Tinkering at the edges but little reform for vocational sector

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


NCVER NEWS- International onshore VET graduate satisfaction remains high

International onshore VET graduate satisfaction remains high

New data reveals 84.5% of international onshore VET graduates were satisfied with the overall quality of their training.

International onshore VET graduate outcomes 2018 provides a summary of the outcomes of international students who completed their VET qualification in Australia in 2017.

The report uses data collected in mid-2018 via the National Student Outcomes Survey.

To learn more, view the infographic on our Portal.

Over 800 000 VET students to be surveyed
The 2019 National Student Outcomes Survey, Australia’s largest survey of VET students, is set to commence next week.

This year, over 800,000 people who completed training in 2018 will be contacted about their employment outcomes, training satisfaction, and their thoughts on the benefits and relevance of their training.

Eligible RTOs will again be able to access data as reported by their students.

Take advantage of our free kit to help promote the survey to your former students.

Back again: the ‘No Frills’ panel discussion

Yep, we’re bringing it back! ‘No Frills’ 2019 will once again feature a lively discussion from a panel of VET experts.

This year’s topic will be Lifelong learning: VET’s role now and into the future.

Will it be enough for our future workers to possess a single qualification or skill set? Where do employability skills fit into the mix?

Panellists to be announced shortly, so keep an eye on NCVER News for updates.

In the meantime, check out the rest of our comprehensive program and register now.

Apprentice and trainee experience and destinations survey

The Apprentice and Trainee Experience and Destinations Survey, last conducted in 2010, commences next week.

The survey collects information on employment outcomes, satisfaction with training, reasons for non-completion, and on-the-job experiences of apprentices and trainees who completed or left their training in 2018.

A report on the results will be available on our Portal in late 2019.

WEBINAR: Exploring the importance of small VET providers

Join us as we discuss the important role small VET providers play in offering diversity, equity and specialised training services across the Australian VET sector.

Small providers contribute to VET system diversity via the niche qualifications they offer, which are often fee-for-service.

If you’d like to learn more before the webinar, download the research or view the infographic now.

When: Thurs 20 June 2019, 1.30-2.00pm ACST
Register: secure your place now

National Reconciliation Week: grounded in truth

This week we acknowledge National Reconciliation Week 2019 and the important role VET plays in closing the employment gap for Indigenous Australians.

Research shows VET is a preferred post-school learning pathway for Indigenous students, with figures showing a steady increase from 2005 to 2015 for participation in higher level qualifications.

This shift is a positive sign, as employment rates are greater for those who gain a Certificate III or higher.

For a comprehensive overview of Indigenous VET participation, completion and employment outcomes, view the infographic on our Portal.

You can also read our 2018 special edition of NCVER News, where we compiled a full run-down of research, facts and figures relating to Indigenous participation in VET.

Library and Information Week: 20-26 May 2019

Celebrate National Library and Information Week with VOCEDplus, as we highlight some of the resources and services provided by NCVER’s team of librarians:

  • VOCEDplus: is the free VET research database. More than half of the 80,000 publications in it are available online, including digitised copies of key historical documents.
  • VET Knowledge Bank: brings together Australian VET reference information and includes the VET glossary, timelines of VET milestones and policy initiatives, and landmark documents that have shaped the VET landscape.
  • Pod Network: a collection of themed pages containing topic-specific research and resources.
  • ‘Focus on’: these pages highlight topical issues in tertiary education, including summaries of recent research.
  • Reference and information services: where you can get your questions answered, get access to VOCEDplus publications not available online, and training on how to use the VOCEDplus database.

Follow @VOCEDplus for tips and updates from NCVER’s librarians.

Only 10 days left to apply!

The Australian Training Awards are the peak national awards for Australia’s VET sector. This year the awards will be held in Brisbane on Thursday 21 November 2019.

The awards recognise and reward individuals, businesses and registered training organisations for their contribution to skilling Australia.

Watch this video to find out more. Applications close Friday 31 May 2019.

Coming Soon

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

  • Statistics: Apprentices and trainees 2018: December quarter

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: 28th National VET Research Conference ‘No Frills’
Wednesday 10 – Friday 12 July 2019, Adelaide

Conference: 22nd Annual AVETRA Conference
Monday 17 – Tuesday 18 June 2019, Sydney
Presenter: NCVER’s Tracy Gamlin will speak about VOCEDplus

Theme days and weeks
National Library and Information Week: 20-24 May 2019
National Volunteer’s Week: 20-26 May 2019
National Reconciliation Week: 27 May – 3 June 2019


Before Spending More on Vocational Training, Let’s Ensure it Meets Market Needs

As lawmakers and students grow weary of the rising cost of higher education, vocational training programs are drawing more attention and funding. But a new report finds that these programs are wildly out of step with the needs of today’s job market. To provide a real alternative to higher education, states and schools offering vocational programs should align vocational education with market needs.

