Celebrity builder’s gig as VET spruiker under scrutiny

Celebrity builder's gig as VET spruiker under scrutiny

Scott Cam has attended just one event since October last year as the National Career Ambassador despite pocketing $145,000 of his $350,000 18 month-contract. The Block star’s sole public appearance was a press conference alongside Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Skills Minister Michaelia Cash to announce his appointment last year. Cam had also appeared in three short videos, made four social media posts and put a profile on a government website.

Read more here:  https://7news.com.au/politics/scott-cams-federal-careers-gig-under-fire-c-730542

Travel restrictions on Chinese students likely to have a devasting impact on education providers

Travel restrictions on Chinese students likely to have a devasting impact on education providers
The travel ban on non-Australian residents travelling from China has been extended by the Australia government. The measure that has angered the Chinese government and rocked the higher education sector in Australia, which has a heavy reliance on Chinese international students.   

Read more here:  https://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/politics/federal/coronavirus-affects-a-third-of-private-tertiary-education-students-20200217-p541o2.html  

TAFE NSW spends big on consultants

NSW reviewing its vocational education and training system
More than $6.4 million on 8 different contracts to various firms to provide advice and services across the TAFE sector has been spent between June 2018 and September 2019 by the NSW government.  The government is half-way through amalgamating its once 10 separate institutes into one central entity referred to as “OneTAFE reforms”. 

Vice-chancellor suggests universities could be more transparent about international students

The chair of the Group of Eight elite universities says higher education providers could be more transparent about their enrolment of international students and it was important for the sector to enforce high English language standards.

Facing ongoing concerns about the consequences of universities’ growing reliance on revenue from international students, Group of Eight chair Dawn Freshwater said the presence of foreign students was changing the character of university campuses in a positive way, but also said the sector had to be transparent and protect standards.

Dawn Freshwater, chair of the Group of Eight and vice-chancellor at the University of Western Australia.
Dawn Freshwater, chair of the Group of Eight and vice-chancellor at the University of Western Australia. CREDIT:ATTILA CSASZAR

Professor Freshwater, vice-chancellor of the University of Western Australia, suggested universities amassed significant volumes of data about their operations and could be more open with it.

“As we horizon scan for our strategies, we are also thinking about size, shape and composition of the university. That means we have very good data already in regards to student numbers at all levels. Of course, I think we could all be more transparent about information that we use to inform our decision-making,” she said.

She added that universities worked hard to ensure compliance with national standards and regulations, which required reporting on key measures of success and quality.

“We could probably do more at making that transparent,” she said.

Universities are being scrutinised for their adherence to language standards imposed on the sector. A report released in recent weeks found some institutions were using backdoor entry programs to allow entry for people with inadequate English.

Asked if all providers were doing the right thing with entrance requirements, Professor Freshwater said standards should be upheld.

“Just like any standards that we would expect of the students coming into university, including prerequisites, we do have a threshold that we expect people to meet in terms of their language standards coming in and their language skills and it’s important for us to uphold those standards,” she said.

Newly-released data from the Department of Education shows there were 630,000 international students in Australia as of June 2019, up 12 per cent from a year earlier. This follows many years of similar growth levels.

Fifty-one per cent of those students were in higher education, 28 per cent in vocational education and training, and 3 per cent in schools. China remains by far the largest source country, providing 29 per cent of the students.

The highest concentrations of international students are at some of Australia’s top universities. They make up about 45 per cent of the student populations at RMIT and Monash University and 40 per cent at the University of Melbourne. They account for about 35 per cent of the students at UNSW and 30 per cent at the University of Sydney.

University of Queensland chancellor Peter Varghese last week warned the sector was locked into a funding model reliant on increasing numbers of international students.

“The big question with international students is what is the right proportion of international students at our campuses before we fundamentally change the character of our universities. Is it a third? Is it half? Is it three-quarters?” he said.

“At the end of the day … we are Australian public institutions and we have a primary obligation to Australian students.”

Andrew Norton, the higher education program director at the Grattan Institute, said many of the issues associated with international education at universities could be solved by tougher language standards.

He has suggested a tighter approach would address concerns around international students’ isolation and integration, impacts on teaching, and effectively moderate numbers by preventing entry of students without adequate proficiency.


Leaders act to counter skills shortage

PM Scott Morrison and state and territory leaders hold a formal COAG meeting in Cairns on Friday.PM Scott Morrison and state and territory leaders hold a formal COAG meeting in Cairns on Friday.Image

Australians seeking to learn or renew their skills and businesses looking for qualified employees will be at the centre of an overhauled vocational education system.

