Scott Morrison employing a television tradie is already crazy, but if you consider the repeated cuts to the TAFE system, it’s borderline insane.
For reasons I’m not entirely sure, Australia is in the business of giving celebrities governmental positions. In a move that’s dangerously close to satire/utter numbness, Scott Morrison has employed television tradie Scott Cam of The Block fame.
“I want to see more Australians become plumbers, electricians and bakers than lawyers and consultants. I would like to see more of them going on to become their own boss,” Morrison said on Thursday.
“Scott Cam is proof that undertaking a trade can be a very valuable, rewarding and successful career choice, and there are plenty more who can tell a similar story to Scott…by learning a trade you’ll earn more, your skills will be in demand and you’ll help build our country and keep our economy strong,” he continued.
Per The New Daily, “Employment and Skills Minister Michaelia Cash said vocational education and training was key to building Australia’s future workforce. She said Mr Cam would help Australians at ‘all ages and stages’ to make informed decisions about learning, training and work. ‘Working with the National Careers Institute, Scott will make sure individuals and businesses can take advantage of the pathways on offer,’ she said.”
There’s just a rather large elephant in the room. If Morrison wants to steer the nation away from university types (which is another discussion) and into blue-collar work, he should focus on the tried-and-tested TAFE route, right?
According to the Australian Education Union (AEU) Federal TAFE Secretary Pat Forward in 2018, the entire system is at risk.
“Government funding cuts have left the TAFE sector perilously close to collapse,” Ms Forward said.
“Under the Turnbull government, funding has been slashed and support for the system has collapsed.”
“The TAFE and vocational education system remains the worst-funded education sector in the country, with funding having been cut by more than 15% between 2007 and 2016,” Ms Forward said.
“The damage inflicted on the sector, particularly as a result of underfunding and attempts to privatise, has eroded the viability of colleges and undermined confidence in the system,” Ms Forward said.
“More people have been through TAFE and vocational training than have attended university in Australia,” Ms Forward said.
“The TAFE sector is responsible for providing vocational education to some of the most important professions in the country, including nurses, child-care workers, hairdressers, aged care and disability workers and electricians.”
“Unless governments address the crisis in the TAFE and vocational education sector as a matter of urgency, the consequences for society and the economy – and for the next generation of young people – will be dire,” Ms Forward said.
In the recent budget, no new funding for TAFE was announced by the Morrison government, with Australian Education Union (AEU) Federal President Correna Haythorpe noting that “…there is no additional specified funding for TAFE in the budget. What we have is a sleight of hand by the Morrison government with the majority of the $525 million actually being repurposed money.”
“This is a budget which fails to give a fair go to TAFE. It will deny many thousands of Australians the opportunity to build the skills they need for the careers they want…this funding is essentially a repackaging of the Skilling Australians Fund. In reality, there is just $55 million of new money for vocational education over five years,” she said.
If the Michaelia Cash and Scott Morrison believe that the future of our workforce is vocational training, then why are the cutting off the only meaningful supplier of it?
‘One has to wonder if the money funding the VET reform program is actually being applied to real reform of the program itself.’
~ Craig Robertson, CEO TAFE Directors Australia
Employment Minister Michaelia Cash outlined reform plans within the VET program in a $525 million Morrison Government project, while announcing the formation of the Industry VET Stakeholder Committee on September 26.
While the Morrison Government seeks to reform the Vocational Education and Training sector (VET) – a key component of the TAFE education program – the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) contends those actions are being performed with a bias heavily slanted towards big business and employer groups.
The ACTU points out that among groups represented on the VET committee, the voices of those who ultimately benefit in the way of training and jobs are not being consulted: workers’ groups and union members themselves.
And to officials in the organisation overseeing the union movement in Australia, it’s not just that they feel ignored in the consultation process within the committee and the decision-making process, but that it may have been purposely done as a typical Liberal Party pro-business, anti-worker agenda.
The committee – which will convene once a month effective immediately until mid-2023 – contains officials from organisations among its 19 members such as accountancy firms Price Waterhouse Coopers and KPMG to business lobby bodies Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the Australian Industry Group, and the Business Council of Australia.
And eight of the 19 officials represented are CEO’s of various pro-business organisations, and almost all of the officials on the committee are leaders of their respective organisations.