Career and Technical Education programs offer options for students looking to avoid student loan debt. These programs equip high school and post-secondary students with the skills and credentials they need to secure jobs for tens of thousands of dollars less than the cost of a traditional 4-year college degree. However, most students are pursuing—and taxpayers are funding—credentials that offer little access to jobs, let alone well-paid ones.

The Foundation for Excellence in Education, a national education research organization, partnered with Burning Glass Technologies, a job market research firm to study U.S. vocational education. They found that in the 24 states they studied, the credentials students earn through career and technical education do not align with job markets.

In total, the study found that for 10 of the top 15 most popular credentials, students are earning more credentials than there are jobs available. In some cases, these credentials lead to no job opportunities at all. “General Career Readiness” credentials, such as financial literacy and basic first aid, for example, account for 28% of credentials earned, yet the study reported zero market demand for them.

Even when students do find jobs with low-demand credentials, they are often low-paying. According to data from the study and the Bureau of Labor statistics, only four of the top nine licenses earned by K-12 students lead to jobs with annual median salaries of approximately $35,000 or more. By contrast, median U.S. household income in 2017 totaled $60,336, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

Worse yet, taxpayers are footing the bill for these programs. A recent oversight reportfound that in the last few years, the U.S. Department of Education spent hundreds of millions of dollars on vocational education programs including hair and beauty schools, gaming and bartending classes, refrigeration school, and a Professional Golfers Career College. Last year, Congress agreed to channel and additional $1.2 billion to career and technical education over the next six years, and states augment this funding with hundreds of millions of dollars of their own resources.

Instead of funding credentials that translate to few or no jobs, these resources could be helping students obtain credentials that position them for available jobs with significant salaries. For example, the Foundation for Excellence in Education study found that employers are looking to fill tens of thousands of jobs with employees who have EEG/EKG/ECG Certifications, CompTIA A+ Security+ certifications, and with Cisco Certified Network Associates—positions that come with median annual salaries between $50,132 to $82,296 per year.

If the states and nation are earnest about making career and technical programs a viable path to gainful employment, they must do more than fund these programs, they should align the credentials they offer with market demands.

Finland’s vocational education program, for example, is shaped by just such analysis. According to the National Center on Education and the Economy, The Finnish National Board of Education determines what vocational education will be offered throughout the country based on regularly updated analysis of projections for what the the nation’s industry needs will be in 15 years.

This program has proved both popular and successful at helping Finnish students secure jobs. At age 16, Finnish students choose whether to focus on preparing for university or to pursue vocational education. According to the Organization for Economic Development, Finland has one the highest enrollment rates in upper secondary vocational education, with 71% of upper secondary students enrolled in vocational education programs. And overall, Finnish vocational graduates (age 20-64) experience a 73.4% employment rate, several percentage points higher than average vocational graduate employment rate in the European Union.

The United States could do similarly. Industry needs vary from state to state, so states and schools could optimize career and technical education resources by auditing which credentials are in demand in the labor market, and then directing students and funding to those credentials. These adjustments would benefit employers seeking qualified employees in high-demand fields, students seeking cost-effective paths to employment, and schools whose increased graduate employment rates attract more potential students.

Vocational education programs offer students tremendous education opportunities, but with some intentional adjustments, we can make them even more practical.


TAFE Queensland struggles with declining enrolments

AFE Queensland’s financial performance is at risk because of declining student numbers, the state’s auditor-general has warned.

According to a Queensland Audit Office report, TAFE Queensland is struggling due to decreasing student numbers and revenue, without an equivalent reduction in expenses.

Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk at Acacia Ridge's TAFE Skill Centre during the 2017 election campaign.

Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk at Acacia Ridge’s TAFE Skill Centre during the 2017 election campaign.CREDIT:TRACEY NEARMY/AAP

“There are risks to its sustainability,” Auditor-General Brendan Worrall’s report reads.

“TAFE Queensland requires ongoing support from the Queensland government to remain financially sustainable.”

TAFE Queensland’s attempts to reduce expenses were unsuccessful, largely due to employee costs and system implementation issues, the report said.

TAFE was expected to make an $11 million loss in the 2019 financial year, while its operating surplus plunged from $19.96 million in 2017 to $1.42 million in 2018.

