Why Skills Training Can’t Replace Higher Education

DAVID MALAN/GETTY IMAGES

Much of the current media-reported posturing by policy makers and pundits about the failure of U.S. colleges and universities to adequately prepare people for the 21st workplace is either ill informed or misguided, in my opinion.

One of the dominant narratives in the media is that we need to produce more workers now who can do whatever is needed now, using short-term postsecondary certification programsThe focus is typically on “vocational” skills, contrasted with what too often are characterized as relatively useless liberal education outcomes, including knowledge of world history and cultures and other “indulgences” such as crafting understandable prose and judging the veracity and utility of information.

To make it easier for employers to identify competent workers, a litany of badges, certificates, and the like will purportedly signal proficiency. In some yet-to-be-demonstrated manner, these proxies will then be stacked and sewn together by a trusted entity to warrant conferral of what traditionally has been considered a college degree. Along the way, it’s assumed that learners of any age will independently bring coherence to and cultivate depth of understanding from these various experiences.

Another narrative is framed by a chorus of CEOs and managers who bemoan that too many job applicants with associate and baccalaureate degrees cannot write coherent paragraphs, clearly explain complex problems, or work effectively with people who differ from themselves. And this is after several years of postsecondary study, not the few weeks or months needed to earn a badge.  At the same time, many business leaders say that they prefer candidates who not only can do today’s work, but who will be able to continue to learn on their own in real time to do tomorrow’s work — jobs that have not yet been invented. Is there a badge or certificate to certify skills for jobs that haven’t even been invented yet?!

Of course, short-term vocational skills-based programs are critically important and well suited for many people. This has always been true and will continue to be so. But is this an acceptable policy choice for addressing the demands of the 21st century workplace and fixing the shortcomings of American higher education at this point?

No, and here’s why.

We’ve known for many decades that there are no short cuts to cultivating the habits of the mind and heart that, over time, enable people to deepen their learning, develop resilience, transfer information into action, and creatively juggle and evaluate competing ideas and approaches. These are the kinds of proficiencies and dispositions needed to discover alternative responses to challenges presented by the changing nature of today’s jobs or for work not yet invented. Workplaces, societal institutions, and the world order are only going to get more complicated and challenging to navigate and manage, increasing the need for people with accumulated wisdom, interpersonal and practical competence, and more than a splash of critical thinking, analytical reasoning, and altruism.

Intentionally shortening and fragmenting educational and personal development in the name of bolstering economic productivity now is shortsighted and does a catastrophic disservice to individuals, our national prosperity, and the long-term well-being of a civil, democratic society. What’s also troubling is the likelihood that learners from historically underserved groups — low income and ethnic minorities, for example — will be disproportionately represented among (or maybe even tracked into) short-term training programs. Students from these groups made up the majority of those who were duped by the misleading ROI promises of more than a few costly for-profit institutions, such as Corinthian CollegesITT Technical Institutes, and Education Corporation for America.

There is no way to know for sure, but I suspect that many of those vigorously proposing short term vocational education steer their own children toward baccalaureate-granting colleges or universities. Attending such schools increases the odds that students will have to broaden their perspectives, read and write a fair amount, and devote significant effort over an extended period of time pondering difficult questions and generating alternative solutions to complicated problems — the stuff of which the future will be made.

We need business leaders to speak often and consistently with one voice about the perils of trying to do too much too fast on the cheap in education. The discourse about what the country needs from its postsecondary system needs re-balancing and grounding in what clear-minded captains of industry have learned from experience and what the educational research shows matters to preparing people for a self-sufficient, civically responsible, and personally satisfying life.

Granted, there is much room for improvement in American higher education. However, when a college or university intentionally designs and induces students to participate in high-impact learning activities inside and outside the classroom, the outcomes are much better contrasted with students who do not have such experiences. The benefits of participating in high-impact practices such as writing intensive courses, undergraduate research, community service projects and internships are especially promising for historically underserved students who will make up a large fraction of tomorrow’s workers and community leaders. Unfortunately, too few students participate in these activities, a problem that institutions such as California State University Dominguez Hills, Worcester Polytechnic Institute, Springfield College and many others are addressing by modifying curricular offerings to require students to do them.

Abbreviating postsecondary preparation programs may well reduce short-term costs for students, institutions, and many employers. However, privileging short-term job training over demanding educational experiences associated with high-levels of intellectual, personal, and social development — a foundation for continuous life-long learning — is a bad idea for individuals, for the long-term vitality of the American economy, and for our democracy.

India is reforming education for the first time since 1986 – here’s why Australia should care

India released a Draft National Education Policy (DNEP) in June 2019. It’s the first comprehensive policy proposal on education in the country since 1986 and a major, game changing statement.

Australia has a moral duty to engage with the global challenge of providing quality education to hundreds of millions of Indian youth. And by engaging with India as it rolls out this policy, Australian universities stand to gain knowledge and research capacity, among many other things.

What’s the new policy trying to achieve?

India’s National Policy on Education was framed in 1986 and modified in 1992. Clearly a lot has change in the country since then.

The proposed new policy is remarkable for two main reasons.

First, it takes a cold-eyed look at the existing educational structures and processes in India. The document reflects honestly and in depth on state-level universities and colleges where the majority of students study. In these institutions, the facilities, teaching, and governance are usually poor.


Read more: How Australia can help reform higher education in India


A second remarkable element to the draft is the scale and boldness of the vision. The policy aims to make changes across all levels of education – from early childhood to university.

