NSW government looks to grow digital skills in those not going to university

There’s a skills shortage, but there isn’t enough of a focus on the 50% of students who don’t want to go to university, according to NSW Minister for Skills and Tertiary Education.

The New South Wales government is looking for a different approach to ensuring the skills that are required for the future workforce are properly nurtured, focusing on students that don’t want to go to university to begin their career.

Speaking with ZDNet while at IBM Think in Sydney on Wednesday, NSW Minister for Skills and Tertiary Education Geoff Lee said that currently, the opportunities for school-leavers are skewed and they aren’t favouring those that don’t move on to university.

“At the moment when you’re a student, our whole system seems to be skewed towards an ATAR and then progression into university, and that’s fine for 50% of the people, but we really need to have meaningful opportunities for the 50% that choose not to go to university,” he said.

“We need to give them opportunities to say, ‘Well I’d like to go into robotics. I’d like to go into AI, I’d like to go into blockchain, but I’d like to do it through a different mechanism’.”

An Australian Tertiary Admission Rank (ATAR) is number between 0.00 and 99.95 that indicates a student’s position relative to the students in their age group and is used for university admission.

“50% of students don’t go to university … for the students who choose the VET option, we must break down those barriers,” he said.

SEE: Special report: IT jobs in 2020: A leader’s guide (free PDF)

According to Lee, the best approach is real-world experience combined with education, be that through a traineeship-like corporate initiative or TAFE, as some examples.

“Different models of pathway programs — you’re not going to just find one pathway programs for all students, you need different pathways for different students because we have such a diversity of students out there,” he continued.

“As a government, we graduate and are responsible for the educations of hundreds of thousands of students … I think the challenge for us as a government and the challenge for industry is how do we actually grow the skill levels for those students not going to university.”

The difficulty, Lee said, is that many students are told that university is their only pathway.

“I think as a government, we must say that VET training is a viable option for a meaningful job and a meaningful career,” he said.

“In the not too distant future, the NSW government will have a strong and focused look on pathway programs. How better to engage high school students with the VET sector and the higher ed sector to provide a continuous pathway to the development of the individual, because as our world changes we need to adapt and reskill and allow people to upskill.”

Lee was at IBM’s local conference to thank Big Blue for expanding its Pathways in Technology Early College High Schools (P-TECH) initiative in Australia.

P-TECH is touted by the company as a long-term partnership between industry, schools, and tertiary education providers that enables business to play an active role in the learning and career development of the future workforce.

Lee said it’s important for government to acknowledge and encourage initiatives like P-TECH that help to shrink the skills gap.

“As a government we can’t do it alone, so my focus will be on how do we engage industry better to actually deliver the programs — we’re not always the experts in the area and in fact, industry provides those expertise that I think is a great way to teach our students … whether it’s cybersecurity, automation, AI,” he continued.

“Industry, government, and the individual students need to work much closer together to deliver the skills that we need for the future.”

With a “tech-bro” culture in the workforce and a mentality that technology-related careers are for men only, the minister said what is needed to help counter that is role models for young women to look towards.

“It’s a cultural shift. There is a need to promote the wonderful role models and the very successful people, so people in school age, in their informative years [are able to see they] can be that person —  there is no ceiling to what I can do,” Lee told ZDNet. “So I think it is a whole shift, not only internally within the companies, but in terms of promoting the great work of some really successful role models.”


Get involved to develop a responsive training and skills system

Business owners, industry representatives, training providers and learners are being encouraged to take part in a review of the Training and Skills Development Act 2008 to shape the future of South Australia’s training system.

The State Government is ensuring South Australia is equipped with a skilled workforce and a review of the state’s training legislation is an important component of broader training reforms being implemented, including through the $203 million Skilling South Australia program.

Minister for Innovation and Skills David Pisoni said feedback from stakeholders will help to overhaul the outdated Training and Skills Development Act 2008.

