology, people, and outlook in the local construction sector.

The How We Build Now report found that construction companies with more than ten employees are generally optimistic, expecting continued growth and more lucrative projects throughout 2019. The rising cost of raw materials and equipment is the most significant challenge for this outlook, while other common pain points include project productivity, efficiency, and information technology.

Overall, small construction businesses (10-99 employees) have significant concerns relating to staff management, however, they are agile and adaptable when it comes to adopting technology and developing technical skills. Meanwhile, medium businesses (100-499 employees) have more confidence in the year ahead yet struggle with efficiencies and are somewhat complacent when it comes to technology adoption and skills development. Large businesses (500+ employees) will continue to lead the charge, adopting new technologies to drive productivity and revenue and seeking a broad range of skills including data analytics and comfort with digital technology to support this.

Key findings from the report include:

  • Business outlook: 64% of respondents feel confident about building and construction industry business conditions in 2019, with 22% expecting an increase in the value of their projects.
  • Efficiency and productivity: The Australian construction industry spends 12% of its time on re-work. Small (17%) and medium (16%) sized businesses spend more time on re-work than large (10%) businesses. Meanwhile, almost 50% of businesses believe improving project management skills is essential to increasing productivity.
  • Technology impact: 69% of respondents feel prepared for the impact of new technologies on their business. Equally, 69% think new tech will increase productivity, while 62% of respondents say it will also increase revenue. 41% of businesses will use 6 or more new technologies in 2019.
  • People and skills: 92% of respondents think that upskilling your workforce is an important means of improving productivity, yet in contrast 95% are also confident the skills of their current workforce will meet their business needs in 2019.
  • Current and future tech usage: BIM/CAD is the most popular technology currently used in the industry (33%), followed by pre-fabricated parts (29%) and digital project management tools (25%). Respondents also see these technologies being the top three drivers of change over the next 3 years, with pre-fabricated parts (32%) leading the charge.
  • Health and safety: Half of all construction companies are unaware of the targets set by ‘The Australian Work Health & Safety Strategy 2012-2022’.
  • Diversity: 1 in 5 leadership positions are held by women, with large companies leading the way.

“Construction companies are constantly looking for ways to drive growth, reduce risk and delays, or simply to find that elusive work/life balance. At Procore, we believe that the right technology makes life easier, so we take every effort to learn how we can use it to make work easier in the construction industry,” said Tom Karemacher, Vice President APAC at Procore Technologies.

“Our customers tell us that, whilst they’re looking at ways to consolidate legacy technologies, they are also planning for the future. We invested in this research to shed light on technology adoption in construction, and how new technologies are influencing more efficient processes and better business outcomes,” Karemacher continues. “We hope the report will provide industry, government and the education sector with information about how technology is being adopted, the current and future skills required, and the role that technology plays in helping the construction industry meet its obligations.”

The first in an annual ‘benchmark series’, the research behind How We Build Now – Tracking Technology in Construction 2019 was conducted by independent research company ACA Research, which surveyed 170 construction companies across Australia.

Download a copy of the How We Build Now – Tracking Technology in Construction 2019 report here.

# # #

About Procore

Procore is a leading provider of construction management software. Procore connects people, applications, and devices through a unified platform to help construction professionals manage risk and build quality projects—safely, on time, and within budget. Procore has a diversified business model with products for Project Management, Construction Financials, Quality & Safety, and Field Productivity. Headquartered in Carpinteria, California, with offices around the globe, Procore is used to manage billions of dollars in annual construction volume. For more information about Procore, visit

Media contact:

India Bednall / Samantha Rosich

Espresso Communications

+61 2 8016 2200

This Saturday is chance to restore TAFE funding in Australia

Under the Abbott, Turnbull and Morrison government’s TAFE institution across the nation have been under attack.

Minister for Training and Skills Development Shannon Fentiman reminded Queenslanders of their chance to restore training opportunities in Australia as they head to the voting booth on Saturday.

“So far the LNP in Canberra have presided over more than $3 billion in cuts to TAFE and training,” Ms Fentiman said.

