Coursera Launches Imitative to Deliver Job-Relevant Courses

Coursera for CampusCoursera for Campus poster. Photo: Coursera

Coursera, an online platform that provides massive open online courses (MOOC), is launching a new initiative that will help post-secondary institutions deliver job-relevant online courses.

The Coursera for Campus offered by the MOOC provider will allow universities, even those who aren’t Coursera’s partners to access more than 3,600 multi-disciplinary high-quality courses.

The new initiative will allow universities to integrate Coursera courses into their core curricula as credit-eligible, which is determined by the credit-granting institution and enable faculty members to create and scale online learning programs.

“The market for skills is evolving, and education must evolve with it. To reduce skills gaps and spread opportunity widely, we need to be flexible and adaptive,” said Matthew Rascoff, Associate Vice Provost for Digital Education and Innovation at Duke University.

It also allows faculty and staff to rapidly fill the skill gaps in emerging areas and increase alumni engagement by serving their learning needs throughout their careers.

“In today’s rapidly changing landscape, it’s important to create lifelong learning experiences for our students and staff to stay competitive in the workforce,” Kevin Pitts, Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign said.

Coursera for Campus has already proven to be a valuable resource for our on-campus populations, and we look forward to using the program to engage our students beyond degree programs,” he added.

Purdue Launches Most Affordable Online Engineering Programs


Industry panel to get say in VET plan

Skills Minister Michaelia Cash. Picture: Kym Smith
Skills Minister Michaelia Cash. Picture: Kym Smith

n a greater say over the direction of skills policy through the creation of a 19-member panel to help oversee the implementation of the government’s $525m plan to boost the Vocational Education and Training system.

The move is aimed at giving industry greater ownership of the government’s reform package that was announced in the April budget, with some of the nation’s highest-profile business groups being represented on the panel including the Business Council of Australia, the Australian Industry Group and the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

Skills Minister Michaelia Cash will make the announcement today and argue that the new panel — dubbed the “Industry VET Stakeholder Committee” — will help the government to achieve its target of creating more than 1.25 million jobs during the next five years.

“We are acutely aware of the workforce requirements in the Australian economy,” Senator Cash said.

“Our reform agenda will ­deliver better outcomes for Australians who make the choice to pursue a VET pathway.

“The committee brings ­together representatives of business councils, consumer advocates, peak body representatives, registered training organisations, and public, private, community and not-for-profit providers.

“Together we will improve the VET system through collaboration of commonwealth, state and territory governments, industry and training providers, and shift community perceptions around industry-focused training.

“A strong VET sector will support millions of Australians to obtain the skills they need to participate and prosper in the modern economy.”

The panel of 19 industry figures held its inaugural meeting in Canberra last week and will meet regularly once a month through to June 2023 to help identify future skills shortages and ensure that Australians are equipped to fill these roles.

Other groups represented on the panel include major accounting firms KPMG and PwC as well as the Council of Small Business Organisations Australia, TAFE Directors Australia, the National Australian Apprenticeships Association, Community Colleges Australia and Adult Learning Australia.

Scott Morrison has flagged that VET reforms are a key reform agenda priority and is working to deal with the challenges outlined in the Joyce review that declared confidence in the sector was declining, outcomes were inconsistent and not aligning with industry needs and that the system was too complex to navigate for students.

At the Council of Australian Governments meeting in August, state and territory leaders agreed to work together through a new skills council to identify ­future reform priorities by the end of the year and develop a “reform road map” in early 2020.


‘Callous’ training firm cops $26.5m rebuke

A western Sydney training institute has been slapped with a record $26.5 million penalty and must repay $56 million to the federal government over “callous” student recruitment tactics.

The Federal Court on Friday handed down the highest penalties sanction for Australian consumer law breaches in history to Cornerstone Investment-owned Empower Institute.

Empower enrolled more than 4,000 new students, some of whom had very poor literacy and numeracy skills, in VET FEE-HELP funded courses from June 2014 to December 2014.

Recruiters often targeted remote communities, indigenous communities and low socio-economic areas and in some cases offered laptops as inducements, the court found.

The consumer watchdog launched court proceedings against Empower in 2015 as part of a crackdown on dodgy private colleges, leading to reforms of the student-loans system in 2016.

Australian Competition and Consumer Commission chair Rod Sims said Empower, which entered voluntary liquidation in April 2017, had engaged in “appalling tactics”.

