There’s a skills shortage, but there isn’t enough of a focus on the 50% of students who don’t want to go to university, according to NSW Minister for Skills and Tertiary Education.
The New South Wales government is looking for a different approach to ensuring the skills that are required for the future workforce are properly nurtured, focusing on students that don’t want to go to university to begin their career.
Speaking with ZDNet while at IBM Think in Sydney on Wednesday, NSW Minister for Skills and Tertiary Education Geoff Lee said that currently, the opportunities for school-leavers are skewed and they aren’t favouring those that don’t move on to university.
“At the moment when you’re a student, our whole system seems to be skewed towards an ATAR and then progression into university, and that’s fine for 50% of the people, but we really need to have meaningful opportunities for the 50% that choose not to go to university,” he said.
“We need to give them opportunities to say, ‘Well I’d like to go into robotics. I’d like to go into AI, I’d like to go into blockchain, but I’d like to do it through a different mechanism’.”
An Australian Tertiary Admission Rank (ATAR) is number between 0.00 and 99.95 that indicates a student’s position relative to the students in their age group and is used for university admission.
“50% of students don’t go to university … for the students who choose the VET option, we must break down those barriers,” he said.
According to Lee, the best approach is real-world experience combined with education, be that through a traineeship-like corporate initiative or TAFE, as some examples.
“Different models of pathway programs — you’re not going to just find one pathway programs for all students, you need different pathways for different students because we have such a diversity of students out there,” he continued.
“As a government, we graduate and are responsible for the educations of hundreds of thousands of students … I think the challenge for us as a government and the challenge for industry is how do we actually grow the skill levels for those students not going to university.”
The difficulty, Lee said, is that many students are told that university is their only pathway.
“I think as a government, we must say that VET training is a viable option for a meaningful job and a meaningful career,” he said.
“In the not too distant future, the NSW government will have a strong and focused look on pathway programs. How better to engage high school students with the VET sector and the higher ed sector to provide a continuous pathway to the development of the individual, because as our world changes we need to adapt and reskill and allow people to upskill.”
P-TECH is touted by the company as a long-term partnership between industry, schools, and tertiary education providers that enables business to play an active role in the learning and career development of the future workforce.
Lee said it’s important for government to acknowledge and encourage initiativeslike P-TECH that help to shrink the skills gap.
“As a government we can’t do it alone, so my focus will be on how do we engage industry better to actually deliver the programs — we’re not always the experts in the area and in fact, industry provides those expertise that I think is a great way to teach our students … whether it’s cybersecurity, automation, AI,” he continued.
“Industry, government, and the individual students need to work much closer together to deliver the skills that we need for the future.”
With a “tech-bro” culture in the workforce and a mentality that technology-related careers are for men only, the minister said what is needed to help counter that is role models for young women to look towards.
“It’s a cultural shift. There is a need to promote the wonderful role models and the very successful people, so people in school age, in their informative years [are able to see they] can be that person — there is no ceiling to what I can do,” Lee told ZDNet. “So I think it is a whole shift, not only internally within the companies, but in terms of promoting the great work of some really successful role models.”
The VET fee help scandal left hundreds of people in debt for many thousands of dollars. The ‘students’ never even started the courses AND the training providers that claimed to be running these courses, were non-existent.
The VET sector is the option for young people who possibly didn’t achieve the ATAR they wanted and don’t have any other post school options.
OF AUSTRALIANS WHO BELIEVE TAFE COURSES FOCUS ON FUTURE JOBS
But is this fair? The fact is, we’re looking at a generation that for the first time are going to be worse off than their parents in terms of key social and economic measures. Half of our Australian 25 year olds are still not working full time. 60% of those 25 year olds hold some kind of tertiary qualification, including many who have university degrees.
Every year we lose approximately $15.9 billion in potential tax revenue from young people who are still job hunting.
Of those who are working full time at 25, 1 in 10 are working more than one job to get those full time hours. This suggests that even with so many students with a higher education qualification, the education system is failing to prepare students for the workplace. Meaning the VET sector could be the answer.
These are skills that are often taught at a higher level in a VET qualification, rather than through a university degree. The FYA has found that work integrated learning (WIL) is crucial to making people employable. Something vet providers offer through their tertiary education and vocational training.