:They are no different to the Queensland LNP that cut $82.4 million from the training budget and sacked more than 2100 TAFE Queensland staff, discontinuing TAFE course and closing or selling campuses.”

The impact of these cuts have been highlighted today by the Queensland Audit Report intoEducation: 2017–18 results of audits.

The impact of Commonwealth unfair student loan system and cuts to training programs for 2017-18 alone was over $27 million and included:

  • $18.6 million reduction from students accessing Commonwealth Government VET Student Loans
  • $7.1 million cut from the Commonwealth Adult Migrant English Program; and
  • $1.7 million cut from the Commonwealth Skills for Education and Employment program.

“Saturday’s Federal Election is a chance for State’s like Queensland to gain an ally in the effort to repair and fix this damage,” she said.

“Only Bill Shorten and Labor are prepared to provide Queensland TAFE with its fair share of support.

“Only Federal Labour have promised to review all post school education and training funding and address the unfair student loan system operating for TAFE.

“In addition, only Federal Labor has committed $1 billion dollars in vocational education and training including 100,000 Free TAFE places and $330 million to deliver 150,000 apprenticeship subsidies in areas with skills shortages.”

“Federal Labor is also prepared to work with us on TAFE and has committed $200 million towards helping the states build TAFEs for the future.

“This has included investment in TAFEs at Cairns, Townsville, Logan, Mt Gravatt, Acacia Ridge, Whitsundays, Bowen, Redcliffe AND a new TAFE trades training centre at North Lakes.”

Despite federal funding cuts, with the support of the Palaszczuk Government TAFE Queensland has continued to achieving results

TAFE Queensland continues to be the largest provider of education and training in Queensland, delivering training to over 120,000 students in 2017–18 across more than 530 programs.

“Strengthened by its online and international delivery, no other provider can match TAFE Queensland for scale and location options,” Ms Fentiman said.

“TAFE QLD ensures high quality outcomes for students and employers – more than 85% of students are employed or in further study after completing their course.”

“With a Federal Labor Government partnering with us we can achieve much more.”

/Public Release. View in full here.

TAFE Queensland struggles with declining enrolments

AFE Queensland’s financial performance is at risk because of declining student numbers, the state’s auditor-general has warned.

According to a Queensland Audit Office report, TAFE Queensland is struggling due to decreasing student numbers and revenue, without an equivalent reduction in expenses.

Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk at Acacia Ridge's TAFE Skill Centre during the 2017 election campaign.

Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk at Acacia Ridge’s TAFE Skill Centre during the 2017 election campaign.CREDIT:TRACEY NEARMY/AAP

“There are risks to its sustainability,” Auditor-General Brendan Worrall’s report reads.

“TAFE Queensland requires ongoing support from the Queensland government to remain financially sustainable.”

TAFE Queensland’s attempts to reduce expenses were unsuccessful, largely due to employee costs and system implementation issues, the report said.

TAFE was expected to make an $11 million loss in the 2019 financial year, while its operating surplus plunged from $19.96 million in 2017 to $1.42 million in 2018.

The competitive market also heaped pressure on TAFE, with 69 per cent of students enrolled in courses in Queensland being delivered by private providers.

TAFE Queensland delivered training to more than 120,000 students in 2017-18 across 530 programs.

The Queensland government provided grants and subsidies of $762.1 million to public and private providers last year, of which $336.7 million was given to TAFE Queensland.

Training Minister Shannon Fentiman accused the federal Coalition government of cutting funding but said no other provider could match TAFE Queensland for scale and location options.

“TAFE Queensland ensures high-quality outcomes for students and employers – more than 85 per cent of students are employed or in further study after completing their course,” she said.

In a letter to the auditor-general, TAFE Queensland chief executive Mary Campbell said the body serviced rural and remote areas of the state and supported students affected by the closure of private providers.

“This responsiveness and high quality of TAFE Queensland’s education and training provisions is fundamental to the successful operation of (the) vocational education and training sector in Queensland, however it must be acknowledged that this comes at a cost,” she said.

LNP leader Deb Frecklington accused the state government of not having a plan to manage the body.