The competitive market also heaped pressure on TAFE, with 69 per cent of students enrolled in courses in Queensland being delivered by private providers.

TAFE Queensland delivered training to more than 120,000 students in 2017-18 across 530 programs.

The Queensland government provided grants and subsidies of $762.1 million to public and private providers last year, of which $336.7 million was given to TAFE Queensland.

Training Minister Shannon Fentiman accused the federal Coalition government of cutting funding but said no other provider could match TAFE Queensland for scale and location options.

“TAFE Queensland ensures high-quality outcomes for students and employers – more than 85 per cent of students are employed or in further study after completing their course,” she said.

In a letter to the auditor-general, TAFE Queensland chief executive Mary Campbell said the body serviced rural and remote areas of the state and supported students affected by the closure of private providers.

“This responsiveness and high quality of TAFE Queensland’s education and training provisions is fundamental to the successful operation of (the) vocational education and training sector in Queensland, however it must be acknowledged that this comes at a cost,” she said.

LNP leader Deb Frecklington accused the state government of not having a plan to manage the body.

“Under (Premier) Annastacia Palaszczuk and her TAFE system, we’ve had senior execs being wined and dined and flown around the world at a cost of millions of dollars to the taxpayer of Queensland,” she said.

Last year’s estimates hearings revealed TAFE’s hospitality expenses doubled in three years and $687,525 was spent on international travel.



Beyond the dollars: what are the major parties really promising on education?

As voters head to the polls, around one-quarter will decide who to vote for on the day. Analysis shows climate change and the economy are foremost in voters’ minds.

But education remains a key issue, as evidenced by a flurry of education-related announcements in the final stretch of the campaign.

Here’s what you need to know about the major parties’ education commitments, and what the millions and billions here and there really mean.

Early childhood education and care

Two years of high-quality, play-based learning at preschool can have a significant impact on children’s development. It can put them close to eight months ahead in literacy by the time they start school. The benefits are greatest for children from disadvantaged backgrounds, which makes preschool a valuable tool for reducing inequality.

Labor has promised to make childcare free for most low-income households and to provide up to an 85% subsidy for households under $175,000. It has committed to funding an extra year of preschool for three-year-olds. This is evidence-based and builds on commitments by several states to support two years of preschool.

Labor has also pledged to increase wages for some early childhood educators, to be rolled out over a decade, and to reinstate funding for the National Quality Agenda, which lapsed in 2018. This reflects the importance of quality in early childhood services, to improve outcomes for children.

Both the Coalition and Labor are taking early childhood education and care seriously this election. from shutterstock.com

The Coalition is taking a more cautious approach to spending on the early childhood sector. It has pledged funding for four-year-old preschool, but only for another year, and it has not renewed funding for the National Quality Agenda.

The Coalition will likely retain the means-tested subsidy introduced as part of its major childcare reforms in 2018. While these reforms benefited an estimated one million lower-income families, the means test also left around 280,000 families worse off, including families with neither parent in work.

Advocates argue preschool should be seen as an integral component of the education system and a fundamental right for all children, and all parties should take a cross-partisan approach and commit to long-term funding. The major parties are certainly not at that point yet, but there are indications they’re heading in the right direction.


Given states and territories are largely responsible for schools, federal investment should be targeted where it can make the most difference. Two key areas are needs-based funding, to ensure additional support is available to students who need it the most, and central investment in research and evidence-based practice.

Both major parties have promised a national evidence instituteLaborhas allocated funds for it, with the Coalition yet to do so. This initiative reflects the urgent need to ensure evidence helps to shape the education system. The Productivity Commission has recommended such an institute, to connect educators and policymakers with the latest research on teaching and learning.

On funding, the Coalition wants us to judge it on its reforms to the schools funding package, which is now mostly modelled on the needs-based funding approach outlined in the Gonski Review. But funding has still not reached the recommended levels. The Coalition has supported the National School Resourcing Board to review these funding arrangements and develop a fairer model for all schools.

View image on Twitter

View image on Twitter

Labor has promised to increase funding for schools. Labor’s offer would bring schools closer to meeting the levels of funding recommended by Gonski.

Funding isn’t a magic bullet, but it plays an important role in improving outcomes for all students..

Tertiary education

Vocational Education and Training (VET) has experienced a series of unsuccessful reforms over the past decade. VET plays an important role in the tertiary sector, so it’s good to see both major parties addressing this in their platforms.

The Coalition’s plan comes out of a major recent review of the VET sector and includes more money for apprentices and rural programs; the establishment of a National Skills Commission and a National Careers Institute; and simplifying systems for employers.