The draft policy, which is currently in the consultation phase, recommends doubling funding for public education from the present figure of roughly 3% of GDP to 6%.

It aims to change the structure of school education so children begin their schooling at three years old, with three preschool years incorporated into the formal structure.

India’s draft education policy aims to restructure the system so children start school from three years old. JAIPAL SINGH/EPA

The draft policy also calls for an overhaul of teacher training which will now occur in universities rather than specialist colleges, which are often of low quality.

In tertiary education (though the draft is weak on the issue of vocational education), the policy sets a target of 50% of youth being enrolled in universities by 2035 (in 2016, the figure was 24.5%).


Read more: India soon to have the largest tertiary-age population in the world


The DNEP recommends dismantling the current system of universities and private and public colleges to develop between 10,000-15,000 multi-disciplinary universities, which would be funded in part through the increased government investment in higher education.

The document notes the current system is made up of more than 850 universities and about 40,000 colleges, with 20% of those colleges offering just a single program of study, and 20% having under 100 students.

The DNEP states:

The main thrust of this policy regarding higher education is the ending of the fragmentation of higher education by moving higher education into large multidisciplinary universities and colleges, each of which will aim to have upwards of 5,000 or more students.

The new institutions are envisioned to promote education in the arts and social sciences. The focus on “liberal arts” will encourage critical thinking and appreciation of the value of education beyond just preparing the population for employment.

The DNEP emphasises the importance of developing a research culture across most universities in India and stresses the value of internationalisation by “preparing our students to participate in world affairs through providing them with learning experiences that cut across countries and cultures”.

It also aims to to “attract students from other countries to participate in our higher education programmes”.

Why Australia should care

The poor quality of school and university described in the DNEP is a critical global challenge. As it stands, large parts of India, especially northern India, are unlikely to meet the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goal 4, which calls for accessible, quality education for everyone.

Australia should partner with India to address the needs of the hundreds of millions of young people demanding a better education.

Australia has a lot to gain from engaging with India on its new education policy. MICK TSIKAS/AAP

By interacting with top Indian researchers and students, Australia can also improve its own research and knowledge capacity. Australia can make commercial gains from working with India in the redevelopment of its education system.

Australian universities can act in five areas in particular:

1. Build research capacity in India and across the Australia-India boundary

Australia already has a research partnership with India, the Australia India Strategic Research Fund (AISRF). This should be extended, through a joint new research fund with India’s already established new National Research Foundation.

India faces a major challenge in creating a body of excellent researchers capable of occupying positions in its proposed new universities. It is therefore crucial that research partnership also involves building this capacity, especially by creating new PhD training and post-doctoral positions.

2. Partner with India in open and distance learning (ODL)

The DNEP’s goal of increasing the number of students in university in India to 50% can’t occur through bricks and mortar expansion. India has a lot of experience on ODLs but Australia and India could usefully partner in the development of better quality technology platforms.

3. Help train Indian school teachers

Australia has major strength in teacher education. India is looking to other countries to assist in training the staff in universities who will be responsible for training teachers in the new system. Australian action in this area would greatly help Indian education into its next phase.

4. Provide expertise on internationalisation

Australia has been very successful since the 1990s in internationalising its education. Education is now one of Australia’s largest exports. Australian universities and peak bodies such as the Group of Eight Universities could be partners in India’s efforts to internationalise.

5. Building campuses in each other’s countries

The DNEP recommends overturning regulation that prevents foreign universities from establishing campuses in India. It invites the world’s top 200 universities to develop a physical presence in the subcontinent. It also encourages Indian institutions to consider opening campuses abroad.

Australian universities could approach Indian institutions to discuss the development of a physical presence in each other’s countries, such as laboratory spaces, research centres or campuses.

The DNEP is remarkable on many levels: a bold effort to rethink education from first principles in a country containing one fifth of the world’s youth. Australia should make it a priority to engage.

SOURCEAAP:https://theconversation.com/india-is-reforming-education-for-the-first-time-since-1986-heres-why-australia-should-care-121812

TDA Newsletter-It’s time to register for ‘The Power of TAFE’, Brisbane, just eight days away!


Skills to the world – comment by CEO Craig Robertson

Kazan, Russia is the top of the world this week when it comes to skills, and we have our Skillaroos drawn from the VET sector conquering that mountain.

Tomorrow concludes the 2019 Worldskills competition and there are 15 Australians competing across trade and other areas including computing, design and fashion.

In Abu Dhabi we ranked tenth, globally, and snared four medals among 59 countries. The size of the task is getting harder because the world is catching up.

In my travels it’s easy to see that other countries are gearing up to climb the skills ladder. Taiwan has been central in organising an Asian region competition to help prepare candidates. Vietnamese officials I met many years ago wore their Worldskills membership badge with pride. And the last time I was in Islamabad in Pakistan, they were already holding competitions even though they only joined in 2017.

Some of you may have seen on social media the spectacular opening ceremony from Kazan. Rumour has it that President Putin saw the power of global standing in skills and worked hard for Russia to host this year’s competition.

WorldSkills International CEO David Hoey recently said, “Russia joined WorldSkills International in 2012, and seven years later it is already organizing the WorldSkills Competition! This event contributes not only to our movement, but to the Russian market as well.”

It’s worthwhile pausing to remember that China is the host of the competition in 2021.