VET STUDENTS HAVE A
HIGHER EMPLOYMENT RATE THAN UNIVERSITY STUDENTS
The Australian government is predicting that more than 990,000 new jobs will be created by 2020, from Victoria to New South Wales and Queensland. Almost half of those jobs will require a certification from VET courses or TAFE schools in the form of a Certificate, Diploma, or Advanced Diploma.
Knowing all of this, why has the education sector flourished in university degrees but seen TAFE enrolments fall over the past five years?
“TAFE and VET enrolments are down by almost 23%”
– Megan O’Connell of the Mitchell Institute
Without policymakers joining the conversation and making decisions, the labour market will continue to stagnate. There will be an oversupply of workers not qualified for the jobs we need done.
The Victorian state government recently announced a series of free TAFE courses to help workers get training that will hopefully in turn, get them a job. More does need to be done on a commonwealth government level, as well as in other states and territories if we want to see a higher employment rate and address industry needs.
“VET is in the perfect position to make a real difference in this country by creating workers that employers want to hire.”
– The National Centre for Vocational Education Research (NCVER)
Plus, the discussion around TAFE and VET needs to change. Registered training organisations need to be seen as an option for more than just school leavers who didn’t achieve their desired ATAR score.
They need to also be recognised as a valid option for anyone looking to further their qualifications. Which in turn, will make them more likely to be employed than a university graduate.
TAFE Directors Australia CEO Craig Robertson in Canberra.
The vocational sector will likely be subject to “tinkering at the edges” but enjoy little in the way of fundamental reform as the Morrison government moves ahead with elements of the Joyce review, which was released just before the election campaign began.
While two of the report’s 71 recommendations received funding in the April federal Budget, sector experts say there is a valid question as to how far the newly elected government will go with implementing the entirety of the report from former New Zealand education minister Steven Joyce.
“We are not clear whether the government has accepted all the recommendations or whether the budget announcements are the limit of what they intend to do,” said Craig Robertson, chief executive of TAFE Directors Australia.
One key recommendation is that the federal, state and territory governments “commit over time” to reducing the funding imbalances between qualification-based vocational education and higher education.
So far, the recommendations for a national skills commission and a national careers institute have received a prime ministerial thumbs up after the Joyce report was handed to Mr Morrison in March.
The skills commission is intended to co-ordinate approaches to the funding and resourcing of vocational education and training between federal and state governments. The careers institute, designed to be part of the skills commission, will provide better careers information to students.
Both initiatives have received mixed reactions from experts. The commission has been described as a ‘‘lite’’ version of the Australian National Skills Authority that was disbanded under the Howard government. It would need industry to come to the table to be effective, Mr Robertson said.
The careers institute might offer useful information but it will be using workforce planning and employment outlooks from the commission which have been historically proven to be “unreliable” and “invented to give astrology a good name”, according to Gavin Moodie, an adjunct professor of education at RMIT.
“(The predictions) will be as unreliable as every other central body’s employment projections,” Dr Moodie said.
However, there are serious questions about the government’s ability to deliver on its most prominent budget announcement — 80,000 new apprenticeships over four years via $8000 employer subsidies. Currently, apprenticeships make up just 20 per cent of vocational enrolments, with commencements at their lowest level since 1996.
“Even if we dramatically increase the number of apprenticeships, they will still be a minority of the system. The federal government needs a policy for all vocational education, not just apprenticeships,” said Leesa Wheelahan, the William G. Davis Chair in Community College Leadership at the University of Toronto.
Claire Field, a consultant to private vocational providers, said that in the past employer incentives had been more successful in driving traineeships than apprenticeships.
She said the predecessor Skilling Australians Fund had been criticised as being too narrowly focused on traditional apprenticeships while overlooking the fact that jobs growth was largely centred in services, such as aged and disability care.
Ms Field said that while she rated the Joyce review highly, there was little to suggest that private vocational providers would see any growth in domestic markets under the Morrison government and they would need to look to international students.
There are also questions about whether the Morrison government has any plans to revive the public TAFE sector which has been decimated in recent years by ad hoc, pro-market policies and rampant defunding.
