Scott Morrison’s TAFE for the rich

(Caricature courtesy Bruce Keogh /

The Coalition Government’s policies have starved TAFE in favour of private-sector VET training, effectively making it an educational option only for the rich., writes Leisa Woodman.

Affordable, practical education through Technical and Further Education (TAFE) is part of the Australian consciousness in a way that many may not even realise.

Quality materials and competent workmanship have long been taken for granted in our society, and Australians have for generations been creatively stimulated by the secure knowledge that their educational journey is never over.

Even if one had been coerced into an unsuitable degree, or dropped out of high school, there was still a way back into learning through TAFE.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has mysteriously declared he wants to “raise the status” of TAFE courses in Australia, saying they are “as good as uni”.  He has revealed that “reform” of the vocational education sector would be at the forefront of the agenda at the Council of Australian Governments meeting in Cairns. Australians should rightly demand of the Prime Minister, whether this plan for reform is going to address how TAFE has morphed in recent years into what one teacher termed, “education for the rich”.


GoogleVET:PM declares ‘TAFE is as good as uni’ as vocational training placed on COAG agenda – The New Daily 

PM places TAFE, vocational training on COAG agendaPrime Minister Scott Morrison has declared “TAFE is as good as university” and in many cases pays better, before COAG talks begin in Cairns on Friday.

The full fees payable for many diplomas are now comparable to university fees. While each student is allowed two chances at accessing government-subsidised study before having to pay the full fees, even these subsidised courses cost many thousands of dollars. Fees are payable upfront in the case of certificates, that don’t allow deferred Vocational Educational and Training (VET) loans. What working-class person has thousands sitting around handy? According to the TAFE educator, students manage to pay these fees if “they have benefactors”.

TAFE proudly advertises that students can access fees by instalment, but when a student enquires about this scheme, they are informed they must allow for $80 to $90 left in their bank after repaying their fortnightly fee contribution, which could be $70 dollars or more. A simple calculation reveals this is impossible if living out of home, on any government payment.

To make matters worse, many TAFE diplomas now have prerequisites for entry — meaning a student may exhaust their two subsidised courses by the time they get to the course they really want to do.

Scott Morrison may have declared that ‘TAFE is as good as university’, but Australia is a long way from having policies that support students equitably across the tertiary education system. By @andrewjnorton 

The rewards of vocational education need to be better known

Prime Minister Scott Morrison may have declared that ‘TAFE is as good as university’, but Australia is a long way from having policies that support […]

Fees also differ wildly from one state to the next. A Diploma of Building and Construction costs $37,168 at TAFE South Australia, but under Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews’ progressive TAFE policy, is free to the unemployed in Victoria. One can imagine the few remaining prospective students not excluded by the cost being perturbed by the instability and so, it seems, student numbers are down across campuses.

There is a chance for the Federal Government to address a real problem. Many employers in technical fields, such as pathology, are now asking for university degrees for no reason other than that so many have them. The result of people choosing universities, who probably should have attended TAFE institutions, is that degrees have lost their value in the labour market. Some entry positions now, in reality, favour a master’s degree, which, mostly uncovered by Austudy, is also only accessible to the rich.

To attract students back to TAFE, employers must begin to see education as a set of suitable skills, rather than a spending competition. However, this is an ethos directly in competition with the goals of our present Coalition Government.

It has long been the policy of the Coalition to effectively “starve” TAFE in favour of the private sector of VET training, ripping out $3 billion in funding in the past six years. One suspects that Morrison’s plan to raise the status of TAFE will simply be a language project designed to justify the now prohibitive costs at disastrously underfunded campuses.

TAFE cannot be revitalised with words. Only a sustained injection of funds to TAFE can end predatory Registered Training Organisations and restore technical education to its rightful place in assisting Australians from all backgrounds to gain, diversify and upgrade their skills easily throughout their lives.

You can follow Leisa Woodman on Twitter @LeisaWoodman.

Adam Curlis@TAFEeducation

@GladysB and @ScottMorrisonMP seem to be singing from the same hymn sheet. After years of funding cuts & neglect, why the sudden interest in TAFE?

What exactly have they got planned for our public TAFE system? 

“I have always had a vision universities & TAFEs have to work much more closely together & the diversification of our economy & … having that fed back to me from the companies I am meeting” I am intrigued ⁦⁩. Which companies?


Repairing vocational education

According to a confidential report, Australia’s largest private training college raked in hundreds of millions in public money before its collapse, despite abysmal completion rates. A senior figure in the sector fears it could happen again. By Paddy Manning.

The former education minister Simon Birmingham (left) and the current skills minister, Michaelia Cash.

When Careers Australia collapsed in May 2017 it was the country’s biggest private training organisation. Along with its subsidiaries, the group had 19,000 students across hundreds of courses and 1100 employees but it was facing financial ruin – owing more than $150 million to creditors, including the Education Department, Westpac, NAB and the Australian Tax Office. Its administrators identified there were more than 20,000 potential unsecured creditors affected, including students.

Careers Australia pulled the pin suddenly, after the federal government refused to renew the organisation’s authority to deliver courses, citing its controversial record. The announcement to students and staff came without warning – all classes were cancelled, indefinitely. Careers Australia had relied on the federal government for 90 per cent of its revenue.

It was a baptism of fire for Craig Robertson, then just weeks into his job as head of TAFE Directors Australia (TDA), the peak body that represents TAFEs from every state and territory. TDA – a small organisation, with a tiny staff – took over responsibility for about 7000 enrolments under the national tuition assurance scheme. Robertson recalls how “our office phones went crazy”, fielding calls from panicked teachers and students.