The ACTU said in a statement:
‘This panel looks to be more of the same from a Government that will do anything to accommodate its big business donors.’
The ACTU and its affiliated union groups also cite the budget cuts and privatisation moves by the Abbott/Turnbull/Morrison Government since 2013 – actions seen as not just debilitating to the TAFE system, but ultimately anti-worker tactics in general – as precursors to the Coalition’s current VET reform agenda.
“Excluding working people from a discussion about skills training is disappointing but not surprising from a Government that caters exclusively to the interests of big business,” said Scott Connolly, the ACTU’s assistant secretary.
The ACTU and its affiliated groups also possess the view that the Coalition’s moves on the TAFE system since 2013 have resulted in shortages of skilled workers across a variety of industries.
We see about 150,000 fewer apprentices today than when the Liberals first came to government. We’ve seen billions cut from TAFE and training and apprenticeships. Employers are saying it’s hard to find skilled staff, at the same time as we have unemployment, underemployment and high rates of temporary migration.
The lack of focus on the human element of consultation also appears to exist as just one apparent shortcoming of the planned reforms of the VET program at present.
Of the $525 million committed to raising apprenticeship numbers within the VET program, as announced in last April’s Federal Budget, TAFE Directors Australia – incidentally, one of those groups on the VET Stakeholders committee – said that $70 million of that funding is new and the remainder has been taken from unused funds that were previously earmarked for Victoria and Queensland, in previous budgets for similar programs.
And just by paying attention to the sage words of TAFE Directors Australia’s own CEO, Craig Robertson, one has to wonder if the money funding the VET reform program is actually being applied to real reform of the program itself.
“Only $200 million will be incentives to employers to take on new apprentices. It is good to introduce incentives, but its a sad state we’re in when we are relying on incentives to get employers to take on apprentices,” said Robertson.
Moreover, the VET reform package of proposals has allowed for a five-year plan to raise the numbers of apprenticeships by 80,000 places in occupations facing shortages including bakers, carpenters, bricklayers and plumbers.
But even if those plans are successful, that still fails to accommodate for projected apprenticeships and potential jobs that have been lost since 2013.
Yet Cash has defended the reforms defining the program. “Our vision to create a strong VET sector is critical to our economy and to helping prepare Australians for the workforce of today and the future,” said Cash.
Moreover, for a Government which uses the Australian Bureau of Statistics employment definition of anyone who works as little as an hour per week as being “employed” to inflate its claims of employment growth being greater than what it actually is, it is also counting on other programs to fill the gaps on long-term employment.
‘The Morrison Government is committed to creating more than 1.25 million jobs over the next five years and I’m confident that more and more of the people filling these positions will be coming to employers through the VET system,’ said Cash.
‘We are acutely aware of the workforce requirements in the Australian economy. Our reform agenda will deliver better outcomes for Australians who make the choice to pursue a VET pathway,’ she added.
And yet, Cash has talked around the assertion about workers’ groups, from unions and otherwise, taking part in the reform consultation process:
“Together we will improve the VET system through collaboration of Commonwealth, state and territory governments, industry and training providers, and shift community perceptions around industry-focused training.”
And Connolly remains defiant to Cash’s plans on the reform program, insisting that workers’ groups need to be a part of that process:
We need skills training which puts the needs of working people first and fills genuine skills shortages, not a system that pours money into the pockets of for-profit training providers…
…To fix the big problems in VET, the Morrison Government needs to listen to all stakeholders and act on their concerns. We call on the Morrison Government to include working people in this process.
If that fails to occur, then the benefits to TAFE students and those who enrol in the VET program will be negligible, if not debatable altogether.
FREE COURSE: TAFE is offering late stage apprentices and early trades people the chance to upskill for free from now until December. HVIA
Heavy Vehicle Industry Australia (HVIA) is one of four peak automotive industry bodies that have partnered to offer the Automotive Industry Ambassador Program for late stage apprentices and early trades people.
The free short course will provide leadership and communication skills to attendees.
The five-part workshop will commence on Wednesday, October 9 and will continue every second Wednesday until December.
The program will be delivered by TAFE Queensland SkillsTech to late stage apprentices and early trades people employed by member companies of the Heavy Vehicle Industry Association, The Construction & Mining Equipment Industry Group, MTA Queensland and the Institute of Automotive Mechanical Engineers.