“Unless the federal government recognises the value of TAFE as a key anchor institution of the communities they serve and funds it accordingly, public vocational education is in danger of being reduced to atomistic, just in time and just for now, narrow skills training,” said Professor Wheelahan. “This is exactly what Australia has done to its aged care system and to the job services network.”
John Pardy, an education expert from Monash University, said the Joyce review’s aim for national consistency would need to be built in ways that could balance competing industries and needs on local, state and national levels.
“The challenge in this pivot for consistency is that it does not descend into a series of piecemeal approaches longing for a coherent policy base.”
He said both the skills commission and careers institute might play a role in nationally co-ordinating policy and practice “however slight”.
This year, over 800,000 people who completed training in 2018 will be contacted about their employment outcomes, training satisfaction, and their thoughts on the benefits and relevance of their training.
Eligible RTOs will again be able to access data as reported by their students.
Take advantage of our free kit to help promote the survey to your former students.
Back again: the ‘No Frills’ panel discussion
Yep, we’re bringing it back! ‘No Frills’ 2019 will once again feature a lively discussion from a panel of VET experts.
This year’s topic will be Lifelong learning: VET’s role now and into the future.
Will it be enough for our future workers to possess a single qualification or skill set? Where do employability skills fit into the mix?
Panellists to be announced shortly, so keep an eye on NCVER News for updates.
The survey collects information on employment outcomes, satisfaction with training, reasons for non-completion, and on-the-job experiences of apprentices and trainees who completed or left their training in 2018.
A report on the results will be available on our Portal in late 2019.
WEBINAR: Exploring the importance of small VET providers
Join us as we discuss the important role small VET providers play in offering diversity, equity and specialised training services across the Australian VET sector.
Small providers contribute to VET system diversity via the niche qualifications they offer, which are often fee-for-service.
VOCEDplus: is the free VET research database. More than half of the 80,000 publications in it are available online, including digitised copies of key historical documents.
VET Knowledge Bank: brings together Australian VET reference information and includes the VET glossary, timelines of VET milestones and policy initiatives, and landmark documents that have shaped the VET landscape.
Pod Network: a collection of themed pages containing topic-specific research and resources.
‘Focus on’: these pages highlight topical issues in tertiary education, including summaries of recent research.
Reference and information services: where you can get your questions answered, get access to VOCEDplus publications not available online, and training on how to use the VOCEDplus database.
Follow @VOCEDplus for tips and updates from NCVER’s librarians.
Only 10 days left to apply!
The Australian Training Awards are the peak national awards for Australia’s VET sector. This year the awards will be held in Brisbane on Thursday 21 November 2019.
The awards recognise and reward individuals, businesses and registered training organisations for their contribution to skilling Australia.
Canberra, Australia – 20 May 2019 — The Australian Information Industry Association (AIIA), the peak member body for the ICT industry, congratulates the Liberal–National Coalition on their federal election win.
Ron Gauci, CEO of the AIIA said, “On behalf of the AIIA, I would like to extend my warmest congratulations to the Liberal–National Coalition on being elected on Saturday. The AIIA looks forward to working with Prime Minister Morrison’s government and incoming ministers to help them deliver on commitments made in their pre-election campaigns.
“It’s imperative that industry, government and research institutes collaborate closely to foster a vibrant and innovative digital and technology sector, supported by a regulatory framework that encourages the economic growth, productivity and sustainability of our nation.”
Reflecting on the past few months of regulatory activities, Mr Gauci said, “We are looking for a commitment that changes to the Assistance and Access Act, proposed by Labor in February, be passed through parliament in the first 100 days of the new government.
“It is time to execute these amendments so that industry and users of encrypted services have certainty over these new laws. The AIIA has made significant contributions and recommendations with respect to these amendments – but has yet to see the recommendations considered or adopted leaving industry unclear on the operational requirements.”
AIIA members are also concerned about the lack of consultation and the reach of the Sharing of Abhorrent Violent Material Bill passed in April this year. “We look forward to greater two-way dialogue between government and industry to address the concerns that have been raised by our members about these pieces of legislation,” said Mr Gauci.
It is well recognised that there is a significant shortfall of available digital skills and expertise in the Australian workforce.