We talk about the impact of globalisation and instant communications across the globe. It’s not too much of a stretch then that skills are increasingly global in design and application. It’s all too easy to think of the differences to us in the countries we visit. (The most pronounced for me is the undrinkability of North American coffee, but these are more the result of taste, while underpinning technology is the same, and so are the skills.)

Worldskills, therefore, is more important than ever to assess how we are maintaining our place as an advanced economy. We must do skills to a world-class standard if we are to maintain our global trade.

Worldskills is the perfect opportunity to benchmark how we are doing. As you can imagine, with a global competition there needs to be fair, yet high, standards for the competition. Worldskills standards set a new aspiration for Australia’s VET system.

In the heady days of the Rudd Government, business leader David Crawford AO conducted a review into sport in Australia. It lit a fuse about whether the priority was toward general sport participation or support for elite sportspeople, or both. The same dilemma applies to our approach to skills, especially if we want to keep pace with the rest of the world. We need to widen participation AND support our best through Worldskills.

In the past month we’ve had many statements about VET holding its own against university outcomes, at least for some of the highly paid jobs such as trades. Worldskills is the ideal avenue to promote a future and inspire participation.  But if we are going to, let’s make sure we get the building blocks right, from the very first day a potential student in primary or high school dreams of a global job, to enrolment in TAFE, to receiving leading-edge training.

I well remember the day I met several 2013 Australian Training Award winners who had just returned from a China youth skills conference and competition, courtesy of the Chinese government. Joel Schwarz, a diesel mechanic, was the winner of the Australian School-based Apprentice of the Year and Henry Kemp, an electrician, was runner-up. For Joel, a country kid from Mildura, the journey was his first overseas! Henry, an electrician from Perth, said he was itching to compete and when he saw what was required, he was confident he could – even with the instructions in Mandarin!

For several of the party they were the first of their family to travel overseas! I can tell you that after hearing those stories I worked a bit harder for the VET sector.

Over 22 experts, drawn from the VET sector, are guiding the competitors. They, as are all our trainers, are critical to the skills transfer that characterises VET.

If you are a trainer reading this, for the next student you enrol think about what may lay ahead for him or her. If you are facing down compliance work think about the passport you are building for those students through the skills you impart. As students wind their way through your TAFE, envision them competing with the best in the world in China.

For our leaders, when advocacy doesn’t seem to be working, contemplate the global workplace we are preparing students for and advocate some more. I will.

Editor’s note: The WorldSkills Australia Board advised during the week that Brett Judd, Chief Executive Officer of WorldSkills Australia, has left to pursue other opportunities. Trevor Schwenke will assume the role of CEO immediately for the foreseeable future.

Trevor can be contacted at the WorldSkills Australia Melbourne office or via email on tschwenke@worldskills.org.au

TDA thanks Brett for his tireless work in promoting skills and working so closely with TDA.  

worldskills

Governments launch a review of senior secondary education

Commonwealth, state and territory education ministers have agreed to a comprehensive review of the country’s senior secondary education system.

The COAG Education Council has appointed a seven-member panel headed by the former Secretary of the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, Professor Peter Shergold.

The terms of reference say the review will “provide advice and recommendations on how senior secondary students can better understand and be enabled to choose the most appropriate pathway to support their transition into work, further education and/or training.”

This will include “clarifying the roles and responsibilities of key stakeholders, such as schools, students, parents, VET providers, higher education institutions, and employers, in supporting inclusion and preparing school leavers for life beyond school, whatever pathway they choose.”

Other members of the review panel are Professor Tom Calma, Sarina Russo, Patrea Walton, Jennifer Westacott, Dr Don Zoellner and Patrick O’Reilly.

The panel will report back to the COAG Education Council next June.

See more.


It’s time to register for ‘The Power of TAFE’, Brisbane, just eight days away!

It’s just over a week until the TDA Convention, ‘The Power of TAFE’, which runs from 3 – 5 September in Brisbane.

There are a host of impressive speakers, presenters, workshops and networking events.

The event will showcase best practice and innovation in teaching and learning, curriculum design, student support, industry outreach, international, innovation and new technologies.

With MC Kerry O’Brien, The Power of TAFE will hear from some of the most thought provoking and engaging speakers, including:

Michael Brennan, the head of the Productivity Commission whose job is to promote competition and markets as the starting point for public policy, will explore what’s next for the VET sector.

Vicki Thomson from the Group of Eight Universities, Australia’s elite, will contemplate how TAFEs inhabit the tertiary sector.

Drawing on his findings as chair of Jobs Queensland, the warhorse of higher education, Professor Peter Coaldrake, will argue for a higher order of TAFE if Australia is to educate and train a new the class of worker.

The best of England and Canada, from a technical and vocational education viewpoint, will see David Hughes talk about the journey of Further Education colleges amid Brexit, and Dr Rick Huijbregts from Toronto reflect on the technology climate facing students.

A dedicated session with ASQA leadership will allow TAFEs  to take steps to a higher order focus on quality.

We will hear from Steven Joyce, whose advice to Prime Minister Morrison will be central in the shape of VET.

Assistant Minister for Vocational Education, Training and Apprenticeships, Steve Irons will reflect on the next steps for TAFEs.

Overall, the Convention will see:

  • 15+ plenary speakers
  • 8 State showcases
  • 55+ workshops speakers
  • numerous networking opportunities

See more about the impressive line-up of plenary speakers.

See the Convention program

Register Now!