Seats are limited to a maximum of two late stage apprentices/early tradespeople per member company.
Nominations must be received by TAFE Queensland SkillsTech by Friday, October 4. You can download the nomination form here.
The five-day program promises to provide apprentices with the skills to:
- Communicate effectively with clients and colleagues
- Manage small teams
- Negotiate effectively
Implement more efficient and effective workplace processes
The units of competency are:
- BSBLDR403 – Lead team effectiveness
- BSBLDR402 – Lead effective workplace relationships
- BSBSMGT402 – Implement operational plan
- BSBLDR401 – Communicate effectively as a workplace leader
More than half of Australian workers are concerned that artificial intelligence, or automation, will threaten their job.
And you might think that the way to protect yourself from that is to brush up on your technological or digital skills, or head back to school.
But this may not be what protects you at the end of the day, according to Swinburne University director Dr Sean Gallagher.
Speaking today at the Yahoo Finance All Markets Summit in Sydney, Gallagher said it’s your humanity that will see you get ahead – and you’ll learn more at work than you will in the classroom.
“In increasingly digital environments, we need to be increasingly human in order to be able to compete, and to work effectively,” Gallagher said.
How Aussie workers are adapting to digital technology
One way Australian employees are preparing themselves to adapt to digital technology is by learning on the job and turning their backs on formal education.
“When you think about it, it wasn’t that long ago that if you wanted to change jobs, or maybe seek a promotion or to deal with a new circumstance, at work, we went back to college or to TAFE or even to university,” he said.
“But … All Australian workers, to prepare for the future of work, want to learn on the job.”
And the more disruption, the more these workers want to stick to their guns and learn on the job to prepare for the future, he added.
“When you think about it, it kind of makes sense. Work is where the disruption is happening. Not in the classroom.
“The classroom is becoming further away from that wayfront of disruption.”
Minister for Skills and Tertiary Education Geoff Lee today welcomed the decision by the Australian Skills Quality Authority (ASQA) to renew the registration of TAFE NSW as a single Registered Training Organisation (RTO) for a further 7 years, the maximum renewal granted by the national regulator.
“This is a reflection of TAFE NSW’s status as a quality provider of vocational education and training,” Mr Lee said.
“I’d like to thank ASQA for the faith they have shown in TAFE NSW’s ability to deliver high quality courses across the State,” Mr Lee said.
Mr Lee said TAFE NSW takes great pride in the quality learning outcomes it achieves for its students.
“I want TAFE NSW to be the gold standard of skills and training Australia-wide and I recognise the importance of ASQA in helping us achieve this goal.”
This renewal of TAFE NSW’s registration completes the transition of all TAFE locations from 12 separate RTOs into a single RTO.
I come from a family of tradies.
My dad was a brickie. His dad was in the building game. As far as the eye can see in our family tree, on my dad’s side, are brickies, chippies, gyprockers, a sparkie or two, labourers, mechanics and builders. All blokes, of course. We’re talking about history here.
My three brothers are tradies, or once were tradies. Two of my three sons went through vocational training. My middle son went to TAFE when training to be a chef, and went again a decade later when he made the switch to become a carpenter.
My youngest son was a mechanic for a few years before doing a teaching degree and working with challenging teens.
My eldest son owns a cafe and employs apprentices working their way through TAFE.
I went to TAFE years ago to learn typing and shorthand as a cadet journalist. I went again with two of my sisters some time later for a semester of learning how to do basic sewing. Why I did that is lost in the mists of time. I’m rubbish at anything crafty. Possibly, I was there because I was the only one with a driver’s licence.
All I can remember is sitting in the back of the class where everyone else seemed proficient, and being banned from using sewing machines by myself because my threading skills were crap and I snapped way too many needles.
The other thing I remember clearly from that time is the first name of the woman who tried to teach us how to sew, and the pained expression and little sigh she gave every time I put my hand up for help. That’s not a complaint, by the way. I would have had a pained expression if I’d been trying to teach me.
Anyway, the TAFE colleges where I live – or “tech” colleges as I think of them, which gives the game away about how old I am – have always been significant institutions, because so many people around here attended them.
I live in a neighbourhood of tradies of a certain vintage. It’s close to the beach and we’re all on our seventh, eighth or tenth houses after buying land young years ago when there was land available that was reasonable to buy, and building and selling, building and selling until we own the ones we’re in. The great Australian dream.