Labor has pledged to fund up to 100,000 TAFE places. It has also promised a major inquiry into tertiary education, looking at VET and universities side by side. This could potentially move us towards a fairer system that puts VET and universities on an even footing and better caters to the varied needs of students and employers.

Both Labor and the Coalition have committed to increased support for apprenticeships, through financial incentives for employers.

For universities, Labor says it will bring back demand-driven funding, which existed between 2012 and 2017, where universities are paid for every student studying and there is no limit on the number of students that can be admitted to courses. Evidence suggests this has been effective in boosting studies in areas where there are skills shortages, such as health, and also appears to have improved access to education for disadvantaged groups.

Due to costs, the Coalition has moved to a funding model based on population and university performance. It has also promised extra support for regional students and universities. This help address the large gaps in university participation between young people from major cities, and rural and regional Australia.

Making an informed choice

When casting our votes, we would do well to look past the dollar signs, and think about how each party is shaping an education system that will deliver quality learning for all Australians, from all kinds of backgrounds, from childhood through to adulthood.

The Coalition has delivered needs-based funding for schools and promises a greater focus on regional and rural students in all sectors. But there are some apparent gaps in early learning and tertiary policy and funding.

Labor has pledged more funding in all sectors. It has made a prominent commitment to early childhood education and care. However, Labor’s policies are expensive and would need to be implemented effectively to make sure they achieve the intended outcomes for students and deliver the financial benefit to the economy in the long-term.


NCVER NEWS- Small VET providers: the quiet achievers

Small VET providers: the quiet achievers

Small VET providers have an important role to play in offering diversity, equity and specialised training services across the sector.

The role and function of small VET providers builds on previous NCVER work to better understand the value that stable small VET providers, defined as those who maintained enrolments of fewer than 100 students across the three-year period of the study, contribute to the Australian VET system and how their operations can be supported.

View the infographic and download the report on our Portal.

Towards a digital skills framework

New research shows the rate at which digital technologies are being adopted in Australian workplaces is highly variable, despite most employers acknowledging their importance.

Skilling the Australian workforce for the digital economy also recommends that employers do more to prepare for the digital future of work or risk being left behind.

The report proposes an Australian workplace digital skills framework that will assist employers to identify digital skills gaps and develop targeted training programs.

View the suite of research products on our Portal.

Guess who’s coming to dinner?

We’re thrilled to announce that the dinner speaker at #NoFrills2019 will be Glenn Cooper AM, Chairman and Ambassador for Coopers Brewery.

After starting his working life as an automotive electrician, Glenn joined the family brewery 1990 as Sales and Marketing Director, which saw him oversee the launch of numerous popular Coopers products.

An entertaining speaker, Glenn is currently Chairman of Australian Made Australian Grown, and former Chairman of the Adelaide Fringe and the Adelaide Convention and Tourism Authority.

Glenn will be joining us at the ‘No Frills’ conference dinner on Thursday 11 July. With only limited places available, it’s first in best dressed, so register now!

2018 student outcomes data now available for RTOs

NCVER’s National Student Outcomes Survey is sent to VET graduates and subject completers who completed their training in the previous year.

The results of the 2018 survey were released in December.

Eligible RTOs can now access free individual reports of employment outcomes, training satisfaction, perceived benefits and relevance of training as reported by their students.

Visit our Portal to view the eligibility requirements and complete the form to access your report.

2019 National Student Outcomes Survey
The 2019 National Student Outcomes Survey opens on Friday 31 May for students who completed a training qualification or subject during 2018.

Eligible RTOs will again be able to access data as reported by their students.

Take advantage of our free kit to help you promote the survey to former students.

National Careers Week 2019

National Careers Week (13-19 May 2019) aims to celebrate careers and promote the economic, social and personal benefits of career development.

Career development is about managing learning, work and leisure to progress through life.

It includes gaining and using the skills and knowledge to plan and make informed decisions about education, training, and work.

Check out these NCVER resources for more information about career development:

Follow us on Twitter for more on National Careers Week next week.

The 2019 OECD Employment Outlook

The 2019 edition of the OECD Employment Outlook has been released. Titled The Future of Work, it investigates how the labour market is being transformed by demographic, socioeconomic and technological trends.

It concludes that policy decisions relating to areas such as social protection for workers, adult learning strategies and harnessing the full potential of digital disruption will determine how successfully countries manage the changing world of work.

Other recent publications on the future of work include:

Previous editions of the OECD Employment Outlook can also be found in VOCEDplus.