TAFE to host new VET centre at Western Sydney Aerotropolis

The NSW government has announced a permanent TAFE VET facility at the new  Western Sydney Aerotropolis, with a focus on advanced manufacturing, technology and engineering.

While on an international trade mission in Germany, Premier Gladys Berejiklian said the government is working with Siemens to finalise an MOU that will bring advanced technologies to the new facility.

Ms Berejiklian said Germany’s dual system of on-the-job and classroom training provided trainees with high-level technical skills and has been especially effective at responding to changes in technology and the employment needs of business.

The ‘Siemensstadt 2.0’ innovation precinct is set to transform a 70 hectare industrial area in Berlin into a modern, urban district with offices, residences, laboratories and production plants in place by 2030.


Victoria’s manufacturing sector buoyed by major projects

The future of manufacturing in Victoria is strong, the National Manufacturing Summit in Melbourne was told last week.

Hosted by Weld Australia, speakers outlined the growth expected in advanced manufacturing.

Victoria’s Minister for Skills and Higher Education, Gayle Tierney, pictured, spoke of the reforms to state’s skilling system with TAFEs as a driving force.

 

“The Future Foundries for Defence Capabilities project is delivering an Australian first — a completely new accredited course at Chisholm Institute of TAFE’s Dandenong campus,” she said.

This project will help build a workforce to take advantage of opportunities in the production of complex, high-precision components for jet fighters, submarines, frigates and armoured vehicles.

The Victorian government’s recent budget included $5.6 million for  Victoria’s Big Build and Social Services higher apprenticeships program. This will support the rollout of major infrastructure programs and growth in the state’s human services sector.

“It is an example of how this government is building stronger links between the higher education and the training sectors,” Ms Tierney said.


National Skills Week kicks off around Australia

National Skills Week 2019 has kicked off with the first state launch yesterday at Victoria’s Box Hill Institute, and events around the country in coming days.

With the theme “Succeed your Way”, National Skills Week brings together stakeholders to raise the profile and improve the standing of VET, while highlighting the talents, diversity and benefits of VET pathways.

The Minister for Employment, Skills, Small and Family Business Senator Michaelia Cash said National Skills Week is a great time to reflect on the many success stories that have come from VET, and a chance to introduce VET to those who are looking to move ahead with the career of their choice.

Other launch events will take place today in Queensland today, tomorrow in Sydney and on Thursday in South Australia.

See more


TasTAFE CEO looks to the future with confidence

The CEO of TasTAFE, Jenny Dodd (pictured) says the organisation has reached a milestone, with ASQA’s granting of a seven-year registration, following a period of reform and restructuring.

In an interview with The Mercury in Hobart, Ms Dodd outlined some of the challenges faced since taking on the top job at TasTAFE in February 2018.

 

“We had 29 business units operating in 29 different ways, and you can’t run a single registered training organisation like that,” she said.

But the reforms have borne fruit with the regulator recently providing the longest available period of registration.

“Seven years’ registration is hard to get, and it’s a big deal for Tasmania,” she says.

Part of the new focus will be on programs that enable existing workers to upskill as their jobs transform, including both advanced and foundational digital skills.

There is also a closer partnership with the University of Tasmania in the area of co-delivery of some short-course programs, including some nursing classes.

Ms Dodd, who is also a TDA Board Member, joined TasTAFE from TAFE Queensland where she was Chief Academic Officer.

Photo: Zac Simmonds, The Mercury


VET to drive SA’s international student strategy

The South Australian government is counting on a doubling in the state’s VET student numbers as the main driver of a new $3 billion strategy to attract international students.

A strategy paper International Education 2030 says that VET is expected to be the fastest growing area of international education in the state, more than doubling from 7,000 students in 2018 to 14,500 in 2030, and outstripping the national growth rate.

Higher education is expected to increase from 19,500 students in 2018 to 36,100 in 2030, making up more than 50 per cent of total enrolments in the state.

The current top four source markets for enrolments in South Australia – China, India, Hong Kong and Vietnam – are expected to remain the top performing markets to 2030.


TAFEs able to apply for grants to promote regional studies

Tertiary education providers including TAFEs are eligible to apply for grants to enable international and domestic students to study in regional Australia.

The first round of the $94 million Destination Australia Program is now open and aims to attract 4,720 students to study at regional campuses from next year with scholarships of $15,000.

The scholarships are available for qualifications from a Certificate IV through to a PhD.

Students are not able to directly apply for the scholarships.

See more


NZ’s displaced construction workers need to ‘live in Australia’: Steven Joyce

The architect of Australia’s recent VET review, New Zealander Stephen Joyce has warned that his country’s road infrastructure program has been hijacked by the Greens and that policy makers should look to Australia for job-boosting initiatives.

He also says that out of work construction employees will find plenty of jobs if they’re prepared to move to Sydney or Melbourne.

“Everyone knows the Green Party is anti-road and anti-development,” he says in an article in NZ’s Sunday Star Times.

“The surprise for most people is just how much the Greens are now controlling New Zealand’s roading policy, and how radical that policy has become.”

“The construction workers will be okay. There is tons of work coming up for them, although they will need to live in Australia.

“Melbourne and Sydney in particular are crying out for skilled road builders as Australia ramps up its infrastructure investment,” he says.

 

See more


Researcher finds the key to making a good argument

A Queensland education researcher has argued that the Australian curriculum places too much emphasis on emotive writing and not enough on encouraging students to develop their powers of reasoning.

