Registered training organisations are being encouraged to apply for funding through the latest round of the Tasmanian Government’s Apprentice and Trainee Training Fund (User Choice), with applications now open. The fund provides subsidies through grants to significantly reduce the cost of providing quality training and assessment for nationally recognised qualifications.
New industry engagement roundtables will be held in regions across the state as a central part of the Palaszczuk Government’s new Skills for Queensland strategy launched this week.
Minister for Training and Skills Development Shannon Fentiman said there has been strong industry support for the Skills for Queensland strategy which includes programs and initiatives that will target critical training needs to address current skills shortages.
“We know we need to ensure we have a skilled workforce, now and into the future,” Ms Fentiman said.
“We know that Government cannot provide all training needs without the help of industry. This includes Jobs Queensland, regional jobs committees, employers, training providers and schools.
“It’s the ongoing collaboration between government, industry and business that will ensure we have the skilled workers we need now and for emerging industries.”
“Better engagement and better supply of training and skills is at the core of the Skills for Queensland strategy.
“I’ll be bringing all that strategic advice together when we hold our regular Ministerial Skills Roundtable meetings, supported by local advice through our regional job committees.”
The Minister also welcomed the guidance of Jobs Queensland, chaired by Professor Peter Coaldrake.
“Jobs Queensland will provide the skills roundtable with strategic advice and research about future skills needs and workforce planning requirements in Queensland to inform key policy discussions and skills investment priorities,” Professor Coaldrake said.
“Industry, business and government need to plan together and Jobs Queensland’s advice and research will assist with the decision making.”
Construction Skills Queensland CEO Brett Schimming endorsed the Skills for Queensland strategy particularly the Ministerial Skills Roundtable initiative.
“It is important that future skilling and training strategies are evidence-based and designed to meet the real and emerging needs of local workforces,” Mr Schimming said.
“The Ministerial Skills Roundtable will ensure that the government’s planning will be directly informed by reporting from current workforce training experts.”
Ms Fentiman said the Ministerial Skills Roundtable will meet at least twice a year to ensure the government can plan ahead and make the necessary investment in training.
“This will ensure the government hears industry input to skills investment priorities first‑hand,” Ms Fentiman said.
Ai Group has urged the Prime Minister and State and Territory leaders to use tomorrow’s COAG meeting in Cairns to genuinely tackle the reform of Australia’s training system.
“With the global economy now in choppy waters and Australia falling down the world’s performance tables, now, more than ever, governments need to work with industry to secure a long-term prosperous future for us all. The first step has to be a ground-up rebuild of our Vocational Education and Training (VET) System. This must be a national priority,” Ai Group Chief Executive, Innes Willox, said today.
“It is our view that the VET system is in a less than optimal state to meet the national imperatives of delivering the skill requirements for the labour market of the future.
“Our economy and community are facing significant transformations, triggered by digital disruption, structural adjustment and demographic shifts. This has contributed to a dynamic and accelerating requirement for skills and employment. However, they are not the same as those of today and improvements are urgent and necessary for Australia to have a training system that meets both current and future needs.
“From an employer and individual perspective our training system is further bedevilled by inconsistency in both its multiple funding regimes, declining levels of funding and varying qualification arrangements between the different jurisdictions.
“Disappointing apprenticeship commencement and completion rates add further to the complex and confusing situation. Industry leadership has been eroded and the pivotal alignment of public expenditure to economic imperative and productivity improvements has been severely diluted. Confidence needs to be restored to the VET system.
“Recent research by Ai Group reveals the growing intensity of skill shortages and skill gaps. Our most recent Workforce Development Needs (2018) survey highlights 75% of employers experiencing difficulty in recruiting suitably qualified or skilled people into vacancies. The occupations most frequently reported in shortage were from the Technicians and Trades Workers occupational group, followed by Professionals, all in STEM fields. Employers listing occupations experiencing skills shortages for the first time included those with skills in business automation, big data and artificial intelligence solutions.
“The unprecedented pipeline of public investment across transport and social infrastructure will place significant pressure on government and industry to respond and also creates the opportunity for a skills legacy. Such a large program of work increases pressures on capability and capacity in both the private and public sectors.
