Tentative steps to tertiary – comment by CEO Craig Robertson TDA Newsletter 24 February 2020


TAFEs and universities in frontline of coronavirus crackdown

TAFEs and universities in frontline of coronavirus crackdown

Strict new rules to halt the spread of the novel coronavirus will have a direct impact on TAFEs and universities at the start of the new semester.

The most drastic measure is an immediate and total prohibition on entry into Australia of all non-Australians who are departing or have passed through mainland China in the preceding 14 days. The ban, which will extend for a fortnight, will impact a significant number of returning international students.

In addition, any TAFE or university staff and students who have travelled to mainland China within the past 14 days will not be able to attend facilities and must remain in isolation for 14 days.

If a student or staff member has been in close contact with a confirmed case of novel coronavirus, they must isolate themselves for 14 days after last contact with the confirmed case. They should not attend university or TAFE and must avoid contact with other students and staff.

If a student or staff member develops symptoms within 14 days of leaving mainland China or within 14 days of last contact with a confirmed case, they should see their doctor for urgent assessment.

See the latest official information on the novel coronavirus for university and VET students and staff, and for university and VET facilities.



TDA Newsletter 2 December 2019

In this edition

  • Back on the horse – comment by CEO Craig Robertson
  • Technology to disrupt hundreds of thousands of jobs, new report finds
  • Private college that took $210m in government funds acted ‘unconscionably’
  • CIT to get new campus
  • More organisations to gain access to VET student records
  • ASQA cancels, suspends private colleges
  • Year13 & TDA – Beyond the data webinar
  • Diary

Back on the horse – comment by CEO Craig Robertson

It was pleasing to see Skills ministers agree Friday week ago to review VET Student Loans.

Loans for vocational education were legislated as VET FEE-HELP (VFH) in 2007; the last Act in John Howard’s Prime Ministership. The scheme kicked off proper in 2009 with VFH providers needing articulation agreements into higher education for the courses to be eligible for loans. The objective was to grow the proportion of the workforce with higher level skills.

VFH started slowly because of the lead time for articulation agreements and the slow approval process. In 2012, as part of a new inter-government agreement to introduce demand driven entitlement to Certificate level courses, VFH conditions were loosened. No articulation agreement, first among them. Students incurred an immediate 20 per cent loan fee unless they were enrolled in a state or territory subsided course – students benefitted by following priorities set by states and territories. The rationale was to open access to this level of VET as a strong equity measure, and to encourage private training activity by using loans to mitigate the barriers caused by high upfront fees.

The VFH horse bolted – out of control and in ways no one ever contemplated. There’s been plenty of column inches on that one. VSL replaced VFH in 2017, and participation at this level of VET tanked. VSL loans are around $300 million each year for about 58,000 students. Reasons are as many as bets on a race, but chief among them must be the limits on the loans.

Given VFH experimented with de-regulated fees it reasonable, expected almost, for the Government to limit loans, and thereby regulate fees. (The Government may say fees remain unregulated because there are still options for direct student contribution, but this mocks the purpose of student loans in overcoming upfront fees, and there’s very little private contribution in practice anyway.)

Fee regulation means the government needs to have a good idea of costs of delivery lest the loan over-shoots, giving a bonus to the provider at the expense of the student, or under-shoots at the cost of the provider, although ultimately the student because the provider has little option bar cutting delivery. Remember, the logic of the consumer (student) arbitrating quality and calibrating price was proven ineffectual in the face of the slick sales jobs of charlatans.

Enter Steven Joyce, followed by the National Skills Commissioner and the Productivity Commission. Joyce has suggested, and the commissioner and commission tasked to come up with a consistent national price for VET qualifications, and move even toward university funding rates.

Let’s look at one qualification – Diploma of Remedial Massage – the seventh most popular course in VSL with a maximum loan of $10,342. It has 16 core and five optional units with about 1700 nominal hours plus 200 hours compulsory work placement. Nominal hours represent the training effort for the qualification and are set by experienced curriculum designers. NCVER says a full-time load is 720 hours, so it’s at least a two-year full-time course, with the provider receiving $5,170 per year for each student. Assuming 12 per class as the limit for a practice-based qualification like this one and the provider has $62,040 to run it for the year! That doesn’t even pay for a full-time teacher.

Am I exaggerating the requirements of the qualification? Look at the unit with the highest nominal hours – Provide Remedial Massage Treatment. It has 18 separate elements of performance which need to be demonstrated and 62 separate items of knowledge the student must acquire, before even basic physiology and anatomy. If ASQA audits this unit, it has at least 80 points it can test for compliance, before it considers the efficacy of the assessment tools, the application of foundation skills or testing inputs such as unit duration.

Is the qualification important? According to Australian Industry Skills Committee data, the number of massage therapists has grown from 3,300 in 2000 to 19,900 in 2018 with 23,900 predicted for 2023. Remedial massage is bound to follow the same trajectory.

Is the twenty per cent loan fee justified? MySkills tells us the average full-time salary for Remedial Massage is $46,500 and the repayment threshold for the loan is $45,881. Graduating students start repayment straight away. Any argument for the loan fee to remain because of poor employment or wage outcomes weakens any claim that VET is the same as higher education or has the Government diluting the merits of qualifications they endorse.

Where to start? I encourage the Commonwealth to get back on the student loan horse.

Oh, and if universities were paid to do the qualification – they’d get $13,073 in subsidy and $9.395 in student loan…. each year!

Technology to disrupt hundreds of thousands of jobs, new report finds

As many as 630,000 jobs, equal to about 7% of Australia’s workforce, could be displaced by new technologies over the next decade, according to a new report by Cisco.

The fastest-shrinking sector will be construction, which is predicted to lose more than 70,000 jobs over the decade, while a further 33,000 jobs are predicted to be lost in the manufacturing sector.

The report, Technology and the Future of Australian Jobs, undertaken in conjunction with Oxford Economics, says healthcare will be by far the biggest net job creator in Australia over the next decade, expanding by 80,000 jobs.

The tourism and wholesale and retail sectors are also predicted to experience significant net increases in the sizes of their workforces, increasing by 22,000 and 20,000 workers respectively.

The study highlights the implications for governments and education providers in preparing Australia’s workforce for the future.

“Policymakers face a dilemma between seizing the economic advantages new technologies will bring and managing the repercussions they will have for the workers that bear the brunt of the transition,” the Cisco report says.

“Many workers will have to adapt not only their skillsets, but potentially their working habits and location, to meet the demands of the new economy,” it says.

“Education providers must ensure a pipeline of skilled workers is in place to feed into the workforce. This includes relevant formal training for new entrants to the labour market, as well as a much broader base for lifelong learning and more flexible training provision.”

TDA works in partnership with CISCO and Optus to explore the opportunities through digital skilling for TAFE students.

See ‘Technology and the Future of Australian Jobs’ (able to be downloaded under the heading ‘Future of Work’

Private college that took $210m in government funds acted ‘unconscionably’

The Federal Court has found that private training college, Australian Institute of Professional Education (AIPE), engaged in misleading or deceptive conduct in enrolling students into thousands of courses under the former VET FEE-HELP scheme.

The ACCC and the federal Department of Education and Training commenced proceedings against AIPE in 2016.

The court found that AIPE breached consumer law when it told consumers their courses were free, when in fact they incurred debts of up to $20,000.

The court ruled that AIPE engaged in unconscionable conduct by offering free laptops as inducements, failing to assess students’ suitability, failing to explain the debt students would incur, and paying “extraordinary” commissions to third party agents and recruiters.

“AIPE enrolled consumers in around 16,000 courses and obtained over $210 million in Commonwealth funding as a result of its misleading and unconscionable conduct,” ACCC Commissioner Sarah Court said.

AIPE was placed into liquidation after the ACCC commenced proceedings.

CIT to get new campus

The ACT government has announced that Canberra Institute of Technology (CIT) will get a new state-of-the-art campus in the Woden Town Centre.

CIT Chief Executive Officer Leanne Cover said the new campus is expected to be the VET technology and service skills learning precinct, delivering courses in areas such as business, cybersecurity, IT, the creative industries, hospitality and tourism.

“Therefore, the ACT Government’s decision to build a new campus in the Woden Town Centre with a continued CIT presence in the CBD aligns with CIT’s strategic directions, and it is a very exciting news,” Ms Cover said.

“The ACT Government’s announcement is a significant milestone in the history of CIT and will enable the Institute to continue to be the region’s most trusted and dedicated VET provider.”

More organisations to gain access to VET student records

The federal government has introduced legislation that will expand the range of organisations able to gain access to a person’s authenticated VET transcript.

Currently anyone with a student identifier can access their national training record and give permission to share it with a registered training organisation or a VET-related body.

Legislation before the parliament will enable student-controlled access to transcripts to be extended to businesses, recruitment agencies, licensing bodies, and other third parties.

The Assistant Minister for Vocational Education, Training and Apprenticeships, Steve Irons, said employers, employment agencies, and state, territory and Commonwealth licensing bodies have shown an interest in being able to verify an individual’s authenticated VET transcript.

“This change provides confidence to industry on the authenticity of VET qualifications and reduces regulatory burden for the individual and third parties,” he said.

“These arrangements also reduce the risk of individuals tampering with their transcript before providing it to an employer.”

ASQA cancels, suspends private colleges

The Australian Skills Quality Authority (ASQA) has cancelled, suspended and rejected the registrations of a host of private training colleges.

ASQA’s latest regulatory update shows 13 training colleges have had their registrations cancelled, three have been suspended and one had its renewal application rejected.

Some of the training providers impacted may be able to have decisions reviewed, including by the Administrative Appeals Tribunal.

See ASQA’s latest regulatory decisions update

Year13 & TDA – Beyond the data webinar

Join Year13 & YouthSense for a complimentary webinar hosted by CEO Will Stubley on December 10. This will be an opportunity to keep up to date with their latest research ahead of the release of their third After The ATAR report in March next year.

The theme of the webinar will be Beyond The Data: Understanding The Psychographics Of Youth and will explore what this time of year means to young people as they finish high school, receive their final marks, make decisions about their future and more.

You’ll also be able to engage live with the host Will Stubley, who will be fielding any questions you may have and take your feedback regarding what insights you want to hear in future research.

Secure your place now!