The ratio of utes to homes around here is very high. And not just the pretty pretend utes whose owners spend too much of their weekends buffing and polishing them to a dazzling sheen, and bark orders to their kids about dirty shoes and sticky fingers.
No. I’m talking about proper utes, where a few bangs and dings from wheelbarrows, ladders and tools of trade thrown in the tray after a hard day on the job are a badge of honour. Those utes drive around here with a fine layer of dust and a bit of mud on the wheels. Their blokey owners give a smile and a nod and a fingers-up wave while their hands remain on the wheel, as a way of acknowledging they know you’re a local.
They sling boards on the back when the surf’s up. In summer salt-crusted towels join the crap in the tray or the crap around a passenger’s feet.
Every so often these real-ute tradie owners will hose their utes down but the interiors remain true tradie – dust on the dash, food wrappers and empty drink containers on the floor, pens and bits of paper here and there, sometimes ciggies, and a glovebox that could contain anything, from sticking plaster to measuring tape, car records to ticket stubs from a 1989 AC/DC concert, or tax documents that should have been lodged three years ago.
Being a tradie where I live means having control of your life, running your own race, having the ability to work hard and reap the profits of that. It also means being able to be flexible with your work hours and time – like when the surf’s up or a new baby is born.
For the past few months the federal and NSW governments, among others, have been talking up vocational training. The Business Council of Australia has been talking up vocational training. Everyone’s been talking up vocational training because we have, according to them, a skills shortage, and industries crying out for skilled workers.
But the way these spruikers of vocational training have been doing it is insulting to anyone with half a brain who’s watched, despairing, as governments of all stripes, over years, have trashed that education sector, or where the sector itself has kicked own goals.
“We have to address the cultural and financial bias that treats VET (vocational education training) like a second class citizen,” said Business Council of Australia chief executive Jennifer Westacott (a high school classmate of mine).
NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian weighed in with: “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.”
This week NSW Minister for Skills and Tertiary Education, Dr Geoff Lee, a former TAFE teacher and university lecturer, repeated the “cultural bias” refrain, saying there was a “cultural bias towards university”, as if the problem with falling TAFE enrolments is an attitudinal thing alone, and we, the people, are snobs.
How about we frame it this way.
The public lost confidence in the vocational sector when governments supported the introduction of private colleges for “competition”, when that led to extraordinary rorting of the system and students, and when “diplomas” and “certificates” were thrown around like confetti but didn’t lead to jobs or careers.
How about some honesty about NSW TAFE “reforms” resulting in wholesale closure of regional TAFE colleges, the collapse of courses on offer, the sacking of staff and a dramatic jump in course costs for students, many of whom once saw TAFE as a way to get ahead, often after difficult childhoods where their schooling took a battering?
And what about the $600 million NSW TAFE IT system debacle that left thousands of students – my son included – unable to get final results that were needed before they could start work as licensed tradies.
The “cultural bias” towards university, or against TAFE, didn’t exist in my neck of the woods before vocational training was disrespected and plundered, internally and externally, over a long period. The TAFE college in Gosford, where I grew up, was on the hill as a prominent and respected local institution.
If vocational training is going to offer a great pathway again for young people into well-paying tradie careers – and particularly young people who deserve a break – how about our leaders be honest about who actually showed the bias that caused the mess.
A panel of experts has been established to provide independent strategic advice to the Federal Government on key reforms flowing from the Joyce Review ‘Expert Review of Australia’s VET System’, released in April 2019, Federal Minister for Employment, Skills, Small and Family Business Senator the Hon. Michaelia Cash has announced.
Ms Cash noted this was another step in the Government’s action in relation to the Joyce Review, having committed more than $525 million to the Delivering Skills for Today and Tomorrow package, to support more Australians to gain the skills employers are looking for.
The Honourable Steven Joyce will chair the Expert Panel, joined by Peter Noonan, Professor of Tertiary Education Policy at Victoria University’s Mitchell Institute, and Dr Vanessa Guthrie.
Together, Ms Cash said, the three Panel members bring “a wealth of expertise and experience” to the task of advising the Government on the implementation of the skills package, and on its future reform trajectory.
“The Delivering Skills for Today and Tomorrow package will help provide businesses with a pipeline of qualified workers they need to grow and prosper.” The Assistant Minister for Vocational Education, Training and Apprenticeships the Hon. Steve Irons MP said.