“The industry looks forward to contributing to the skills programs announced by the Coalition government. $41.7 million will be provided for two pilot Skills Organisations, in the areas of digital technologies, cyber security, and human services care. AIIA members are delighted that the Government also intends to establish the National Skills Commission to oversee the $2.8 billion annual investment in Vocational Education and Training (VET),” said Mr Gauci.
“Some of our members have successfully led and are rolling out alternative pathways to developing digital skills in school children. These programs have seen collaboration between government departments, Universities, research institutes and industry. Our members would be delighted to share their success stories and learnings from these programs with the new government to further provide the crucial evidence of the success of these initiatives.”
For a summary of the Coalition’s Digital Skills policy, visit AIIA’s website for the analysis undertaken by AIIA.
“We look forward to working with the incoming government and fostering collaboration between industry, government and research institutes to ensure that Australia realises its economic potential in the fourth industrial revolution,” concluded Mr Gauci.
As lawmakers and students grow weary of the rising cost of higher education, vocational training programs are drawing more attention and funding. But a new report finds that these programs are wildly out of step with the needs of today’s job market. To provide a real alternative to higher education, states and schools offering vocational programs should align vocational education with market needs.
Career and Technical Education programs offer options for students looking to avoid student loan debt. These programs equip high school and post-secondary students with the skills and credentials they need to secure jobs for tens of thousands of dollars less than the cost of a traditional 4-year college degree. However, most students are pursuing—and taxpayers are funding—credentials that offer little access to jobs, let alone well-paid ones.
The Foundation for Excellence in Education, a national education research organization, partnered with Burning Glass Technologies, a job market research firm to study U.S. vocational education. They found that in the 24 states they studied, the credentials students earn through career and technical education do not align with job markets.
In total, the study found that for 10 of the top 15 most popular credentials, students are earning more credentials than there are jobs available. In some cases, these credentials lead to no job opportunities at all. “General Career Readiness” credentials, such as financial literacy and basic first aid, for example, account for 28% of credentials earned, yet the study reported zero market demand for them.
Even when students do find jobs with low-demand credentials, they are often low-paying. According to data from the study and the Bureau of Labor statistics, only four of the top nine licenses earned by K-12 students lead to jobs with annual median salaries of approximately $35,000 or more. By contrast, median U.S. household income in 2017 totaled $60,336, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
Worse yet, taxpayers are footing the bill for these programs. A recent oversight reportfound that in the last few years, the U.S. Department of Education spent hundreds of millions of dollars on vocational education programs including hair and beauty schools, gaming and bartending classes, refrigeration school, and a Professional Golfers Career College. Last year, Congress agreed to channel and additional $1.2 billion to career and technical education over the next six years, and states augment this funding with hundreds of millions of dollars of their own resources.
Instead of funding credentials that translate to few or no jobs, these resources could be helping students obtain credentials that position them for available jobs with significant salaries. For example, the Foundation for Excellence in Education study found that employers are looking to fill tens of thousands of jobs with employees who have EEG/EKG/ECG Certifications, CompTIA A+ Security+ certifications, and with Cisco Certified Network Associates—positions that come with median annual salaries between $50,132 to $82,296 per year.
If the states and nation are earnest about making career and technical programs a viable path to gainful employment, they must do more than fund these programs, they should align the credentials they offer with market demands.
Finland’s vocational education program, for example, is shaped by just such analysis. According to the National Center on Education and the Economy, The Finnish National Board of Education determines what vocational education will be offered throughout the country based on regularly updated analysis of projections for what the the nation’s industry needs will be in 15 years.
This program has proved both popular and successful at helping Finnish students secure jobs. At age 16, Finnish students choose whether to focus on preparing for university or to pursue vocational education. According to the Organization for Economic Development, Finland has one the highest enrollment rates in upper secondary vocational education, with 71% of upper secondary students enrolled in vocational education programs. And overall, Finnish vocational graduates (age 20-64) experience a 73.4% employment rate, several percentage points higher than average vocational graduate employment rate in the European Union.