“This infrastructure work is necessary to stimulate our softening economy and lift domestic productivity and amenity but it also carries with it pressures on particular skills which are in high demand because they are the same skills required elsewhere in the economy – such as in the mining sector.
“The state of apprenticeships and traineeships in Australia is illustrative of the problems plaguing our training system. We find ourselves dealing with 259,385 in apprentices & trainees in training in 2018 compared with 387,100 a decade ago and a high of 446,000 in 2012. This is the lowest for a decade. This drop in volume can be directly linked to a series of policy adjustments including the removal or reduction of many employer incentives.
“A significant consideration is to address the excessively complex and duplicative Commonwealth and State/Territory roles and responsibilities in the training system. The National Skills Commission is an important first step for all parties to engage with. Commitment to a roadmap for reform should be a key outcome of the current COAG process. A genuinely national training system that meets the needs of economy may finally be possible.
“Commitment to a roadmap for reform should be a key outcome of the current COAG process. A genuinely national training system that meets the needs of economy may finally be possible,” Mr Willox said.
The Australian Skills Quality Authority (ASQA) has released its latest regulatory strategy, setting out the agency’s priorities to 2021.
The strategy is informed by ASQA’s evidence-based approach to identifying and addressing systemic risks to the vocational education and training (VET) sector. The latest update announces continued focus on international education and trainer and assessor capability, and a new focus on VET in Schools.
ASQA Chief Commissioner and CEO, Mark Paterson AO, said the new strategy advises how regulatory activity will remain focused on responding to the most significant risks in a sector largely made up of quality providers.
“ASQA’s risk-based approach to regulation allows us to target efforts to address serious non-compliances that risk damaging the reputation of our world-class VET sector,” Mr Paterson explained.
“All of ASQA’s regulatory activity, including audits, investigations and reviews of specific training areas or products is carried out in response to evidence of risk-ASQA does not conduct regulatory activity unless we have determined a compelling threat to quality.
“Our latest regulatory strategy informs providers and the broader VET community of where we are seeing concentrated evidence of risk to our sector, and where we will subsequently apply greater regulatory focus.”
Concerns about VET courses delivered in secondary schools have been raised in recent research reports and reviews but there has not yet been national scrutiny of this area. ASQA will conduct a study and consult with other government agencies to better understand the risks to VET in schools, and determine if further action is required.
Work will continue to monitor the capacity of trainers and assessors, and implement recommendations of ASQA’s recent strategic review into international education. The strategy also sets out the second phase of the ‘Recognising and supporting quality initiative’, which seeks to improve how quality VET delivery is recognised and support providers through enhanced engagement and advice.
There are five products of concern listed for close scrutiny resulting from emerging data indicating potential issues:
- CHC33015 Certificate III in Individual Support
- CHC50113 Diploma of Early Childhood Education and Care
- TAE40116 Certificate IV in Training and Assessment
- CPCCWHS1001 Prepare to work safely in the construction industry
- BSB50215 Diploma of Business.
The best way to reverse the fall in enrolments at government-funded vocational education providers is to restore funding to TAFE and return it to being the primary provider of vocational education in Australia.
According to a new report by the National Centre for Vocational Education Research (NCVER), student numbers, subject enrolments and training hours at public vocational training providers all fell in 2018.
AEU Federal TAFE Secretary Maxine Sharkey said that the Morrison Government’s obsession with private vocational education providers at the expense of TAFE was already hurting the career prospects of thousands of Australians who need access to affordable and high quality vocation education.
“TAFE is one of the crown jewels of the Australian education system. However, it’s clear that years of funding cuts and official disinterest by successive Federal Coalition governments have left TAFE, our world-class publicly-owned vocational education provider, in a weakened state,” Ms Sharkey said.
“This has resulted in falling student numbers and TAFE campus closures. The solution is quite simple. We need a strong public TAFE sector that is fully funded.”