“A modern training system requires an adaptive framework that streamlines operations and makes it easier for South Australian businesses to employ an apprentice or trainee,” Minister Pisoni said.

The review is in line with key recommendations in the Training and Skills Commission’s Skills for Future Jobs 2020 Series: Future-proofing the Apprenticeship and Traineeship System report released today.

“Extensive stakeholder consultation undertaken last year by the Training and Skills Commission revealed the desire for simpler and more responsive legislation, lower costs and less red tape.

“In addition to the State Government’s training reforms that are already underway, I will continue to work towards the recommendations outlined in the Future-proofing the Apprenticeship and Traineeship System report to repair, reform, support, promote and advance South Australia’s training system.”

Feedback on the review of the Training and Skills Development Act 2008 is sought through yourSAy over the next four weeks.

“I encourage anyone involved in employing, training, studying or accessing vocational education and training to join the conversation to ensure South Australia has a robust system responsive to the needs of business, and which will underpin the development of a skilled workforce to meet the demands of growth industries,” Minister Pisoni said.

“This is an essential step in our objective to create more than 20,800 additional apprenticeships and traineeships over four years through the Skilling South Australia initiative to support more South Australians into meaningful, long-term careers.”

Training and Skills Commission Chair Michael Boyce said he is is pleased the State Government is acting on expert advice and continuing to revitalise South Australia’s training sector.

“After months of research and consultation, I am pleased to present the Commission’s findings on the apprenticeship and traineeship system,” Mr Boyce said.

“I encourage interested parties to take advantage of this valuable opportunity to modernise the Act and tailor the state’s training framework to your specific needs.”

The state’s Training Advocate Renee Hindmarsh said the review of the Act is essential to align with current and future workforce needs.

“The review is needed to ensure South Australia maintains relevant and up-to-date legislation, which responds to the training needs of enterprises and their employees and I look forward to the next steps,” Ms Hindmarsh said.

To provide your feedback, go to yourSAy before submissions close on Wednesday 19 June 2019.

/Public News. View in full here.

Tinkering at the edges but little reform for vocational sector

TAFE Directors Australia CEO Craig Robertson in Canberra.TAFE Directors Australia CEO Craig Robertson in Canberra.

The vocational sector will likely be subject to “tinkering at the edges” but enjoy little in the way of fundamental reform as the Morrison government moves ahead with elements of the Joyce review, which was released just before the election campaign began.

While two of the report’s 71 recommendations received funding in the April federal Budget, sector experts say there is a valid question as to how far the newly elected government will go with implementing the entirety of the report from former New Zealand education minister Steven Joyce.

“We are not clear whether the government has accepted all the recommendations or whether the budget announcements are the limit of what they intend to do,” said Craig Robertson, chief executive of TAFE Directors Australia.

One key recommendation is that the federal, state and territory governments “commit over time” to reducing the funding imbalances between qualification-based vocational education and higher education.

So far, the recommendations for a national skills commission and a national careers institute have received a prime ministerial thumbs up after the Joyce report was handed to Mr Morrison in March.

The skills commission is intended to co-ordinate approaches to the funding and resourcing of vocational education and training between federal and state governments. The careers institute, designed to be part of the skills commission, will provide better careers information to students.

Both initiatives have received mixed reactions from experts. The commission has been described as a ‘‘lite’’ version of the Australian National Skills Authority that was disbanded under the Howard government. It would need industry to come to the table to be effective, Mr Robertson said.

The careers institute might offer useful information but it will be using workforce planning and employment outlooks from the commission which have been historically proven to be “unreliable” and “invented to give astrology a good name”, according to Gavin Moodie, an adjunct professor of education at RMIT.

“(The predictions) will be as unreliable as every other central body’s employment projections,” Dr Moodie said.

However, there are serious questions about the government’s ability to deliver on its most prominent budget announcement — 80,000 new apprenticeships over four years via $8000 employer subsidies. Currently, apprenticeships make up just 20 per cent of vocational enrolments, with commencements at their lowest level since 1996.