Luke Zaphir, a researcher with the University of Queensland Critical Thinking Project, says there are three things present in all good arguments, and that teachers need to encourage children to start putting across their points of view from an early age.

“One shortcoming in the Australian Curriculum is that it asks students to write persuasively, by using emotive language,” he says.

“We should be teaching our students to provide the reasoning behind their opinion as well as backing it up with evidence, not to manipulate emotions,” he says in an article in The Conversation.

See “How to make good arguments at school (and everywhere else)” in The Conversation.


ASQA clarifies third party training for VET-in-schools

The Australian Skills Quality Authority (ASQA) has sought to clarify new third-party arrangements for training providers that will apply for VET-in-schools.

It follows the release of guidance on third-party training arrangements that will take effect soon.

ASQA says it has been asked to clarify the impact where a school engages an RTO to deliver a course to VET-in-schools students, and the school provides some support in the delivery.

Essentially, the arrangements will depend on whether the school is registered as an RTO under the National Vocational Education and Training Regulator Act 2011.

See the new guidance for VET-in-schools.


Diary Dates

National Skills Week
26 August – 1 September 2019
Locations around Australia
More information

TAFE Directors Australia 2019 Convention
‘The Power of TAFE’
3 – 5 September 2019
Brisbane
More information

2019 National VET Conference
Velg Training
12 &13 September 2019
Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre, Brisbane
More Information

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

Australian Training Awards
21 November 2019
Brisbane, Queensland
More information

Australian Council of Deans of Education Vocational Education Group
5th Annual Conference on VET Teaching and VET Teacher Education
9-10 December 2019
Charles Sturt University Wagga Wagga Campus
More information

SOURCEAAP:https://www.tda.edu.au/newletter/skills-to-the-world-comment-by-ceo-craig-robertson/

NCVER News-the impact of course durations, new podcast episode, and more

  • Vocational voices episode 2: Apprenticeships – should you believe the hype?
  • Apprentice and trainee completion rates decrease
  • Do course durations matter to training outcomes?
  • Government-funded training enrolments decline
  • New essays explain the development of the VET system
  • ‘No Frills’ presentations available
  • Coming soon
  • Upcoming events

EPISODE 2: Apprenticeships – should you believe the hype?

It’s hard to dispute that apprenticeships are an effective way for workers to develop skills while still earning a wage.

So why do apprenticeship numbers appear to be so dire?

Join host Steve Davis as he explores this issue in season 2, episode 2 of our brand new podcast series Vocational Voices.

Apprenticeship rates: should you believe the hype? features Ben Bardon, CEO, National Australian Apprenticeships Association, and Simon Walker, Managing Director, NCVER, who reveal that the situation is more nuanced than recent headlines might suggest.

Visit our Portal to listen to the episode and subscribe via your preferred platform.

Don’t forget: Season 1 is also available and includes a full back catalogue of our past podcast episodes.


Apprentice and trainee completion rates decrease

Completion rates for apprentices and trainees who commenced training in 2014 have decreased to 56.7% (down from 59.9% for those commencing in 2013).

Completion rates can vary considerably by occupation. For individuals who commenced in 2014, the completion rate for ICT professionals was 95%, and for food trades workers it was 41%.

Completion and attrition rates for apprentices and trainees 2018 tracks the outcomes of apprentices and trainees from when they commenced their training.

To learn more, download the report on our Portal.


Do course durations matter to training outcomes?

The relationship between course durations, training quality and outcomes is of great interest to the VET sector, including the students themselves.

Consultation with providers, regulators and industry peak bodies identified they consider course durations to be a key facilitating factor in a high-quality training program.

However, statistical analysis of the study’s qualifications of interest revealed that this issue is more complex.

To learn more, download the report on our Portal.


Government-funded training enrolments decline

There were 1.1 million students enrolled in the government-funded VET system in 2018, down 1.9% when compared with 2017.

Both hours of delivery and full-year training equivalents decreased by 6.4% when compared with 2017.

Demographically, 45.4% of government-funded VET students were aged 24 years and under in 2018, 49.0% were female, and 82.0% studied part-time.

The number of Indigenous students increased by 1.8% to 79 000, while the number of students with a disability remained similar to 2017 at 100 800.

Download the report on our Portal.


New essays explain the development of the VET system

In VOCEDplus, we assign the term ‘landmark’ to those key historical documents that have influenced VET’s development in Australia.

Last year, we created a timeline of these national landmark documents.

We’ve now released the first 2 of 10 historical overviews to explain the actual impact of these key documents:

Both essays and the timeline are available in the VOCEDplus VET Knowledge Bank.


‘No Frills’ presentations available

If you weren’t able to attend the 28th National VET Research Conference ‘No Frills’, held in Adelaide on 10-12 July 2019, copies of over 40 conference presentations are now available from NCVER’s international tertiary education research database, VOCEDplus.

Recordings of keynotes will be available on NCVER’s Portal shortly.


Coming soon

Stay tuned for the following new releases over the coming weeks:

  • LSAY infographic: Life at 24 – then and now
  • Statistics: Total VET students and courses 2018
  • Statistics: VET qualification completion rates 2017
  • Statistics: Government-funded students and courses Jan-Mar 2019

Keep an eye on Twitter and LinkedIn for more in-depth information on our latest releases, or subscribe to receive notifications on the day of release.


Upcoming events

Conference: National Apprentice Employment Network Conference 2019 
31 July – 2 August 2019, Gold Coast
Presenter: Lisel O’Dwyer will co-facilitate a masterclass on group training.