The United States could do similarly. Industry needs vary from state to state, so states and schools could optimize career and technical education resources by auditing which credentials are in demand in the labor market, and then directing students and funding to those credentials. These adjustments would benefit employers seeking qualified employees in high-demand fields, students seeking cost-effective paths to employment, and schools whose increased graduate employment rates attract more potential students.
Vocational education programs offer students tremendous education opportunities, but with some intentional adjustments, we can make them even more practical.
Let’s learn from Hawke – comment by CEO Craig Robertson
Coalition’s surprise election win revives the Joyce plan for VET reform
Proposals invited for historic Queensland rural training centre
Unique scholarship opportunity for VET experts
Two weeks to apply for national training awards
Industry skills forecasts open for review
Register now for ‘No Frills’ 2019
Let’s learn from Hawke – comment by CEO Craig Robertson
Reflecting on the death of Bob Hawke, the 23rd prime minister of Australia, on the eve of the federal election and contemplating a Morrison government, causes me to think that we’ve lost sight of the heavy lifting VET can do for the economy.
Hawke’s reforms are legendary. They were designed to open Australia to compete on the world stage – reducing trade barriers, floating the dollar, setting wage accords between industry and unions, decentralising wage fixing and restructuring awards.
His reforms also reached into the heart of vocational education and training, courtesy of the union movement.
Australia of the early 1980s was facing under-developed value-add to products and high prices of goods coming from protected Australian industries – jeopardising jobs and wages. At the instigation of the Amalgamated Metal Workers Union and its leading official, Laurie Carmichael, the federal department of Trade supported an ACTU mission to Sweden and other Northern European countries. Carmichael had observed first-hand Sweden’s approach to transforming its industrial base while protecting the rights of workers.
The ACTU’s report on the mission – Australia Reconstructed – released in 1987, recognised there needed to be a closer working relationship with industry to grow the industrial base for the benefit of businesses as well as workers. Narrow job roles, rigid job demarcation and poor levels of skills in workers were a drag on efficiency.
Speaking in December 1988, Carmichael laid out the challenge:
… our current form of work organisation, the current definition of employment in narrow categories of skill, the lack of career pathing in industry, all originated … from Frederick Winslow Taylor’s so called “Scientific Management System” which was taken on board by management all around the world in the early part of this century. And it is that, which we reflect from the workforce into trade unions, into demarcation attitudes. We believe it is necessary and absolutely essential that there be an up-grading in terms of multi-skilling … in terms of career-pathing [and] generally raising the skill level.
Award restructuring embodied a strategy to address the issues and the Metals Award was the instrument. Developed in conjunction with the Metal Trades Industry Association (the predecessor of the Australian Industry Group) the award encouraged multi-skilling and established skill-related career paths accessible by additional training embedded in VET competency-based qualifications. It established fixed minimum rates of pay and relativities between different categories of workers.
The National Training Board, established in 1988 by John Dawkins as Hawke’s education and training minister, was charged with deploying this model across a large sweep of industries and occupations served by the TAFE sector. Competency based training, linked to occupations and tied to the Industrial edifice, was born. Little has changed since – the Carmichael vision still underpins our approach to qualification content and qualification hierarchies within training packages.
Regardless of views on the success of the Carmichael model or its relevance for today, the broader point is that VET was used as a driving force for change across the economy. It is worth keeping in mind that VET reaches about 70 per cent of occupations in Australia and over 5.3 million Australians hold VET qualifications.
Come forward and many commentators lament that the training package model is not fit for purpose. The enquiry into TAFE SA concluded:
The development and use of Training Packages in their current form, particularly when combined with the way they are used in regulation, don’t support the innovation required to meet the emerging skill needs of at least some occupations and industries. Nor do they provide a framework for the lifelong learning workers need to adapt to economic change.
Today we face different industry structures, work organisation practices and industrial arrangements in a services-dominated economy.
Just as Hawke knew he could not hold onto old approaches in the vain hope that the economy would correct itself, I trust that Morrison is similarly brave when it comes to VET.
A footnote: At the same time of these VET reforms, Dawkins expanded higher education by converting Colleges of Advanced Education into universities. It is worth contemplating the autonomy afforded by Dawkins to the expanded university sector compared to the tri-partite mechanisms (complete with wage fixing and work demarcation) he imposed on VET, and which produces the better outcomes and is suited for the times.