Coming soon

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

  • Statistics: International onshore VET graduate outcomes 2018
  • Statistics: Apprentices and trainees 2018: December quarter

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: 28th National VET Research Conference ‘No Frills’
Wednesday 10 – Friday 12 July 2019, Adelaide

Theme days and weeks
International Nurses Day: 12 May 2019
Privacy Awareness Week: 12-18 May 2019
National Careers Week: 13-19 May 2019
International Day of Families: 15 May 2019
Library and Information Week: 20-24 May 2019


Monash review calls for reforms to funding, student loans

Elizabeth Proust, chairwoman of the Monash Commission. Picture: Chris PavlichElizabeth Proust, chairwoman of the Monash Commission. Picture: Chris Pavlich


A new Monash University-initiated review has called on the federal and state governments to co-operate on reform to tertiary education to create a powerful new national funding agency and expand student loans to all accredited courses.

The review, the first from the newly instituted Monash Commission, recommends closer links between the higher education and vocational education sectors, and an integrated funding system overseen by an independent statutory body that would distribute funding on behalf of federal, state and territory governments.

The commission, chaired by businesswoman Elizabeth Proust, says Australia needs a “seamless” post-secondary education system that delivers lifelong learning to help people gain new knowledge and skills as they move through life and take on new jobs and responsibilities.

It outlines significant challenges, saying that Australia’s post-compulsory education system (meaning education that follows children’s compulsory per­iod of schooling) “lacks a shared sense of purpose and direction”.

Vocational education and training “has become uneven in funding levels, policy direction and quality”, and the system struggles to deliver equal education access to all Australians, it says.

The report, titled Three Recommendations for Renewal of Post-Compulsory Education in Australia, also says there needs to be more capacity to deal with rapid economic and social change.

A key requirement is to build a system that can offer new skills to a person several times across their lifetime, with courses that are flexible, affordable and time-saving. “Our current system of post-compulsory education and train­ing still seems funded and equipped to educate people only once,” it says.

It also warns that the present funding model for post-compulsory education lacks the ability to deal with new challenges. “It discourages the sort of ­diversity within and between ­institutions needed to make our system agile and flexible enough to serve our needs,” the report says.

The review’s first recommendation, for a national statutory funding and advisory body, is aimed at setting a “stable and non-partisan policy direction” and aligning resource allocation appropriately.

Its second recommendation would spread HECS-style income-contingent loans to all areas of post-compulsory education. It would offer every Australian a learning entitlement, consisting of a loan and a government subsidy, which could be dipped into at any stage of life.

It also would take into account micro-credentials, which add flexibility to the education system.

The final recommendation, for a sustainable financing model, is to separate government funding for teaching and research, with teaching money no longer being siphoned away to pay for university research. Governments would pick up the slack and bear the full cost of research.

Monash University vice-chancellor Margaret Gardner said the Monash Commission would undertake further public policy work. “We thought the university should have a role in bringing independent experts together, saying, ‘Here’s a question, ponder it, gather evidence and put that into the public domain,’ ” she said.

Tim Dodd travelled to Melbourne courtesy of Monash University.


Endless fights over money don’t improve education results

One of the few things both sides agree on in this election campaign is that we must get education right. A highly educated and well-trained workforce is our best insurance that all the benefits that digital disruption brings don’t come at the cost of many people unable to find decent jobs.

As a rich nation, our workers are highly paid. That’s not bad, it’s good. But it does mean we have to ensure our workers continue being equipped with the knowledge and skills that make their labour valuable – to local employers and to the purchasers of the goods and services we export.

One thing it doesn’t mean is that all our youngsters should go to university. There will be plenty of well-paid, safe, interesting jobs for the less academically inclined, provided they’re equipped with the valuable technical and caring skills provided by a healthy vocational education and training sector.

A top-notch technical education system will also be key to achieving something we’ve long just rabbited on about: lifelong learning. Being able to update your skills for your occupation’s latest digital whiz-bangery, or quickly acquire different skills for a job in a new industry with better prospects than the one that just ejected you.

But while we’re emphasising education’s instrumental importance to maintaining our material standard of living, we should never lose sight of its intrinsic value to our spiritual living standard. Education for its own sake. Because it satisfies humans’ insatiable curiosity about the world – even the universe – we live in.

We need to get education and training right at every level, from childcare (these days renamed ECEC – “early childhood education and care”), preschool, primary and secondary school, vocational education and training, and university.

Illustration: Simon Letch
Illustration: Simon LetchCREDIT:

To me, our greater understanding of the way tiny brains develop combines with common sense to say that, in our efforts to get every level of education up to scratch, we should start at the bottom and work up.