Diary Dates

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

AVETRA Conference
20/20 vision for VET: Research at the centre of future policy and practice
23 – 24 April 2020
More information

VDC 2020 Teaching & Learning Conference
14 – 15 May 2020
RACV Torquay Resort, Great Ocean Road, Victoria
Registrations opening soon

‘No Frills’ 2020, 29th National VET Research Conference
NCVER co-hosted with TAFE WA, North Metropolitan TAFE
8 – 10 July 2020
Perth, Western Australia
More information

World Federation of Colleges and Polytechnics
2020 World Congress

14 – 16 October 2020
Donostia – San Sebastian, Spain
More information


TDA Newsletter 25 November 2019

tda newsletter

In this edition 

Comment by Jen Bahen, Director, International Engagement

With Craig currently tending to his garden and in my final week at TDA I was asked to take over his column and reflect on all things international.
That also means no stories, no analogies, no poems and no April Fool’s Day jokes…

…..or does it?  (It’s nigh on impossible to work for Craig without learning a little.)

As I step aside to welcome a little Bahen in a few short weeks, it’s inevitable I will spend some time on the couch watching Christmas movies old and new, and that one of those will be A Christmas Carol. 

Dystopian Dickens feels a good fit for where we sit, right now, across VET and particularly in the area of international engagement, as we stand poised to either jump aboard new opportunities, or continue the path of the past.  So here goes, with sincere apologies to Charles Dickens.

The Ghost of International Education Past

Recent years have witnessed incredible success stories in international engagement, albeit largely focussed on university reform. Meanwhile, partner countries pursued reform in their education systems, with initiatives such as the Australia Chongqing Vocational Education and Training project showing the rest of the world Australia’s ability to support large scale VET reform offshore.  TAFEs were leaders in this, and became postmasters in delivering Australian programs offshore, with partnerships lasting to this day.

We are also shown the significant growth in international student numbers in Australia, and are reminded of the perfect storm of 2009/2010, led by the Indian VET student crisis, and we ask ourselves – what have we learnt?

The Ghost of International Education Present

On the surface, we see a healthy picture, with strong growth in international VET students in Australia and good activity in offshore delivery.

But can we see the risks?

There is a concentration of growth in international students in VET, centred around a small number of nationalities, courses and providers.  Are we sure this growth is sustainable?  We also see that TAFEs lead in relation to diversity of course and nationality but operate within a very small subset of students.

Offshore, partner countries are refocussing, with leaders in China, Indonesia, India etc leading progressive, whole of system reform agendas in VET.  We can see that this gives rise to significant opportunities to support reform with innovative partnerships and products, but are we too wedded to promoting adoption of the Australian system, including AQF qualifications, to see the opportunity to lead?

A scan of TAFE activity shows a change – capacity development projects, programs designed to meet partner needs, and training in partnership with industry – can we build on this?

The Ghost of International Education Yet to Come

Like the choices faced by Ebenezer Scrooge, we’re now presented with two possible future scenarios.

The first is as bleak as Scrooge’s lonely Christmas Day – offshore, we will be left behind, as we doggedly cling to promotion of the Australian system, including qualifications designed for Australian industry, causing our partner countries to look elsewhere.  Similarly, genuine students seeking high quality VET experiences consider their other options.

The second is considerably more optimistic – offshore, we have grasped the opportunity to promote our strengths, rather than our systems, that truly support the incredible reform of partner countries, capitalising on the initiatives TAFEs are already exploring.  International students are drawn to Australia to acquire high quality skills in a diverse set of industry sectors and can confidently take those skills back to a global setting.

The Happy Ending……..

With Christmas fast approaching, what lesson will we take? One thing that stands out to me across the journey is that TAFEs have led.  In a domestic setting, TAFEs are recognised as anchor institutions in communities – so they too can be, and already are, the anchor institutions of international education.

A Final Note

To the TDA Board, TAFE Executives and all the TAFE staff and students (especially those in international offices) I have worked with – the work you do is awe inspiring and I thank you for being given the privilege to represent you.  I look forward to working with you all again when I take up the education role in our embassy in Hanoi sometime in the middle of 2020.

To the outstanding team at TDA, led so very capably by Craig, keep fighting the good fight, for it is indeed a fight for good.  You will all be pleased to know Craig will be back next week!

TAFE turns on a blistering display at national training awards

TAFE students, teachers and staff dominated the Australian Training Awards held in Brisbane on Thursday night, taking out top places in the major awards.

The Lifetime Achievement Award went to Wayne Collyer, the former MD of Polytechnic West (now South Metropolitan TAFE) and Central West College of TAFE (now Central Regional TAFE).

A former TDA board member, Wayne has devoted more than 40 years as an educator with most of that in the West Australian VET sector.

The judges said he “has made a difference to the future of hundreds of thousands of students”.

The Industry Collaboration Award went to Holmesglen Institute and the Royal Children’s Hospital for creating “an enriching pathway to employment for young people with disability”.

“Australia’s first Integrated Practical Placement Program is an innovative model combining industry, education and support services,” the  judges said.

TAFE Queensland was named the International Training Provider of the Year.

TAFE Queensland CEO Mary Campbell said the award showcases TAFE Queensland’s commitment and capability to change lives all around the world.

“We’ve dedicated resources to developing business with governments and enterprises across the globe and recruit international students from over 90 countries, resulting in great benefits for Queensland,” she said.

TAFE Queensland Chief Executive Officer Mary Campbell and International Executive Director Janelle Chapman.

The Large Training Provider of the Year went to Sunraysia Institute of TAFE, with judges noting its remarkable 95% completion rates, strong job outcomes and the highest number of new enrolments in Victoria in 2018.

The Apprentice of the Year was Rory Milner a former engineer who switched to a Certificate III in Carpentry with builder Sunbuild, studying at Charles Darwin University.

“In 2018 alone, Rory had the humble honour of being named Master Builders Australia National Apprentice of the Year, Master Builders Australia NT Overall Apprentice of the Year, and the Master Builders Australia NT General Building and Construction Apprentice of the Year,” the judges said.

One of the most remarkable stories was that of Vocational Student of the Year, Shaona Imaru, one of ten children born in a refugee camp in Tanzania before moving to Australia as an 11-year old speaking no English. Shaona studied a Certificate III in Health Services Assistance through TAFE SA and was offered employment with Uniting SA. She has now enrolled in a Bachelor of Nursing.

The Runner-up for Vocational Student of the Year was Kristy McDermott who took on the dual Diploma of Landscape Design, Diploma of Horticulture at TAFE Queensland.

There was another prize for Charles Darwin University with Jack Short the Runner-up in the Trainee of the Year Award. Jack studied his Certificate III in Information, Digital Media and Technology – something he took on alongside his Year 12 studies while at school.

The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Student of the Year Award went to Taylor Williams, a Wiradjuri woman from Forbes in NSW, who works with a team who are fostering cultural and behavioural change at the Department of Defence.  Taylor undertook a Diploma of Government with Canberra Institute of Technology.

The Gordon had success with the Runner-up in the Australian School-based Apprentice of the Year Award with Heidi Rasmussen who did a Certificate III in Companion Animal Services on her way to fulfilling an ambition to be a vet.

The Excellence in Language, Literacy and Numeracy Practice Award went to Debra Guntrip from TasTAFE. Debra is a literary specialist who has been working in the LLN field for more han 20 years and is engaged in the delivery of LLN skills to employees through 26TEN, a network of organisations and individuals working together to improve adult literacy and numeracy in Tasmania.

Congratulations to all the finalists and winners at the awards – each one of you should be enormously proud of what you have achieved!

And, a special shout-out to all the TAFE students, teachers and staff who have excelled – you show extraordinary commitment and ability – all the more remarkable for TAFE comprising a meagre 19% of the VET sector, or so we are told!

See all the finalists and winners.

Emeritus Professor Tracey Horton appointed new head of AISC

The federal government has appointed Emeritus Professor Tracey Horton, pictured, as the new chair of the Australian Industry and Skills Committee (AISC).

The Minister for Employment, Skills, Small and Family Business, Senator Michaelia Cash said Ms Horton brings a wealth of experience from a range of government and not-for-profit boards. She replaces Professor John Pollaers in the role.

Professor Horton is the former chair of Navitas and a former member of the Council for International Education. She is a director of property group, GPT, technology firm, Nearmap, and the Australian Institute of Company Directors. She is also a commissioner of the Tourism Commission of Western Australia and a member of the Australian government Takeovers Panel and Bain & Company WA Advisory Board.

Senator Cash said the AISC will work with government and industry stakeholders to support the reforms announced in the last federal budget.

COAG agrees to immediate overhaul of training packages, VET student loans

Federal, state and territory skills ministers have agreed to an immediate overhaul of training packages and a review of VET student loans.

The COAG Industry and Skills Council meeting in Brisbane on Friday agreed to “immediately fast track” the measures and to also examine the use of micro-credentials and the Australian Skills Quality Authority’s (ASQA) shift from compliance to “excellence in training”.

Training packages will be “streamlined” to remove all outdated and unused qualifications.

The system of VET student loans will be reviewed to ensure “parity of access for students across Australia”.

“Council particularly noted that actions agreed to were in response to feedback from stakeholders about where urgent reform is needed,” the COAG Communique said.

“Council directed the Australian Industry and Skills Council (AISC) and skills officials to develop criteria for commissioning new or updated training products and to establish clear timeframes for accelerated training product development before the next Council meeting,” it said.

See the Communique.

New head of VET at RMIT

Education and health leader Mish Eastman has joined RMIT as Pro Vice-Chancellor Vocational Education.

Mish began her career as a nurse before moving into education and leadership roles with TAFE Tasmania and the Tasmanian Polytechnic.

Most recently, she was Executive Director Pathways and Vocational Education at Swinburne University of Technology.

Vice-Chancellor and President Martin Bean said the appointment is part of RMIT’s vision to create a united VE community that can lead innovative, internationally-recognised teaching practice.

“Mish has diverse experience in leading through complexity, across both tertiary education and health environments,” he said.

“She has strong expertise in identifying and creating new models of education and training in collaboration with industry, enhancing tertiary pathways, and understanding how to create educational and employment success for learners.”

He said RMIT is exploring the creation of a new College of Vocational Education in what will be its biggest commitment yet to the long-term success and growth of the sector.

Chisholm confirms Stephen Varty as CEO

Stephen Varty has been appointed as the new CEO and Director of Chisholm Institute, following an extensive search and selection process.

Chair Stephen Marks announced that Mr Varty will formally commence immediately after serving as interim CEO for the past ten months and leading Chisholm through a number of new initiatives that have produced outstanding results.

