Australian government stumps up AU$182m for help with its Entrepreneurs’ Programme

The Department of Industry, Innovation, and Science is after approximately 10 delivery partners that can provide expert advice to help participating businesses grow, innovate, and commercialise.

The Department of Industry, Innovation, and Science has allocated AU$182 million to build a network of delivery partners that can provide consistent expert business advisory and facilitation services to eligible businesses Australia wide under the Entrepreneurs’ Programme.

According to request for tender (RFT) documents, the department is looking to contract approximately 10 delivery partners that are each able to employ a minimum of five staff to ensure there is adequate take up and demand of the Entrepreneurs’ Programme, as well to help participating businesses grow, innovate, and commercialise. The contracts will be initially for three years from 1 July 2020 until 30 June 2023, with the option to extend it twice for one-year.

Specifically, there needs to be a single delivery partner that can provide commercialisation services to customers nationally; a single delivery partner to provide innovation and incubator support services nationally; and one or more delivery partners to provide expert business advisory and facilitation services in nominated geographic areas on a state or regional basis.

“The programme needs strong, collaborative, and constructive partnerships with delivery partners who will use their knowledge, resources, and networks to support a national approach to delivering expert business advisory and facilitation assistance within the small and medium-sized enterprises (SME) ecosystem,” the document stated.

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“Delivery partners will promote and build SME capabilities and encourage high value innovation to improve business growth, innovation, and commercialisation outcomes. The programme is seeking delivery partners who are innovative in their thinking, customer, and partnership focused, collaborative, and committed to implementing and supporting the programme service offering.”

The Entrepreneurs’ Programme was initially announced under the federal government’s AU$1.1 billion National Innovation and Science Agenda in December 2015. It was originally announced as an AU$8 million initiative but was allocated an additional AU$15 million over four years as part of former Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s election campaign in 2016.

It was designed to help SMEs accelerate commercialisation; provide access to a network of experienced business advisers and facilitators to improve business practices and enhance overall competitiveness; assist new and existing incubators; and help businesses identify knowledge gaps that hinder on their business growth.

The programmed re-gained attention during Budget 2017 when the Australian government announced it would “refocus” its incubator support tranche of the Entrepreneurs’ Programme.

The program had been hailed as contributing to the government’s economic growth priority by supporting incubators, accelerators, and businesses to foster the development of startups.

Under the tender requirements, deliver partners will need to carry out promotional services targeting eligible businesses through activities including sponsorship, attendance, or presenting at industry shows or conferences; distribution of marketing material; promotion of services through social media, print media, and radio media; and engaging with media through editorial content and case studies.

See also: How to manage a startup: 6 tips (TechRepublic)

Delivery partners are also expected to deliver quarterly business intelligence reports to the department that outlines information that relates to eligible businesses and business more broadly, such as knowledge of relevant business and industry trends; regional and geographical issues that are likely to impact on proposed policy programs; and provide knowledge of relevant programs that are available for eligible businesses such as Industry Growth Centres.

Delivery partners must also be able to demonstrate a “strong commitment to culture, collaboration, values, and good programme outcomes for businesses”, the RFT added, encouraging those with expert business advisory and facilitation services experience, as well as industry knowledge, interaction, and linkages to apply.

In addition, the document said nominating tenderers must specify the geographical areas they will be able to service.

“While fly-in-fly-out, or drive-in-drive-out arrangements from a capital city base are acceptable options for the delivery of programme services in regional and remote Australia, successful delivery partners would need to demonstrate how such an arrangement would deliver a very strong understanding of the challenges and opportunities within the particular region,” the RFT document said.

“The department expects specified personnel to establish state-based networks with collaboration and strong relationships maintained across sectors and delivery partners. This will provide eligible businesses with access to a wide variety of skills and capabilities to support their growth and expansion aspirations. Delivery partners will play a key role in establishing these networks on behalf of the programme.”

The deadline to apply for the tender is 28 October 2019.