The better-equipped kids are when they progress from one stage to the next, the easier it is for that next stage to ensure they thrive rather than fall behind.

On childcare, the Coalition did a good job of rationalising the feds’ two conflicting childcare subsidies, but Labor is promising a lot more money for childcare, including phasing in much better pay for (mainly female) better-educated childcare workers.

The Coalition has achieved universal preschool for four-year-olds and, in the budget, extended that funding for a further two years. Labor has topped that, promising permanent funding arrangements and extension of the scheme to three-year-olds, as most other rich countries do.

We don't spend as much as some comparable counties on education and our results are declining.
We don’t spend as much as some comparable counties on education and our results are declining.

Let’s be frank: because Labor plans to increase, rather than cut, the tax on high income-earners, it has a lot more money to spend on all levels of education (plus a lot of other areas).

It’s certainly promising to spend more on schools. The Coalition’s great achievement has been to introduce its own, better and somewhat cheaper version of businessman David Gonski’s needs-based funding of schools – which it immediately marred by doing a special deal with Catholic schools. Labor’s promising to return to its earlier Gonski funding levels (but, hopefully, not to its earlier commitment that no rich school would lose a dollar).

It’s often claimed we spend a lot on schools relative to other countries, but the Grattan Institute’s schools expert, Dr Peter Goss, says that, when you allow for our younger population, only the Netherlands and the United States spend less than we do among nine other comparable rich countries.

International testing shows our 15-year-olds’ scores for maths, science and reading are each below the average for those countries. On maths, our score of 524 in 2003 had dropped to 494 by 2015.

For science, our gap between the top and bottom students – a measure of fairness – is wider than for the others, bar Canada, South Korea, Japan and even Britain.

Which demolishes the claim that we’re pouring more money into schools but getting worse results. What’s true is that our spending is below average and our results are also below average – and getting worse.

So, do we need to spend a lot more? No, not a lot more now we’ve gone a long way towards redistributing funding favour of needy (mainly public) schools full of kids with low income, low educated parents.

The feds and, more particularly, the states have more to do to re-align funding between advantaged non-government schools and their own disadvantaged public schools.

Once disadvantaged schools are getting their full whack of needs-based funding, however, we can end the eternal shootfight over money and move to the more important issue of ensuring the money’s better spent.

Much can be done to help teachers move to more effective ways of teaching, making schools less like a production line and giving more attention to individuals, many of whom have trouble keeping up, while some are insufficiently challenged.

But, Goss says, this is mainly a job for the state governments, and the feds should avoid trying to backseat drive. The feds would help more by obliging the universities to do a much better job of selecting and preparing future teachers.

Ross Gittins is the Herald’s economics editor.



Group training head takes on international role at TAFE NSW – TDA Newsletter

In this edition

  • Let’s look at the building blocks of VET – comment by CEO Craig Robertson
  • Skills training vital as jobs threatened by automation, OECD warns
  • PM promises to expand apprentice wage subsidy scheme if re-elected
  • First aid training under review after death of footballer from heat stress
  • An update from TDA 2019 Corporate Affiliate TechnologyOne
  • Anzac service marks 10-year partnership with Canberra Institute of Technology
  • Group training head takes on international role at TAFE NSW
  • Diary

Let’s look at the building blocks of VET – comment by CEO Craig Robertson

I still remember the look of surprise in response to my show of disdain.

Last year at the Congress of the World Federation of Colleges and Polytechnics in Melbourne several colleagues from community colleges and polytechnics in the US and Canada announced with great anticipation the arrival of competency-based education to their college and university scene. They said competency-based education (CBE) would be a game changer.

Competency-based training (CBT), our very own version of CBE, carries many meanings and histories and it may have been my history of CBT that gave rise to my response.

CBT has been the building-block of vocational education and training since its creation by the National Training Board toward the end of the 1980s. It was hailed as the game-changer – the means by which the needs of industry and employers could be reflected within VET delivery. Under the Australian National Training Authority the competency approach was enshrined in national industry endorsed training packages from the mid-1990s.

Educationalists warned at the time that the approach risked a reductionist approach to training, a sort of atomising of the education and training experience into small decontextualized parts. Time has shown that these parts have been mixed and matched in innumerable ways as the sector more and more has sought to meet the disparate needs of employers.

We’ve been arguing the toss ever since. In my time in the sector, there’s been the high-level review of training packages conducted in the mid-2000s, VET products for the 21st century released in 2004 and the present review of training products underway by the COAG skills ministerial council, although it seems stalled at present.