“These have included the completion of the Frankston Learning and Innovation Precinct which was launched by the Premier in October, a number of new fee for service and international off-shore opportunities, and a number high profile projects for the TAFE sector that were awarded by the Department of Education and Training,” Mr Marks said.

Stephen has been with Chisholm for the past five years and has held a number of positions including Chief of Education, Executive Director Youth, Pathways and Regional Education and Director of Educational Innovation at Chisholm.

Productivity Commission looking to level the playing field between uni and VET

The Productivity Commission is asking for input into its review of the VET system including ways of achieving greater fairness in funding and loan arrangements between the VET and university.

An issues paper released by the Commission notes that the funding arrangements have led to a view that “universities are expanding at the expense of participation in VET”.

“Compared with VET students, university students have access to more generous financing arrangements,” the discussion paper says.

“Universities also have ‘self-accreditation’ status (that is, they can evaluate their own courses to ensure qualification standards are met) and greater control over course content. In contrast, VET RTOs are required to use regulator-approved training packages and accredited courses,” it says.

“In the past, the NCVER has pointed to this as a potential competitive advantage for universities offering courses that are traditionally in the VET domain (Moodie 2011).”

It asks for evidence of how funding is affecting student choices and options for achieving “greater consistency in funding and loan arrangements between the VET and higher education sectors”.

The Commission will deliver an interim report in March and a final report within a year.

See the issues paper or make a submission.

TAFE Queensland’s Andrew Holmes recognised for expert analysis

TDA has extended its appreciation to Andrew Holmes, the Director of Finance and Performance at TAFE Queensland for his outstanding contribution during upheaval in the VET sector following the collapse of a private training college in Brisbane.

Andrew was presented with an award of appreciation by TDA Chair Mary Faraone and CEO Craig Robertson at the recent TDA Convention.

Andrew was called upon to assist TDA and TAFE Queensland following the college collapse in December 2017, affecting some 16,000 students.

“Andrew’s data and analytical skills were a key part in TDA and TAFEs being able to assist thousands of displaced private provider students continuing their studies with a TAFE and mounting our case to the government,” Craig Robertson said.

“Andrew, you are a great credit to TAFE Queensland, a great credit to TAFEs across Australia.”

Award of appreciation: Mary Faraone, Andrew Holmes and Craig Robertson

Call for ‘No Frills’ 2020 presentations

NCVER has issued a call for submissions to present at the 29th National VET Research Conference ‘No Frills’.

‘No Frills’ 2020 will be co-hosted with TAFE WA – North Metropolitan TAFE in Perth from 8-10 July 2020.

NCVER is seeking presentations that explore the theme Workforce ready: challenges and opportunities for VET.

Submissions are invited from all parts of the VET sector, including industry, government, practitioners, peak bodies, and researchers.

Submissions are open until Monday, 17 February 2020. Learn more about presentation guidelines and how to submit.

Call for proposals for Canadian colleges annual conference

Colleges and Institutes Canada (CICan) has issued a call for proposals for its annual conference being held 3 – 5 May 2020 in Montreal, Quebec.

CICan’s annual conference is the largest event of its kind in Canada. It fosters connections between post-secondary institutions from across the country and around the world through discussions and the sharing of best practices.

The Conference will be organisesd into six streams, including: Governing Excellence, Wiring for Student Success, Hacking Education, Embodying Sustainability, Driving Innovation, and Going Global. Indigenous education and inclusion are cross-cutting topics.

All sessions should reflect on opportunities or lessons learned for the future of the college and institute system. Proposals should be submitted by December 8.

Selection criteria and recommendations for preparing a successful proposal are available here.

Diary Dates

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

AVETRA Conference
20/20 vision for VET: Research at the centre of future policy and practice
23 – 24 April 2020
More information

VDC 2020 Teaching & Learning Conference
14 – 15 May 2020
RACV Torquay Resort, Great Ocean Road, Victoria
Registrations opening soon

‘No Frills’ 2020, 29th National VET Research Conference
NCVER co-hosted with TAFE WA, North Metropolitan TAFE
8 – 10 July 2020
Perth, Western Australia
More information


TDA Newsletter 18 November 2019

In this edition

  • Under embargo
  • Productivity Commission to examine national skills agreement
  • TAFEs invited to attend and present at next year’s WFCP World Congress in Spain
  • Government announces successful apprenticeship support providers
  • First of ten industry training hubs launched in Tasmania
  • Victoria to review adult community education sector
  • Strong attendance at skills reform workshops
  • ASQA releases new fees and charges
  • Diary

Under embargo until 7pm 21 November

Good evening. My name is Craig Robertson and I’m your host this evening. Welcome to this special night and let’s introduce our special guests.

The Honourable Michaelia Cash. If the minister is as brilliant tonight as last year these Australian Training Awards will be a sparkling affair.

Michaelia is assisted by Steve Irons. Steve is well qualified for his job. I’m sure he understands most things about building and construction, even how S bends work.

We have our own S bends here. The S***** Organisations. Making them work without getting blocked will keep him busy.  And if he’s worried by those, there’s S***** S****** Organisations.

By the way, representatives of the S***** S****** Organisations are meeting in the back corner later tonight to haggle over who gets the leftovers.

The night wouldn’t be complete without a big celebrity. A huge round of applause for Scott Cam. I’m not sure what the Government is telling us by appointing Scotty to sell the sector. You see, he takes something that’s ramshackle and brings in a bunch of amateurs to spruce it up.

Reminds me of my first joke.

How many Australian public servants does it take to fix the VET system?
I don’t know but ask a New Zealander.

And then he orchestrates in-fighting. Oh, that reminds me. Welcome to industry tonight.

No expense is spared of course. In a first for this sector Victoria and Queensland are paying to build this Commonwealth Block ….. and it’s not even in Melbourne or Brisbane!

What competencies do you need to fix the system?
We can’t tell you because they are still working their way through the AISC.

On a night like tonight we can’t forget the contestants. The best from around Australia are here.

There’s a glittering array of prizes on offer. The department has found a few stockpiles of i-pads so you’ll get one of those – actually you can take as many as you like, really. You’ll need to sign-up for them though. Don’t worry, there’s nothing to pay ….. yet.

We would have liked to honour the i-pad sponsors tonight but for some reason they are in hiding.

In the interests of transparency I must warn you that the Commonwealth will charge you an immediate 20 per cent loading for attending.

[Editorial note – ghee this material comes easy]

Also, representatives are here from ASQA to give you a health check-up. A kick in the guts is only $5000 and if you want your eye poked out it’s a very reasonable $10,000. It seems nothing is free these days.

We’ve got new awards tonight, in recognition of the industry bureaucrats who stick with the sector through thick and thin – through ITABs, to ISCSs to SSOs to SOs.

It’s called Pushing S***** Uphill Award. 

We’re pleased we have NCVER counting the votes tonight. They apologise in advance, as they have no idea what half the voters are doing.

They have also allocated the seats for tonight. Their figures show that TAFEs represent only 19 per cent of the crowd. If you are from a TAFE it’s likely you are over the quota. Could all those on tables 3, 5 and 8, and 10 through 20 leave please.

NCVER is out looking for those who should be in your seats. On your way if you see anyone who has done the half-day CPR training, tell them they can come in. They make up the missing 81 per cent. Seems the Prime Minister was quite literal in making sure the Quiet Australians are here tonight.

Talking about the 81 per cent. You are represented by ITECA. They are a new crowd this year. ITECA – sounds like an exotic vodka. Be careful though – two swigs and you’ll be drunk with power.

Knock, knock
Who’s there?
TAFE who?
Oh dear, ITECA’s advertising is paying off?

Knock, knock
Who’s there?
ITECA who?
How come you don’t know who we are?  We are 81 per cent of the sector. We’re bringing a CPR-led recovery to the sector! 

The AASNs are celebrating tonight. The drinks are on them. They’ve escaped the dreaded S bend, well, for a least another two years!

On a serious note. Despite the machinations at the top of this crazy sector there are people who achieve great things, and organisations and their staff who help them. We’ll come a long way when we all start to focus on them.

Warmest congratulations to all the finalists and may the best of VET win!

Knock knock

Knock knock

It’s the janitor
We are wondering where the TAFEs are
They’re at their own awards.

[Delivered in my dreams]

Productivity Commission to examine national skills agreement

The inequitable student loan arrangement between VET and university will be one of the issues examined by a Productivity Commission review of the National Agreement for Skills and Workforce Development (NASWD).

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg formally requested the review last Friday.

The COAG-level national skills agreement sets out the central objectives of the Commonwealth, states and territories in skills and workforce development.

The terms of reference for the inquiry include:

  • options for governments to coordinate and streamline their support for vocational education in the future
  • options for nationally consistent government funding and pricing arrangements
  • options to promote consistency in funding and loan arrangements between the VET and higher education sectors

Submissions can be made here.

The Productivity Commission will report within 12 months but an interim report will be released in March.

TAFEs invited to attend and present at next year’s WFCP World Congress in Spain

TAFE institutes are advised that the World Federation of Colleges and Polytechnics (WFCP) 2020 Congress will be held in Spain’s Basque Country next October under the theme TVET Excellence – For All.

Everyone who attended last year’s World Congress in Melbourne will know what a spectacular event this is, and the way it showcases TAFE excellence on a global stage.

Held every two years, the World Congress will be in Donostia-San Sebástian, Spain from 14-16 October – the first time it has been held in Europe.

Through TDA, Australian TAFEs are members of the WFCP, and have a great opportunity to participate on a number of levels. The Congress will highlight trends in professional and technical education and training from across the world and include:

  • The 2020 Awards of Excellence (nominations are now open and close 28 February 2020 – see below)
  • A Leadership Institute workshop (13-14 October)
  • An International Youth Camp (12-16) October).
  • The 2020 TDA CISCO-OPTUS study tour 11-16 October, London, England and Donostia-San Sebastian, Spain

Craig Robertson, TAFE Directors CEO and Chair of the WCFP said the 2020 World Congress presents a unique opportunity for TAFEs to learn, share and network with the leaders of associations, colleges and polytechnics from all continents.

“This is the biggest international gathering of experts and professionals in the field of professional and technical education and training.

“It’s difficult to overstate the opportunity it presents, and I’d encourage all my TAFE colleagues to look at how they can participate. Last year’s World Congress in Melbourne brought together an extraordinary global audience and this event will be just as big,” he said.