Australia short 150,000 apprentices, will need more international workers

Australia is short 150,000 apprentices.
Australia is short 150,000 apprentices. Credit: North West Telegraph

Australia is down 150,000 apprentices and will need to keep relying on international workers to fill the looming skills shortage, with WA still recovering from the 30 per cent drop in trainees ahead of the next looming boom.

For the first time since 2001, more Australians are dropping out of apprenticeships and traineeships than finishing them, with completions at their lowest rate since the Howard government.

Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese yesterday raised the alarm of a “skills crisis” only worsening in communities across Australia, slamming the Federal Government for issuing 500,000 temporary visas for overseas workers that he said should be filled domestically.

WA has lost more than 12,500 apprentices since 2013, representing a 30 per cent drop to 27,957 recorded late last year.


Change of leadership for VET regulator

Mark Paterson AO will conclude his term as Chief Commissioner and CEO of the Australian Skills Quality Authority (ASQA) on 6 October 2019.

Mr Paterson first joined ASQA as a Commissioner in May 2016, before leading the regulator as Chief Commissioner and CEO since 1 January 2017.

Minister for Employment, Skills, Small and Family Business, the Honourable Michaelia Cash thanked Mr Paterson for his contribution in lifting the vocational education and training (VET) sector out of its embattled VET FEE-HELP era.

“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,” Minister Cash said.

Mr Paterson was appointed as Chief Commissioner at a time of important reform for the VET sector. He was tasked with restoring trust from students, industry and the mostly quality providers across the sector in the wake of the removal of the much maligned VET-FEE HELP program.

Since then, Mr Paterson has used his role to ensure unscrupulous providers were removed from the sector, rebuilding the reputation of Australia’s education and training system.

He has overseen ASQA’s shift to a risk-based approach to regulating the sector that has resulted in audits only targeting providers that pose risks to quality. He also implemented the Raising the Bar initiative that ensures only quality newcomers can enter the VET market.

During Mr Paterson’s time as Chief Commissioner ASQA released two significant strategic reviews investigating systemic problems in the sector. One identified that very short VET courses may prevent students from gaining all of the skills and competencies they should when completing training, and paved the way to stamp out these courses. The latest is a comprehensive response to risks in Australia’s international VET and English language education markets, which will improve experiences for overseas students and strengthen collaborations between the many government, industry and education bodies working across this sector.

ASQA’s Deputy Chief Commissioner, Ms Saxon Rice, has been named as the regulator’s interim Chief Commissioner from 7 October 2019. Ms Rice has been Deputy Chief Commissioner at the regulator since April 2018.

/Public Release. View in full here.

Australia’s ‘toxic kitchen culture’ to cause major chef shortage

A University of Queensland researcher believes “toxic kitchen culture” is partly to blame for a predicted shortage of almost 60,000 chefs in Australia by 2023.

About 80 apprentices interviewed in Brisbane and Melbourne, aged between 17 and their mid-30s, had experienced sexual violence threats, bullying and intimidation tactics that led to “fearfulness” in their job.

A former chef and UQ researcher Richard Robinson is calling on the hospitality industry to "step up" in breaking the toxic kitchen culture in Australia.
A former chef and UQ researcher Richard Robinson is calling on the hospitality industry to “step up” in breaking the toxic kitchen culture in Australia.CREDIT:JESSICA SHAPIRO

Apprentices from Sydney would be interviewed in the coming weeks to add to the data being collected by associate professor and UQ research fellow Richard Robinson.

He had interviewed more than 40 chefs in the past year, including TAFE cookery teachers, for the ongoing analysis into the mental health and wellbeing of chefs.

Dr Robinson said the culture was partly to blame for high staff turnover rates and apprentices leaving the industry, following baby boomers retiring and the natural decline of enrolments.

His research, funded by William Angliss Institute, showed hospitality had one of the lowest retention rates of any industry.

“What we’ve increasingly discovered through our research is mental health and wellbeing with chefs, is they are extremely vulnerable and threatened by this toxic kitchen culture,” Dr Robinson said.