“Even if we dramatically increase the number of apprenticeships, they will still be a minority of the system. The federal government needs a policy for all vocational education, not just apprenticeships,” said Leesa Wheelahan, the William G. Davis Chair in Community College Leadership at the University of Toronto.

Claire Field, a consultant to private vocational providers, said that in the past employer incentives had been more successful in driving traineeships than apprenticeships.

She said the predecessor Skilling Australians Fund had been criticised as being too narrowly focused on traditional apprenticeships while overlooking the fact that jobs growth was largely centred in services, such as aged and disability care.

Ms Field said that while she rated the Joyce review highly, there was little to suggest that private vocational providers would see any growth in domestic markets under the Morrison government and they would need to look to international students.

There are also questions about whether the Morrison government has any plans to revive the public TAFE sector which has been decimated in recent years by ad hoc, pro-market policies and rampant defunding.

“Unless the federal government recognises the value of TAFE as a key anchor institution of the communities they serve and funds it accordingly, public vocational education is in danger of being reduced to atomistic, just in time and just for now, narrow skills training,” said Professor Wheelahan. “This is exactly what Australia has done to its aged care system and to the job services network.”

John Pardy, an education expert from Monash University, said the Joyce review’s aim for national consistency would need to be built in ways that could balance competing industries and needs on local, state and national levels.

“The challenge in this pivot for consistency is that it does not descend into a series of piecemeal approaches longing for a coherent policy base.”

He said both the skills commission and careers institute might play a role in nationally co-ordinating policy and practice “however slight”.


Australian construction industry says new technologies will increase productivity and revenue

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

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

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

Key findings from the report include:

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

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

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

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

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

# # #

About Procore

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

Media contact:

India Bednall / Samantha Rosich

Espresso Communications


+61 2 8016 2200


This Saturday is chance to restore TAFE funding in Australia

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

/Public Release. View in full here.

Labor Pitches Skills And Digital Literacy Ahead Of Election

If elected on Saturday an Australian Labor Government will address Australia’s digital skills gap, establish centres of excellence for AI and blockchain, encourage more startup activity, and reform controversial encryption laws.

Each of the moves has been outlined by Shadow Minister for Human Services and the Digital Economy, Ed Husic, in the lead up to the federal election.

Today, Husic elaborated on several aspects of the Opposition’s digital strategy during an event in Sydney organised by InnovationAus and StartupAus. While Husic has become a regular at the town hall style gatherings LNP representatives have declined the group’s invitations, according to event organisers.

Skills Pitch

To address Australia’s digital skills gap Labor has pledged more vocational training for IT and more requirements that digital roles to be filled by local talent, with an emphasis on diversity.

Labor has promised 5,00 free Tafe places for IT and digital courses. Half of those places are reserved for women to address IT’s diversity problem. Today Husic revealed “where we can” the program would also target older workers transitioning to new roles in particular.

Husic said Labor would promote local talent in the digital economy but leave the door open for migrant workers to “ensure our skills are current”.

Shadow Minister for Human Services and the Digital Economy, Ed Husic speaking in Sydney. Supplied.

“We could fill every single vacancy here in Australia with a local and I’d still think there’s a role for skilled migration.

“From my point of view, if people are doing something smart somewhere else in the world and they want to come here or they’re needed here we should bring them here. Because we need to ensure that the knowledge base is continually replenished.”

Husic said Labor’s “smart visas” will mean foreigners with highly needed skills including digital can help bridge the deficit between local talent and industry requirements.

Businesses need to step up too, Husic argued, noting the practice of large corporations relying too heavily on 457 Visa holders for IT needed to stop.

Husic said a Labor Government would require large companies working on digital projects for government to ensure one in 10 of its involved employees are digital trainees or apprentices.

Labor’s shadow minister also reaffirmed the party’s commitment to reform the controversial encryption laws it helped pass late last year.