“I’d always thought Careers Australia was a fairly respectable operator,” says Robertson. “It wasn’t until we really looked at the data that we realised what was going on.”

Once TDA started reviewing the company’s records, Robertson saw how Careers Australia had worked the government’s loan scheme for vocational education to maximise profits. According to a confidential internal report, seen by The Saturday Paper, Careers Australia received more than $578 million in Commonwealth money in four years by cutting corners on training quality, and ultimately left thousands of students in limbo.

Under the VET FEE-HELP scheme, this was perfectly legal. The Saturday Paper is not suggesting Careers Australia’s board had any knowledge of misconduct.

Two years later, Robertson says he is concerned there could be a repeat of the crisis that saw private colleges across Australia paid billions of dollars in public subsidies through the VET FEE-HELP scheme for poor-quality diploma and associate diploma courses.

VET FEE-HELP, a vocational education equivalent of HECS loans for university students, was first introduced by the Coalition but was overhauled and expanded by the Gillard government in 2012, which introduced the demand-driven funding model. It was scrapped at the end of December 2016, replaced by the VET Student Loans scheme. But Robertson fears the lessons of the VET FEE-HELP disaster have not been learnt.

Often, industry compliance scandals are blamed on a few rogue operators. In the VET FEE-HELP debacle, scandal engulfed the biggest training outfits. Some 150 dodgy private colleges have been shut down or kicked out of the system since a crackdown by the Australian Skills Quality Authority. But their misdeeds also tarnished the reputation of many high-quality, niche private colleges, which had operated without issue for decades. Confidence in the whole vocational education sector was shaken, leaving Australia facing a skills crisis. In the years since, TAFE enrolments have halved.

Andrew Norton, higher education director at the Grattan Institute, says the expansion of VET FEE-HELP by the Gillard government was “in principle, a very good idea, but clearly it’s been very hard to run in practice”.

He continues: “Possibly the lessons have been learnt but whether there is the regulatory infrastructure to ensure that it can’t happen again, I am not so sure. Even though there are providers being deregistered, I wouldn’t be convinced that the industry is clean.”

This week, Grattan released a report showing vocational diplomas in construction, engineering and commerce typically lead to higher lifetime incomes than many low-ATAR university graduates are likely to earn, especially those with degrees in popular fields such as science and the humanities. However, as Norton points out, vocational education has flatlined over the past 20 years while higher education has boomed.

“Funding for vocational education has gone down,” says Norton, “both from a loss of direct subsidy and a loss of revenue from the [VET FEE-HELP] student loan scheme.” He argues the extension of the entitlement-based funding model used for a small number of universities to vocational education was always going to be problematic.

“Unfortunately, the history of this industry, where you’ve got about 4000 often quite small providers in the market, makes it very hard to regulate, and as a result schemes that work reasonably well in higher education have been very troubled in vocational education,” Norton says.

In Robertson’s view, Careers Australia was emblematic of what went wrong with the training industry. Private colleges got paid upfront in full for delivering courses, despite abysmal completion rates by students – in some cases as low as 2 or 3 per cent. In 2016, the then education minister, Simon Birmingham, introduced three census dates to ensure colleges were not being paid the full course fee before students had finished the course.

But Robertson says that Careers Australia worked around the requirement by operating very short units of study so there were regular census dates to maximise cash flow. “You would sign up for a qualification that has 10 units … Because all of the units were short and they followed each other, you would just trip all of those census dates, so you met the three census date requirements, but you just cascaded very quickly into each unit.”

When it took over, TDA found many students had passed their last census dates years earlier but had never completed their training, even though Careers Australia had received the cash at the time. “Students may have been misguided in thinking that they had plenty of time to complete their training,” the TDA report notes. Robertson says the Commonwealth paperwork was very clear that there was no obligation on the provider to help the student complete their course. “That model still remains,” he says.

Robertson says that because the government and providers are currently focused on getting completion rates back up, there is no problem. But he says that if that scrutiny falls away, providers could still abuse the system because the structural issues haven’t been addressed. “Our point is that in two, three years’ time, when everybody has turned their focus to something else, it could be an easy thing to try to do,” he says.

As Careers Australia’s business model came under pressure, it tried to use education broker Acquire Learning to boost enrolments in its subsidiary training organisation, the Australian School of Management. Acquire would get prospective jobseekers in, urge them to do a course and then ASM would come in and do the training.

Robertson says Acquire, in turn, sold off two registered training organisations (RTOs) – Franklyn Scholar and the Asia Pacific Training Institute – to another provider, which subsequently collapsed. Again, TDA wound up with responsibility for the students.

“When we looked at the data, we found there was a 90 per cent failure rate for 2016 students,” says Robertson, explaining that Acquire didn’t want to encumber the potential sale of these RTOs by requiring the buyer to continue the training of current students. “So, they wholesale-failed all of those students. Now, most of those students wouldn’t even know that they were wholesale-failed in 2016. It was egregious behaviour of Acquire, to make it an easy sale.” Hundreds of students were affected.

Ahead of last Friday’s Council of Australian Governments meeting, Scott Morrison put vocational education top of the agenda. State and territory leaders agreed on a new one-page vision statement for the sector, which acknowledged “the importance of a viable and robust system of both public and private providers, and the particular role of states and territories in facilitating the public provision of VET”.

Last year, soon after he became prime minister, Morrison commissioned Steven Joyce, former New Zealand skills minister in John Key’s conservative government, to do a review of the TAFE sector. Joyce came up with 71 recommendations, including a new National Skills Commission, announced in the April budget as part of a $525 million skills package.