“Under (Premier) Annastacia Palaszczuk and her TAFE system, we’ve had senior execs being wined and dined and flown around the world at a cost of millions of dollars to the taxpayer of Queensland,” she said.

Last year’s estimates hearings revealed TAFE’s hospitality expenses doubled in three years and $687,525 was spent on international travel.


Beyond the dollars: what are the major parties really promising on education?

As voters head to the polls, around one-quarter will decide who to vote for on the day. Analysis shows climate change and the economy are foremost in voters’ minds.

But education remains a key issue, as evidenced by a flurry of education-related announcements in the final stretch of the campaign.

Here’s what you need to know about the major parties’ education commitments, and what the millions and billions here and there really mean.

Early childhood education and care

Two years of high-quality, play-based learning at preschool can have a significant impact on children’s development. It can put them close to eight months ahead in literacy by the time they start school. The benefits are greatest for children from disadvantaged backgrounds, which makes preschool a valuable tool for reducing inequality.

Labor has promised to make childcare free for most low-income households and to provide up to an 85% subsidy for households under $175,000. It has committed to funding an extra year of preschool for three-year-olds. This is evidence-based and builds on commitments by several states to support two years of preschool.

Labor has also pledged to increase wages for some early childhood educators, to be rolled out over a decade, and to reinstate funding for the National Quality Agenda, which lapsed in 2018. This reflects the importance of quality in early childhood services, to improve outcomes for children.

Both the Coalition and Labor are taking early childhood education and care seriously this election. from

The Coalition is taking a more cautious approach to spending on the early childhood sector. It has pledged funding for four-year-old preschool, but only for another year, and it has not renewed funding for the National Quality Agenda.

The Coalition will likely retain the means-tested subsidy introduced as part of its major childcare reforms in 2018. While these reforms benefited an estimated one million lower-income families, the means test also left around 280,000 families worse off, including families with neither parent in work.

Advocates argue preschool should be seen as an integral component of the education system and a fundamental right for all children, and all parties should take a cross-partisan approach and commit to long-term funding. The major parties are certainly not at that point yet, but there are indications they’re heading in the right direction.


Given states and territories are largely responsible for schools, federal investment should be targeted where it can make the most difference. Two key areas are needs-based funding, to ensure additional support is available to students who need it the most, and central investment in research and evidence-based practice.

Both major parties have promised a national evidence instituteLaborhas allocated funds for it, with the Coalition yet to do so. This initiative reflects the urgent need to ensure evidence helps to shape the education system. The Productivity Commission has recommended such an institute, to connect educators and policymakers with the latest research on teaching and learning.

On funding, the Coalition wants us to judge it on its reforms to the schools funding package, which is now mostly modelled on the needs-based funding approach outlined in the Gonski Review. But funding has still not reached the recommended levels. The Coalition has supported the National School Resourcing Board to review these funding arrangements and develop a fairer model for all schools.

View image on Twitter

View image on Twitter

Labor has promised to increase funding for schools. Labor’s offer would bring schools closer to meeting the levels of funding recommended by Gonski.

Funding isn’t a magic bullet, but it plays an important role in improving outcomes for all students..

Tertiary education

Vocational Education and Training (VET) has experienced a series of unsuccessful reforms over the past decade. VET plays an important role in the tertiary sector, so it’s good to see both major parties addressing this in their platforms.

The Coalition’s plan comes out of a major recent review of the VET sector and includes more money for apprentices and rural programs; the establishment of a National Skills Commission and a National Careers Institute; and simplifying systems for employers.

Labor has pledged to fund up to 100,000 TAFE places. It has also promised a major inquiry into tertiary education, looking at VET and universities side by side. This could potentially move us towards a fairer system that puts VET and universities on an even footing and better caters to the varied needs of students and employers.

Both Labor and the Coalition have committed to increased support for apprenticeships, through financial incentives for employers.

For universities, Labor says it will bring back demand-driven funding, which existed between 2012 and 2017, where universities are paid for every student studying and there is no limit on the number of students that can be admitted to courses. Evidence suggests this has been effective in boosting studies in areas where there are skills shortages, such as health, and also appears to have improved access to education for disadvantaged groups.