Conference: Independent Tertiary Education Conference
21-23 August 2019, Surfer’s Paradise
Presenters: Toni Cavallaro will speak on “Using NCVER data as a planning tool” and Genevieve Knight will speak on “VET and the return on investment“.

Symposium: Australian Travel Careers Council (ATCC) 2019 Symposium
3-4 September 2019, Sydney
Presenter: Phil Loveder will speak on “Understanding the future skills needs of the tourism, travel and hospitality services industry”.

Conference: 2019 National VET Conference
12-13 September 2019, Brisbane
Keynote: Managing Director Simon Walker will speak on “Transforming our understanding of the Australian VET system”.

Regulator: International students “vulnerable” to dodgy agents

Yesterday, the Australian Skills Quality Authority (ASQA) released its strategic review into international education, entitled Protecting the quality of international VET and English language education, which documents the explosive growth in international student enrolments along with a number of shortcomings in the tertiary education system.

First, the report notes the explosive growth in international students numbers across the various tertiary sectors, which has been concentrated in Sydney and Melbourne:

In 2018, there were more than 875,000 enrolments generated by almost 700,000 full-fee paying overseas students in Australia, across all education sectors. This represents a 10 per cent increase on 2017 and compares with an average annual enrolment growth rate of almost 11 per cent annually over the preceding five years. The majority of overseas students were enrolled in higher education courses, with China and India the top two source countries.

Overseas student growth has been strongest in the higher education and VET sectors in recent years, as shown by Figure 5. The largest volume of enrolments and commencements in 2018 were in higher education (45 per cent and 34 per cent, respectively) followed by VET (30 per cent and 30 per cent), ELICOS (18 per cent and 24 per cent) and the non-award sector (six per cent and eight per cent)…

The distribution of overseas students, and resulting economic activity, is concentrated in New South Wales which recorded 38 per cent of enrolments, followed by Victoria with 32 per cent… In 2018, 97 per cent of overseas students studied in a major city with the majority of these students studying in Sydney and Melbourne…

The fastest growing market for VET in 2018 was Nepal, with a 108 per cent growth rate from 2017. Myanmar was the next fastest growing market with a 58 per cent growth rate, followed by Mongolia (52 per cent) and Sri Lanka (50 per cent). Figure 7 shows the fastest growing source countries for the VET sector in 2018…

As shown above, growth in the VET sector has been driven by Nepal, who are also Australia’s third biggest international student source and the fastest growing, according to the Department of Home Affairs:

Inside Story’s economics correspondent, Tim Colebatch, recently warned that the flood of lower quality Nepalese students into Australia is degrading education standards:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Next, the ASQA report warns that international students are especially vulnerable to “being misinformed, misled and, in the worst circumstances, open to exploitation” by dodgy and unregulated education agents, who accounted for around three-quarters of international student enrolments in 2017:

Education agents are an integral part of Australia’s overseas education sector. They represent education providers to students and advise prospective students on courses of study available to them in all education sectors.

There is no legal requirement under Australian law for providers or overseas students to engage an agent, but most do—agents facilitated almost 74 per cent of the total overseas student enrolments in 2017..

ASQA does not regulate migration agents or education agents. Unlike migration agents (onshore), education agents are a non-regulated sector and there are no official registration processes for becoming an education agent…

The drivers of this student demand are complex and relate to a range of interrelated factors, including the ability to work in Australia while undertaking study and post-graduation. Australia’s post-study work rights, and its work-rights settings, remain competitive.

The desire to pursue paid employment opportunities, even in breach of their visa conditions, is likely to motivate some students and introduces the risk that some providers and agents will seek to exploit this demand and recruit these overseas students using misleading and unethical practices.

Overseas students rely heavily on the assistance of education agents when making decisions and can lack reliable information to hold their providers and education agents to account. This dependence makes overseas students vulnerable to being misinformed, misled and, in the worst circumstances, open to exploitation by their providers, education agents and other third parties, such as employers.

… there are ongoing concerns expressed by some stakeholders and commentators about the quality and integrity of VET and ELICOS courses, especially where students are not properly engaged and participating in their study.

Many of these concerns centre on the potential for collusive activity between some providers, education agents and those students who seek to enter Australia for paid employment, rather than to engage in study. These practices can be difficult for regulators to detect, given that the parties involved are unlikely to make complaints to the Australian Skills Quality Authority (ASQA) or other government agencies…

Many education agents operate from foreign countries. There is no government regulatory oversight of education agents, and the quality of the services provided by agents is reliant on individual providers systematically monitoring the practices of their agents. This lack of oversight can make overseas students vulnerable to poor practices, including misleading marketing and advertising, by providers and agents that deliberately evade their obligations.

Some overseas students may also come under financial pressure once they are in Australia and find themselves in situations where they work more hours than they are entitled to under their student visa conditions. All overseas students who breach their student visa conditions, regardless of their intentions or motivations, can find themselves open to exploitation by unscrupulous providers, agents and employers…

It is these persistent concerns that led ASQA to identify delivery of VET and ELICOS courses to international students as a systemic risk…

There are risk factors specific to the overseas student sector, particularly in the VET sector, that can lead to poor provider behaviour. While many providers may display these risk factors and still operate effectively and reputably, ASQA did find that some providers deliberately avoid compliance and adopt poor practices…

ASQA also singled-out “ghost colleges” that enrol overseas students but do not ­require class attendance:

Regulatory activities conducted on some providers as part of the strategic review, and in ASQA’s wider regulatory work, identified one particular concern relating to overseas student class attendance. Investigation of this issue has found several instances of providers who are not requiring overseas students to attend scheduled classes, but who are still determining that these students are progressing in their course.