We’ve had recommendations on approaches to assessment, calls from the regulator for volume of learning to guard against short courses and new training and assessment requirements placed on trainers, all in the vain hope of assuring upfront the integrity of delivery, given ASQA audits can only ever be retrospective.

If our current armoury amounts to no more than the closing of the gate after the horse has bolted, then current plans by ASQA of testing the educational bone fides of RTO applicants seems a good idea. The question is though, how is this tested? We have a situation where regulation at best is compliance against the minutiae of training packages. Where in the sector is the narrative about adult education theory and practice, let alone any serious attempts at descriptions, attributes and measures? ASQA has nothing to go on. Nor does the sector have a basis for assessing what ASQA does in this regard.

From where did my disdain arise? TDA, TAFEs and other good providers have spent the last two years cleaning up the mess of the VET FEE-HELP scheme. Many have pointed to poor program administration as the cause. I think we need to look deeper – at CBT, seriously!

It was no surprise that the bulk of the courses delivered by the now closed providers were in business, leadership and community services. The units of competency can easily be mixed and matched by providers, to minimise their effort and maximise the loan from students, it seemed. The regulator was hamstrung on checking the educational integrity as training was online and as I said before, is after the event. And students had no power to realise anything was wrong as they had nothing to judge whether courses were over-priced or super short – as there is little regularised delivery in VET. (I’ve often said that this sort of scam would have less chance of success in higher education as the community understands that a graduate degree is three or four years in the making.) Why is it then that in the face of such egregious examples of poor and fraudulent behaviour of providers built off CBT that we have not looked at the building blocks of VET to prevent this from happening again?

It’s time we had a serious look. The behavioural theories of human development upon which CBT appears to have been based have long been surpassed. Pavlov’s salivating dogs have long been put to rest. So too should our simple input-output, stimulus-response building blocks of VET.

Over the next few weeks I’ll look deeper into these issues. We can do better!

Skills training vital as jobs threatened by automation, OECD warns

Around a third of Australian jobs could be at risk of automation, and policies will need to focus on ensuring adults are trained with new skills, according to the OECD Employment Outlook 2019.

The report says that 36 per cent of Australian jobs face significant or high risk of automation, which is below the OECD average of 46 per cent.

It warns that despite growing anxiety about potential job destruction from technological change globally, “a sharp decline in overall employment seems unlikely”.

There are, however, increasing concerns about the quality of some new jobs.

“This may increase disparities among workers if large segments of the workforce are unable to benefit from the good opportunities the economy generates.”

The OECD calls for a comprehensive adult learning strategy to tackle the changing world of work and to ensure that all workers, particularly the most vulnerable, have adequate opportunities for retraining throughout their careers.

PM promises to expand apprentice wage subsidy scheme if re-elected

The Morrison government has promised that, if re-elected, it will extend the current apprentice wage subsidy trial to cover a total of approximately 3200 apprenticeships.

Prime Minister Scott Morison and the Minister for Skills and Vocational Education Senator Michaelia Cash announced that the government would double the size of the existing program, adding another $60m in funding which will support an extra 1600 apprentices.

The program commenced in January and provided incentives in the form of a wage subsidy to regional employers who take on apprentices in skill shortage areas, and who had not previously employed apprentices.

The wage subsidies are provided at 75% of the apprentice’s award wage in the first year, 50% in the second year and 25% in the third.

The government said that under the opening round, the 1600 available places were exhausted “within weeks”.

The Shadow Minister for Skills, TAFE and Apprenticeships Senator Doug Cameron said the program encourages businesses to view young workers as a source of cheap labour by paying large incentives to rural employers with no history of training.

“This means regional businesses which pay minimum wages, many having never invested in apprentices, will receive the unsustainable government largesse,” he said.

First aid training under review after death of footballer from heat stress

Registered training organisations (RTOs) delivering first aid training have been urged by the Australian Skills Quality Authority (ASQA) to review their practices following a West Australian coroner’s decision on the death of a young footballer.

The coroner found  that the 15-year old died after being overcome with heat stroke while engaged in a rugby league training session. He was given first aid and taken by ambulance to hospital where he died from multi-organ failure.

The coroner found that if the first aid responders had been trained to deal with heat stroke in line with recent developments, the boy may have survived. He also recommended that agencies who train first aiders in heat-related illness consider changing the content of the training.

ASQA says RTOs should immediately review new advice on heat stroke for sports trainers and coaches and ensure that training is consistent with that advice.