Coalition’s surprise election win revives the Joyce plan for VET reform
Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s against-the-odds win in Saturday’s election has re-shaped the immediate policy outlook for TAFE, and refocused attention on the Joyce review of VET and the government’s promise of a new body to oversee the sector.
Labor campaigned heavily on TAFE, right up to the final days when Bill Shorten visited North Metropolitan TAFE in Western Australia, promising a generational overhaul of post-secondary education.
There was also a plethora of ALP promises including free TAFE places, guaranteed funding, and money for campus upgrades, apprenticeships, digital skills hubs, renewables training, an apprentice advocate and a regional training commissioner, as well as uncapped places for universities.
With the Liberal-National party win, the focus has swung back to key coalition commitments, including the findings of the Expert Review of VET conducted by former New Zealand minister Steven Joyce, pictured.
The government’s Budget skills package committed $48 million to progress one of the key Joyce recommendations – the establishment of a National Skills Commission “putting industry at the forefront of national leadership on workforce needs and VET funding”. The government has committed to appointing a National Skills Commissioner by September.
The Budget also committed $42 million to pilot new Skills Organisations, that will “put industry at the forefront of setting VET qualifications”. The new bodies would also develop standards for industry to accredit RTOs and pilot industry validation of student competency.
During the election campaign, the government promised to add $60 million to double the size of the current apprentice wage subsidy trial to an extra 1600 apprenticeships. There will also be a complete overhaul of apprentice incentive payments.
While a ministerial reshuffle is imminent, Prime Minister Scott Morrison indicated during the campaign that education minister Dan Tehan is likely to remain in the portfolio.
Proposals invited for historic Queensland rural training centre
The Queensland government has invited proposals for the use of the Queensland Agricultural Training College facilities at Longreach and Emerald which are due to shut down by the end of the year.
The Minister for Agricultural Industry Development and Fisheries Mark Furner said the project management office (PMO) overseeing the QATC transition was looking for commercial partnership proposals for the community assets.
“The PMO is looking for proposals to repurpose the facilities to create reinvigorated training opportunities in central western Queensland, and to consider alternate commercially sustainable future uses for the college assets,” he said.
The college closures were announced last December following a review by Professor Peter Coaldrake.
The Fulbright Program, in partnership with the Commonwealth Department of Education and Training, is offering funding for Australian VET experts to undertake research and/or training anywhere in the U.S. for 3-4 months.
The Fulbright Professional VET Scholarship suits employees within the vocational education and training sector, or training leaders in business and industry. It involves the undertaking of an educational program concerning current vocational education and training policy or practice, such as a short course and/or research. The outcomes of the scholarship must inform and benefit the wider VET sector in Australia.
Examples of those who may apply include:
employees, including teachers, managers, and administrators, of public and private registered training organisations and those who teach vocational education and training in dual sector universities.
people who are leading vocational education and training strategies within their business.
Preference will be given to those who have a record of achievement and are poised for advancement to senior levels.
Past awardees:Sean O’Toole (NSW Department of Family and Community Services to the State University of New York); Caroline Smith (Skills Australia to Rutgers University); Damien Pearce (Canberra Institute of Technology to the John Jay School of Criminal Justice).
Applications close Monday 15 July 2019.
Two weeks to apply for national training awards
The Australian Training Awards are the peak, national awards for the vocational education and training (VET) sector. The awards recognise and reward individuals, businesses and registered training organisations for their contribution to skilling Australia.
Watch this video to find out why you, your business or registered training organisation should apply for national recognition in one of the following awards:
Join NCVER and co-host TAFE SA in Adelaide this July as presenters and delegates from across Australia and around the world come together for the 28th National VET Research Conference ‘No Frills’.
Don’t miss your chance to hear guest speakers from the world stage, with keynotesDr Fiona Kerr (Founder, the NeuroTech Institute) and Ms Gabrielle Kelly (Director, the Wellbeing and Resilience Centre), and dinner speaker Mr Glenn Cooper AM (Chairman, Coopers Brewery).
The conference will also feature a lively panel discussion on ‘Lifelong learning: VET’s role now and into the future’.