Due to costs, the Coalition has moved to a funding model based on population and university performance. It has also promised extra support for regional students and universities. This help address the large gaps in university participation between young people from major cities, and rural and regional Australia.

Making an informed choice

When casting our votes, we would do well to look past the dollar signs, and think about how each party is shaping an education system that will deliver quality learning for all Australians, from all kinds of backgrounds, from childhood through to adulthood.

The Coalition has delivered needs-based funding for schools and promises a greater focus on regional and rural students in all sectors. But there are some apparent gaps in early learning and tertiary policy and funding.

Labor has pledged more funding in all sectors. It has made a prominent commitment to early childhood education and care. However, Labor’s policies are expensive and would need to be implemented effectively to make sure they achieve the intended outcomes for students and deliver the financial benefit to the economy in the long-term.


Australia’s international student and tourism China boom is over

Over the past five years, Australia experienced a massive boom in international student numbers, whereby the number of student visas on issue ballooned by around 200,000 to half-a-million as at the end of 2018:

As shown in the next chart from The ABC, this international student growth has been driven by the Chinese, whose numbers have surged from around 95,000 in 2015 to 150,000 as at 2018. Chinese students also accounted for around $11 billion of Australia’s $32 billion in education export earnings in 2018:


Recently, we have received explicit warnings that Chinese students numbers have peaked and will likely fall into the future.

Last week, The Australian reported that “the highly lucrative six-year boom in Chinese students is over”:

Ahead of the release of official figures, a senior Department of Home Affairs official briefed universities last week telling them that visa applications from Chinese students were flat…

The flattening out in numbers of Chinese students starting courses is not yet visible in the monthly data issued by the federal Department of Education and Training.

The March figures, which will give the full picture of international student enrolments this year, are not yet available.

Whereas University of NSW Professor, Ian Jacobs, recently warned that Chinese student numbers will decline over the coming decade:

“They are getting more universities, and those are getting much better quality, very rapidly,” said Professor Jacobs. “The Chinese government understands education is everything if they are going to be the high tech country they aspire to be.”

“My assessment [is] over a 10-year period, [Chinese students] will gradually decrease. We are already starting to see a slight decrease in the number of undergraduate students from China as the opportunities increase.

March’s overseas arrivals and departures data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), released on Monday, supports these assessments. It showed that short-term arrivals from China declined for nine consecutive months, including both students and tourists. Moreover, arrivals in March 2019 were lower than August 2017:

There are a variety of possible reasons why the flow of Chinese students and tourists has stalled.

As noted by Ian Jacobs above, China is increasing investment in its own universities and lifting its standards. At the same time, Australian university standards have plummeted, as highlighted in last week’s Four Corners expose, which has no doubt eroded the prestige-value of an Australian degree.

Political tensions between Australia and China could also be reducing the flow of Chinese students and tourists. China may also want to keep more of both at home to prevent the outflow of capital and protect the value of its currency.

Increased competition for Chinese students from other Anglo nations could also be having an effect. Last month we learned that the Canadian Government plans to expand its presence overseas in order to significantly increase the volume of international students studying in Canada from 572,415 in 2018. The UK Government is also seeking to lift international students numbers by offering more generous work rights.

Unlike with commodities, Australia has no natural advantage in university education. Therefore, increasing competition from universities abroad (including from China) will make it increasingly difficult for Australia to maintain Chinese student numbers.

The policy response so far has been to pivot to lower quality students from Indian and Nepal, where instances of plagiarism, academic misconduct, and students failing their courses are more common. And with this pivot, Australian university standards will be lowered even further.

The response for tourism is anybody’s guess.

Alleged day-care fraud mastermind made $30,000 a fortnight

Alleged day-care fraud mastermind made $30,000 a fortnight© NSW PoliceAlee Farmann arrested at his George Hall home.

The alleged mastermind behind a $4 million day-care fraud syndicate enjoyed a take-home salary of about $30,000 a fortnight, funding a lavish lifestyle of luxury cars and a number of properties across Sydney.