However, the Joyce review did not recommend ending the demand-driven funding model, which enabled the explosion of private colleges subsidised by VET FEE-HELP. Instead, according to Skills Minister Michaelia Cash, the government has put tighter restrictions on providers. Only 187 registered training organisations are now able to access funding from the VET Student Loans program and the government has introduced “a student engagement and progression process in VET Student Loans to ensure students continue to be actively engaged with their provider”.

Robertson predicts that if the Commonwealth government runs with the Joyce blueprint, state and territory governments may go their own way. He says they have reacted to the VET FEE-HELP debacle by increasingly switching support back to their own TAFE networks. Victoria, for example, has had great success by making priority TAFE courses free.

The prime minister seems determined for the Commonwealth to remain agnostic, supporting both private and public training providers. In a recent interview with 2GB’s Alan Jones, Morrison noted that the public TAFE system enrolled only 16 per cent of students in training – a figure overlooking that half the total enrolments are for short courses such as first aid or responsible service of alcohol. When it comes to proper training courses under the Australian Qualifications Framework, TAFEs account for a much larger share.

But even the radio host championed the public system, lamenting the closure and sale of dozens of TAFE campuses around New South Wales. Jones told Morrison: “TAFE is the only institution you can trust to deliver genuine vocational training.” With such a ringing endorsement coming from a prominent conservative such as Jones, the prime minister may need to listen.


TAFE SA wins vote of confidence from national regulator

In a massive win for South Australian industry and job seekers, the Australian Skills Quality Authority (ASQA) has granted TAFE SA the maximum seven-year registration as a national VET Registered Training Organisation (RTO) for local and international students.

It is the first time that TAFE SA has ever received this length of registration.

This tick of approval from the national regulator represents a significant step towards TAFE SA’s goal of becoming known as a benchmark for high-quality vocational education in South Australia.

Applications for the renewal of RTO registration are rigorously assessed by ASQA and are granted for two, five or the maximum seven years.

ASQA has also registered TAFE SA on the Commonwealth Register of Institutions and Courses for Overseas Students (CRISCOS) for the next seven years.

Education Minister John Gardner said the announcement represents a significant milestone in rebuilding TAFE SA into the quality vocational training provider that South Australians deserve.

“Today’s announcement is a clear vote of confidence in the Government’s policy direction, as outlined in our Fresh Start for TAFE SA,” said Minister Gardner.

“South Australian industry and job seekers can now go forward with enhanced confidence that TAFE SA is delivering high quality training that meets the standards required and industry needs.

“This is a very positive outcome for TAFE SA which would not have been achieved without the dedication and commitment of staff across the organisation to implement a new quality framework.

“TAFE SA remain committed to maintaining ongoing quality measures and the Government has put in place radically improved structures and oversight to ensure TAFE SA continues to deliver on its fresh start.

“This seven-year registration demonstrates that the Government’s commitment to TAFE SA and their efforts in improving compliance has not gone unnoticed.”

TAFE SA Chief Executive David Coltman said that the positive response to the registration renewal was a strong show of confidence in the improvements that have been made across TAFE SA.

“This is a really positive outcome for TAFE SA and a vote of confidence in the extensive quality improvements that have been implemented across all of our programs,” said Mr Coltman.

“TAFE SA has embarked on a fresh start, we are committed to providing quality outcomes for students and working closely with industry, and this seven-year registration confirms that we are on the right path.

“Staff across TAFE SA have worked tirelessly to ensure all of our education and training services are compliant, and at the standard that students, industry and the community deserve.

“We are at the first stage of the journey, we are focused on continuous improvement and we will continue to develop high quality and innovative training that responds to student and industry needs.

“At TAFE SA, we will continue to ensure that our education and training services meet the standards of all relevant regulatory bodies and that it plays an important role in building the South Australian workforce for the future.”

/Public News. View in full here.

If you have a low ATAR, you could earn more doing a VET course than a uni degree – if you’re a ma

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said in recent days that “TAFE is as good as university”, and in many cases leads to better pay.

TAFE plays a vital role, but for most university students, a TAFE course is not going to increase their income. University graduates usually have higher rates of pay and employment than non-graduates.

But a new report from the Grattan Institute – Risks and rewards: when is vocational education a good alternative to higher education? – looked at the employment outcomes for students leaving school with a lower Australian Tertiary Admission Rank (ATAR) (their main entry criteria into most undergraduate university programs).

It found men with a lower ATAR have options among vocational educational and training (VET) courses that can get them a job faster, and often higher earnings, than if they do a university degree. But these VET options are less attractive for women. And women who choose them often have poor outcomes, such as being denied a job in a male dominated industry like engineering.

ATAR is not everything. It does not perfectly predict university results or outcomes after university. But compared to graduates with a high ATAR, graduates with a lower ATAR have, on average, worse academic results, lower rates of high-skill employment and less earnings.

The Grattan Institute report looked at VET courses offered as a potential alternative to university. Especially once the income effects of lower ATAR are taken into account, the report found some bachelor degrees led to lower earnings than some VET diplomas and Certificate III/IVcourses.

How ATAR can affect employment outcomes

Over the last decade, more school leavers have been starting university with an ATAR below 70. Before an enrolment boom that began in 2009, about 20,000 school leavers with ATARs between 30 and 70 started university each year. In more recent years, the reported number is around 34,000.

But the true figure is higher, as universities don’t always record an ATAR when it is not used to admit the student.