“This has been an awful bill in the way it has been put through parliament … This is having a devastating impact locally.”

Husic said several international firms are avoiding the Australian market because they believe storing data here is “not worth the risk”. Husic said Labor will push to reform the bill even if it remains in opposition.

However he ruled out repealing the legislation saying the challenge of bad actors misusing digital platforms was real and other jurisdictions were taking similar measures, although not as “hopelessly” as Australia.

Politicians Must Do Better On Tech: Husic

Regardless of which party wins government on Saturday Husic says a better understanding of technology is needed in Canberra.

“We’ve got a long way to go,” Husic said of politicians digital literacy.

“I think the reality is parliamentarians are going to have to get across [digital technology] a lot more. Not just in terms of the profound impact of technology broadly but even from a government perspective.”

Every government department will deal with transformation projects, Husic says, and the politicians leading them need to understand the underlying technology to some extent.

“Gone are the days that you could just be there for the announcement and shove the project management to the IT help desk and hope that it just all worked out. That’s not going to work anymore. We’ve seen that through this term of this parliament with a number of digital derailments, some of which have not purely been because of the tech … A lot of it is governance.”


Australia’s international student and tourism China boom is over

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The response for tourism is anybody’s guess.


Australia Needs a Royal Commission into Construction Training and Accreditation


Australia is about to elect its next federal government.

The broad platform of ‘education’ has been raised, as it is at every election. As a nation and a society we recognise how important formal education is. All political parties have made various policy commitments that they believe would improve educational outcomes. They involve everything from ‘pre-school’ through to ‘post-school’ university placement.

I’d like to focus on Vocational Education and Training (VET) and Tertiary education and narrow that focus to courses, learning content and assessment mechanisms used to deliver qualifications to graduates vital to Australia’s building and construction industry sector.

Educational systems are used to gain the qualifications needed to work across a range of skilled trades, administrative, supervisory and management roles. It is an essential element to the success of Australia’s future. Unfortunately, our educational systems and their capability to maintain high quality outcomes have never been in a worse position. All indicators show they will likely continue to decline. And no political party is talking about it.

Reasons behind the decline are complex. We used to do education and training really well. The federally funded private RTO scheme to deliver VET course qualifications was subsequently shown to be worthless. It was mismanaged and extorted with billions of training dollars wasted. It now seems to have been conveniently forgotten. Many private RTO’s continue to aggressively tout for business. They guarantee customers a ‘nationally recognised qualification’ in various building courses without need for formal study or exams and this can be achieved either ‘on-line’ or at worst, a few days. They replace rigorous learning and testing of skills and knowledge by using the ‘loophole’ of Recognition of Prior Learning or ‘RPL’. This is a highly contentious and widely discredited aspect of formal educational delivery when used to facilitate unrealistic course completion. Documented ‘evidence’ of attainment of the relevant ‘prior learning’ is easily manipulated by both the participant and the RTO delivering – some would say ‘selling’ – the course qualification.

The tertiary sector isn’t immune from contributing to the decline. At the start of 2017, an investigative report by Fairfax journalists Eryk Bagshaw and Inga Ting titled “NSW universities taking students with ATARs as low as 30” should have flagged a crisis in our tertiary institutions. Of particular interest was data showing that “at Western Sydney University, 99 per cent of the 251 students offered places in its Bachelor of Construction Management program did not make the cut-off of 85.” Based on those metrics and using some positive rounding up to avoid a half student result, it meant that only three of the 251 student cohort managed to accumulate a relatively modest ATAR entry score of 85 from their year 11 and 12 assessment. ATAR values are highly contentious in their own right but for those of you like me who left their secondary education a few decades back, speak to a current high school teacher to determine how achievable a score of 85 actually is. Let me put it this way. If you turn up to school to have your name marked off on the roll book through years 11 and 12 but did little to no academic study, you could probably scrape together an ATAR of 50. To participate in a proper tertiary course of study and be awarded a degree qualification in Construction Management, it would seem reasonable to assume you need to have significantly greater higher order problem solving capabilities. I don’t want to isolate WSU in this regard. It’s happening elsewhere too. An ABC Four Corners programon May 6 provided insight into how our university sector operates in respect of their international student intake. It made interesting viewing.