Overseas students are required to be enrolled in a full-time registered course to meet the study requirements of the student visa program…

Finally, ASQA indentified instances of institutions recruiting students with poor English proficiency in order to boost student numbers and revenue:

In conducting its regulatory activities, ASQA found instances of students who were enrolled in VET courses where their English language capabilities were limited.

In one example, the student, who was interviewed during a site visit of a provider, had to use non-verbal gestures to articulate basic statements and requested others to translate so the student could respond to questions. In this example, the student had been enrolled in a business qualification for more than 12 months, having been accepted with an English test type of ‘other form of testing which satisfies the institution’. It is clear this student did not have an appropriate level of English language capability either on enrolment or developed during study…

While the obligations are on the provider to ensure students have a sufficient level of English to complete the course they seek to enrol in, there is an opportunity for poor-quality providers to overlook limited English capability when enrolling a student to maximise their student enrolments inappropriately.

While ASQA claims the international student industry is operating reasonably well overall, these are definite holes in the system in dire need of improvement.

SOURCEAAP:https://www.macrobusiness.com.au/2019/08/regulator-international-students-vulnerable-dodgy-education-agents/

Marshall Govt’s VET plan will privatise TAFE by stealth

The Marshall Government’s new VET plan shows it is determined to sell South Australia’s TAFE system to the highest bidder and allow private training providers to line their own pockets at the expense of TAFE students.

The plan will give profit-seeking private training providers access to TAFE SA sites at the same time that TAFE budgets in South Australia are being slashed.

AEU Federal President Correna Haythorpe warned other states and territories not to follow suit, saying it would severely impact the ability of Australians to access affordable, high-quality vocational education. She said it would leave hundreds of thousands of trainees and apprentices across Australia at the mercy of profit-seeking private training providers.

“The Marshall Government’s agenda on vocational education is clear. It plans to wash its hands of responsibility for VET by privatising TAFE SA and allowing private training providers to line their pockets at the expense of students,” Ms Haythorpe said.

“It’s clear that big business is aligning with Liberal governments at both a state and federal level in a push to squeeze TAFE out completely and hand responsibility for vocational education to private providers.”

“The private sector’s idea of VET-sector competition is to drive down costs and standards and drive the ‘competition’-that means TAFE-out of business. Then it can jack up prices and force students to pay through the nose,” Ms Haythorpe said.

“TAFE is one of the crown jewels of the Australian education system. It has proudly provided vocational education for generations of Australians in everything from plumbing to nursing, childcare and IT.”

“The Marshall Government’s plan is a poorly-disguised bid by private training providers to line their own pockets at the expense of TAFE by hiding behind words like ‘choice’ and competition’,” Ms Haythorpe said.

Ms Haythorpe said that the Marshall Government’s new plan was the culmination of a years-long campaign to slash budgets and government support for TAFE SA:

  • SA government-funded VET student numbers have reduced from 150,000 in 2013 to just 63,000 in 2017
  • The SA Government’s total recurrent VET funding contribution has been cut by 40% since 2013, with recurrent VET expenditure per person now the second lowest in the country (after NSW)
  • Thirteen TAFE SA campuses have closed and more than 700 jobs have been lost, while moreTAFE campuses were earmarked for closure in the 2018 state budget

Ms Haythorpe said the moves by the Marshall Government to marginalise TAFE SA and favour private training providers were reflected nationally.

“Despite the clear and undisputed benefits that a robustly funded and administered public TAFE and vocational education sector provides our economy and our society, there has been a concerted and continual drive from successive Coalition governments to marginalise vocational education and deprioritise TAFE,” Ms Haythorpe said.

“This anti-TAFE push is gathering speed. In its first Federal Budget the Morrison Government included no additional specified funding for TAFE-amazingly, it failed to mention TAFE at all.”

“History has shown that private providers aren’t interested in quality education. ITECA represents profit-seeking private education providers and is focused on taking government TAFE funding and giving it to private providers,” Ms Haythorpe said.

Ms Haythorpe said that TAFE must remain a strong public provider of vocational education in Australia. She called upon the Morrison Government to:

  • Guarantee a minimum of 70% government funding to the public TAFE system. In addition, no public funding should go to private for-profit providers, consistent with other education sectors.
  • Restore funding and rebuild the TAFE system, to restore confidence in the quality of the courses and qualifications and the institution.
  • Abandon the failed student loans experiment, and cancel the debts of all students caught up in private for-profit provider scams.
  • Re-invest in the TAFE teaching workforce and develop a future-focused TAFE workforce development strategy in collaboration with the profession and unions.
  • Develop a capital investment strategy in consultation with state governments, to address the deplorable state of TAFE facilities around the country.
  • Support a comprehensive independent inquiry into TAFE.

“Any proposal which undermines the importance of the Commonwealth and state and territory governments working together to build a strong, vibrant, fully funded public TAFE will be fiercely opposed by the AEU,” Ms Haythorpe said.

/Public Release. View in full here.

Concerns for TAFE SA following MOU sell out

The Australian Education Union (SA Branch) has raised serious concerns over today’s announcement by Minister Gardner regarding the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding between TAFE SA and the Independent Tertiary Education Council of Australia (ITECA).