Read more: More students are going to university than before, but those at risk of dropping out need more help

Employment outcomes usually improve over time, but slow career starts can have long-term consequences. The Grattan Institute report used data from the Longitudinal Surveys of Australian Youth (LSAY), which tracks young graduates up to age 25.

Graduates with a lower ATAR are more likely than those with a higher ATAR to fail subjects during their degree. But fail rates differ between courses. In education and nursing, for instance, graduates with ATARs below 60 failed 5% of all the subjects they took. This was half the fail rate of disciplines such as science, engineering, IT and commerce.

With fails on their academic transcripts, graduates with a lower ATAR have more trouble finding full-time work within four months of finishing their studies, and the jobs they find are less likely to use their skills.

But when it comes to employment options, the course matters more than the ATAR. In the months after graduation, humanities, science and commerce graduates with higher ATARs struggle more than nursing or education graduates with lower ATARs to find a job.

ATAR and annual income are connected within each university course. For example, male science graduates with ATARs of 90 earn about 13% more than graduates with ATARs of 60.

Men’s VET options could make them better off

To be considered a potential better choice, a course must plausibly interest the student and have better employment outcomes. There is no point telling a potential performing arts student an accounting diploma would improve their job prospects.

Few people are interested in both these courses. University applications, which often include preferences for multiple courses, reveal what other fields students are interested in.

One in five of all men whose first preference university course was science had a lower preference for engineering. Science is a high-risk university course, as rapid enrolment growth has led to graduates significantly outnumbering jobs.

Young people with lower ATARs considering science would receive a university offer, but could potentially earn more enrolling in a VET diploma (as shown in the chart below).

Similarly, about one in five men whose first preference is arts (another high-risk field) have a lower preference for commerce.

For men, with a lower ATAR, a commerce-related VET diploma would give them better employment prospects than an arts degree. These and other possible alternatives can be seen in the chart. Often a diploma is acquired after first completing a Certificate III/IV course.

Read more: We need to change negative views of the jobs VET serves to make it a good post-school option

Women should stick with uni

Women make up the majority of students who enrol into university with a lower ATAR. For them, a commerce diploma can sometimes be a good alternative to university, too. But otherwise women’s realistic choices differ from men’s – for both positive and negative reasons – in ways that make VET less attractive.

A positive reason is that two popular courses for women with lower ATARs – education and nursing – have good outcomes. Rates of professional employment for graduates of both courses are high across the ATAR range.

Nurses and teachers with higher ATARs who went to university tend to earn more than those with lower ATARs but the differences aren’t large enough to not recommend a bachelor degree over a VET course (as the chart shows).

A negative reason why vocational education is less attractive for women is that they show little interest in engineering-related fields that are popular for men. Once qualified, these men often work in construction, manufacturing, electrical and maintenance related fields.

But even when women have the relevant qualifications they often work in other occupations that pay less but offer more flexible working conditions.

VET fields popular with women, such as child care, nursing, aged care and hospitality have a large number of job vacancies, but don’t pay as well as most graduate occupations.

Vocational education does get overlooked in careers advice. But VET is less attractive for women than for men, if pay is a significant factor in course choice. Women have been a majority of university students since 1987. Given the nature of the labour market, it is not hard to see why.


TDA Newsletter- Alan Jones tells the PM how to fix the training system: fund TAFE

A new high bar has been set – comment by CEO Craig Robertson

Heated agreement makes a change for the VET sector and TAFEs.

The Prime Minister and first ministers should be congratulated for their joint agreement on Friday to position TAFEs on the same footing as universities.

The Prime Minister said leading into COAG:

My message to those young people or those who are elsewhere engaged in the technical education system is TAFE is as good as uni. Vocational education is as good as uni….

This was re-iterated by Premier Berejiklian in the post meeting press conference:

… my colleagues also go to the fact with what we all had violent agreement on …is that vocational education and training is equal to other forms of tertiary education.

And if we want to be a nation that has the right skills for our existing industries, but also emerging industries, we need to have that in a good strong position. And in New South Wales, as I know in other states, there’s a natural conversation now occurring between universities and TAFEs and that is something we’ll encourage at a state level.

And … when we talk about education post-secondary school, we should be talking about universities and TAFE in the same breath because the options available should be of equal quality, of equal opportunity and equal accessibility to the community.

So the bar has been set. A new council of ministers with responsibilities for skills has been established, tasked with fleshing out the vision for reporting to COAG early in the new year.

Equal quality, equal opportunity, equal accessibility.

These words will no doubt be parsed, homogenised, pasteurised … you name it, as ministers take to the task. For me they are pretty clear.  Here’s my version.

Violets are Blue
TAFE is the best
Its mission is true
Roses have wilted
Violets lost hue
TAFE may have faded
But it’s back serving you
Roses can sting
Violets they stain
Treat TAFE right
It’ll blossom again
Roses are Noble
Violets colour true
Unis smell right
But so does TAFE too
Roses are Red
Violets are Blue
TAFE is my passion
COAG message on cue
Roses can die
Violets they wane
If you fail your words
Promises are feigned
Roses they blossom
Violets spread wide
Ministers keep your word
TAFE will be on your side
On a final note. This year’s TDA convention is more important than ever as we contemplate the future of TAFEs. Register now. The final program is out.

I’ll be teaching limericks, so come along.

COAG reform to make VET part of an integrated tertiary education system

Commonwealth, state and territory leaders have committed to a new COAG Skills Council, which, in consultation with education ministers, will devise a fresh VET reform plan by the end of the year.