If you tried to sum up the decline with a single word, ‘commoditisation’ is a good one. Basically it means the process whereby differentiation is eroded by competition, leading to a commoditised market with price-based competition. Customers treat the offering as a commodity, selecting between vendors purely on price with no differentiating factors as the basis of competition. In the post-school world, we stopped enrolling ‘students’ years ago. We now have ‘customers’. And like all customers, they shop around for the ‘best deal’. When it comes to the types of qualifications linked to licensing and professional accreditation, the ‘best deal’ doesn’t always mean the cheapest price. The main focus here is often the ease of access, the lack of assessment and the shortest time period in which the ‘customer’ can get their qualification.

Sometimes this is not relevant in terms of consequences. Should we care if a person gets a Certificate IV in floristry from a private RTO without participating in training? Would the situation be worse if a media studies degree is issued to someone simply because they were a full fee paying international student? End users of the ‘qualified’ person’s services could finish up with a strange flower arrangement or an obscure opinion piece in a local paper. This is a simplistic example and the relative importance of different fields of endeavour are subjective. I don’t wish to offend any talented florists or journalists out there! I’m attempting to make an important point that should otherwise be fairly obvious. What if the qualifications are highly significant in respect of their validity to assess whether the person who obtains them is actually skilled to perform the works associated with their qualifications?

What if the status of the qualification is linked to national or state regulatory licensing or professional accreditation and registration scheme? That’s exactly what most vocational and tertiary qualifications associated with the building and construction industry are being used for. Consumers of licensed building trades and related accredited professional services are entitled to rely on this evidence. But they are being let down.

Here’s an example to help illustrate the potential problem. This is what NSW Fair Trading’s web page says:

“Any work that is residential building work under the Home Building Act 1989 which involves construction of a dwelling, or alterations or additions to a dwelling. It also includes repairing, renovating, decorating or applying protective treatment to a dwelling. Any contract for general building work can include any specialist work that is integral to the overall work, but such work must be carried out by the holder of an endorsed contractor licence or qualified supervisor certificate in the relevant category of specialist work. The current qualification and experience requirements, outlined below, commenced on 31 March 2017. 1. Certificate IV in Building and Construction (BCG40106 or CPC40108 Building or CPC40110 Building) or (BCG40206 or CPC40208 Contract Administration) or (BCG40306 or CPC40308 Estimating) or (BCG40506 or CPC40508 Site Management). This qualification is designed to meet the needs of builders and managers of small to medium-sized building businesses. The builder may also be the appropriately licensed person with responsibility under the relevant building licensing authority in the State or Territory. Builder licensing varies across States and Territories and additional requirements to attainment of this qualification may be required. Occupational titles may include Builder or Construction Manager. To find registered training organisations that are registered to deliver nationally recognised training to obtain qualifications for a building, trade or specialist licence or certificate, you can use the training.gov.au website and search via the course code or name.”

The directive is to the website of the federal government Department of Education & Training. If you use the search function for the ‘Certificate IV’ courses listed by Fair Trading as the compulsory qualification used to demonstrate capacity for a NSW building contractors licence, you will find around 145 ‘Registered Training Organisations’ (RTO’s) the government lists as providers of this course across Australia. Apart from university and TAFE providers, the majority are private sector providers. They are for profit businesses accredited by ‘ASQA’ – the ‘Australian Skills Quality Authority’ – which is the federal government agency established to oversee the VET sector. The equivalent bureaucracy for university course accreditation and compliance is the ‘Tertiary Education Quality Standards Agency or ‘TEQSA’.