“Empower misled many vulnerable and disadvantaged consumers who had poor English language literacy or numeracy skills, and others who could not even use a computer and did not have access to the internet,” Mr Sims said.

“It should have been clear that these consumers were not likely to complete Empower’s courses, but would still be saddled with significant lifetime student debt.”

Empower treated consumer protections with “callous indifference”, the court ruled, as it revelled in the financial spoils of students racking up large debts.

But the now-defunct education provider has now been ordered to hand back $56 million in VET funding despite the commonwealth cancelling over 6,000 debts for Empower students who enrolled in 2014 and 2015.

“The magnitude of these penalties … should serve as a serious warning to the vocational education sector, and all other Australian businesses, that engaging in unconscionable behaviour has very significant consequences,” Mr Sims said.


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

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industrial revolution

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

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

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

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

Beyond literacy, numeracy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Potential for AI

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

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

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

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

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

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

Premium on real skills

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Industry calls for joint participation to cement Australia’s digital future

The Australian Academy of Technology and Engineering and the Australian Academy of Science have developed a strategic plan with 32 recommendations on how it can be done.

In a new report, the Australian Academy of Technology and Engineering and the Australian Academy of Science have put forward 32 recommendations on how Australia could enhance its participation in the digital economy.

“This strategic plan is designed to help Australia do better. Numerous success stories demonstrate our ability to turn excellent science and research into commercial technologies and services that benefit Australia,” co-chair and fellow of the Academy of science Rod Tucker said.

“Yet to realise our potential, we need a plan to help Australians recognise, act on and derive as much benefit as possible from opportunities in our digital research and innovation sectors.”

In the Preparing for Australian Digital Future report, the recommendations have highlighted five priority areas that need to be addressed, including promoting closer partnerships between industry and the research community; strengthening Australia’s digital workforce and skills pipeline; delivering whole-of-government action; achieving reforms of the research sector; and promoting digital leadership in industry.

The report has suggested to foster research and industry partnerships as there is a need to make Australia’s digital strengths known through activities such as identifying, promoting, and holding multi-organisation communication events that are relevant to specific capabilities.

See also: Why Australia is quickly developing a technology-based human rights problem(TechRepublic)

It also recommended that collaboration between research from universities and industry needs to be improved, suggesting research-industry brokerage activities could be formalised to help match research capability with industry needs, and foster research–industry partnerships focused on developing future capabilities.

The report outlined how universities and publicly funded research agencies needed to reshape their research culture to safeguard and strengthen the country’s digital workforce and capability pipeline, by placing substantially higher emphasis on industry experience, placements, and collaborations in hiring, promotion, and research funding.

At the same time, there are also recommendations about how to lift the skills of teachers on ICT-related topics, and the need to increase diversity, particularly women, while removing structural barriers that cause the loss of knowledge, talent, and educational investment from the ICT and engineering sectors.

“Attracting high-quality international students to, and retaining them in, Australia after they graduate is a good way to expand the diversity of the ICT skill base and to promote greater international engagement, not least of which with the home countries of those people. We should make it easier to keep such people after the end of their formal studies,” the report said.

Another recommendation the report made included the need for government to undertake a future-readiness review for the Australian digital research sectors, as well as to monitor, evaluate, and optimise the applied elements of the federal government’s National Innovation and Science Agenda and the Australia 2030 Plan.

As part of next steps, the report said a taskforce needs to be established to ensure recommendations are implemented and the future progress of the implementation process is monitored.

Committee co-chair and fellow of the Academy of Technology and Engineering Glenn Wightwick told ZDNet an implementation plan for the report will also need to be developed.

“We have had and are having meetings with various Chief Scientists (state and federal) to identify areas in government to focus on the findings and recommendations,” he said.

“We are developing an implementation plan targeting government, industry, and the research community.”

This latest report follows similar recommendations that were handed down by the Office of Innovation and Science at the start of last year.

The Australia 2030: Prosperity through innovation – A plan for Australia to thrive in the global innovation race report made 30 recommendations on how Australia could accelerate its pace to catch leaders of the innovation pack, or risk falling further behind.

“There have been a number of reviews in the past, but we feel there needs to be further focus on helping to transform Australia’s economy and leverage technology to improve productivity, create new businesses, better translate knowledge from academia into industry and ensure that researchers and industry can work together to solve real world problems,” Wightwick said.