The TDA Newsletter will provide more information on every aspect of the World Congress over coming weeks. But one critical deadline for TAFE institutes is the 28 February 2020 cut-off for Awards of Excellence nominations.

There are eight award categories and recipients will be invited to present on their award-winning projects to the global audience. See information on how to enter the Awards of Excellence.

At the 2018 World Congress in Melbourne, there were four Australian winners in different categories – the Australian Pacific Training Coalition, TAFE NSW, Box Hill Institute and Holmesglen Institute.

We are mindful of the Christmas-New Year break but want to ensure that as many TAFEs as possible have the chance to enter these prestigious awards.

If you would like to discuss entering these awards, please contact TDA Project Officer, Astrida Upitis, who can provide assistance: Email aupitis@tda.edu.au Mob.  0409 714 457
h2>Government announces successful apprenticeship support providers

The federal government has announced the seven providers chosen to deliver an expanded Australian Apprenticeship Support Network (AASN) service, starting next February.

It follows a competitive tender undertaken by the Department of Employment, Skills, Small and Family Business for organisations to provide the service across 10 regions. The successful AASN providers are:

ACT: Sarina Russo Job Access
NSW: Apprenticeship Support Australia, MEGT, Sarina Russo Job Access, VERTO Ltd
Northern Territory: Australian Apprenticeships NT
Outback Western Australia: Apprenticeship Support Australia, BUSY At Work
Perth and Surrounds: Apprenticeship Support Australia, BUSY At Work, MEGT
Queensland: BUSY At Work, MAS National, MEGT, Sarina Russo Job Access
South Australia: MAS National, MEGT
Tasmania: MAS National, MEGT
Torres Strait Islands : BUSY At Work
Victoria: Apprenticeship Support Australia, MAS National, MEGT, Sarina Russo Job Access

Following a review in 2018, the new contracts will include strengthened sign-up processes, an additional incentive for providers to attract new employers to take on apprentices, a re-designed Performance Management Framework, and improved Gateway Services to help employers find the right apprentice.

First of ten industry training hubs launched in Tasmania

The federal government has opened the first of its ten Industry Training Hubs, designed to serve as one-stop shops linking schools, industry and VET providers.

The Assistant Minister for Vocational Education, Training and Apprenticeships Steve Irons opened the first hub last week at Burnie in north-west Tasmania.

“Burnie’s Training Hub will target year 11 and 12 students, with a facilitator providing career advice and mentoring and promoting education and training pathways in areas of local skills shortages,” Minister Irons said.

The Department of Employment, Skills, Small and Family Business will undertake a procurement process to engage a facilitator to deliver the services in Burnie.

The government allocated $50.6 million in the last Budget to trial the training hubs in 10 regions with high youth unemployment.

The other nine hubs will be in New South Wales (Grafton, Gosford), Mid North Queensland (Townsville), Queensland (Maryborough), Victoria (Shepparton), Western Australia (Wanneroo, Armadale), South Australia (Port Pirie) and Northern Territory (Alice Springs).

Victoria to review adult community education sector

The Victorian government has announced a six-year reform plan for the state’s adult community education sector.

In a Ministerial Statement, the Minister for Training, Skills and Higher Education Gayle Tierney outlined the 2020–2025 reform plan, focussed on enhancing adult literacy, numeracy, employability and digital skills training.

There are some 28,000 Victorians engaged in adult community education across 272 registered providers.

The statement identifies the need for a stronger relationship between adult community education providers and TAFE and university.

“This includes simplified and coordinated pathways, more collaboration, stronger linkages, as well as coordinated training by adult community education providers to support students’ success in TAFE and university,” it says.

Strong attendance at skills reform workshops

More than 1,000 people from over 600 organisations have so far taken part in the stakeholder consultation to help shape the reformed VET system, according to the Department of Employment, Skills, Small and Family Business.

The government is holding 13 workshops across metropolitan and regional centres to discuss the design of the National Careers Institute, the National Skills Commission and Skills Organisations.

Workshops have been held in Adelaide, Melbourne, Bendigo, Perth, Cairns, Orange, Canberra and Darwin, with another five scheduled in November in Sydney, Hobart, Brisbane, Mt Isa and Karratha.

Interim National Skills Commissioner, Adam Boyton, who attended the Darwin NSC and SO co-design workshops, said consultations have reflected the diverse range of views and experiences of the VET sector.

“The discussions have been constructive and informative, and it has been particularly valuable to hear from people and organisations all across Australia, especially those in regional and remote areas,” he said.

“Hearing from all parts of the system and all parts of the country will help ensure that together we can deliver the training and skills outcomes that Australia needs.”

ASQA releases new fees and charges

The Australian Skills Quality Authority (ASQA) has issued the costs and charges it proposes to levy training providers under its cost recovery model, commencing next July.

As a result of a decision in the last federal Budget, ASQA must fully recover the costs associated with the regulation of the VET sector, starting July 1.

The proposed new fees and charges are outlined in a consultation paper.

ASQA is inviting feedback on the proposed charges up until December 9.

If you want to hear same great discussion on options for ASQA listen to the podcast  What’s Now? What’s Next

Diary Dates

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

ASEAN Australia Education Dialogue (AAED)
18 – 20 November 2019
Georgetown, Penang, Malaysia
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

AVETRA Conference
20/20 vision for VET: Research at the centre of future policy and practice
23 – 24 April 2020
More information

VDC 2020 Teaching & Learning Conference
14 – 15 May 2020
RACV Torquay Resort, Great Ocean Road, Victoria
Registrations opening soon


TDA Newsletter 11 November 2019

In this edition

  • Stopping the less is more in VET – comment by CEO Craig Robertson
  • Government dismay at just 59 apprenticeships in the defence industry
  • Skill sets are booming
  • ASQA defends role in $2m private college scam
  • Parents play the biggest part in students’ VET choices, study finds
  • Perth to host Worldskills Australia championships
  • ‘Lifelauncher’ helping to navigate career choices
  • AVETRA issues ‘call for papers’ for research conference
  • Diary


TDA NEWSLETTER 4 November 2019

Keeping the partnership together – comment by CEO Craig Robertson

The longstanding debate in my household has been the resources my wife and I brought to our marriage and how we each contribute to family life. OK, confession time. I entered the marriage with debt and my wife didn’t, and I’d been working for some time! How we shared the responsibilities for getting the kids to school still causes some mirth. Imagine the tears from my then seven year-old daughter relying on me to fix her precious long hair for school when a pony-tail was the limit of my dexterity.

Should we have gone with a pre-nup? Nup. But we did talk about who does what and how our efforts contributed to the longer term for our family unit. Standard really, although I reckon toilet seat up or down must be compulsory premarital discourse.

This brings to mind the state of the union in Vocational Education and Training in Australia.  As we lead up to skills ministers meeting at the end of November I thought I’d outline the history of Commonwealth and state and territory collaboration.

The nature of collaboration between the levels of government has been vexed when it comes to VET. Whitlam first contributed to TAFE buildings and then toward their operations. It was the first time a federal government recognised that the taxes it raised were the best source for growing vocational education. At this point Whitlam took over full funding responsibilities for universities.
Post the recession of the 1980s John Dawkins as federal training minister reformed teaching and learning to bring the curriculum closer to the needs of industry. The National Training Board was formed and the competency approach to defining the division and approach to learning was imported from England.

Post the 1990s recession “we had to have”, Keating’s Working Nation gave birth to the Australian National Training Authority (ANTA) and the National Training Board quietly retired. Collaboration between levels of government seemed to have a permanent solution and industry was brought formally into the mix. There was great progress on many aspects of VET and increased policy focus.

Enter the Howard era and collaboration turned to co-option. The series of ANTA agreements which transferred federal funds to the states and territories were more like purchasing contracts. The Commonwealth insisted on certain numbers of hours of delivery for its funding and set the priority areas for spending. Creative accounting by David Kemp as Howard’s skills minister resulted in the “Growth through efficiency” agreement. You guessed it – achieve more with less. This was followed in the next agreement with the push for “Work Choices” reforms in government owned entities. The ANTA ideal soured in 2005 and Howard abolished it thinking the federal bureaucracy had a better chance of success.

Rudd and Gillard returned to collaboration. Governments agreed shared objectives, sweetened by access to the bulk of the $2.5bn Productivity Places Program. In turn, states and territories had autonomy to set their own path to meeting the objectives.

Dazzled by the promise of new public management – governments working in tandem with the private sector – competition
for the training dollar was introduced with a vengeance. It promised quality as providers innovated to attract students. In turn, the overall impact of student choice of courses and providers, premised on access to good information, would optimise the flow into courses that would most meet the demand of industry. Victoria led the way with the Victorian Training Guarantee (VTG) followed by Skills for All in South Australia before a new national agreement was crafted. It called on states and territories to offer choice of course and provider up to a Certificate III for any of its citizens not holding that level of qualification. In return, the Commonwealth, which by that time had extinguished the bulk of its $2.5bn PPP, opened-up VET FEE-HELP so cash-strapped states and territories could impose fees for diplomas and advanced diploma courses offset by a student loan.

The rest is history and we are still recovering!

VTG and Skills for All and VET FEE-HELP were built on good policy grounds, except national regulation formed around provider standards was no bulwark against a class of provider intent on profit over student welfare. The competency definition of training output which celebrates education short-cuts was cream on the cake too easy for these providers to resist.

Calling on growth through efficiency the Turnbull and Morrison governments withdrew funding while still spruiking the federal contribution. It gathered the fees employers paid to bring in migrant workers to establish the Skilling Australians Fund as a replacement for the Skills Reform national partnership ending in mid-2017. The plan was to boost apprenticeship and traineeship numbers, again on condition with states and territories. The purchasing mentality returned. At the same time VET FEE-HELP was scrapped in favour of VET Student Loans, cutting the flow of about $1.5bn per annum in legitimate loans to something like $300m for VET Student Loans. States and territories, let alone decent providers, were left high and dry!

We are now faced with the 2019 federal Budget package – Delivering skills for today and tomorrow.  Funding that was earmarked for Victoria and Queensland was withheld to fund Commonwealth soft infrastructure in the form of Skills Organisations, the Skills Commissioner and Careers Institute.

Now it seems the Commonwealth has a wandering eye. In setting-up their own skills organisations they seem to prefer industry over states and territories.