“It’s quite frightening for the youth of today because throughout their schooling, parenting and sports clubs, they have been conditioned to identify harassment and bullying and they have been given the tools to sort it out but somehow when they enter these kitchens, they go to custard.”

Pushing people to the edge

Dr Robinson said research from the Department of Jobs and Small Business labour market research and analysis branch this year showed there would be a shortage of 59,500 chefs by 2023.

Dr Robinson, who spent 18 years as a chef and food service manager, said mental health trauma being caused by this culture was “tipping people off the edge”.

“It’s hard enough working in kitchens where employees are standing over a stove for hours and feeling hot, sweaty and time pressured,” he said.

“There are aspects that are never going to change and the occupation is stressful enough so this toxic kitchen culture is only adding an extra and unneeded layer on top of that.”

Dr Robinson said the culture needed to change to avoid a shortage of chefs.

“The data is showing us that a chef leaves the industry about five years after getting their qualification and that’s a huge investment,” he said.

Life in a professional kitchen can be too much for many trainee chefs.
Life in a professional kitchen can be too much for many trainee chefs.

“The other factor is the number of apprenticeship commencements is declining rapidly.

“The startling statistic at the moment is that about 30 per cent of apprentices who commence training don’t complete it.

“But if you compound that with relentless harassment – I frame it as sexual violence – it will continue to worsen.”

Women experience threats from superiors

Dr Robinson said with women making up less than 25 per cent of chefs in Australia, they experienced gender discrimination, violence and harassment.

“Young female apprentices are being threatened with rape if they don’t do their job,” he said.

“Another has said she was complaining about period pain and the chef asked her to show him the evidence.

“What we’re hearing are practices that are completely unacceptable.”

Dr Robinson said these behaviours were more extreme in high-end restaurants and hotels.

“Chefs are ambitious and extremely passionate to work in the best places to help their CV and career to progress but what they’re prone to tolerate a lot more and put up with wage theft as we’ve seen recently in Melbourne,” he said.

Dr Robinson suspected some aspects of the culture and job had since “cleaned up”, but his data showed the toxic kitchen culture was still prominent and had become “more subtle and disguised”.

“What appears as a functional shopfront is not necessarily what you find in the back,” he said.

“Having said that there has been an increase in regulation and chefs are no longer expected to work six days a week where it was a given back in the day.”

Industry says tertiary education expectations, not toxic culture, is the issue

Restaurant and Catering Australia chief executive Wes Lambert said the 60,000 shortfall figure was lower than he expected, but he did not believe it was due to a toxic culture.

“Hospitality will see a shortage of over 120,000 staff from front and back of house due mainly to the well-advertised national attitudes towards VET [Vocational Education and Training] and TAFE and funding, especially from the government, for people to go to higher education,” he said.

“This is how us, as an industry, are seeing and hearing from our members as well as all organisations that monitor it.

“The drop of students are just being misused and being directed to universities for other reasons unrelated to what the researcher may have noticed.

“It’s a stretch to go from 80 apprentices divided by the expected 123,000 shortages, which is the largest of any industry, is such a tiny sample size.”

Trainee chefs at TAFE.
Trainee chefs at TAFE.CREDIT:JIM RICE

Mr Lambert said there were fewer enrolments in TAFE, cooking and hospitality courses.

“We are losing more workers in our industry than what is available to take in jobs,” he said.

“The slowdown in immigration due to current immigration law is another reason why we don’t have enough skilled workers.

“To say a toxic kitchen culture is the reason for the decrease is not what the industry is telling us.

“In fact, the (Department of Justice and Equality) had a report that was released that states hospitality is one of the closest to a 50-50 workforce of Australia.”

Mr Lambert said industry had improved in recent years and mental health was “certainly on the radar” of restaurant owners, HR departments and businesses.

He said counselling would be sought if employees experienced difficulty in the stresses and strains of the jobs.