The nation’s leaders have agreed to pull together to make sure the vocational education and training system is working as it needs to in the face of a growing skills shortage.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said ensuring Australians were trained for the jobs of a modern economy was one of the biggest challenges the country faced.

“We all want students, whatever age they are, they could be 21, they could be 61 and going through a career change … to have confidence that that system is going to help them with their future intentions and their future careers,” he told reporters after the Council of Australian Governments meeting in Cairns on Friday.

The system needed to be more agile and less bureaucratic.

The “jobs of the future” weren’t just in technology, Mr Morrison said, but increasingly in human services areas such as aged or disability care.

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews said training more tradies was vital to politicians seeking to build the infrastructure they had all been elected to deliver.

“We have to change the way TAFE and vocational education, non-university pathways are viewed,” he said.

“This is a first-class option, not anything less than that.”

His NSW counterpart Gladys Berejiklian said that was a point on which all the leaders agreed.

She has called for universities and vocational education to be treated as a single sector, something the Business Council of Australia has also been pushing for over several years.

The COAG communique didn’t go that far, but Ms Berejiklian was happy nonetheless.

Mr Morrison said parents should be confident about their child’s future if they chose to pursue a trade or a skills-based education.

“It is not second prize,” he said.

The federal government funded a National Skills Commission in its April budget to better identify and plan for skills shortages and work with industry to design training courses, but it is yet to be established.

A new COAG Skills Council will present leaders with a reform roadmap for the sector in early 2020.

The leaders also agreed to ask their environment ministers to set a deadline for Australia to stop sending its waste overseas.

The country exported 4.3 million tonnes of waste in 2018 at a cost of $2.8 billion.

They agreed to the fourth national action plan on reducing domestic violence, for more cooperation between the commonwealth and states on how to spend infrastructure money, and to make mental health and reducing suicide a national priority.

However, a deal on permanently funding free preschool for Australia’s four-year-olds was pushed off until early 2020.


Leaders to meet for COAG event


 Leaders to meet for COAG event

Improving vocational education and training for Australians is shaping up to be top of the agenda for the Council of Australian Governments.

The nation’s leaders are preparing to meet in Far North Queensland on Friday, the first time the meeting is being held outside a capital city.

The leaders are expected to consider the recommendations of a recent review that identified a spate of challenges in the education and training sector.

The Australian Industry group is calling for reforms to ensure there are enough skilled Australians to support the government’s $100 billion infrastructure pipeline, raising concerns about a growing skills shortage and a degraded training system.


Leaders have skills test ahead of them

The best way to give Australians the skills they need to find quality jobs will be top of mind for the nation’s leaders as they meet in Cairns on Thursday and Friday.
Vocational education and training is shaping up to be a key discussion point for the Council of Australian Governments as leaders consider the recommendations of a recent review that identified a spate of challenges in the sector.
Employers have written to Prime Minister Scott Morrison warning of growing skills shortages and a training system that isn’t coping.
The letter from Ai Group chief executive Innes Willox points to the large pipeline of planned infrastructure projects – driven by the commonwealth’s $100 billion budget – an ageing population and degraded training and apprenticeship systems.
He calls for COAG to start work on “bolder and more decisive reforms” to vocational training and directly engage with industry.
Mr Morrison said he understood the situation was frustrating both for businesses and people who were seeking training to get a job.
“The system is letting us down. It needs to be far less bureaucratic and public service-driven,” he told reporters near Townsville on Thursday.


