Read more here: https://www.legislation.gov.
The system will need to adapt to the future of work and include simpler categories of qualifications and more flexible pathways for students.
‘One has to wonder if the money funding the VET reform program is actually being applied to real reform of the program itself.’
~ Craig Robertson, CEO TAFE Directors Australia
Employment Minister Michaelia Cash outlined reform plans within the VET program in a $525 million Morrison Government project, while announcing the formation of the Industry VET Stakeholder Committee on September 26.
While the Morrison Government seeks to reform the Vocational Education and Training sector (VET) – a key component of the TAFE education program – the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) contends those actions are being performed with a bias heavily slanted towards big business and employer groups.
The ACTU points out that among groups represented on the VET committee, the voices of those who ultimately benefit in the way of training and jobs are not being consulted: workers’ groups and union members themselves.
And to officials in the organisation overseeing the union movement in Australia, it’s not just that they feel ignored in the consultation process within the committee and the decision-making process, but that it may have been purposely done as a typical Liberal Party pro-business, anti-worker agenda.
The committee – which will convene once a month effective immediately until mid-2023 – contains officials from organisations among its 19 members such as accountancy firms Price Waterhouse Coopers and KPMG to business lobby bodies Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the Australian Industry Group, and the Business Council of Australia.
And eight of the 19 officials represented are CEO’s of various pro-business organisations, and almost all of the officials on the committee are leaders of their respective organisations.
The ACTU said in a statement:
‘This panel looks to be more of the same from a Government that will do anything to accommodate its big business donors.’
The ACTU and its affiliated union groups also cite the budget cuts and privatisation moves by the Abbott/Turnbull/Morrison Government since 2013 – actions seen as not just debilitating to the TAFE system, but ultimately anti-worker tactics in general – as precursors to the Coalition’s current VET reform agenda.
“Excluding working people from a discussion about skills training is disappointing but not surprising from a Government that caters exclusively to the interests of big business,” said Scott Connolly, the ACTU’s assistant secretary.
The ACTU and its affiliated groups also possess the view that the Coalition’s moves on the TAFE system since 2013 have resulted in shortages of skilled workers across a variety of industries.
We see about 150,000 fewer apprentices today than when the Liberals first came to government. We’ve seen billions cut from TAFE and training and apprenticeships. Employers are saying it’s hard to find skilled staff, at the same time as we have unemployment, underemployment and high rates of temporary migration.
The lack of focus on the human element of consultation also appears to exist as just one apparent shortcoming of the planned reforms of the VET program at present.
Of the $525 million committed to raising apprenticeship numbers within the VET program, as announced in last April’s Federal Budget, TAFE Directors Australia – incidentally, one of those groups on the VET Stakeholders committee – said that $70 million of that funding is new and the remainder has been taken from unused funds that were previously earmarked for Victoria and Queensland, in previous budgets for similar programs.
And just by paying attention to the sage words of TAFE Directors Australia’s own CEO, Craig Robertson, one has to wonder if the money funding the VET reform program is actually being applied to real reform of the program itself.
“Only $200 million will be incentives to employers to take on new apprentices. It is good to introduce incentives, but its a sad state we’re in when we are relying on incentives to get employers to take on apprentices,” said Robertson.
Moreover, the VET reform package of proposals has allowed for a five-year plan to raise the numbers of apprenticeships by 80,000 places in occupations facing shortages including bakers, carpenters, bricklayers and plumbers.
But even if those plans are successful, that still fails to accommodate for projected apprenticeships and potential jobs that have been lost since 2013.
Yet Cash has defended the reforms defining the program. “Our vision to create a strong VET sector is critical to our economy and to helping prepare Australians for the workforce of today and the future,” said Cash.
Moreover, for a Government which uses the Australian Bureau of Statistics employment definition of anyone who works as little as an hour per week as being “employed” to inflate its claims of employment growth being greater than what it actually is, it is also counting on other programs to fill the gaps on long-term employment.
‘The Morrison Government is committed to creating more than 1.25 million jobs over the next five years and I’m confident that more and more of the people filling these positions will be coming to employers through the VET system,’ said Cash.
‘We are acutely aware of the workforce requirements in the Australian economy. Our reform agenda will deliver better outcomes for Australians who make the choice to pursue a VET pathway,’ she added.
And yet, Cash has talked around the assertion about workers’ groups, from unions and otherwise, taking part in the reform consultation process:
“Together we will improve the VET system through collaboration of Commonwealth, state and territory governments, industry and training providers, and shift community perceptions around industry-focused training.”