“I’ve never heard of our members experiencing it (harassment or bullying) but when it is well-publicised, it’s a talking point that is addressed with ongoing initiatives by businesses,” he said.

Work pressures and bullying

However, Australian Culinary Federation Queensland president Bruno Gentile said a mixture of toxic kitchen culture, workload and personal challenges were ongoing issues that restaurant owners were battling.

“Pressures of work itself and individuals turning to drugs and alcohol and experiencing bad mental health are relevant issues that associations are trying to address,” he said.

“Only a handful of people have rung me (about harassment and bullying) or asked me for advice on issues, more so on bullying.”

Mr Gentile, who has been in the industry for 40 years, agreed with Dr Robinson’s research regarding some improvements in the industry.

“I think people are now employing more chefs in the kitchen to reduce those crazy hours,” he said.

“Weekends are more acceptable to have time off whereas it was virtually impossible back in the day.

“In relation to the bullying and harassment and pressures in the kitchen, I think a lot has come down to what it was years ago.”

Research to create strategies

Dr Robinson said his analysis of his research was still in its early stages but saw a strong pattern.

“If things were getting so much better, why is there so much evidence of chefs leaving in droves?” he said.

“Our evidence to date suggests there are more chefs than educators and actually are active in socialising toxic kitchen culture rather than diffusing it.

“Rather than accusing apprentices of not being resilient, the industry needs to step up to the plate and make kitchens a better proposition for young people.”

Dr Robinson hoped to develop interventions, including training models and coping strategies to empower apprentices.

He would also investigate the development of a best practice kitchen management online module.


Cash forgets workers involved in VET

Disgraced former Industrial Relations Minister Michaelia Cash today announced a panel to oversee reform in the vocational training sector.

The panel, ironically titled the “Industry VET Stakeholder Committee”, will have no representation for the people participating in the VET system.

It includes the Business Council of Australia, the Australian Industry Group, the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, major accounting firms KPMG and PwC as well as the Council of Small Business Organisations Australia, but no representatives of working people.

Budget cuts to TAFE, privatisation and a refusal by Liberal governments to listen to the needs of working people in the sector has created a serious skills shortage while leaving thousands of young people unemployed.

At the same time huge amounts of public money has been wasted on providers who rip off students and do not deliver the skills training we need.

This panel looks to be more of the same from a Government that will do anything to accommodate its big business donors.

As noted by ACTU Secretary Sally McManus:

“Excluding working people from a discussion about skills training is disappointing but not surprising from a government that caters exclusively to the interests of big business.

“The Morrison Government is pursing a policy agenda designed to keep wages low, attack the rights of working people and give even more power to big business.

“We need skills training which puts the needs of working people first and fills genuine skills shortages, not a system that pours money into the pockets of for-profit training providers.

“To fix the big problems in VET the Morrison government needs to listen to all stakeholders and act on their concerns. We call on the Morrison Government to include working people in this process.”

/Public Release. View in full here.

Getting down to business – strengthening Australia’s vocational education and training sector

The Morrison Government has established its Vocational Education and Training (VET) Stakeholder committee to help drive its significant agenda of reform.

The highly experienced committee was handpicked, to ensure we have the talent and knowledge informing the Government’s skills sector initiatives.

The VET Stakeholder committee has hit the ground running and hosted their inaugural meeting in Canberra last week.

Minister for Employment, Skills, Small and Family Business, Senator the Hon Michaelia Cash, said the Committee will ensure that stakeholder views are understood, considered and included during the implementation of the $525 million Delivering Skills for Today and Tomorrow package.

“Our vision to create a strong VET sector is critical to our economy and to helping prepare Australians for the workforce of today and the future,” Minister Cash said.

“The Morrison Government is committed to creating more than 1.25 million jobs over the next five years and I’m confident that more and more of the people filling these positions will be coming to employers through the VET system.

“We are acutely aware of the workforce requirements in the Australian economy. Our reform agenda will deliver better outcomes for Australians who make the choice to pursue a VET pathway.”