China releases white paper on vocational education and training in Xinjiang

BEIJING, Aug. 16 (Xinhua) — China released a white paper on vocational education and training in Xinjiang Friday.

There are six chapters in the white paper: urgent needs for education and training, law-based education and training, content of education and training, protection of trainees’ basic rights, remarkable results in education and training, and experience in countering extremism.

The white paper, published by the State Council Information Office, said that terrorism and extremism are the common enemies of humanity, and the fight against terrorism and extremism is the shared responsibility of the international community.

It is a fundamental task of any responsible government, acting on basic principles, to remove the malignant tumor of terrorism and extremism that threatens people’s lives and security, to safeguard people’s dignity and value, to protect their rights to life, health and development, and to ensure they enjoy a peaceful and harmonious social environment, according to the white paper.

Over the years, to ensure public safety and wellbeing, the international community has spared no effort and made tremendous sacrifices in preventing and combating terrorism and extremism. Many countries and regions, in light of their own conditions, have developed effective measures and drawn valuable lessons from these efforts.

The white paper stated that Xinjiang is a key battlefield in the fight against terrorism and extremism in China. For some time Xinjiang has been plagued by terrorism and religious extremism, which pose a serious threat to the lives of the people in the region.

Addressing both the symptoms and root causes and integrating preventative measures and a forceful response, Xinjiang has established vocational education and training centers in accordance with the law to prevent the breeding and spread of terrorism and religious extremism, effectively curbing the frequent terrorist incidents and protecting the rights to life, health, and development of the people of all ethnic groups, the white paper said, adding that worthwhile results have been achieved.


A new dawn for work skills and training

Hon Chris Hipkins
Minister of Education 

1 August, 2019 MEDIA STATEMENT

The Government is tackling the long-term challenges of skills shortages and the mismatch between training provided and the needs of employers, by comprehensively reforming vocational education, Education Minister Chris Hipkins announced today.

“A strong, unified, and sustainable system for vocational education and training will provide opportunities to improve the skills of all New Zealanders, no matter where they are in their education or career and will support a growing economy that works for everyone,” Chris Hipkins said.

“Vocational education, trades training and on-the-job training have been allowed to drift for too long. These are long-term challenges that this government is committed to fixing.

“The comprehensive changes we are making will address the widespread skills shortages across most industry sectors. These shortages highlight the limitations of the current vocational educational system.”

Why we are making these changes

“Repeated forecasts show that one third of all jobs in New Zealand are likely to be significantly affected by automation, and by as early as 2022 more than half of all employees will require significant upskilling and retraining.
“As lower-skilled jobs disappear we need our people to learn new skills, often while on the job, earning while they are learning. Furthermore, advances in automation and artificial intelligence mean it won’t just be lower-skilled workers affected.

“We also know the regions are increasingly struggling to find enough skilled people to keep their economies strong. Too many Māori, Pacific and disabled learners are being left behind to achieve at a lower level because the system just won’t respond to their needs.

“New Zealand needs to lift productivity and for that to happen we need more companies to be involved in training and taking on more apprentices.

“Currently however, nearly nine out of 10 of our businesses are not training through industry training. Yet at the same time, 71% of employers surveyed say there is, or will soon be, a skills shortage in their industry area.

“No one thinks the status quo works well for New Zealanders. Except National, which tinkered around the edges and stood back while polytechnics struggled, the number of people in training dropped and skills shortages worsened. This Government was forced to step in and bail several polytechnics out with $100 million, and we know without significant change, things will keep getting worse.
“The plain truth is that while there are some bright spots, the current system is not set up to produce skilled people at the scale we need,” Chris Hipkins said.

The changes

“The changes we are making will give industry greater control over all aspects of vocational education and training, making the system more responsive to employers’ needs and to the changing world of work.

“Industry and employers will identify skills needs, set standards and approve qualifications and credentials, and influence funding decisions.
“The changes will also ensure we do better for learners who haven’t been well-served by the present system.

“We need to make sure that trades and vocational education are recognised and valued. There are great, well-paid jobs available for people with the right skills. We just aren’t meeting the skills needs at the moment.

“We want everyone to have the opportunity to develop the skills they need to thrive in the workforce and earn a good living. People should always have relevant, up-to-date skills that employers need.

“We want to see more work place learning, more apprentices and more opportunities for people to earn while they learn.”

The seven key changes announced are:

• Around four to seven industry-governed Workforce Development Councils will be created by 2022. This will give industry greater control over all aspects of vocational education and make the system more responsive to employers’ needs and to the changing world of work. The councils will replace and expand most of the existing roles of industry training organisations.