It can also be revealed that Alee Farmann was previously the target of a suspected bomb threat at his former western Sydney home when suspicious items were found underneath his car.

Mr Farmann was arrested on Wednesday and charged with directing a criminal group through his company Red Roses Family Day Care Pty Ltd, which allegedly masqueraded as a day-care company in order to defraud the federal government’s child care subsidy scheme.

Alleged day-care fraud mastermind made $30,000 a fortnight© Brook MitchellAlee Farmann’s house in Georges Hall.

Within the syndicate, parents operating fake home day-care centres would allow for their children’s identities to be lodged on the books of another parent operating a facility and vice versa, despite none of their children ever being cared for by the other.

Alleged day-care fraud mastermind made $30,000 a fortnight© Brook MitchellMr Farmann’s former Granville home, of which he is still the owner, where he reported a suspected bomb threat in 2013.

This would result in childcare subsidy payments being paid back to Red Roses, to be filtered down through the syndicate, much like a pyramid scheme.

It was allegedly built on an entirely fake business model, replete with mock-up children’s play areas as well as false rostering and timesheets for a day-care operation that never actually cared for any children.

One property purported to be caring for 50 children at a time, despite being a small garage that was without electricity for 22 days in February.

Mr Farmann’s $1.5 million house in Georges Hall was among more than 20 properties raided over the syndicate.

However prior to moving into the newly-renovated four-bedroom home last year, Mr Farmann and his family lived in a more humble abode in Granville, where a suspected bomb threat occurred in 2013.

Residents on Onslow Street were woken in the middle of the night on May 31, 2013 by police and officers from the bomb squad after Mr Farmann reported the discovery of suspicious items under his car outside his house.

“I remember it was 11 or 12 at night and police knocked on our door and said we had to evacuate, the whole street was evacuated. Then they brought the bomb squad,” said Onslow Street resident of 25 years Melissa, who asked not to use her surname.

“It went for hours and hours. There was something underneath Alee’s car outside his house… it was some sort of set up to look like a bomb. It was quite scary.”

It is understood Mr Farmann called police when he discovered a number of suspicious objects under his car, including canisters, jumper leads and a bucket.

“After that he was requesting we get cameras put on the street… he was saying it was dangerous…nothing ever came of it,” Melissa said.

A NSW Police spokeswoman confirmed the bomb threat and evacuation on May 31, 2013 adding that no charges were laid over the incident.

Melissa said she was shocked to learn of the charges against Mr Farmann, describing him and his family as “nice, friendly people.”

“He told us they bought a house at Georges Hall last year. Suddenly we came home one night and there was a big removal truck. I walked away going, ‘wow, I’m not sure how he gets all his money’,” she said.

“He said he was a mortgage broker, but he was always at home.

“But they always drove nice cars, always dressed smart. They didn’t look like they were doing it tough, for a family with a couple of children, and mum never worked.”

Along with Mr Farmann, two other people were charged with directing a criminal group; 42-year-old Heba Al Wazzy and 43-year-old Zina Mohammad. The remaining 14 were charged with participating in a criminal group. All are expected to face court later this month.

Investigators have said those arrested on Wednesday were just the “tip of the iceberg”, and that more than 150 parents could be next in line for allegedly using their children’s identities.

Under the federal government’s childcare subsidy scheme, a subsidy is “paid directly to providers to be passed on to families as a fee reduction”.

While the scheme is federally funded, the NSW Department of Education and Training is responsible for inspecting and auditing systems to ensure a day-care operation is legitimate.

On Thursday, acting State Crime Commander Stuart Smith said the alleged criminal activities of the enterprise surpassed that of the highest level organised crime perpetrated by outlaw motorcycle gangs.

“This syndicate was elaborate, it was sophisticated. They had systems so they could get ready to defeat [departmental] audits … both phone and physical audits,” he said, adding that police had detected “vulnerabilities” in the government scheme.

Minister for Education and Early Childhood Learning Gabrielle Mitchell said Red Roses had been shut down and their licence suspended immediately, adding that the department was working with NSW Police.

The Red Roses syndicate first came to the attention of authorities investigating mass third-party insurance fraud last year.