According to the NCVER figures, in 2018, compared with 2017:
- estimated student numbers decreased by 1.9%
- subject enrolments decreased by 5.7%
- hours and full-year training equivalents (FYTEs) decreased by 6.4%
The figures also reveal that since 2013, the year the Federal Coalition was elected, the number of students in government-funded vocational education has fallen by 25%, from 1.48 million to 1.1 million. In addition, the number of hours of vocational education delivered has fallen by 28% between 2013 and 2018.
“The introduction of private-for profit education providers has been a disaster for Australia’s vocational education system,” Ms Sharkey said.
“History has shown that private providers aren’t interested in quality education – they are interested in profits.”
“The private sector’s idea of VET-sector competition is to drive down costs and standards and drive the ‘competition’ (read TAFE) out of business. Then it can jack up its prices and force students to pay through the nose,” Ms Sharkey said.
“The Australian Skills Quality Authority, the Government’s own regulator, said parts of the Australian training market are already in a race to the bottom. The Productivity Commission has described the Australian VET system as a mess.”
Ms Sharkey 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 Sharkey said.
“Senator Michaelia Cash has today drawn a welcome line in the sand in placing vocational education and training on the same footing as higher education,” Ai Group Chief Executive, Innes Willox, said today.
“Australian industry is acutely aware that our transforming economy needs workers with the skills and capabilities developed through both sectors if we are to compete globally.
“Senator Cash’s speech at the National Vocational Education and Training Research Conference recognises that the VET system is critical to ensuring industry has the skilled workforce it needs to grow and to compete internationally. It provides the technicians, the tradespeople, the supervisors and the para-professionals that are needed in an Australian workforce adapting to new technologies and higher-level skills and capabilities.
“Digitalisation is transforming the economy and disrupting skill needs. Employers are facing significant skills shortages, particularly for technicians and trades with STEM capabilities, reflecting the changing tasks and jobs being created as new technologies enter all industry sectors. As with higher education, VET is under pressure to develop people with higher order STEM skills and broad enterprise skills for the digital economy. At the same time, it must develop the workers for occupations with innate people skills, such as the growing Community and Personal Services sector.
“Equally welcome is Senator Cash’s call for the VET system to better connect with industry and to have clear, consistent funding. Ai Group maintains that industry must have a stronger role at all levels to work through the current challenges dogging the system. We have previously highlighted that the funding of the VET system is inadequate, in terms of both the level and composition and its resourcing relative to both the higher education and school sectors.
“Ai Group has welcomed the recommendations of the Joyce Review, notably the implementation of a National Skills Commission, the National Careers Institute, apprenticeship reform and the pilot Skills Organisations. All these reforms strengthen VET, ensuring that industry is at the heart of the system that will be vital to develop skills for our future workforce.
“While we welcome the Government’s $525 million skills and training package, seeking amongst other measures to create up to 80,000 new apprentices, Ai Group is keen to work with the Government to implement broader reform. More can and must be done to:
- align skills from education and training outcomes with industry needs through improved skills forecasting;
- address critical workforce STEM skills shortages through education and skills training and funding for initiatives that enhance the VET sector’s role in filling these gaps, such as Ai Group’s Industry 4.0 Higher Apprenticeships;
- review apprenticeship incentives, placing greater priority on high-skill occupations that will play key roles in the digital economy. In particular we call on the Government to extend the doubling of Commonwealth Employers Incentives to the engineering trades to ensure adequate trade skill development for the large defence procurement and ship building program and the supply chain;
- support industry to develop workforce plans around their digital strategies, assess existing workers’ capabilities and train when necessary;
- improve the foundational language, literacy, numeracy and digital skills of entrants to the workforce;
- increase work-based and work integrated learning models underpinned by closer partnerships between industry and the education and training sector.
“Many of the challenges facing the VET sector are equally those that higher education faces. Ai Group believes there can be greater coherence between VET and higher education which would benefit the nation. Ai Group’s position paper, Realising Potential: solving Australia’s tertiary education, identifies the challenges and makes recommendations for post-secondary education in Australia.
“If the Australian economy is to continue to prosper and remain internationally competitive, it is vital to have access to a highly skilled and qualified workforce. With the rapid advance of technology and digitalisation, a higher level of skills for the workforce is more important than ever,” Mr Willox said.