The Committee brings together representatives of business councils, consumer advocates, peak body representatives, registered training organisations, and public, private, community and non-for-profit providers.

“Together we will improve the VET system through collaboration of Commonwealth, state and territory governments, industry and training providers, and shift community perceptions around industry focused training,” Minister Cash said.

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

VET Stakeholder Committee membership

Members will meet monthly through to June 2023.

Organisation Representative Position
Adult Learning Australia Ms Jenny Macaffer CEO
Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry Ms Jenny Lambert Director, Employment Education and Training
Australian Industry Group Ms Megan Lilly Head, Workforce Development
Business Council of Australia Ms Megan Kirchner Head, Tertiary Education
Career Development Association of Australia Ms Wanda Hayes National President
Career Industry Council of Australia Mr David Carney Executive Director
Community Colleges Australia Mr Don Perlgut CEO
Council of Small Business Organisations Australia Mr Peter Strong CEO
Enterprise Registered Training Organisation Association Mr Chris Butler Assistant Director
Family Business Australia Ms Anne-Marie McNally National Product Manager
Foundation for Young Australians Mr Alex Snow Head of Research
Independent Tertiary Education Council Australia Mr Troy Williams CEO
Jobs Australia Ms Debra Cerasa CEO
KPMG Ms Sue Bussell Partner, Workplace Relations Advisory
National Apprentice Employment Network Ms Dianne Dayhew National Executive Director
National Australian Apprenticeships Association Mr Ben Bardon CEO
National Employment Services Association Ms Sally Sinclair CEO
PwC Ms Sarah Caplan Partner, National Skills Lead
TAFE Directors Australia Mr Craig Robertson CEO
/Public Release. View in full here.

Exploitative visa system undercuts Australian workers

Federal Minister for Employment Michaelia Cash has called on businesses to invest more in workforce training. Noting that it costs companies on average $28,000 to replace an employee, Cash claims that one of the main reasons why people leave their job is that they are unsatisfied with their skills development. Cash says that spending more on workforce training would help to boost productivity. From The AFR:

“The reality is that business investment in workplace training has been going in the wrong direction for some time,” Senator Cash said.

“But business needs to play its part. Workforce planning is not simply a problem for government, and the solution will lie with industry as well.”

Work-related training has fallen across all age groups, dropping from 26.9 per cent in 2013 to 21.5 per cent in 2016–17…

“That’s stark evidence and a call for employers to invest more in the skills development of their employees to make their businesses more sustainable. A trained workforce brings greater productivity returns and better wages,” Senator Cash said.

Why would Australian businesses bother to employ and train locals when they can instead grab a cheap migrant worker?

The pool of migrant workers has swelled across Australia, many of whom work for below-market rates:

The federal government has also set the pay floor for temporary ‘skilled’ migrant workers at just $53,900, which is $34,349 below the current average full-time Australian salary of $88,249, as well as $14,720 below the median full-time wage of $68,620, each of which comprise both skilled and unskilled workers.

This appallingly low pay floor has strongly incentivised businesses to ‘grab’ a cheap migrant worker over employing and training a local. As noted by Joanna Howe in the recent book, Wage Crisis in Australia:

Scarcely a day goes by without another headline of wage theft involving temporary migrant workers… it exposes a very real wages crisis facing workers on the Temporary Skill Shortage (TSS) visa (formerly the 457 visa) in Australia. This crisis has been precipitated by the federal government’s decision to freeze the salary floor for temporary skilled migrant workers since 2013… the government has chosen to put downward pressure on real wages for temporary skilled migrants, thereby surreptitiously allowing the TSS visa to be used in lower-paid jobs…