• The country’s 16 institutes of technology and polytechnics will be brought together to operate as a single national campus network. A new Institute will start on 1 April 2020 and will be a new kind of organisation that provides on-the-job and off-the-job learning. The head office will not be in Auckland or Wellington, and a charter will be set out in legislation to make sure a number of bottom lines are met.

• New Regional Skills Leadership Groups will represent regional interests and will work across education, immigration and welfare systems in each region to identify local skill needs and make sure the system is delivering the right mix of education and training to meet them.

• Over the next two to three years, the role of supporting workplace learning will shift from industry training organisations to training providers. Holding organisations will be formed from Industry Training Organisations to smooth the transition

• Centres of Vocational Excellence (CoVEs) will be established at regional campuses to drive innovation and expertise, and improve linkages between education, industry and research.

• Māori will be included as key partners, including through Te Taumata Aronui, a Māori Crown Tertiary Education Group – that will work with education agencies and Ministers and cover all aspects of tertiary education. This recognises the needs of Māori learners and that Māori are significant employers with social and economic goals, with an estimated national Māori asset base valued at over $50 billion.

• The dual funding system will be unified and simplified to encourage greater integration of on-the-job and off-the-job learning, ensure learners can access more work-relevant and tailored support, and enable new models of education delivery which are more responsive to employer and industry demand.

The transition process

“We have given a great deal of thought to how to minimise disruption, and listened carefully to the concerns of employers, staff and students,” Chris Hipkins said.

“We are not going to rush the implementation of the changes. To ensure continuity for learners and employers and to allow time to build new capacity, the transition will take three to four years to get fully underway.”
“Learners should enrol in the education provider of their choice as they normally would in 2019 and 2020, including in multi-year programmes, and I encourage people in the workplace to keep training and employers to encourage more workers to sign up.”

Relevant links:
– Cab paper and proactive release documents are here.
– Copies of an overview and a detailed change summary document, along with a summary of submissions and FAQs, is available here.



NDIS targeted by unscrupulous training companies

The regulator of training organisations says rapid growth in the $22 billion  NDIS has given some providers an opportunity to “mislead job seekers” by selling them qualifications they don’t actually need.

The National Disability Insurance Scheme accounted for one in every five new jobs in the last 12 months, opening a door for new business to registered training organisations, according to the Australian Skills and Quality Authority.

Chief commissioner Mark Paterson said there are no specific NDIS qualifications needed to work in the sector compared with childcare or security. Robert Peet

In its strategy report published on Monday,ASQA says some stakeholders have raised concerns about the “potential for providers to indirectly exploit students”.

Chief commissioner Mark Paterson said there are no specific minimum qualifications needed to work in the sector compared with the childcare or security industries.

But unscrupulous training organisations were trying to convince would-be NDIS workers that they had to have a qualification such as the Certificate III in Individual Support, which is required in aged care.

“In other industries there are large numbers of relatively low-paid workers in jobs where employers expect entrants to have a particular qualification.

“You might say a high-growth sector motivates willing buyers and willing sellers.”

Specialist NDIS jobs did require specific training and there was a risk that some providers might not offer the quality of training that was expected.

You might say a high-growth sector motivates willing buyers and willing sellers.

— Mark Paterson, ASQA chief commissioner

Mr Patterson is also targeting vocational training programs in schools following evidence some students were being “parked” in training classes that were clearly unsuitable.

“Schools outsource training programs to private organisations and we’re seeing increasing issues in relation to quality of training and assessment. The question is, are some of these courses going to assist students when they hit the post-school world?”

He said trainers and assessors would also be targeted over the next three years after ASQA uncovered “profound problems” with assessment, including cases where students were given the answers along with the questions.

“There is evidence of  fundamental non-compliance and failure and there are trainers who simply don’t have relevant experience or qualifications.

“We’ve processed 49,000 applications since we started in 2011 and we’ve rejected 3.4 per cent and 3.7 per cent have withdrawn their applications.

“The majority are demonstrably compliant and the numbers reflect a high-quality sector. But we are a risk-based regulator and this is where we see future problems.”

Training programs for international students were also under scrutiny,  especially over non-attendance, English-language capability and transfers between providers.

Among breaches ASQA had uncovered were training providers in China offering assessment-only courses and courses that involved no face-to-face contact at all.