The agreement opens the door to private providers taking up residence at TAFE sites, directing policy and cherry picking the delivery of profitable courses.

ITECA is open about actively pursuing its reform agenda by increasing its private provider members’ share of the vocational education and training sector.

Australian Education Union South Australian President Howard Spreadbury is wary of how TAFE SA and ITECA will work together under this new agreement.

“The two organisations are in direct competition within the same market. Minister Gardner’s statement confirms he will allow private providers to further erode TAFE’s market share, compromise its independence and allow ITECA to push its own agenda,” said Mr Spreadbury.

Instead the AEU is calling for the Marshall Liberal Government to recognise the value of TAFE SA and to return appropriate investment levels, suggesting this would be a more effective way to make it more competitive and sustainable in the long term.

“TAFE SA is the largest provider of vocational education and training in the state and must be valued for its place within the community. TAFE SA provides quality education that is accessible to all, offering pathways for many who may otherwise miss out on opportunities.”

The AEU asserts that TAFE SA is already responsive to the needs of employers and works with industry groups to deliver quality training to build a skilled and sustainable workforce for South Australia.

There are concerns about how TAFE SA facilities may be used in the future. It may end up being more ‘competitive’ for TAFE SA under its new management to lease out its facilities rather than provide courses for students.

“It is like having a ‘fire sale’ after the place has been gutted. Instead of supporting and investing in TAFE SA, the Marshall Government is surrendering its responsibility and handing it over to private providers who are driven by profit,” said Mr Spreadbury.

“Letting private providers access taxpayer-funded facilities and set up in direct competition on TAFE SA’s own doorstep has the potential to undermine TAFE program delivery.”

/Public Release.

Australia’s VET system set to shape our future workforce

The Morrison Government’s renewed commitment to the Vocational Education and Training (VET) sector will make it central to shaping Australia’s workforce for the future.

Speaking at the 28th National Vocational Education and Training Research Conference today, Minister for Employment, Skills, Small and Family Business, Senator Michaelia Cash, said she would lift the profile of Australia’s VET sector and aim to make it the first choice in post-school learning for millions of Australians.

“It is a valuable career choice for many Australians and should not be seen as being something less important than a university degree,” Minister Cash said.

More than 4 million people undertook vocational education and training in 2017. At the end of last year, there were more than a quarter of a million apprentices and trainees.

“We know that people with VET qualifications are highly regarded and sought after by employers, but we need more people to choose VET as their path to success,” Minister Cash said.

“The Morrison Government already has in place a number of programs and tools designed to increase the profile of the sector and encourage more Australians to choose a VET qualification.

“These programs will be especially important because, as our economy evolves and our workforce changes, VET will be the way we train and re-train the workforce of the future.

Minister Cash also delivered a message to education providers of the VET sector that more cooperation with industry was required to create better outcomes for students.

“Employers look to vocationally trained workers because of their suitability in skills and experience. Australia’s VET system must better connect with industry, respond to community needs, and have clear, consistent funding.

And with the growth in the VET sector, Minister Cash said there was always room for improvements.

“The sector still bears some of the scars of Labor’s mismanagement of bad student loans, underfunded courses, quality issues and the diminishing of TAFE.

“It is this Government’s promise to continue the hard work of reforming the sector, providing better quality courses, and better outcomes for trainees and employers.”

The Australian Government’s $525 million Delivering Skills for Today and Tomorrow package announced in the April Budget will also ensure that the sector can help supply Australia’s future workforce.

The package provides every Australian with the opportunity to grow the skills needed to succeed in an evolving workforce and, concurrently offers employers a pipeline of qualified workers they need to grow and prosper.

Minister Cash said the package reflects the Morrison Government’s commitment to growing the number of new apprenticeships.

“Under our landmark skills package, up to 80,000 additional apprenticeships will be created over the next five years in priority skill shortage areas, assisted by new apprenticeship incentives. Youth unemployment will be targeted with an offering of 400 scholarships in regional Australia to the value of $8 million.

“The 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,” Minister Cash said.

/Public Release. View in full here.

Minister praises vocational study over uni

Michaelia Cash
Minister Michaelia Cash hopes to raise the profile of the vocational education and training sector. (AAP)

Skills and Employment Minister Michaelia Cash wants Australian students to choose vocational training over university study when they finish school.

The federal government hopes Australian students will put their hands up for vocational education over university study.

Skills Minister Michaelia Cash will on Thursday address the vocational education and training sector at a conference in Adelaide, outlining the Morrison government’s aims for the field.

Senator Cash hopes to raise the profile of the sector to ensure it’s the first pick for students choosing their next steps after high school.

“It is a valuable career choice for many Australians and should not be seen as being something less important than a university degree,” she will say.

“We know that people with VET qualifications are highly regarded and sought after by employers, but we need more people to choose VET as their path to success.”

Senator Cash will also urge education providers to work closer with industry to ensure students receive better training.

“Employers look to vocationally trained workers because of their suitability in skills and experience,” she will say.

“Australia’s VET system must better connect with industry, respond to community needs and have clear, consistent funding.”

There were more than 250,000 apprentices and trainees at the end of last year, while more than four million Australians undertook vocational education and training in 2017.

Under the Morrison government’s $525 million plan, up to 80,000 extra apprenticeships will be created over the next five years in areas with skills shortages.

Youth unemployment in regional Australia will also be combated, with 400 scholarships on offer to the value of $8 million.