And Connolly remains defiant to Cash’s plans on the reform program, insisting that workers’ groups need to be a part of that process:
We need skills training which puts the needs of working people first and fills genuine skills shortages, not a system that pours money into the pockets of for-profit training providers…
…To fix the big problems in VET, the Morrison Government needs to listen to all stakeholders and act on their concerns. We call on the Morrison Government to include working people in this process.
If that fails to occur, then the benefits to TAFE students and those who enrol in the VET program will be negligible, if not debatable altogether.
Review to ensure skills shortages are identified.
The government will replace the National Skills Needs List (NSNL) after a review of the program.
Since 2007, the NSNL has determined which jobs are eligible for payments under the Incentives for Australian Apprenticeships (IAA) program.
Senator Michaelia Cash announced the modernisation project on Thursday.
“The review will ensure skills shortages are identified using a forward-looking, up-to-date methodology and that apprenticeship incentives are targeted at addressing critical skills shortages in the Australian economy,” Minister Cash said.
“Developing a robust and enduring approach to determining how apprenticeship incentives address skills shortages is part of the Morrison Government’s commitment to maintaining a strong vocational education and training sector that supports employers’ needs and builds a skilled workforce.”
Currently, to be added to the NSNL, an occupation must meet a set of criteria including:
- That it is classified under Major Group 3 Technicians and Trades Workers of the Australia and New Zealand standard classification of occupations
- At least 1,500 people are employed in the occupation
- And that it is assessed as being in skills shortage for three of the past five years
The current list, that includes trades like ‘landscape gardener’, ‘lift mechanic’, and ‘picture framer’ has few IT jobs, despite persistent sector shortages.
And because the NSNL has not been updated since 2011, only 22 of the 65 jobs on it meet the selection criteria.
The review Issues Paper outlines how the current NSNL methodology is insufficient for its scope.
“While the employment and research thresholds provide a measure of rigor in determining the existence of skills shortages, the outcome may be that critical skills shortages in small or niche occupations are allowed to persist,” it said.
Earlier this month, the government expanded its Global Talent visa scheme, allowing businesses to look overseas for highly skilled workers in niche occupations.
The review has begun its consultation phase and Cash encouraged community response to the published issue paper.
“I urge stakeholders with an interest in building a high-quality Australian workforce with the skills that employers need to contribute to this important review,” she said.
Submissions to the review close on September 27.
A week after the government’s surprise re-election, Australian international educators have received further continuity after the announcement that all but one position overseeing the country’s education sectors remain unchanged.
Familiar faces around Canberra, after ministerial positions overseeing education remain largely unchanged. Photo: Unsplash.
Announced by prime minister Scott Morrison, the new cabinet sees Dan Tehan retain the education portfolio and Michaelia Cash remain as employment and skills minister, a move welcomed by the higher and vocational education sectors.
“The coming three years presents Australia with a real opportunity”
“We see continuity as paramount in what are turbulent geopolitical times when it has never been more important to ensure policy stability in the areas of defence, trade and education,” said chief executive of the Group of EightVicki Thomson.
“All portfolios the Go8 contributes to by way of research, international engagement and educating the future workforce required to underpin our national economy.”
The focus will likely remain the same for both educators and the government
The only change in terms of education, Steve Irons was announced as assistant minister for vocational education, training and apprenticeships within the employment and skills portfolio. He replaced Karen Andrews, who retained her science and technology portfolio.
“The coming three years presents Australia with a real opportunity to
restructure the tertiary education system so that there is greater integration between the higher education, vocational education, training and skills sectors,” said Troy Williams, chief executive of Independent Tertiary Education Council Australia.
“Quality is very much front and centre of ITECA’s culture and that of our members; however, it’s clear that there is a significant degree of regulatory overreach that’s doing little to support quality student outcomes.”
With ministerial positions overseeing education remaining consistent, the focus of the past eighteen months will also likely remain the same for both educators and the government in the near future.
Ongoing government directives have seen an increased focus on regional education, including boosting the number of international students outside of metropolitan areas, as well as concerns around English proficiency.
The Regional Universities Network welcomed Tehan’s reappointment, with chair Helen Bartlett saying the organisation looked forward to the future implementation of the National Regional, Rural and Remote Education Strategy.
Universities Australia, which has been combatting successive funding cuts within the university sector, meanwhile pledged to continue to work towards increasing access to higher education, and reminded Tehan of his comments that it was “the great enabler”.