Assistant Commissioner Smith said investigators had also uncovered evidence that the syndicate allegedly had plans to defraud the National Disability Insurance Scheme.

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Aussie universities pivot to failing Indian international students

Yesterday, The Australian reported official data from the Department of Home Affairs showing that visa applications from Chinese students were flattening, forcing Australia’s universities to shift their focus to lower quality students from India and Nepal.

The economic activity arising from these three source countries is nicely encapsulated by the ABC below:

As shown above, international students from China, India and Nepal have each experienced explosive growth. However, there is a huge difference in the quality of these students.

Dr Bob Birrell from the Australian Population Research Institute (APRI) released a detailed study late last year showing that Chinese students tend to pay higher fees and study at higher quality Group of Eight (GoE) Universities, whereas Indian students typically study at cheaper institutions, often for the primary purpose of gaining access to employment and future permanent residency:

The first comprises universities charging very high fees – $40,000 or more a year by 2018. These are primarily the Group of 8 universities. Despite the princely cost, the number of overseas-student commencements at Go8 universities increased massively, by 56 per cent, between 2012 and 2016. Almost all of this increase came from Chinese students…

The second market covers universities other than those in the Go8, all of whom charge much lower (though still high) fees of around $25,000 per year. Overseas-student commencements in these universities increased by 41 per cent over the years 2012 to 2016. Most of this growth came from countries located in the Indian subcontinent, particularly India itself.

We show that the surge of enrolments in this second market has been largely due to the Australian government’s opening up of these opportunities in 2012 (pages 16-17). A key initiative was to allow all overseas student graduates (including those completing two-year Masters-by-Coursework degrees) to gain access to a work-study visa. This provides a minimum of two years in the Australian labour market after completion of a university degree, regardless of field of study.

Yet, despite Chinese students tending to pay more and attending higher quality Go8 universities, those that do stay and work in Australia perform poorly in the jobs market when compared against their Australian-born counterparts:

Chinese students who do stay on in Australia after graduation and enter the job market find it difficult to obtain employment at the professional or managerial levels. Employers expect their appointees to have complex problem solving, collaboration and communication skills. Many Chinese graduates lack these skills and thus struggle to compete with local graduates and with graduates from English-Speaking-Background (ESB) countries.

Data from the 2016 Census documents this point. Table 4 shows employment outcomes for young China-born males (aged 25-34) in Australia as of 2016, who arrived here between 2006 to 2016 and who held qualifications at degree level or above in Management and Commerce. Only 34.1 per cent were employed as managers or professionals. The outcome was similar for those with Engineering degrees, though a bit better for IT graduates.

Table 4 also indicates that a high proportion (some 31.4 per cent of those with management and commerce qualifications) were unemployed or not in the workforce. This is why we chose to focus on males. The high share of those not in the workforce category is unlikely to be explained by child care responsibilities.

True, it is not just a problem for the Chinese. Most graduates from non-English-speaking background (NESB) countries in business and commerce, engineering, and IT fields struggle to find professional level appointments in these fields. This is because there is a serious oversupply of entry-level candidates, relative to the available job openings.

So, if Chinese students tend to have low standards, what does this mean for our universities’ pivot towards students from India and Nepal?

Monday’s Four Corners special on Australia’s international student trade was especially damning of the quality of students coming from the Indian sub-continent, reporting widespread instances of plagiarism, academic misconduct, and students failing their courses.  The below email to colleagues from Murdoch University’s Professor Benjamin Reilly encapsulates the problems:

“In semester one 2018 we experienced a surge in new international students into some postgraduate courses. This surge increased sharply in semester two 2018, with several hundred new students, mostly from the Punjab region of India, enrolling in a small number of postgraduate courses.

“While some were OK, many do not have the language skills to study at a postgraduate level and have thus been unable to participate in class or complete assessments for the units legitimately.

“Hence we now have a much larger number of academic misconduct issues, supplementary assessments and outright failures than we have previously experienced in the units in which this cohort has enrolled”…

As does correspondence from Dr Duncan Farrow, a maths lecturer and academic misconduct investigator:

“Perhaps the most telling statistic of them all: 48 of the 80 students admitted to the MIT in semester one this year had at least one academic misconduct finding against them,” he wrote.