Renowned Australian demographer Graeme Hugo observed that employers ‘will always have a “demand” for foreign workers if it results in a lowering of their costs’. The simplistic notion that employers will only go to the trouble and expense of making a TSS visa application when they want to meet a skill shortage skims over a range of motives an employer may have for using the TSS visa. These could be a reluctance to invest in training for existing or prospective staff, or a desire to move towards a deunionised workforce. Additionally, for some employers, there could be a belief that, despite the requirement that TSS visa workers be employed on equivalent terms to locals, it is easier to avoid paying market salary rates and conditions for temporary migrant workers who have been recognised as being in a vulnerable labour market position. A recent example of this is the massive underpayments of chefs and cooks employed by Australia’s largest high-end restaurant business, Rockpool Dining Group, which found that visa holders were being paid at levels just above TSMIT but well below the award when taking into account the amount of overtime being done…

Put simply, temporary demand for migrant workers often creates a permanent need for them in the labour market. Research shows that in industries where employers have turned to temporary migrants en masse, it erodes wages and conditions in these industries over time, making them less attractive to locals…

Not surprisingly then, migrants took 83% of Australian jobs created between 2011 and 2016, according to research from Professor Peter McDonald from Melbourne University:

From July 2011 to July 2016, employment in Australia increased by 738,800. Immigrants accounted for 613,400 of the total increase…

The ACTU has also blamed unfettered employer access to migrant workers for limiting the job opportunities and training of local workers [my emphasis]:

Wright and Constantin (2015) surveyed employers using the 457 visa scheme and found that 86% state that they have experienced challenges recruiting workers locally. Despite identified recruiting difficulties, the survey found that fewer than 1 in one hundred employers surveyed had addressed ‘skill shortages’ by raising the salary being offered. Labour ‘shortages’ should first be addressed through a readjustment in the price of labour – increased wages. An inability to find local workers to work at a specified wage rate, coupled with an unwillingness to offer higher wages, does not necessarily imply a skill shortage – particularly where local workers would be willing and able to work if the wage rate was lifted. This differs from a skill shortage in which there are simply not enough people with a particular skill to meet demand.

The relatively recent availability of a large and vulnerable pool of temporary migrant workers has undoubtedly contributed to current record low levels of wages growth and a growing reluctance by employers to train local workers…

While there are approximately 1.5 million temporary entrants with work rights, the overseas worker team at the Fair Work Ombudsman consists of only 17 full time inspectors to investigate cases of exploitation – over 80,000 visa workers per inspector. Inadequate enforcement and penalties act as an incentive for employers to exploit temporary workers when the benefit from doing so outweighs the cost of the penalty. or where the probability of being caught is sufficiently low….

Allowing the mass importation of migrant workers bypasses the ordinary functioning of the labour market by enabling employers to source cheap foreign labour in lieu of raising wages, as well as abrogating the need for training.

So rather than waxing lyrical about investing in workforce training, the federal government should place a minimum salary floor of $100,000 on each skilled visa, both temporary and permanent, as well as stem the flow of international students into Australia’s universities, which has hit plague proportions.

Implementing these measures would ensure the visa system is used only for specialised high skilled workers that Australia cannot foster domestically, rather than being used by employers as a general labour market tool to undercut local workers and reduce wage costs.

Australia’s weak wage growth, and the lack of job opportunities and training, won’t improve otherwise.


TAFE Directors Australia Convention 2019, Brisbane

I would like to acknowledge and thank Mr Craig Robertson, CEO of TAFE Directors Australia for the invitation to speak to you today about the future of TAFE in Australia.

I have first-hand experience of the VET system having completed an apprenticeship as a sparky, back in the day.

Now, I know a lot has changed in VET since then, so I am keen to learn more from everyone in this room about the pressures and concerns you have, and how we might be able to address these from the Commonwealth perspective.

One of the most important events in the recent history of VET happened just last month, although it occurred without much fanfare.

That was the discussion at the most recent Council of Australian Governments’ meeting held in Cairns.

There, all jurisdictions signed on to a clear and shared vision for the future of vocational education and training.

The vision recognises VET is a responsive, dynamic and trusted sector that delivers an excellent standard of education and training.

But the vision also recognises the changing nature of work and workplaces.

I am sure we all appreciate that VET cannot stand still.