Our banking and financial industry sector recently underwent close scrutiny. Commissioner Hayne was critical of the two main regulatory bodies APRA and ASIC in their failure to effectively control this sector. It is delusional to think ASQA or TEQSA are capable of carrying out their roles to properly regulate VET and Tertiary educational standards. It is equally delusional to think that our separate mix of state and territory statutory authorities can ensure adequate regulatory standards for licensing and registration of building trades and construction professionals. The end results of this situation for consumers of building and construction projects is self-evident and I’m not just referring to the fiasco of combustible ACP’s.

Who would have possibly thought that in 2018 a newly completed 36 storey residential apartment building in Australia’s biggest city would need to be evacuated due to design and construction defects? Then I saw this today “Nine multi-storey Darwin buildings found to be non-compliant after investigation into engineer.”

Our industry is in a real crisis.

We need a Royal Commission.


Monash Commission recommends a new model for tertiary education for all Australians

The Monash Commission has released its vision for post-compulsory education with three transforming recommendations for the future.

Among them are the introduction of a universal learning entitlement, supported by income contingent loans, and a ‘Lifetime Learning Account’ for all Australians to help students track, credit and verify their training. Each student would have a universal student number to cover all publicly subsidised education and training across their lifetime.

In conducting its inquiry, the Monash Commission canvassed research from scholars, conducted interviews with a wide range of industry representatives, students, and leaders of educational institutions, and tested its recommendations with key individuals who have worked at the forefront of post-compulsory education.

Chair of the Monash Commission, Elizabeth Proust, said the Commission has started a community-wide conversation about the importance of lifelong learning.

“The Commission’s vision for the post-compulsory education system in Australia is one that provides adaptable, capable global citizens who are both job-ready and resilient in dealing with change.”

The inquiry found that while 56 per cent of Australians 15 years and older hold some sort of post-school qualification, 90 per cent of new jobs created by 2023 are expected to require a Certificate II or higher, which will leave many working Australians with poor employment prospects.

To effectively address these concerns, the Commission advocates for major funding reform in the sector, including separate funding pools for research and education, and calling for education and all research to be fully funded by the state and federal governments.

The Commission also recommends the establishment of a statutory agency for post-compulsory education and training, which would advise government and control funding across the sector. It would be the single funding authority distributing the allocated budget for all state, territory and Commonwealth subsidised post-compulsory education.

Monash University’s President and Vice-Chancellor, Professor Margaret Gardner AO said the Commission’s findings highlight that in coming decades, Australia’s prosperity will increasingly depend on the relevance of workers’ education and skills, and that no-one should be left behind.

“Access, at any time in one’s career, to relevant and high quality education is critical to Australia’s future. Education inspires citizens to build the future they want, and respond to the continually evolving set of skills needed to maintain a healthy and prosperous society,” Professor Gardner said.

What is the Monash Commission

Formed in April 2018, the Monash Commission brings together Australian and international leaders who are driving policy discussion and decisions.

The Monash Commission is conducting a series of in-depth inquiries that capture the best available evidence and public perspectives to effect major change on vital matters.

The Report ‘Three Recommendations for Renewal of Post-Compulsory Education in Australia’, is the response to the first enquiry into post-secondary education conducted by the Monash Commission.

This was led by industry leader Ms Elizabeth Proust AO, Immediate past Chair of the Australian Institute of Company Directors, Nestle Australia and Bank of Melbourne.

She was joined by:

· Professor Ian Chubb AC – former Vice-Chancellor, Australian National University and Flinders University, and former Chief Scientist

· Marie Persson – former Chair, NSW Skills Board Industry Reference Group, and former head of NSW TAFE and Community Education

· Professor Rory Hume – Associate Vice-President for Academic Affairs and Education, and Dean of Dentistry at the University of Utah

· Mette Schepers – Mercer Australia’s client growth leader for the Pacific market, and financial and professional services executive

· Sir Nigel Thrift – former Vice-Chancellor, University of Warwick, and former Executive Director of the prestigious Schwarzmann Scholars international leadership program

/Public Release.