He added that through these reforms, the Government hopes to deliver “a vocational education sector that provides workforce skills and relevant, up-to-date qualifications that are well-matched to the evolving opportunities and challenges of Australia’s modern economy”.
Emphasising the need to establish a “modern and flexible VET sector”, Mr Irons said the Government was “committed to a VET system that delivers positive opportunities and outcomes for all Australians, regardless of geographic, social or personal circumstances.”
For more information about the Morrison Government’s Skills Package visit the website, here.
The plummeting numbers of students enrolled with nationally-recognised Vocational Education and Training (VET) providers is yet another pointer to the funding crisis facing Australia’s TAFE network.
According to an NCVER report released today:
- students enrolled in nationally-recognised programs decreased by 5.9% to two million people in 2018, compared with 2017, and decreased by 16.2% between 2015 to 2018
- students enrolled in subjects not delivered as part of a nationally-recognised program increased by 4.9% to 2.5 million people in 2018, compared with 2017
- overall student numbers decreased by 1.5% to 4.1 million people in 2018, compared with 2017
Australian Education Union acting Federal President Meredith Peace said that the drop in the number of government-funded VET students was a direct consequence of the Morrison Government’s campaign to undermine TAFE.
“The Morrison Government should be ashamed by what it has done to TAFE,” Ms Peace said. “That a drop in the number of VET students should be announced during National Skills Week, of all weeks, is scandalous.”
“The reduction in publicly-funded VET student numbers is no surprise given that Liberal/National governments are slashing and burning TAFE funding across the country. Fewer public VET students being enrolled is a direct result of the $3 billion that the Federal Coalition has pulled out of TAFE.”
“Our TAFE system has been systematically undermined by profit-driven private providers advocating for a system that provides no clear qualifications, no national consistency and no guarantee of quality or qualified teachers,” Ms Peace said.
“Since coming to power in 2013 the Federal Coalition has failed to invest in high-quality public vocational education to provide Australians with a pathway to real skills and long term careers.”
“These figures highlight the need for nationally-recognised qualifications to ensure that VET course quality is maintained.”
Ms Peace said that the private-provider VET model being touted by groups such as ITECA would see public VET student numbers slashed even further.
Ms Peace 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 insure continuing 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 vocational education VETincluding 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 Peace said.
Hundreds of TAFE teachers and tutors will walk off the job for 24 hours following an ongoing dispute over a new pay deal with the Queensland government.
About 800 TAFE Queensland union members from the Queensland Teachers’ Union and Together union will strike on Wednesday, with classes expected to be cancelled across the state.
It comes after TAFE teachers and tutors held a two-hour stop-work meeting on July 30.
The current enterprise agreement expired on June 30.
Negotiations for the new agreement began in March.
QTU president Kevin Bates said progress had been made on claims from the two unions, which share coverage of education staff at TAFE Queensland.
However, “two key issues” remained unresolved, he said.
These were ensuring Queensland salaries were comparable with teachers and tutors interstate and measures to address gender employment inequity.
The Queensland government’s wages policy restricts pay rises in the public sector to 2.5 per cent a year, however, the QTU has previously sought an increase of 4.5 per cent.
Mr Bates said the salary of TAFE tutors in Queensland was among the lowest in the country.
He said: “2.5 per cent does not deliver a change in our relative position with the other states and territories – it means it needs to be more than that.”
Salaries for Queensland tutors ranged from $52,000 to $60,000, while pay packets in most other states started at $61,000 and went as high as $76,000, Mr Bates said.
“TAFE teacher salaries in Queensland remain under $100,000 while interstate colleagues extend up to a maximum of $145,000 in Tasmania, $120,000 in New South Wales and $113,000 in Victoria,” he said.
Mr Bates said women were also over-represented in “precarious” and part-time employment, which had a career-long impact on their earnings and retirement savings.
Almost 71 per cent of casual TAFE Queensland educators were women, while 56.4 per cent were temporary employees.
More than half of permanent TAFE Queensland educators were men.
The QTU is asking for annual progression through the salary scale regardless of hours worked and shared access by both parents to parental leave entitlements.
A spokeswoman for Training Minister Shannon Fentiman declined to comment as negotiations were ongoing.