The world of work is changing with new technological, social and economic trends – and VET needs to respond positively.

So it is exciting that at CoAG, the Prime Minister and state and territory leaders signed on to working towards a VET system that:

  • is responsive to the needs of private industry and the public sector, ensuring employers have ready access to a highly skilled and adaptable workforce,
  • is flexible in providing skills at all points in an individual’s career, whether it be foundational training, initial training, upskilling or re‑skilling, and
  • recognises the importance of a viable and robust system of both public and private providers.

I cannot overstate how important it is that we now have this top-level agreement across jurisdictions on the future direction of VET in Australia.

There are many players with a stake in the operation of the VET system, and the agreement at CoAG provides leadership in recognising that our vocational education system needs to remain world‑class, modern and flexible.

So I am excited to be here today to tell you about our plans to help you build a skilled, flexible and innovative workforce through a new VET system, including a new vision for apprenticeships.

Minister Michaelia Cash and I are both passionate about lifting the profile of vocational education.

We both see it as a valuable career choice for many Australians that should not be seen as less important than a university degree.

I feel we are seeing positive progress in this area and there’s also growing recognition of the contribution VET can make in better meeting the needs of employers, workers and customers.

But we can, and should, do more to ensure VET is recognised as an attractive choice for school leavers, for people thinking of changing careers, and also people who are looking to up-skill in their current job.

The $525 million package announced in this year’s Budget is a new beginning for vocational education and training in this country.

It was clear that the time for tinkering around the edges had passed and we needed a fresh approach incorporating a clear and positive path forward for VET.

Our Delivering Skills for Today and Tomorrow package responds to the review of the VET system undertaken by Steven Joyce for us last year.

I’m glad to see Mr Joyce will be speaking at this convention tomorrow.

And I’m very pleased that Minister Cash has also appointed Mr Joyce as Chair of an independent Expert Panel, along with VET expert, Professor Peter Noonan from Victoria University’s Mitchell Institute, and accomplished businesswoman Dr Vanessa Guthrie, who will bring vital industry experience and perspective.

The Expert Panel will advise the Government on the implementation of the skills package, and on our future reform trajectory.

And of course we will continue to work closely with TDA and other sector stakeholders through a dedicated stakeholder committee which will provide essential feedback and advice as we implement the Skills Package.

It’s important that our reforms are practical, helpful and grounded by a range of perspectives and ideas, so I am pleased we will be getting this independent advice as we go forward.

Our aim is for VET to be responsive to changing industry requirements and future-focussed.

We want VET to be seen as a trusted and equal partner with higher education in the success and outcomes from Australia’s tertiary system.

The Joyce Review of VET found that fundamental change is required to lift confidence in the VET system as a whole.

Australia’s VET sector must connect better with industry, reflect community requirements, and be supported with consistent funding arrangements.

The Government’s new skills agenda recognises that VET is a shared responsibility, and is encouraging all VET sector stakeholders to work together more closely and responsively.

The VET system also needs to be helping current workers to update their skills, so that employers can develop their existing workforce rather than letting people go and hiring others with the skills they need.

In this way, businesses will be supported by a skilled and flexible workforce that can reap the benefits for the business from technological advances, while supporting business growth.

We are establishing a new National Skills Commission – a $48.3 million investment – to provide leadership on workforce needs and VET funding by researching future needs and efficient prices for training.

A national co-design process will determine the functions, remit and governance of the new Commission.

Working in coordination with the Commission will be Skills Organisations, which will align training with industry skill needs and employment pathways.

It’s vital that we strengthen the pathway to employment, particularly for young Australians.

That’s why our Skills Package includes substantial funding to establish ten Training Hubs across Australia to help tackle youth unemployment in key regions by building better connections between local businesses, industries and schools.

Training Hubs will be established in these regions to help local young people to engage in vocational education and training, and to develop the skills suited to occupations in local industries.

We have also created a National Careers Institute to bring together information about career pathways, and provide a framework for quality career guidance on a national scale.