Would any partnership weather such turmoil, even betrayal? Yet states and territories are being asked to go around one more time.

The Productivity Commission will assess the partnership by reviewing the national agreement for VET. The cost to the nation they’ve revealed this past week for inaction on mental well-being may be a useful template for identifying the costs to Australia from inaction on funding for vocational education.

As skills ministers approach their meeting in a few weeks time I hope they will survey the full history of the Commonwealth State partnership for VET. A trustworthy partnership with fair sharing of roles and decent financial contributions seems to be a pretty good blueprint for many aspects of life, even for vocational education and training. The question is whether the partnership is worth it?

Victoria launches year-long review of state’s VET system

TDA has commended the Victorian government’s decision to hold a wide-ranging review of the state’s VET system.

CEO Craig Robertson said the pace of technological change and disruption stemming from artificial intelligence and digitisation warrants a fundamental look at how we prepare people for future jobs and careers.

The Minister for Training and Skills and Higher Education Gayle Tierney announced that former federal Minister Jenny Macklin will lead the 12-month review of the VET system.

Ms Tierney said the Macklin review would bring together experts from across the country to ensure Victoria has a quality system fit for the future.

“The Macklin Review will contribute to the reforms already underway through the COAG Skills Council,” she said.

See TDA’s media release

See the Victorian government media release

See the review terms of reference

TAFE and uni students receive $15k regional scholarships

Almost 1200 students have been offered scholarships worth $19.5 million to study at a regional university or VET provider next year, under the Destination Australia program.

The $93.7 program provides scholarships worth $15,000 a year.

A total of 35 tertiary education providers across 84 locations have been successful in the 2020 round. Details of the successful providers can be found here.

TAFEs received 15% of the available places, private providers received 11%, with the remainder going to universities. Given that TAFEs in some states did not apply, the TAFE share is a good outcome, and TDA encourages TAFEs to consider applying in future years.

The Minister for Education Dan Tehan said regional Australia has a lot to offer as a study destination, including smaller class sizes, a cheaper cost of living as well as the people and the lifestyle.

“Of the 690,000 international students in Australia, just three per cent were enrolled in regional Australia last year and our government’s $93.7 million Destination Australia program will help to change that,” he said.

More information about Destination Australia is available here.

See Minister Tehan’s media release

Opposition leader unveils Labor’s plan for national skills agency

Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese has outlined plans for a new national skills agency that would undertake skills forecasts and develop workforce plans for regions and key target groups.

In an address in Perth last week, Jobs and the Future of Work, he laid out Labor’s response to concerns about increasingly insecure work, wage stagnation and declining living standards.

Most media reporting was on the issue of energy policy but it also encompassed Labor’s vison for VET, based around high technology manufacturing including the creation of the new body, Jobs and Skills Australia.

Likening it to Singapore’s Skills Future, the new agency would undertake workforce and skills analysis, prepare capacity studies for emerging and growing industries, undertake plans for targeted groups such as the regions, older workers and youth, and review the VET system.

“It will ensure that the Commonwealth works genuinely with the states and territories to ensure that our VET system delivers the trainees and apprentices that our country needs,” he said.

“The TAFE system is the cornerstone of the Australian training system. It can be complemented, but never replaced.”

He dismissed the government’s proposed National Skills Commission as “a late and inadequate response from a tired government”.

Minerals Council skills pilot to create new training curriculum

The Minerals Council of Australia will be funded to establish a national curriculum for the mining industry, under a new Skills Organisations pilot program announced by Prime Minister Scott Morrison.

It is the third Skills Organisation pilot program undertaken by the government, following programs for human services care and digital technologies, announced earlier this year.

The pilot programs give the target industries the opportunity to shape the national training system to be more responsive to industry and employer needs.

The Minister for Resources Matt Canavan said more than a million Australians were employed in the resources sector and it was vital to have a well-trained mining workforce to take full advantage of booming demand for commodities.

“Creating a nationwide curriculum under this pilot will help enhance, expand and advance the skills of our resources workers, securing the sector’s future for decades to come,” he said.

MCA Chief Executive Officer Tania Constable said the organisation will seek to secure “greater national-level consistency and clarity across the system to realise the significant benefits for the VET sector, industry and learners.”

“The MCA is in the process of securing education partners that will develop new learning pathways to the modern mining sector for delivery in 2020.

“These include curricula pilots, a micro-credentials package and experiential program as well as defining a mining 101 program for apprentices and trainees,” Ms Constable said.

See more

Employers less happy with VET outcomes

Employers’ use of the VET system has declined over the last two years, according to the National Centre for Vocational Education Research (NCVER).

Across Australia, 50.9% of employers made use of the nationally accredited VET in 2019, down 3.5 percentage points from 2017.

Use of training by employers was down in general, with 74.1% providing informal training (down 7.3 percentage points from 2017), and use of unaccredited training steady at 48.8%, while the proportion of employers providing no training at all was up by 4.1 percentage points to 12.8%.

Nationally, 34.2% of employers had jobs requiring vocational qualifications in 2019, down 3.0 percentage points since 2017.

Employer satisfaction with vocational qualifications also declined, down 3.3 percentage points over the past two years, with 72.1% satisfied in 2019.

The Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman Kate Carnell said VET providers need to engage more with small business, which believes there is not enough focus on practical skills, and the level of training does not meet their needs.

“It’s important that VET providers understand the need to be flexible in their approach to training workers, even if that means tailoring courses to match the skills needed by small businesses,” she said.

See more

TAFE degrees offer relevance and employment, study finds

Students who undertake their bachelor degree at TAFE, rather than university, have largely made a deliberate decision because of the relevance to their career plans, according to a new study.

The study, Vocational institutions, undergraduate degrees: distinction or inequality, surveyed 463 students to understand the reasons behind choosing to do their degree at TAFE.

According to an article in The Australian, these students are well informed and “not settling for second best”.

A total of 64% said they chose to study for their degree at a TAFE institute because they ­enjoyed their area of study, 59 per cent said their study would enable them “to get a ­rewarding job” and 58 per cent said the course was part of their “longer-term career plans”, the article said.

The study examined nursing, design, early years education, fashion and business degrees at 11 TAFE ­institutes offering higher education. In conducting the survey, researchers interviewed 42 students and 13 graduates.

Chief investigator and Mon­ash Professor of Education Susan Webb said the degrees were “growing in significant niches that build on the heritage of ­established relationships with the industries” and reflected “the vocational education and training provision and experiences of these TAFE institutes”.

Traineeships soon to be free in NSW

The NSW government has made all traineeships fee-free, starting in January.

Traineeships in NSW through ‘Smart and Skilled’ will join apprenticeships in being fee- free, the Minister for Skills and Tertiary Education Geoff Lee and Minister for Education and Early Childhood Learning Sarah Mitchell said.

“Our investment in fee free traineeships, coupled with the $285 million initiative that’s made apprenticeships fee-free, demonstrates that we are serious about getting people into sustainable work and addressing the skills shortage,” Mr Lee said.

“It’s encouraging that the most popular traineeships are in early childhood education with over 10,000 students since 2015 taking up a traineeship,” Ms Mitchell said.

Education and training reviews – are we drowning in them?

With Australia, seemingly awash with education and training reviews at present, TDA CEO Craig Robertson will address the issue of which reviews to focus on and which to avoid at the Community Colleges Australia Annual Conference in Brisbane, 18 – 20 November.

Titled, ‘Navigating the seas of reviews’ it will examine how the sector should approach the many inquiries underway, or soon to begin.

“What reviews are just annoying swells? What are tsunamis that could wash out the sector and what are the rips that risk sweeping the helpless out of sight,” the abstract notes.

See more about the Community Colleges Australia Annual Conference

AVETRA announces key conference speakers

AVETRA (the Australasian Vocational Education and Training Research Association) has announced the keynote speakers for its annual conference in Melbourne, 23 – 24 April next year. They are:

  •  Professor Stephanie Allais, Research Chair of Skills Development, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, and Special Advisor to the Minister of Higher Education and Training. Her topic is: TVET in developing countries: Constraints and possibilities
  • Professor Rod McDonald, Principal, Ithaca Group, and former Special Advisor to the Australian National Training Authority; author of seminal report on VET research: No Small Change. His topic is: Research at the centre of policy and practice – is it too much to expect?
  • Professor Ann-Marie Bathmaker, Professor of Vocational and Higher Education, University of Birmingham. Her topic is: Leadership dilemmas and incompatible goals? Pursuing access, social inclusion, social mobility and employability in public further education

See more or email: AVETRA2020@federation.edu.au

Diary Dates

‘Supporting young people into their futures: research and practice’
14 November 2019
Ballarat, Victoria
More information

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

ASEAN Australia Education Dialogue (AAED)
18 – 20 November 2019
Georgetown, Penang, Malaysia
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

AVETRA Conference
20/20 vision for VET: Research at the centre of future policy and practice
23 – 24 April 2020
More information

VDC 2020 Teaching & Learning Conference
14 – 15 May 2020
RACV Torquay Resort, Great Ocean Road, Victoria
Registrations opening soon


TDA Newsletter 28 October 2019

In this edition

  • More than 19 per cent – comment by CEO Craig Robertson
  • Leading economist appointed as new national skills commissioner
  • Mixed VET and uni subjects to lead to qualifications
  • VET should be a “wide pool of connectivity” in the modern economy, says Paul Keating
  • Demand-driven programs to blame for $919m VET ‘underspend’
  • ASQA disputes Coalition MP’s claim of regulatory over-reach
  • Queensland outlines TAFE fee cuts across state
  • SA gets generational VET-in-school shake-up
  • Maths compulsory for teachers, students in NSW
  • Diary

More than 19 per cent – comment by CEO Craig Robertson

The Education and Employment Senate Committee was told last week that TAFE represents 19 per cent of VET in Australia, echoing a comment made previously by the Prime Minister. I repeat, 19 per cent!

Where has this figure come from? Total VET Activity, or TVA. It reported there were 4.1 million VET students in 2018. With 777,100 enrolments, TAFE accounts for 19.1 per cent of students!

Fair enough. The 4.1 million students include millions who only engage in training for less than a day such as the White Card or Responsible Service of Alcohol. I doubt they would even regard themselves as students. They are simply meeting a work obligation or wanting to help out at the sports club.

If this is the way VET figures are going to be used, I’ve had a go at a different view of VET, drawing on this magical 4.1 million student denominator. (For accuracy I’ve used 2017 TVA and finance figures as it is the latest year where both data sets are available.)