ASQA has also issued a reminder about the need for first aid trainers to ensure that those learning CPR must demonstrate on an adult resuscitation manikin placed on the floor, and not on a table.

See the ASQA advice.

An update from TDA 2019 Corporate Affiliate TechnologyOne

TechnologyOne is Australia’s largest enterprise Software as a Service (SaaS) company and one of Australia’s top 200 ASX-listed companies (ASX:TNE). Join us at Showcase 2019 for a one-day event, to hear inspiring business leaders at the forefront of their own industry digital transformation.  Uncover what industry leaders in the education sector are doing to connect with their students to provide a superior experience and to differentiate themselves in an increasingly competitive market. Explore how innovation in enterprise SaaS is empowering industry transformation and what this evolution in technology means for your industry, your company and your people.

Agenda highlights:

Connecting with your customers: What does a superior student experience mean? 
Professor Peter Nikoletatos, Adjunct Professor, Latrobe University & Industry Director – Education, TechnologyOne

Join Professor Peter Nikoletatos as he leads a panel discussion into the findings of a recent survey of Australian university students’ expectations of the student experience and what these findings mean for the Australian tertiary education sector.

The state of enterprise software in 2019
Dr. Joseph Sweeney, Research Analyst, IBRS

Join lead researcher, Dr. Joseph Sweeney, as he deep dives into the key findings of the recent State of Enterprise Software Report – what this means for the tertiary education sector and the attitudes and industry trends around enterprise software adoption.

Disrupt or be disrupted 
Mitch Lowe, Netflix co-founding executive & CEO of MoviePass

Hear how Netflix disrupted the movie industry and how others are embracing new models of service delivery to transform.

Register now at technologyonecorp.com/showcase

Anzac service marks 10-year partnership with Canberra Institute of Technology

One of the standout features of Anzac and Remembrance Day services at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra is the floral arrangements, prepared by students from the Canberra Institute of Technology.

This year’s service marked ten years of CIT floristry students volunteering their time to prepare button holes and floral arrangements for the event.

Fifteen students at CIT Bruce prepared around 500 button holes with red Flanders poppy and fresh rosemary for veterans and VIPs who attended the Anzac Day services.

CIT CEO Leanne Cover said CIT has many connections across Canberra, and the Australian War Memorial was just one of the many valued relationships CIT has in the community.

“Our students appreciate the significance and sacrifice that was made by our Anzacs and are always happy to give their time and skill for this event during their mid-term break,” Ms Cover said.

Photo: Kerry Alchin.

Group training head takes on international role at TAFE NSW

The former chair of the National Apprentice Employment Network (NAEN), John Liddicoat (pictured), has started in a new position as Head of International Business at TAFE NSW.

Mr Liddicoat stood down last month as general manager of group training organisation, Novaskill, and also from his positions as chair of both NAEN and the Apprentice Employment Network (NSW & ACT).

TDA congratulates John on his appointment, and also extends its appreciation for the contributions that Liz Wells made whilst acting in the role.


Diary Dates

VDC 2019 Teaching & Learning Conference
16 & 17 May 2019
RACV Torquay Resort, Great Ocean Road, Victoria
More information

2019 VET CEO Conference
Velg Training
17 May 2019
Doltone House – Sydney
More Information

TechnologyOne Showcase
Empowering industry transformation
Brisbane: 29 May 2019
Sydney: 4 June 2019
Melbourne: 6 June 2019
More information

2019 EduTech
6-7 June 2019
International Convention Centre, Sydney
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Skills Conference 2019
Apprentice Employment Network NSW & ACT
13 June 2019
Dockside Darling Harbour
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22nd Annual Conference of the Australian Vocational Education and Training Research Association (AVETRA)
No future for old VET’: Researching for the training system/s of tomorrow
17-18 June 2019
Western Sydney University and University College, Parramatta, Sydney
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No Frills
28th National Vocational Education and Training Research Conference
10-12 July 2019
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National Apprentice Employment Network
2019 National Conference
31 July – 2 August 2019
Crowne Plaza, Gold Coast
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QLD School VET Conference
Velg Training
9 August 2019
Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre, Brisbane
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VTA 2019 State Conference 
15 – 16 August 2019
RACV City Club, 501 Bourke Street, Melbourne
Save the date

National Manufacturing Summit
21 & 22 August 2019
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National Skills Week
26 August – 1 September 2019
Locations around Australia
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TAFE Directors Australia 2019 Convention
4 – 6 September 2019
More information coming soon

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
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Australian Training Awards
21 November 2019
Brisbane, Queensland
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