“Not only was there a huge increase in numbers of misconduct cases but additionally the investigations were more difficult due to the poor language capabilities of many of the students involved.

“I have just reviewed the results for students from the Punjab region in BSC100 Building Blocks for Science Students and it is depressing. Of the 52 students in this category, 12 have passed the unit outright — a pass rate of less than 25 per cent.

Inside Story’s economics correspondent, Tim Colebatch, similarly raised the alarm on the torrent of low quality Nepalese students inundating Australia’s universities:

…one source stands out: the little Himalayan country of Nepal, just thirty million people, living in one of Asia’s poorest countries.

In 2017–18, one in every 1500 inhabitants of Nepal emigrated to Australia. In an era of strict immigration controls, that is an astonishing number for two countries so far apart, with no common language, heritage or ethnicity.

Over the five years to mid 2018, one in every 500 Nepalis emigrated to Australia — and that’s in net terms, after deducting those who returned. In 2017–18, little Nepal became Australia’s third largest source of migrants after India and China…

Deregulation has allowed universities to selectively lower their standards to bring in more fee-paying foreign students, even when they fail to meet the thresholds for English language skills or academic achievement…

This is not the first time immigration from Nepal has surged. A decade ago, we saw a scam with training visas, in which “students” from India and Nepal came for training courses in Australia, then quickly vanished into the workforce. The scam saw net immigration set record levels in 2008–09, before then immigration minister Chris Evans shut it down. But most of those who came stayed on here.

At the current pace of immigration, Australia will soon have more residents born in Nepal than in Greece.

The aggressive growth in international students has already unambiguously lowered university standards, flooded Australia’s labour market with cheap exploitative labour, as well as helped crush-load Australia’s cities.

The situation is likely to worsen as Australia’s universities pivot to lower quality students from India and Nepal in a desperate attempt to keep the fees rolling in.

Aussie cloud learning and training start-up wins $46.8M in funding

A Cloud Guru takes cloud out of the classroom and into the cloud

ACG founders: Ryan Kroonenburg (L), Sam Kroonenburg (R)
ACG founders: Ryan Kroonenburg (L), Sam Kroonenburg (R)

Australian-owned A Cloud Guru (ACG) has received a A$46.8 million boost from US-based growth equity firm Summit Partners alongside Australia’s AirTree Ventures and existing investor Elephant.

ACG is an online cloud computing training and talent development platform established in 2015 by two brothers from Perth, Sam and Ryan Kroonenburg.

Sam Kroonenburg told CIO Australia that ACG will use the funding to grow staff numbers in Australia and the United States. The company has grown from 20 staff at the beginning of 2018 to 110 now with more hires expected.

Currently, Sam heads up the Melbourne office with brother Ryan responsible for its operation in London in the UK. ACG’s Austin, Texas office is run by chief operating officer Jon Menchin.

The funds will also help ACG expand its content library with specialised courses and labs taught by a growing roster of expert instructors. It will also look into building out features that help enterprises reskill their workforce and drive cloud adoption.

Sam Kroonenburg said the brothers started to think about establishing ACG as cloud computing started to become an industry norm.

“Back then people were mostly learning in classrooms, and trying to trying to transform an organisation,” he said. “This meant about 10,000 engineers were put through classrooms with 30 people at a time, which wasn’t scalable. We decided to build online training courses and build an online school to drive that and make it really much more cost-effective and efficient.”

An online form of training for cloud models makes sense in an online environment given organisations like Amazon makes thousands of changes and updates in real time, said Kroonenburg.

“Training content needs to be updated every day or two to keep up to date,” he said. “Our original plan was to get about 100,000 people to attend the online school and we could then crowdsource feedback about what needs to change or what needs to be updated.”

Automation set to replace a third of Australian jobs warns OECD

Automation replace third Australian jobs OECD
Around 36% of Australian jobs face a high to significant risk of automation according to the OECD.

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) has fired a shot at Australian businesses and workers with claims that over a third of jobs are at risk of being lost due to automation.