It will form the basis of a reform “roadmap” early next year which will see VET and higher education as “equal and integral parts of a joined up and accessible post-secondary education system”.

The COAG Communique was accompanied by a Vision for Vocational Education and Training that sets out the goal of a “responsive, dynamic and trusted sector that delivers an excellent standard of education and training.”

“All jurisdictions acknowledge the importance of a viable and robust system of both public and private providers, and the particular role of states and territories in facilitating the public provision of VET,” it says.

“A focus on national consistency in key areas, such as quality assurance and qualification levels, whilst maintaining flexibility in the system for jurisdictions to meet local needs will ensure VET continues to work for all Australians into the future.”

Following the COAG meeting, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the skills agenda was one that “we all feel very passionately about and one that I know we’re going to continue to work very closely together on.”

“We spend over $7 billion a year on that agenda and we want to make sure that that money works harder for all Australians,” he said.

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews said it was critical to change the way TAFE, vocational education and non-university pathways are viewed, while NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian commended the prime minister and premiers for putting VET “top of mind”.

Ahead of COAG, TDA Chief Executive Craig Robertson told ABC RN Breakfast that figures show many young people were not attracted to VET and there was an urgent need to modernise qualifications, perhaps taking some of the power out of the hands of industry in designing courses.

“We need to overhaul the qualifications that we deliver so we make sure that it is an attractive training option that can lead to a good job and a career.”

He said TAFEs could be given greater say in designing courses that meet industry needs, citing the example of Box Hill Institute’s cybersecurity qualification, developed by TAFE, and being delivered nationally amid soaring demand for cybersecurity expertise.

See Skills Crisis: Restoring confidence in training means rescuing TAFEs in The Monthly.

Alan Jones tells the PM how to fix the training system: fund TAFE

Top Sydney radio broadcaster Alan Jones spoke up strongly ahead of last Friday’s COAG meeting to urge Prime Minister Scott Morrison to support TAFE.

The radio 2GB star told the PM that his switchboard was “on fire over TAFE”.

“The national apprenticeships and traineeship numbers have fallen from 446,000 in 2012 to 295,000 last year. And TAFE is the only institution you can trust to deliver genuine vocational training,” Mr Jones told the prime minister.

“But since 2012 more than 5700 NSW TAFE teachers have lost their jobs, 27 TAFE colleges in NSW have been sold, 5689 TAFE teachers have lost their jobs, the same in Victoria.

“Now it’s easy isn’t it? If you want to fix vocational education, give these people some money,” Mr Jones implored the PM.

However, Mr Morrison pushed back, claiming that TAFE is responsible for 16% of all training, with more than 80% outside TAFE.

“TAFE is an important part of the system but it is actually, in the grand scheme of things, it’s nowhere near the dominant part of the system,” he said.

Mr Morrison said a major problem was the way Commonwealth funds were handled by the states.

“There’s no ties on it, it just goes to the states and they make a whole bunch of decisions.

“What we’re not doing at the moment is the qualifications and the accreditations are not keeping pace with the modern economy and employers aren’t getting the people out of the training system they need that can actually make their business work better.

Former Holmesglen CEO to head new VET research institute

Former Holmesglen chief executive and TDA chair, Bruce Mackenzie, (pictured) will head up a new vocational and higher education institute that will provide evidence-based research to help improve tertiary education.

The Mackenzie Research Institute is an initiative of Holmesglen, and aims to develop policy papers and advance public debate with government, business and social institutions to influence tertiary education reform.

The former Holmesglen CEO chaired the 2015 Victorian government funding review and had a 30-year career in the VET sector which saw him formally recognised with the 2017 Lifetime Achievement Award at the Australian Training Awards.

The institute will be supported by a six-member advisory board, comprising Victoria University Emeritus Professor Berwyn Clayton; former Victorian skills and training minister Steve Herbert; VET researcher Pam Jonas; Adjunct Professor with Flinders University’s National Institute of Labour Studies, Tom Karmel; TDA Chief Executive Craig Robertson and the former CEO of the Australian Workforce and Productivity Agency Robin Shreeve.

Mr Mackenzie told The Australian that one of the institute’s first papers will address the issue of structural difficulties in the tertiary education system.

“We had a look at the reforms in Switzerland, the Nordic states and in the UK, and they’ve done some really interesting things to try to reverse some of the negative aspects in focusing too much on higher education.”

From next year in the UK system, senior secondary students will be able to opt for an academic stream or a technical stream that will be accompanied by benchmarks in literacy, numeracy and digital skills, as well as their subjects.

“We’re saying that you really can’t reform tertiary education unless you reform upper secondary education first of all,” he said.

Victoria backs free TAFE with $12m injection

The Victorian government has responded to the surge in demand for places under its free TAFE initiative with an $11.7 million package to support students and staff.

Students facing disadvantage will benefit from a $6 million injection for new course materials to assist with time management, study skills and literacy.

An additional $5 million will help ensure TAFEs keep up with demand so eligible students can enrol in their preferred free TAFE course.

A total of $500,000 will be available for teaching scholarships to professionals with industry experience to address staffing vacancies in priority areas.

A total of $200,000 will be provided to trial ways TAFEs can work with the not-for-profit early childhood sector to support work placements for students in the Diploma of Early Childhood Education and Care and Certificate III in Early Childhood Education, which start next year.

Premier Daniel Andrews said more than 25,000 students have commenced training in free TAFE in the six months to the end of June, a 92 per cent increase compared with the previous year.

Students over the age of 30 account for almost half of the enrolments and more than a quarter are in regional areas.