Work is already progressing to map careers advice and services in Australia and review international best practice to identify gaps in the delivery of advice and guidance to Australians navigating their learning, training and work pathways.

A Careers Ambassador will facilitate stakeholder engagement and drive the Institute’s agenda.

The Ambassador will work to lift the profile of VET and improve the quality of and access to careers advice nationally.

Our VET Information Strategy is addressing misconceptions around VET and promoting the opportunities that come from completing a VET qualification.

We are also establishing a competitive grants program to foster innovative partnerships between industry, schools, and providers.

The grants will be worth up to $350,000 each and will be awarded to education and training projects that best align with industry needs.

As a qualified electrician, I naturally have a strong interest in the success of the Australian apprenticeship system.

Among other measures in the Skills Package, we are investing $156 million in an Additional Identified Skills Shortage payment to eligible apprentices and their employers in ten occupations experiencing national skills shortages.

This new payment commenced on 1 July this year and will help create and up to 80,000 new apprenticeships over the next five years.

Occupations eligible for the payment include carpenters and joiners, plumbers, bricklayers, plasterers and tilers, with up to $4000 in financial support in addition to existing programs.

We’ve also doubled the size of the successful Australian Apprentice Wage Subsidy Trial from 1 July this year, to support up to 3200 Australians living in our regions with the opportunity of an apprenticeship.

And from 1 July next year, it will be simpler for employers to claim incentives under the new, streamlined Incentives for Australian Apprenticeships scheme.

Our overall aim is to grow the apprenticeships system and build the skilled workforce Australia needs to remain competitive internationally.

Before I finish speaking, I want to tease out what all this means for you.

I’m well aware that once this convention finishes you will be back in your offices facing day-to-day pressures and urgent work priorities – and the Skills Package may not be top of mind.

So here are three suggestions for how you can be ready for the changes that are coming:

First, I would encourage you to look at this as a once-in-a generation opportunity to strengthen VET.

We cannot afford to tread water.

It’s up to all of us to make sure the evolution of VET is positive by being open to new ways of working and being ready to collaborate across traditional boundaries.

That might mean making stronger links with universities and larger employers in your region or bringing together small business operators, community groups, and the different levels of government to devise local solutions to any skills gaps in your region.

Next, keep in touch with the various initiatives in the Skills Package as they roll out.

By engaging early in the process, you will be ahead of the curve in terms of getting the most out of the changes, as well as influencing how they are implemented.

So, I encourage you to do things like meet with the National Careers Ambassador, and perhaps provide input to the National Skills Commission and the Skills Organisations on how they should fulfil their charter.

These organisations will benefit greatly from practical input from TAFE representatives, and this in turn will make them more useful to you.

Lastly, I encourage you to think more about how you can fill skills gaps in your locality.

Formal qualifications are rightly the backbone of the VET and university systems, but we are in a dynamic environment now where workers are needing to update their digital or other technical skills, without the time and expense of undertaking a longer course.

The Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman, Kate Carnell recently said: “Small businesses need VET providers to be more flexible in their approaches to training workers, including tailoring courses to match the skills needed by employers.”

Related to this, there is work underway in my department and elsewhere on analysing skills using employment and education datasets to suggest flexible training pathways for workers or job seekers to enhance their career prospects.

This is an exciting time for vocational education and training in Australia and I am looking forward to working with you all to achieve positive change.

Overall, everyone here shares the same aim of seeing TAFE continue to support students and businesses so the national economy prospers.

I believe the Australian Government has set a strong direction, and that together, we can deliver a vocational education sector that provides workforce skills and relevant, up-to-date qualifications that are well‑matched to the evolving opportunities and challenges of Australia’s modern economy.

Our success will depend on tapping into your knowledge and expertise, so please take the time to collaborate and share with us your insights, as you are already doing by attending this TAFE Directors Convention.

I hope you enjoy the rest of the program and I look forward to our joint success in building a better TAFE sector for Australia.

/Public Release. View in full here.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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