  • The Commonwealth contributed only $444 per student in 2017 for vocational education delivery – based on Commonwealth funding of $1.86bn for vocational delivery in 2017.
  • $1.16bn of the $1.86bn appears to have been wasted as 62.2 per cent of the students were enrolled in subjects not part of a nationally recognised program.
  • 345,320 students are at school and it’s likely the Commonwealth doubled up on payment for VET as well as schooling.

The Senate committee was also told that the National Agreement on Skills and Workforce Development, which transfers Specific Purpose Payments from the Commonwealth to states and territories, will grow over the next four years. These are bulk payments recognising that the Commonwealth has most of the tax raising power yet states and territories carry the lion share of delivery costs.

I couldn’t help myself.

  • An extra $5.16 per student for the year will be provided based on the growth from the 2018 to 2019 Financial Year in the National Agreement – 1.43 per cent, or $21.7 million. Amanda Vanstone once said a $4 per week family tax cut would barely buy a sandwich and a milkshake – it seems VET students are limited to one milkshake per year!
  • But the working-age population will grow at around 1.5 per cent in the same year so the same funds have to spread further. The $5.16 becomes $5.09.

The student count seems implausible doesn’t it? 4.1 million students equates to 22.7 per cent of the population aged between 15 and 64. That means that at least one person in a standard Australian family enrolled in VET in 2018. Go on, do the test. Has someone snuck out at night to do a spot of carpentry? Do the test for the rest of the week.  Wherever four gather, check who it is!

If we are using the magical 4.1 million student count what would it cost if they were each funded on the same basis as university students – after all we are aiming for VET to have equal standing. The mid-point across fields of education for rates of Commonwealth Supported Places is $14,523 per annum. For 4.1 million VET students that’s $59.5 billion for the year. You beauty! VET, come on down!

That is ridiculous you say. The situation is no better with the regard of TAFEs within the count of RTOs. In the 2018 TVA report there were 4,675 RTOs. Because the number of TAFEs is impacted by recent amalgamations, let’s assume (generously) that 100 of the 4,675 are TAFEs. On the same logic presented to the Senate, TAFEs represent only 2 percent of providers!

Imagine you are on an island, quite a large island, but the population must move to another place, over the ocean. The ocean is unpredictable – swells and waves depending upon the tempest and sharks and other menaces make it impossible to make it in your own make-shift vessel.

Then imagine that the authorities of the island guarantee you passage on a vessel. According to the island’s official definition the vessel is a floating device suitable to carry person(s). Sounds good. Now imagine the officials being most fastidious about vessel-neutrality. It’s policy that they could not be seen to favour any vessel over another provided the definition – a floating device suitable to carry person(s) – is met.

It’s not too hard to imagine the officials, holding vessel-neutrality principles close to heart, requiring you and your fellow islanders to select one sight-unseen. After all, they need to be fair to the owners of the vessels. Sort of having a range of doors to select from.

Imagine the surprise on opening the door to be presented with a dinghy – after all, it’s a floating device suitable to carry person(s). Or the sheer relief when the door opens to an ocean liner – big and sturdy to cut through the waves, with a choice of rooms, ample dining and recreation options to boot. What’s your chance of getting the Ocean-liner? Taking as a guide the logic applied to VTA, 2 out of 100!

For islanders faced with the dinghy determining their destiny on the bumpy ocean, what or who is at fault? The dinghy isn’t. It’s always been a dinghy. The ocean liner isn’t. It’s always been an ocean liner and has always had plenty of room for passengers.

I reckon they’d be looking sternly at the officials who gave them the assurance that a floating device suitable to carry person(s) could take then through the tempest.

My point is two-fold. Competitive neutrality is not a policy outcome. Addressing the need at hand is. And misuse of information makes poorly-informed policy.

Misrepresenting the place of TAFEs in VET, even innocently from TVA, risks the sector being seen as little more than a flotilla of dinghies with little capacity to give citizens safe passage to a better future.

For your interest, TAFEs deliver just under 60 per cent of subjects and hours of publicly funded training.

Leading economist appointed as new national skills commissioner

The former chief economist at the Business Council of Australia, Adam Boyton, has been appointed as the new Interim National Skills Commissioner. 

Prior to joining the BCA Mr Boyton was a managing director at Deutsche Bank, the bank’s Australian chief economist and head of fixed income research.

He started his career at the federal Treasury and the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, and also served as chief of staff to former NSW Opposition Leader John Brogden.

He is a member of the NSW Skills Board, the NSW Rural Assistance Authority and the NSW Rice Marketing Board.

The Minister for Employment, Skills, Small and Family Business, Senator Michaelia Cash said Mr Boyton will play a critical role in the overhaul of the VET system.

“The newly appointed Commissioner will oversee the early design work on how to nationally forecast skills demand in industry and options for a new funding model for VET qualifications,” Senator Cash said.

Mixed VET and uni subjects to lead to qualifications

Students are likely to be able to mix subjects across university and VET as part of their qualifications, following the expert review of the Australian Qualifications Framework released last week.

The AQF review led by Professor Peter Noonan recommended closer links and pathways between VET and higher education, including:

  • A revised AQF architecture that is simpler and more flexible to promote the equal value of qualification types across higher education and VET.
  • The creation of a Higher Diploma at the same level as a Bachelor degree and renaming VET certificates to reflect their purpose.
  • Recognition of microcredentials and greater fluidity between VET, higher education and schools.

The Minister for Employment, Skills, Small and Family Business Senator Michaelia Cash said the report recommends a more flexible system which can provide workforce skills and qualifications for people at all stages of their career.

“For example, someone doing a VET course in carpentry may want to study some business courses at a university to help them run a small business. Likewise, someone studying engineering at university may want to get some hands-on experience in refrigeration,” Senator Cash said.

The Minister for Education Dan Tehan said the government would consider the review and respond in due course.

VET should be a “wide pool of connectivity” in the modern economy, says Paul Keating

Former prime minister Paul Keating says “turbocharging vocational education” should be a key part of an ambitious federal government plan to boost infrastructure investment and stimulate the economy.

In an article in the Weekend Australian, he said that the Reserve Bank had reached the limits of its ability to boost the economy through interest rate cuts, and that new fiscal stimulus measures were required.

“We are moving into a new world of big government after 30 or 40 years of smaller government because, with world growth shrinking and monetary policy being incapable of providing the stimulus, the building of infrastructure both by governments and by private industry, perhaps acting in concert, is the way ­forward,” he said.

In a separate interview in the paper, he says people are more globally connected because of the digital revolution, which means the economy and society are more horizontally structured rather than the silos that prevailed in business, society and politics when he left school at 14.

“We should be pulling together the important threads and struts of the vocational education system,” he said.

“Modifying our education system to allow young people to swim their way more confidently in the much more horizontal and collaborative world that the digital economy facilitates.

“In the great Japanese houses, you often see they have a shallow pool with many fish swimming around. We are moving into a world like that, a shallow but wide pool of connectivity, and we have to teach young people, especially, to be able to swim … and to find the opportunities in that pool.”

Demand-driven programs to blame for $919m VET ‘underspend’

The federal government has disputed claims by the Opposition of a $919 million underspend in the skills and training budget over the last five years.

Shadow Minister for Education and Training Tanya Plibersek said the Department of Education’s annual report shows that since 2014, the 17 per cent underspend was worst in apprentice and trade programs, including apprentice incentives for business.

However in Senate Estimates, the Minister for Employment, Skills, Small and Family Business, Senator Michaelia Cash rejected the claim as “absolutely false”, attributing the spending shortfall to a lack of demand for the programs in question.

“It is a demand-driven program and the demand for that program was met,” Senator Cash said.

Department of Employment, Skills, Small and Family Business Deputy Secretary Nadine Williams told the committee the department expects demand for incentive payments to soon increase following the government’s recent skills package.

“Our view is that, as those programs start to roll out, we’ll start to see a much higher uptake of apprenticeship and traineeship incentives, and that will work towards ensuring that there is more money spent, essentially, in these demand driven programs, because demand will be rising,” Ms Williams said.

Senator Cash also told the hearing that the Productivity Commission would be examining the central agreement that sets the framework for Commonwealth, state and territory funding of skills – the National Agreement for Skills and Workforce Development – and would be reporting back next year.

ASQA disputes Coalition MP’s claim of regulatory over-reach

The Australian Skills Quality Authority (ASQA) has hit back at claims it has used its regulatory power to damage and, even wipe out, some private training colleges.

In August, Queensland Coalition backbencher Dr Andrew Laming told parliament his nationwide investigation revealed ASQA’s “aggressive and adversarial conduct” toward private RTOs was forcing many to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT) over trivial matters.

In Senate Estimates hearings last week ASQA Acting Chief Commissioner Saxon Rice, pictured, said the organisation “certainly took on board” Mr Laming’s comments but rejected his claim that the AAT was being misused.

She said that from almost 4000 training providers regulated by ASQA, there were 1,600 audits, including some 600 compliance audits last financial year.

“The vast majority of providers are either not triggering ASQA’s risk indicators or demonstrating compliance at audit,” Ms Rice said.

In terms of critical non-compliance, there were 263 cancellations last financial year.

Ms Rice said there have been a total of 484 matters that have been referred to the AAT over the past eight years, with around half settled “by consent”.

“There have only been 32 occasions where a matter before the AAT has run its full course and there’s been an actual decision by the AAT,” Ms Rice said.

“On 21 occasions, ASQA’s decision was affirmed, and on 11 of those occasions ASQA’s decision was either set aside or varied.”

Minister Cash said Mr Laming was “a backbencher who is entitled to his opinion, as are all backbenchers”.

Queensland outlines TAFE fee cuts across state

The Queensland government has named a series of VET courses that will be eligible for further training subsidies across metropolitan and regional areas.

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said the $4 million “Skills Boost” will slash the cost of TAFE for many Queenslanders.

Skills Minister Shannon Fentiman said there were over 10 courses on offer for each region.

“These have been chosen specifically to provide the opportunities for Queenslanders to boost their skills and increase career opportunities,” She said.

“For example, through Skills Boost a Certificate III in Hospitality will mean students will pay around $300 to $600 instead of up to $3,700.”

See more

SA gets generational VET-in-school shake-up

South Australia will see closer integration of VET courses in secondary school under the state government’s ‘VET for School Students’ policy released last week.