Apprenticeships to be made free in Queensland

The Queensland government will make apprenticeships and traineeships free to employers, in a $32 million initiative, expected to support 60,000 young people.

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk announced the commitment which will apply in areas of high demand including electrical, plumbing, engineering, healthcare, hospitality and early childhood, for people aged under 21.

There will also be a $5.5 million micro-credentialing pilot, a higher-level apprenticeship pilot, and  an expanded Gateway to Industry Schools program so students can train in emerging industries.

See more.

ASQA issues warning ahead of new ‘third-party’ training arrangements

The Australian Skills Quality Authority (ASQA) has warned that some registered training organisations are not ready for new third-party arrangements for delivery of training and assessment that will take effect in a few weeks.

ASQA has published updated guidance on third-party arrangements that will come into effect from September 1 for new third-party arrangements, and November 1 for existing arrangements.

ASQA said RTOs have indicated that they are unclear of the extent to which they can use third parties for the delivery of training and assessment, and says some have arrangements that will not be compliant.

“ASQA holds concerns with third parties undertaking marketing and recruitment on behalf of RTOs that is not in line with the requirements of the NVR (National Vocational Education and Training Regulator Act 2011) Act.

See more.

Exploring micro-credentials

The role of micro-credentials in tertiary education is up for debate.  There’s a chance to learn more on August 26 in Melbourne.

See more.

Apprentice support providers given contract reprieve

Australian Apprenticeship Support Network (AASN) providers have been given a short-term extension of their contracts until February 1 next year.

Existing contracts for the 11 AASN providers lapsed in June, with the future unclear in light of the Joyce Review recommendation for new Skills Organisations to take on many of the functions of AASNs.

The AASNs deliver support services from around 400 locations nationally.

Diary Dates

VTA 2019 State Conference 
15 – 16 August 2019
RACV City Club, 501 Bourke Street, Melbourne
More information

National Manufacturing Summit
21 & 22 August 2019
More information

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

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

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

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

Australian Training Awards
21 November 2019
Brisbane, Queensland
More information

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


Skills council to drive vocational education reform

The current training system need to be more agile, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said. Picture: Marc McCormack/AAP
The current training system need to be more agile, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said. Picture: Marc McCormack/AAP

The federal and state governments will create a new “skills council” to drive vocational education reform and deliver a plan to overhaul the sector next year, as premiers unite with Scott Morrison to put TAFE on an equal footing with universities.

Businesses and the housing ­industry hailed the Council of Australian Governments commitment to VET yesterday following warnings of skills shortages in some sectors and calls for bolder reforms to fix the nation’s training system.

“It needs to be agile, it needs to be modern, it needs to be up to date,” the Prime Minister said. “It can take you 12 months to change a qualification in this country.

“I mean, that’s not agile and that needs to be improved. I want, and we all want, students, whatever age they are — they could be 21, they could be 61 and going through a career change, or 41, or whatever age it is. And I want them to have confidence that that system is going to help them with their ­future intentions and their future careers.”

COAG released a “vision” for the VET sector, including that it provides workforce skills and relevant, up-to-date qualifications that are matched to the evolving opportunities and challenges of the economy.

“A co-operative approach ­between the federal government, state and territory governments, together with meaningful consultation with industry, will help to deliver a much-needed refresh for the VET sector,” the Housing ­Industry Association’s Kristin Brookfield said.

Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry chief executive James Pearson said COAG’s agreements — including that the skills council advise leaders on ­future reform priorities by the end of the year — marked a new page in the country’s education and training manual.

“Our parliamentary leaders have come together to agree on what that looks like — a vision where VET and university education are given equal standing,” Mr Pearson said.

Also discussed at COAG was the embattled Murray-Darling Basin Plan, with all states agreeing to reaffirm their commitment to the plan and to the appointment of an inspector-general to oversee water resources and ­improve transparency and accountability.

The state leaders acknowledged the impact the drought was having on rural communities.


Exclusive: TAFE NSW staff details stolen after computer systems allegedly hacked

Around 30 employees have not been paid on time after having personal information stolen in what TAFE NSW said was a “targeted phishing attack”. (AAP)
A TAFE NSW spokesman said the organisation was working with the NSW Police Cyber Crime Unite to identify the source of the data breach and “to ensure it does not happen again”.
Payroll staff were urgently processing payments manually for affected workers, he said.
One employee, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said she only learned of the hack when she received a phone call from TAFE’s payroll department.
“They asked me if I had changed my bank account details,” the woman told “My account had been compromised, my bank account details had been changed.
“She (payroll) said it was being investigated, that my pay would be late.”

Universities and VET should be in ‘the same sentence’: Berejiklian

Premier Gladys Berejiklian will urge her state counterparts to treat vocational training as an equal to university education at tomorrow’s Council of Australian Governments’ meeting.

Ms Berejiklian said she welcomed Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s inclusion of vocational education and training (VET) on the agenda for the meeting in Cairns.

Premier Gladys Berejiklian says vocational training and university education need to be treated as equals.
Premier Gladys Berejiklian says vocational training and university education need to be treated as equals. CREDIT:AAP

But the Premier said it was an outdated view to treat VET and university education as two systems.

“To meet the skills requirements of the future we must look at policies impacting universities and VET holistically,” Ms Berejiklian said.

“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.”

Ms Berejiklian said learning need to be “flexible and transferable”.

“Why shouldn’t it be possible for people to complete their qualifications across a number of different institutions – university and TAFE, on-the-job business experience,” she said.

“Not only do we need to redefine VET, but we need to change the way we think about it.