Australia is using AI to ‘catch up’ rather than to get ahead: Deloitte

New report says 49% of Australian businesses that are early adopters of the tech have indicated a ‘major to extreme AI skills gap’ in the country.

Deloitte has released a report on the state of artificial intelligence (AI) around the world, indicating that Australian businesses are primarily using AI to “catch up” to competitors rather than to “leapfrog ahead”.

The report, titled State of AI in the Enterprise, surveyed 1,900 IT executives that have already implemented or prototyped AI solutions for their companies to better understand how early adopters of AI are using the technology.

The top challenges faced by early adopter IT executives include integrating AI into roles and functions, data issues, implementation struggles, cost, and measuring the value of AI implementations.

“AI success depends on getting the execution right. Organisations often must excel at a wide range of practices to ensure AI success, including developing a strategy, pursuing the right use cases, building a data foundation, and cultivating a strong ability to experiment,” Deloitte said.

According to the survey, 41% of Australian executives reported that their company either completely lacks an AI strategy or has only disparate departmental strategies, compared to 30% of executives globally.

In addition, 49% of executives in Australia believe there is a “major to extreme AI skills gap” in the country, more than any other country surveyed, with the top three roles that require filling being AI researchers, business leaders, and software developers.

This is despite the growing realisation of AI’s ability to provide a competitive advantage or improve work conditions, with 57% of executives globally believing that AI will substantially transform their respective companies within the next three years.

Executives believe industry will be slower to adopt AI, however, with only 38% of executives globally reporting that AI would provide the same impact for industry during the same time frame. The perceived slower industry shift, Deloitte said, represents a window of opportunity for early adopters of AI to get ahead of competitors before the use of AI becomes an industry norm.

Among early adopters of AI from Australia, 56% of executives believe the use of AI is critically important to the current success of a company, with that figure rising to 79% when asked about AI’s importance within two years’ time.

Yet 50% of Australian executives reported that AI is only being used to “catch up” or “keep on par” with competition rather than to establish a distinct advantage, which is the highest rate of all the countries surveyed.

(Image: Deloitte Insights)

The report also said 17% of Australian companies that have already implemented AI solutions are “seasoned” users of the technology, which is a lower rate than the United States, which had the highest figure of 24%.

According to a report [PDF] published in 2018 by AustCyber, Australia is set to lose around AU$400 million in revenue and wages due to the skills shortage. The report also said that 17,600 additional cybersecurity professionals would be needed by 2026 to fulfill the nation’s cybersecurity needs.

AI investment, meanwhile, is set to increase around the world, as 51% of early adopters globally expect to increase their AI investment by at least 10% over the next fiscal year. The primary benefits of investing in AI, according to surveyed executives, are that it improves products and services, and optimises internal business operations.

On the risk front, executives around the world have flagged having major or extreme concerns about cybersecurity vulnerabilities, with 49% of them labelling it as a top-three concern. This was followed by the risk of making the wrong decisions based on AI recommendations, at 44%.

While there is not yet a dedicated national AI strategy, the Australian government has promised a National Skills Commission, if elected, to oversee the AU$2.8 billion annual investment in Vocational Education and Training (VET). The commission would drive “research and analysis of future skills needs across industry to ensure the VET system addresses national labour market priorities including those arising from developing technologies such as automation and artificial intelligence”.

The federal opposition, meanwhile, announced that it would create a AU$3 million National Centre of Artificial Intelligence (AI) Excellence in Melbourne, a AU$2 million cybersecurity training centre, and a human eye over any Commonwealth data-matching activity in the lead up to the federal election.

The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) last month also highlighted a need for development of AI in Australia to be wrapped with a sufficient framework to ensure nothing is set onto citizens without appropriate ethical consideration.

“Australia’s colloquial motto is a ‘fair go’ for all. Ensuring fairness across the many different groups in Australian society will be challenging, but this cuts right to the heart of ethical AI,” CSIRO wrote.

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