However, the OECD tempered its warning by adding that despite widespread anxiety about job destruction driven by technological change and globalisation, a “sharp decline in overall employment is unlikely”.

In an employment outlook report titled The Future of Work, the OECD said that although Australia ranks relatively well in comparison to other countries and remains below the OECD average, the oncoming shift towards mechanisation and automating existing working processes means that a sizeable share of adults will need to “upskill or retrain” to meet the needs of future jobs.

More worryingly still, the OECD said that 14% of all jobs could disappear altogether in 15 years.

This forewarning is particularly troublesome, as the report notes that around a quarter of Australian workers are classified as “casual” – working between 1-19 hours per week – with only half having guaranteed hours that tend to improve job security.

Automation takeaways

One of the key takeaways from the report is the daunting situation for individuals without higher education diplomas.

“The labour market experiences of many young people and of those with less than tertiary education have worsened over the past decade.”

School leavers without higher education have been “most affected” while “women are particularly at risk”, with more women being under-employed, non-employed or receiving low pay.

OECD automation replace Australian jobs risk

From a historical perspective, the report points a damning finger at the fallout from the Global Financial Crisis (GFC) in 2007-2009.

Despite Australia largely avoiding the effects of the sub-prime mortgage crisis and the consequent financial market fallout, the land down under has experienced one of the largest increases in under-employment across OECD countries since the GFC.

The report went on to conclude that from all of the surveyed countries, Australian youth with medium to high-level education were one of the groups most likely to obtain low-paid employment since 2006.

Training for better outcomes

As one of the most important ways to combat the onset of mechanisation, the OECD urges its member countries to adopt wide-scale re-training and skills programs to assist in the transition from analogue to automated work regimes.

The conclusions by the OECD coincide with recently published Australian Federal Government job vacancy figures showing a dramatic decline in ads for less-educated workers, while there has been a significant increase in demand for staff with university degrees.

According to the OECD, adult learning is becoming increasingly important to help individuals maintain and upgrade their skills throughout their working lives, “yet most adult learning systems are ill-equipped for this challenge”.

“40% of adults train in a given year on average across the OECD, but those who need training the most, including non-standard workers, train the least and training is not always of good quality,” the report stated.

Meanwhile, Australian policymakers are also keen to introduce measures to soften the blow of automation (while picking up votes in upcoming elections).

Labor leader Bill Shorten proposed laws allowing casuals to request permanent jobs after 12 months with the same company. Workers could potentially be given the legal right to challenge an employer that “refuses unreasonably” to provide a permanent position.

According to the Labor party, there are currently 2.6 million casual workers in Australia with more than 50% staying with their employer for more than a year and almost 200,000 for more than 10 years. If approved, the plans could add several hundred thousand jobs to Australian employment statistics.

Furthermore, the Labor party has also vowed to introduce a rise in the minimum wage, although such plans have met both vocal support and hostile opposition from pro-business groups.

The measures, if introduced, would add significant costs to businesses, resulting ironically in them vowing to further automate tasks within the business, as seen with supermarkets and companies like McDonald’s opting to replace workers with automated checkouts.

Worrying signs from Amazon

With automation on an unstoppable upward trajectory, there are some worrying signs for workers in an automated and mechanised future – especially those at Amazon, with the US giant recently launching its new Melbourne warehouse last year.

Amazon Australia employs more than 1,500 people via its warehouses in Sydney and Melbourne as well as web services positions. An investigation earlier this year at Amazon’s first Australian warehouse in Melbourne’s Dandenong South found that the retailer’s obsession with quality and efficiency made workers feel “overworked” and “dehumanised”.

Now Amazon has developed an automated system that can terminate employees with the use of algorithms, over 300 which have already been fired using the method.

The company has reportedly launched a system that can track its workers’ productivity in real-time via movement sensors, detecting production targets and even monitoring the length of breaks its employees take.

If the system determines the employee is failing to meet production targets, it can automatically issue warnings and terminate them without a supervisor’s intervention, although Amazon has countered these claims by saying that a human supervisor always has the opportunity to override the automated system.