“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.”

Ms Berejiklian said European countries such as Germany had a strong emphasis on the importance of vocational training, which she intends to investigate on a trade mission to Europe next week.

She will be the first NSW premier to visit the UK for more than 14 years and the first to go to Germany for more than two decades.

“This is how vocational education is thought about in Germany – a key learning I want to bring back with me from my trade mission next week,” Ms Berejiklian said.

The Premier said there need to be a renewed discussion about how the VET system would accommodate jobs that are “not yet created or even conceived”.

Western Sydney University vice-chancellor says universities and TAFEs should work collaboratively.
Western Sydney University vice-chancellor says universities and TAFEs should work collaboratively. CREDIT:ALEX ELLINGHAUSEN

The Vice-Chancellor of Western Sydney University Barney Glover said the higher education and vocational training systems in Australia were highly respected around the world.

“It is very important that we don’t degrade one system as another system becomes more robust,” Professor Glover said.

He said Ms Berejiklian’s comments were “timely” as the country faced a skills shortage.

“There is no doubt that TAFE and universities can work collaboratively, whether that is putting the VET into higher education or the higher education into VET,” Professor Glover said.

The chief executive of the Business Council of Australia, Jennifer Westacott, said vocational training was vital to Australia’s future.

“We need to halt its decline so Australians have the best possible chance of training for work and existing workers can retrain and upskill quickly,” Ms Westacott said.

“We have to address the cultural and financial bias that treats VET like a second class citizen.”

Ms Westacott said Australia also needed to address the effectiveness of the apprenticeship system.

“Given work is under way to build Australia’s largest 24-7 airport, there is an enormous opportunity to rethink how we undertake skills and training in this country,” she said.

During the state election campaign, the government committed to an extra 100,000 free TAFE and VET courses over the next four years and a new $80 million TAFE campus for western Sydney.


Thinktank: Australia has too much uni and not enough TAFE

The Mackenzie Institute believes that Australia’s economy has become “hollowed out” by a misguided belief that universities must be research intensive, as well as policies that preference higher education over vocational alternatives:

In a paper coinciding with its launch, the institute condemns the 2008 Bradley review – which spawned Australia’s recently abandoned demand-driven system of higher education funding – for producing a glut of graduates and exacerbating the funding decline in vocational training, particularly among public technical and further education colleges.

The paper blames the Bradley review for cultivating one of the worst skills mismatch profiles in the world. It cites figures showing that Australia ranks sixth among 33 Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development nations for “high skills” development, but 27th for technical skills.

Read the whole article at:

TDA News- VET funding stagnates, new report shows

In this edition

  • Let’s chase value  – comment by CEO Craig Robertson
  •  Apprentice and trainee completions headed in the wrong direction
  • VET funding stagnates, new report shows
  • TasTAFE’s registration renewed for seven years
  • Wodonga TAFE appoints new CEO
  • TAFE NSW awards celebrate Indigenous achievement
  • Swinburne launches leadership index
  • Diary

Let’s chase value  – comment by CEO Craig Robertson

I suspect we are immune to sales techniques and attuned to value.

Special deals dominate our retail experience. Boxing Day sales have lost their edge and discounts are a permanent feature. Once price discounts fail, do you notice the move to promises of value that seem too good to be true – stronger, brighter, slimmer ….?

When sales plummet most rational businesses look at the access buyers have to shop, then the sales techniques. Price strategies are usually the first step but sooner rather than later questions start to be asked about the product. This past week this question was posed for VET in the form of the 2018 students and courses figures released by NCVER.

Looking at the most reliable measure, hours of training, the total for 2018 has not been as low since 2006, several years before the great opening up of training. Of more concern is the young people deserting training. In 1996, 55 per cent of the hours of training were by young people under 25 years of age but this has declined by 10 percentage points to 45 per cent in 2018. A reduction of 87 million hours of training – a loss of skills to the workforce. As I’ve indicated before, these declines need to be seen in the context of significant population growth, not decline.

This past week someone said to me that as long as VET has a sales culture, it will have a quality and integrity problem.

We’ve tried sales. After all, the rationale for contestable funding, including expanding VET FEE-HELP, was to increase access to VET.
Let’s see what sales techniques were used.

Free steak knives – we tried i-pads.

Two for one – well, actually we tried one for two – students being signed up for two qualifications and two loans under the impression it was just one.

Inducements – we do that for employers of apprentices and trainees, yet they’re not buying.

A job guarantee – research shows that only 34 per cent of courses lead to the job the training is aimed at.

Agents – they’ve been banned.

The Government is in-sourcing the sales task. They are proposing a government established Careers Institute and a government appointed Careers Ambassador.

What about value? It seems young people are the savviest of buyers. They are attuned to job prospects, and more so wage levels. In a climate of high jobs growth, they’ve chosen the job. They’ve made a value choice.

All sales textbooks are clear there must be value at the end of each transaction. I wonder how the Careers Ambassador will solve the value dilemma.

The question is when will there be a serious look at the product and its value to students.

Apprentice and trainee completions headed in the wrong direction

Completion rates for apprentices and trainees have shown a significant fall, according to the latest figures from the National Centre for Vocational Education Research (NCVER).

The 2018 completion rates for all apprentices and trainees (who commenced training in 2014) fell to 56.7%, down from 59.9% for those commencing in 2013.

Completion rates for individuals who commenced in trade occupations in 2014 were down 4.7 percentage points to 54.5%, while non-trade completions were down 2 percentage points to 57.7%.