It will see Industry Skills Councils, which operate under the Training and Skills Commission, given a key role in the design and development of vocational pathways for each industry sector.

The ISCs will also develop “industry and employer immersion programs” which will include student and parent information sessions, workplace visits and industry-based projects.

There will also be a new VET for School Students Ministerial Advisory Council.

Education Minister John Gardner described it as “the biggest overhaul of VET in schools in a generation”.

“It is vital that our schooling sector is preparing students to take advantage of emerging industries, and we know that growing areas such as defence, space, cyber security and health all require employees with vocational qualifications,” he said.

See more

Maths compulsory for teachers, students in NSW

Maths will be compulsory for all students under a new curriculum in NSW, and anyone wanting to teach maths in primary schools will need to achieve a minimum standard.

Premier Gladys Berejiklian said the NSW government is working to make maths compulsory from Kindergarten to Year 12 to ensure students have the necessary numeracy skills.

It follows the release of the interim report into the NSW Curriculum Review.

Also, starting in 2021, anyone wanting to teach maths in NSW primary schools will need to have achieved at least a band 4 or equivalent in maths for the HSC.

A student who fails to achieve a band four in maths – but undertakes and succeeds in a maths based course at university of equivalent or higher standard will still be able to get job as a primary school teacher.

“We promised to take the curriculum back to the basics and today we are taking the first steps to deliver on that commitment by prioritising maths,” Ms Berejiklian said.

Diary Dates

‘Supporting young people into their futures: research and practice’
14 November 2019
Ballarat, Victoria
More information

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

ASEAN Australia Education Dialogue (AAED)
18 – 20 November 2019
Georgetown, Penang, Malaysia
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

AVETRA Conference
20/20 vision for VET: Research at the centre of future policy and practice
23 – 24 April 2020
More information

TDA Newsletter 21 October 2019

In this edition

    • Political heat in the VET kitchen – comment by CEO Craig Robertson
    • Cooperation needed to safeguard TAFEs after abolition of investment fund
    • New higher education category suggested for TAFEs
    • Audit outcome reaffirms the quality of TAFE Queensland
    • Agents dominant and growing in international education
    • TAFE finalists named in national training awards
    • WA govt slashes TAFE fees, upgrades campuses
    • Senator Jacqui Lambie aiming to secure millions of dollars for TasTAFE
    • Diary

Political heat in the VET kitchen – comment by CEO Craig Robertson

Interesting week in the politics of TAFE, at least for Canberra watchers like me.

It started with the Opposition and Senate crossbenchers sending the new Tuition Protection Scheme (TPS) Bills to committee for review. There are three separate pieces of legislation, covering two protection schemes – for VET Student Loans and FEE-HELP – but there are five schemes and they don’t work together. Two of the others are embedded in VET and higher education registration requirements and the third ,is a default scheme because it gives tuition protection free of charge to universities.

TAFEs, to be fair, do not have as much to complain about compared to decent non-government providers in both VET and higher education that need student loans and student fees to operate. VET and higher education registration for these operators requires membership of a tuition assurance scheme outside of the TPS, however, there’s no insurance company prepared to underwrite the scheme given the upheaval caused by VET FEE-HELP closures.

It seems logical for the government to take over tuition protection, however, it amounts to nationalisation of VET which seems at odds with the philosophy of this government.  What do I mean by nationalisation? It means that the government is taking over the responsibility of poor practice because the market can’t be trusted.  Got that?  The market can’t be trusted.

But it’s nationalisation in part. For VET Student Loans the good providers are being asked to pick up the pieces from the poor, at least those that rapidly close courses or close altogether. The office of the TPS can issue fines and penalties for those providers which refuse to take on students. One has to wonder how things have got to this point. The government is relying on threatening the good providers to pick up the poor.

It’s fair to say that national VET policy dictates that statements of attainment issued by any provider carry equal weight with other providers. But with ASQA auditing assessment and record keeping practices more rigorously, the receiving provider carries risk of ASQA non-compliance on any number of fronts, just by taking on defenceless students. Why isn’t ASQA conscripted in the name of nationalisation? The legislation should have ASQA issuing the statement of attainment and they carry the responsibility (it’s a generally accepted back-stop when all other options have expired)!

Anyway, we’ll be making a submission to the Senate committee. If you have views please feel free to let me know.

The other political action was the closure of the Education Investment Fund with a deal to provide $50 million for TAFE capital with an expectation that states and territories match. We don’t decry the drought assistance the remaining $3.95bn from the funds will be directed to, however closing education capital investment is trading the future of education to fix a current emergency without digging into Government coffers in order to protect the surplus. It doesn’t make sense that a national government committed, supposedly, to productivity enhancing infrastructure would withdraw support for education infrastructure – one of the more reliable productivity enhancers.

We can’t complain about the $50m but the cost of $3.95b is way, way too high.

Then mainstream and social media is asking questions about the appointment of the National Careers Ambassador, Scott Cam. I direct you to Sammy J on ABC iview if you are after a laugh. Regardless, while Cammy is worth a bit, it’s hard to imagine his efforts would add $3.95b to national productivity, let alone the multiplier effect from education infrastructure.

This week could see the pressure mount. At Senate Estimates hearings, the process where senior public servants front senators to explain and defend government expenditure, I’m sure they’ll be asked to explain how much of our future is being traded for a quick sugar hit.

Cooperation needed to safeguard TAFEs after abolition of investment fund

TDA has called on the states to work with the Commonwealth to provide much-needed TAFE funding in the wake of the abolition of the $4 billion Education Investment Fund (EIF).

Parliament last week agreed to scrap the fund which was established in 2009 to provide capital funding to help upgrade TAFEs and universities.

In its place will be a $50 million TAFE revitalisation fund that the federal government expects will be matched by the states.

The CEO of TDA Craig Robertson said the decision was disappointing, but that it made more urgent the need to ensure adequate funding was available to help upgrade TAFE campuses around the country.

“TAFE facilities are under extraordinary pressure and our skills needs are greater than ever.  It is very important that we continue to make an economic investment in the country’s TAFEs so that we can meet growing skills needs,” he said.

“We strongly urge the states to commit to matching this funding so that vital infrastructure works can continue and TAFE facilities, especially in regional and rural areas, can be brought to a world class standard,” Mr Robertson said.

See TDA’s media release

New higher education category suggested for TAFEs

TAFEs that deliver higher education qualifications may fall into a proposed new category of “National Institute of Higher Education” under a model suggested in the Review of the Higher Education Provider Category Standards.

Report author Professor Peter Coaldrake says the new National Institute of Higher Education category would be reserved for the highest performing higher education providers which are not universities.

“National Institutes of Higher Education will be recognised for meeting additional criteria to those required of other higher education providers outside the universities and will have a significant measure of self-accrediting authority status,” the report said.

It said they should be created to serve “aspiration, destination, or progression purposes.”

There are 11 TAFEs registered with TEQSA in the existing ‘Higher Education Provider’ category.

The report ruled out a distinct new category for TAFEs and polytechnics.

The report also recommended changes to funding of Commonwealth Supported Places in higher education, noting that “a non-university student is arguably disadvantaged twice” as a result of no government funding for the course and an additional debt to obtain a student loan.

See the Review of the Higher Education Provider Category Standards

Audit outcome reaffirms the quality of TAFE Queensland

TAFE Queensland has been given the tick of approval by the Australian Skills Quality Authority (ASQA) this month after receiving a seven-year licence to continue to operate as the state’s leading public provider of world class training.

The outcome not only demonstrates the confidence the regulator has in the organisation, but it also sends a strong signal to the market, and speaks to the strength of TAFE Queensland as a public VET provider.

TAFE Queensland Chief Executive Officer Mary Campbell said she is proud that the organisation has received a seven year registration.

“This confirms that we’re not only delivering our training in line with the National Quality Framework, but also that we’re providing students, industries and the communities we serve with the skills they need for future success,” Mrs Campbell said.

“Standards for training organisations in this country are high and rightly so – because Australians deserve the very best. TAFE Queensland meets, if not exceeds, these standards.

“Our commitment to providing training to the highest standard and delivering the best outcomes for our students is what sets TAFE Queensland apart,” she said.

TAFE Queensland will also continue to deliver high quality training services to overseas students, receiving renewed provider status on the Commonwealth Register of Institutions and Courses for Overseas Students (CRICOS).

Agents dominant and growing in international education

Approximately 75 per cent of overseas student use an education agent to facilitate their study, according to a new report examining the role of agents.

The report ‘International Education Agents’ has been prepared by the Department of Education and shows there were 6,878 agencies and 19,413 agents involved in student enrolments for overseas students in 2018.

The percentage of enrolments facilitated by agents was higher in emerging partner countries such as Brazil (92%), Colombia (89%) and Nepal (84%), compared with more established partner countries such as China (73%), India (72%) and Malaysia (71%).

The size of agencies appears to have a positive correlation with visa outcomes, with larger agencies experiencing lower visa rejection rates than smaller agencies. There has also been rapid growth in recent years with some 40% of all agencies less than two years in existence.

See the report, International Education Agents

TAFE finalists named in national training awards

Sunraysia Institute of TAFE, Charles Darwin University and Canberra Institute of Technology will battle it out for the title of Large Training Provider of the Year at the Australian Training Awards in November.

TAFE institutes, teachers and students feature prominently in the list of finalists, released lats last week.

Melbourne Polytechnic and TAFE Queensland are the finalists for the International Training Provider of the Year.

Holmesglen and Canberra Institute of Technology are both members of partnerships vying for the Industry Collaboration Award.

The winners will be announced in Brisbane on November 21.

See all the finalists

WA govt slashes TAFE fees, upgrades campuses

The West Australian government has cut TAFE fees by half for 34 high priority qualifications, commencing January 1.

Premier Mark McGowan said the $53 million “lower fees, local skills” policy aligns with emerging skills shortages and key sectors of the local economy, including aged and disability care, METRONET and civil construction, defence, hospitality and tourism.

As part of the plan, TAFE facilities in Broome, Karratha, Rockingham and Bunbury will be upgraded to support NDIS training. Also, Midland TAFE campus will become a speciality METRONET Trade Training Centre, with upgraded workshops and new fabrication training equipment.

“Unfortunately the cost of training skyrocketed, that’s why we froze fees and now with the budget back on track, we are slashing fees for specific courses by 50 per cent to make them affordable,” Mr McGowan said.