“It’s not about the providers … it’s about the people who want jobs and the people who want to employ people.”
NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian also wants the leaders to look at radical reforms, calling for universities and the vocational sector to be treated as one.
“I am concerned the usual COAG approach that simply divides up responsibilities between the commonwealth and the states will detract from us getting better tertiary education outcomes,” she told AAP in a statement.
“We want universities and VET to be thought of in the same sentence for workers looking to prepare themselves for the high-value jobs of the future.”
NSW wants more integrated degrees, where a student can start at a vocational provider and finish at university, or vice versa, to gain a broader range of skills.
It sees the siloed system of keeping the two types of tertiary education separate as outdated.
Mr Morrison agreed, saying TAFE was just as good as university and his government wants to lift the status of training.
Queensland leader Annastacia Palaszczuk is keen to use the discussion to highlight a number of her government’s initiatives, including payroll tax concessions and free apprenticeship training for people aged under 21.
Earlier in the week, federal Employment Minister Michaelia Cash warned desperately-needed reform of the vocational education sector could only occur if state and territory governments put political differences aside.
The COAG agenda also touches on population and infrastructure after treasurers met in February to start developing a national framework that sets out a practical approach to improve population planning and management.
NSW will argue for more autonomy for states over federal infrastructure funding and a bigger say in what projects attract cash.
Early childhood education including universal access to preschool, coastal erosion, indigenous disadvantage and suicide, domestic violence, and state restrictions on gas developments are also expected to be discussed.
The leaders are travelling to Cairns for the COAG meeting at the invitation of Ms Palaszczuk.
The premier wants the chance to showcase Queensland’s investments in tourism and exports, particularly targeting Asian markets.
“Since the agenda includes northern Australia where better to meet than one of our northernmost cities,” a spokesman for Ms Palaszczuk told AAP.
“The temperature differential between Cairns and Canberra on Friday is 20 degrees. Our national leaders are about to experience a Queensland winter.”

Apprentice system needs reform: Labor

Over two-in-five apprentices and trainees who started training in 2014 didn't complete their coursesOver two-in-five apprentices and trainees who started training in 2014 didn’t complete their coursesImage: AAP/AAP

Labor has blamed federal government funding cuts for a further drop in completion rates among apprentices and trainees.

Data released by the National Centre for Vocational Education Research this week shows over two-in-five apprentices and trainees who commenced training in 2014 did not complete their courses.

The NCVER report shows for those who started training in 2014 among all occupations, just 56.7 per cent completed their course, down 3.2 percentage points from those who started in 2013.

Completion rates for trade occupations were down 4.7 percentage points compared to those who started in 2013 and were two percentage points lower for those doing training for non-trade occupations.

Labor’s assistant spokeswoman for skills Ged Kearney says the coalition government has had six years to turn this around but has failed to take action.

She says vocational education has been severely damaged by a cut of more than $3 billion in funding, the closure of TAFE campuses and allowing “dodgy for-profit providers” to gouge the system.

“The VET sector needs immediate and urgent reform,” Ms Kearney said in a statement on Saturday.

She added that while Skills Minister Michaelia Cash says she wants to see the VET and university sectors on equal footing, the Liberals have failed to commit to the funding and reform required to achieve this important outcome.

“The Liberals must put TAFE back at the centre of the sector, tackle the failures of privatisation and fund the sector properly,” she said.

“With youth unemployment stuck at more than double the national average, young people need a decent skills sector that leads them to secure work.”

In 2018, 1.1 million students enrolled in government-funded vocational education and training, a decrease of 1.9 per cent compared to 2017.


Plibersek holds onto education portfolio in Albanese’s first shadow cabinet

Tanya Plibersek has retained her role as shadow education minister in Anthony Albanese’s newly announced shadow cabinet.

Plibersek’s role has been expanded to include the skills, TAFE and apprenticeships portfolio, previously held by retiring senator Doug Cameron.

Plibersek lost her role as shadow minister for women to Julie Collins, who handled the portfolio during the last two years of the Gillard and Rudd governments.

On Twitter, Plibersek wrote that she was “delighted” to stay on as Labor’s education spokesperson.

Ged Kearney and Graham Perrett will serve as assistant shadow ministers for skills and education, respectively.

The Independent Schools Council of Australia (ISCA) congratulated Plibersek on her reappointment.

“We look forward to continuing a positive working relationship with Ms Plibersek and her office,” ISCA executive director Barry Wallett said

“In her time in the portfolio Ms Plibersek has shown great willingness to engage with all school sectors and has made many positive contributions to the national schooling debate.”

Plibersek stepped down as Labor’s deputy leader to make way for Victorian MP Richard Marles, from the state’s right faction.

Leading into the election, Plibersek told EducationHQ about her passion for education.

“I think education is a terrific portfolio for two reasons,” she said.

“It’s a really great way to make a difference in the life of an individual person; it’s really given so many people the key out of generational poverty. It can mean you realise gifts that you never knew you had.

“It really is literally life changing to get a great education, but it’s also a really important driver of prosperity; our economic success as a nation depends on having a highly skilled, inventive, productive workforce.

“So I really like that combination in a portfolio. The social justice elements and the economic elements brought together make it interesting, challenging and inspiring.”