Completion rates varied considerably by occupation. ICT professionals had the highest rate of completion (94.7%) while food trades workers had one of the lowest (41.2%).

See more

VET funding stagnates, new report shows

The VET sector has undergone funding volatility and stagnation to a degree not seen in any other education sector, a new report on education funding in Australia shows.

The report, Education Expenditure in Australia, from the Australian Council for Educational Research (ACER) shows that total education expenditure has grown substantially since the beginning of the century, with funding in 2015 being 79 per cent more than the level in 2000, after adjusting for inflation.

However, it says that in the VET certificate sector between 2000 and 2015, total expenditure per student has been volatile, with almost no change over the period.

“These trends have largely been driven by volatility in government expenditure, with private expenditure being relatively stable in comparison,” the report says.

For bachelor degrees and above, total expenditure per student was stable between 2000 and 2012, before increasing between 2012 and 2015, largely driven by increases in private expenditure per student.

Annual expenditure on education (primary school and above) within institutions per student by level of education, 2000 to 2015 ($2015, constant prices)

TasTAFE’s registration renewed for seven years

TasTAFE is delighted to announce it has had its registration renewed by the Australian Skills Quality Authority (ASQA) for the next seven years.

TasTAFE received notification on July 15 that its application for renewal as a registered training provider had been granted by ASQA.

TasTAFE’s registration expired on  December 31 last year, and was extended until the end of June 2019 while ASQA undertook a standard registration renewal audit earlier this year. The audit was extensive and covered many aspects of TasTAFE’s training and delivery across a number of qualifications.

TasTAFE is the largest vocational training organisation in Tasmania and trains around 23,000 students, including 4500 apprentices.

TasTAFE is responding to ASQA regarding adequate staffing for delivery of the Certificate III in Electrotechnology and will be providing additional information for reconsideration of the decision.

Wodonga TAFE appoints new CEO

The chair of the Wodonga Institute of TAFE Allison Jenvey has announced the appointment of Phil Paterson, pictured, as its new Chief Executive Officer and Managing Director.
Phil has extensive senior management experience as the Chief Finance Officer and Board Secretary of the institute since January 2016. Prior to that he was with Mars Incorporated for 13 years in a variety of global commercial and leadership roles.

He replaces the former CEO Mark Dixon who stepped down in March to take on a new role as CEO at the City of Wodonga.

Phil is a Certified Practicing Accountant and holds a Masters of Business Administration and a Bachelor of Business (Accounting) and is a member of the Australian Institute of Company Directors.

Ms Jenvey said the board received significant interest in the position from across Victoria and that that Phil’s appointment was recognition of the talent in its own ranks.

“Our TAFE has an excellent reputation and a strong positive culture, and we look forward to this continuing under Phil’s leadership,” Ms Jenvey said.

TDA extends its congratulations to Phil on his appointment.

TAFE NSW awards celebrate Indigenous achievement

Sixteen TAFE NSW Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students, teachers and partnerships have been recognised at the annual TAFE NSW Gili Awards.

The awards which celebrate the achievements of Aboriginal students, as well as the accomplishments of TAFE NSW employees and programs were presented by the Minister for Skills and Tertiary Education Dr Geoffrey Lee.

TAFE NSW Team Leader Aboriginal Education and Training Unit, Merv Donovan said the winners had shown hard work, dedication and commitment to transforming their lives and the lives of others through vocational education and training for Aboriginal people.

Ashleigh Knight, received the prestigious Gili Award for her outstanding contributions in supporting Aboriginal participation and achievement.

NECA emPOWER Aboriginal Apprentice Readiness Program received the Industry Partnership Award and Youth Engagement Award, while Wiradjuri Language accepted the Community Engagement Award for their exceptional commitment to the community.

A number of TAFE NSW staff including Elsie Gordon, Natalie Wilcock, Rebecca Murphy and Bridget Thomas were also recognised for their commitment and dedication to the vocational education and training outcomes of Aboriginal students.

The 15 awards were presented in 12 categories at the event. See the full list of award winners.

Swinburne launches leadership index

Swinburne University of Technology has launched a new index that measures public perceptions and expectations of leadership.

The publicly-available Australian Leadership Index is based on the largest ever survey of leadership and reveals Australians’ views on leadership in the public, private, government and not-for-profit sectors.

Swinburne researcher Dr Sam Wilson said the project has uncovered fascinating insights into the publics’ perceptions of leadership across all four sectors, with many sectors falling well-below Australians’ expectations.

“Perhaps the most dispiriting and striking finding is that the institutions that are supposed to be the custodians of the greater good – federal, state and local governments – are seen as showing no leadership in this space,” Dr Wilson said.

“By contrast, the institutions with which we have regular contact in the public sector – schools, hospitals and police services – are seen as showing much more leadership for the greater good.”

Religious institutions were among the worst performers in terms of leadership for the greater good, while charities such as The Salvation Army and the Red Cross rated highly.

Each quarter, the research team surveys a representative sample of 1,000 people across Australia and a full year’s worth of data is now available on the Australian Leadership Index portal.

See more

Diary Dates

National Apprentice Employment Network
Beyond 2020, NAEC Conference 2019
31 July – 2 August 2019
Crowne Plaza, Gold Coast
More information

QLD School VET Conference
Velg Training
9 August 2019
Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre, Brisbane
More Information

VTA 2019 State Conference 
15 – 16 August 2019
RACV City Club, 501 Bourke Street, Melbourne
More information

National Manufacturing Summit
21 & 22 August 2019
More information

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

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

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

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

Australian Training Awards
21 November 2019
Brisbane, Queensland
More information

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