Meanwhile Campus Morning Mail reports that WA has added international VET students studying in the state to its Graduate Occupation List. This means there is now a pathway to state-nominated skilled migration under a wider list of occupations for international students who study and graduate from universities and VET in WA.

See more

Senator Jacqui Lambie aiming to secure millions of dollars for TasTAFE

Tasmanian Senator Jacqui Lambie has outlined her plans to use her political clout to secure a better deal for TAFE in Tasmania.

Declaring TAFE has “a special place in my heart”, she told ABC Radio Hobart that some TasTAFE facilities are “outdated” and “quite depleted”.

“For me its really important so make sure these trade skills are staying around and that we are giving our kids the best opportunity to obtain them at the highest level they possibly can, and therefore that would include brand new machinery,” she said.

“It would be nice to have those TAFEs the way they were ten years ago.

“The state government has had more than enough time to come up with a plan of attack and I just don’t think they are doing a very good job of it,” she said.

Senator Lambie said $50 million to $100 million was needed to overhaul the state’s TAFE facilities.

Listen here

Diary Dates

‘Supporting young people into their futures: research and practice’
14 November 2019
Ballarat, Victoria
More information

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

ASEAN Australia Education Dialogue (AAED)
18 – 20 November 2019
Georgetown, Penang, Malaysia
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

AVETRA Conference
20/20 vision for VET: Research at the centre of future policy and practice
23 – 24 April 2020
More information


TDA Newsletter

In this edition

  • Systems trump – comment by CEO Craig Robertson
  • Major changes at ASQA
  • Charles Darwin University takes out host of training awards
  • Sally Curtain appointed CEO at Bendigo Kangan Institute
  • Diary

Systems trump – comment by CEO Craig Robertson

This past weekend marks the end of my AFL inspired analogies, at least for the next 25 weeks, or 171 days, or 4,116 hours till the 2020 season kicks off.

As a supporter of the Richmond Football Club, imagine your foreboding when just three quarters into the first game of the 2019 season you lose for the year the league’s best defender, followed by a prized forward for 13 weeks and knowing the star recruit was only expected to play half the season. With seven wins and six losses mid-season, the foreboding turns to dread.

Followers of the game would be familiar with the Richmond approach – not only the way of moving the ball, the defensive zone and the clear expectations on players, but more so, importantly, the inextinguishable support and accountability between the players and coaches. It’s the belief in a system that flexes with the ebbs and flows of the game and the season that eventually brought Richmond to the premiership, despite the odds.

This has caused me to reflect on the recent suite of ASQA approvals of TAFE registration renewals for seven-year periods, the latest being TAFE NSW.

The renewal is no ordinary thing. In the case of NSW it represents the culmination of bringing together 12 separate training organisations into one operation. The auditors just didn’t visit Ultimo but several campuses. The same was the case for Queensland, Tasmania, South Australia and Charles Darwin University.

The renewal is not to be taken lightly. It’s like a refining fire. Staff of each TAFE have spent countless hours and resources reviewing teaching and assessment practices, procedures and documents to be ready to be tested under the rigour of the audit.

No citizen, student, industry, TAFE staff, board member or politician should under-estimate its significance.

The renewal is not a simple business transaction. It’s a license to operate. It’s the privilege to serve the citizen, the state and the nation.

The renewal is not solely a testament to TAFEs executive. The practices of all staff are under scrutiny. The renewal reflects the commitment of the staff.

Systems is about the only way to assure quality in education. Unfortunately, the sector’s policy is quasi-commercial, point in time and compliance based.

At one point new applicants to become RTOs equalled the number being forced to close due to poor practice. ASQA also reports that many, once approved, quickly changed their scope, chasing the money courses it seems.

It also appears we’ve had providers motivated by returns to owners with little regard for the education mission. We’ve had too many rely on the rectification option as a first stop, not as a backstop. The alarming number of external appeals of ASQA decisions must point to systemic provider issues that warrant a review of the policy of entry to VET. In the meantime, it’s good that ASQA has strong assessment of the education mission of applicants.

But what is not well understood is the ever-expanding bank of training specification by industry which has to be assessed during an audit. Our open standards-based approach to training design and delivery has become bogged down in over specification. Training Packages, which at their core are meant to prescribe occupational standards into qualifications and to guide course design, have been choked with delivery expectations. This creates a smorgasbord of requirements which auditors are forced to pick through to test compliance instead of education practice.

Sector policy and practice has us at this point. It’s useful for our ministers to ask ASQA to educate providers about quality expectations of the system, but it’s not helpful if the root cause is not examined and is not helped when there is no definition of quality beyond being compliant.

It would have been easy for Richmond to point blame at the umpires but that’s not helpful. The club looked internally, as VET also needs to do.

In the meantime, let’s reflect on the foundation TAFEs are laying for the sector. South Australia, NSW, Tasmania, Charles Darwin and CIT (with a decision on Queensland TAFE due soon) are licensed to operate for seven years. They are the provider to be trusted across the jurisdiction they serve. They have systems to deliver consistently in all their campuses. The message is the same for our stand-alone TAFEs which are at various points of registration.

TAFEs set benchmarks and create leverage as the public expects of them. This is just one of the many reasons why Australia needs public providers.

We are not saying TAFEs are faultless. We are saying TAFEs are committed to public values as training organisations. We are not saying we love the rules. We are saying we commit to meeting them until such time they can be changed.

We are asking though why public providers, subject to the oversight of their government and accountable to voting citizens, cop a policy based on low trust compliance. Why is it that public providers with this system of quality control from their owner endure additional measures that are effectively designed to guard against the excesses of private VET activity? There may be a risk-based approach to compliance but checking and reporting requirements based on the lowest common denominator too quickly sap educational spark.

Compliance is not the way to meet the Prime Ministers’ desire for vocational outcomes to be regarded as highly as university outcomes. Freeing up TAFEs to get on with the job will. (Let’s try the training package model in higher education and see which way innovation goes.) TAFEs, with quality systems and committed staff, are the starting point to rebuild the sector. The public understands this. The only thing competitive neutrality means to them is governments shifting to them the responsibility for discerning dodgy providers when all they want is quality and relevant vocational education.

Speaking of seven years it’ll be 2026 before TAFE NSW is reviewed again for registration. Seven years ago we got virtual reality headsets so it’s hard to imagine the world we’ll be training for in 2026. That doesn’t really matter because systems are designed to flex with the times.

Sure, systems fail and they need to be reviewed and adjusted. One thing is for sure – a system with staff freed to look after the education outcome has a far greater chance of quality improvement than more specification and compliance.

TAFEs’ training transactions have been tested by fire and the systems have proven themselves. Surely the time is right to think about a new model of trust for TAFEs founded on their public ownership and community mission and to demonstrate the new benchmark of quality vocational education that others can follow.

Richmond won their premiership in 2017 following deep reflection on the disastrous previous season. It wasn’t based on recrimination, but trust in the people. Richmond wont be resting – they will be back at training in November preparing for a better 2020. TAFEs wont rest on quality either.

(I may be sad at a GWS loss but as they say, the game is the winner. Let’s hope VET can be the winner!)

Major changes at ASQA

Federal ministers Cash and Irons on Friday announced reforms to Australian Skills Quality Authority (ASQA). The ministers said ‘the reforms respond to key recommendations of the Braithwaite and Joyce Reviews, including supporting ASQA to expand its scope to adopt a more educative approach to lift quality in the delivery of vocational education and training (VET).”

Chief Commissioner, Mark Patterson, also took the opportunity to announce he would not extend his appointment and would pass on the baton to someone else to take ASQA in the new direction.

Importantly, ASQA has cleaned up the sector, something that Minister Cash acknowledged, saying “I would like to thank Mark for the leadership he has provided to ASQA since January 2017, including managing the removal of a large number of poor quality training providers that arose as a result of past practices and the VET FEE-HELP debacle.”

TAFEs have appreciated the collaboration with Mark and the other commissioners and wish Mark well in the future.

Saxon Rice, ASQA Commissioner will act in the role from next Monday. Her time will be busy as the government’s “reforms” have not been announced yet!

See more

Charles Darwin University takes out host of training awards

Charles Darwin University has won the prestigious Training Provider of the Year trophy for the third year in a row at the Northern Territory Training Awards in Darwin.

CDU and Menzies staff and students also won a host of individual awards, including the Austin Asche Apprentice of the Year and the VET Teacher/Trainer of the Year.

Vice-Chancellor Professor Simon Maddocks said the awards were a momentous occasion for the university, its staff and students.

“These are proud moments for CDU with wins in six categories. I congratulate all our winners and runners-up who have been recognised for their high standards of training, their dedication and their personal achievement,” he said.

Other awards for CDU were:

  • VET Teacher/Trainer of the Year – Winner, Patricia Sweeney-Fawcett
  • VET in Schools Student of the Year – Runner-up, Courtney Canavan
  • School-based Trainee / Apprentice of the Year – Runner-up, Claudia Kretschmer
  • Austin Asche Apprentice of the Year – Winner: Rory Milner; Runner-up: Callum DiFranscesco
  • Vocational Student of the Year, Jacqui Culgan; Runner-up: Despina Rossides
  • Trainee of the Year, Jack Short
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Student of the Year, Raelene Collins (Menzies); Runner-up: Kenny Lechleitner
  • International Student of the Year – Runner-up, Sharon Wu

See more

From left: : Acting Pro Vice-Chancellor VET Ashar Ehsan, Workforce Development Coordinator Patricia Sweeney-Fawcett and Vice-Chancellor Professor Simon Maddocks.

Sally Curtain appointed CEO at Bendigo Kangan Institute

Sally Curtain, the Executive Director of Customer and Technology at VicRoads has been appointed as the new CEO of Bendigo Kangan Institute.

Chair, Peter Harmsworth said Sally was an accomplished public sector senior executive with significant experience across state and local government, having also undertaken executive roles with the Victorian Department of Justice and the City of Casey.

“The Board believes her extensive experience and expertise are important to continue to drive the change program put in place by the current CEO, Phill Murphy,” Mr Harmsworth said.

“On behalf of the Board, I would like to take the opportunity to thank Phill who has done an outstanding role as Chief Executive Officer while we undertook the search for a permanent appointment to the CEO role.”

Sally will commence on October 21.

TDA extends its congratulations to Sally on her appointment.

Diary Dates

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

ASEAN Australia Education Dialogue (AAED)
18 – 20 November 2019
Georgetown, Penang, Malaysia
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