With over 40 presentations and 6 pre-conference workshops to choose from, ‘No Frills’ 2019 has a range of registration options to suit everyone.
Date: 10 – 12 July 2019 Venue: TAFE SA Adelaide Campus, 120 Currie Street, Adelaide, South Australia Theme: The student journey: skilling for life Register: on the NCVER Portal
VDC 2019 Teaching & Learning Conference
16 & 17 May 2019
RACV Torquay Resort, Great Ocean Road, Victoria More information
2019 VET CEO Conference
17 May 2019
Doltone House – Sydney More Information
Empowering industry transformation
Brisbane: 29 May 2019
Sydney: 4 June 2019
Melbourne: 6 June 2019 More information
6-7 June 2019
International Convention Centre, Sydney More information
Skills Conference 2019
Apprentice Employment Network NSW & ACT
13 June 2019
Dockside Darling Harbour More information
22nd Annual Conference of the Australian Vocational Education and Training Research Association (AVETRA)
No future for old VET’: Researching for the training system/s of tomorrow
17-18 June 2019
Western Sydney University and University College, Parramatta, Sydney More information
No Frills 2019: The student journey: skilling for life
28th National Vocational Education and Training Research Conference
NCVER with TAFE SA
10-12 July 2019
TAFE SA Adelaide Campus, 120 Currie Street, Adelaide, South Australia More information
National Apprentice Employment Network
2019 National Conference
31 July – 2 August 2019
Crowne Plaza, Gold Coast More information
QLD School VET Conference
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
Save the date
Labor has promised to make childcare free for most low-income households and to provide up to an 85% subsidy for households under $175,000. It has committed to funding an extra year of preschool for three-year-olds. This is evidence-based and builds on commitments by several states to support two years of preschool.
The Coalition will likely retain the means-tested subsidy introduced as part of its major childcare reforms in 2018. While these reforms benefited an estimated one million lower-income families, the means test also left around 280,000 families worse off, including families with neither parent in work.
Given states and territories are largely responsible for schools, federal investment should be targeted where it can make the most difference. Two key areas are needs-based funding, to ensure additional support is available to students who need it the most, and central investment in research and evidence-based practice.
Both major parties have promised a national evidence institute. Laborhas allocated funds for it, with the Coalition yet to do so. This initiative reflects the urgent need to ensure evidence helps to shape the education system. The Productivity Commission has recommended such an institute, to connect educators and policymakers with the latest research on teaching and learning.
On funding, the Coalition wants us to judge it on its reforms to the schools funding package, which is now mostly modelled on the needs-based funding approach outlined in the Gonski Review. But funding has still not reached the recommended levels. The Coalition has supported the National School Resourcing Board to review these funding arrangements and develop a fairer model for all schools.
Both Labor and the Coalition have committed to increased support for apprenticeships, through financial incentives for employers.
For universities, Labor says it will bring back demand-driven funding, which existed between 2012 and 2017, where universities are paid for every student studying and there is no limit on the number of students that can be admitted to courses. Evidence suggests this has been effective in boosting studies in areas where there are skills shortages, such as health, and also appears to have improved access to education for disadvantaged groups.
When casting our votes, we would do well to look past the dollar signs, and think about how each party is shaping an education system that will deliver quality learning for all Australians, from all kinds of backgrounds, from childhood through to adulthood.
The Coalition has delivered needs-based funding for schools and promises a greater focus on regional and rural students in all sectors. But there are some apparent gaps in early learning and tertiary policy and funding.
Labor has pledged more funding in all sectors. It has made a prominent commitment to early childhood education and care. However, Labor’s policies are expensive and would need to be implemented effectively to make sure they achieve the intended outcomes for students and deliver the financial benefit to the economy in the long-term.
Australia is about to elect its next federal government.
The broad platform of ‘education’ has been raised, as it is at every election. As a nation and a society we recognise how important formal education is. All political parties have made various policy commitments that they believe would improve educational outcomes. They involve everything from ‘pre-school’ through to ‘post-school’ university placement.
I’d like to focus on Vocational Education and Training (VET) and Tertiary education and narrow that focus to courses, learning content and assessment mechanisms used to deliver qualifications to graduates vital to Australia’s building and construction industry sector.
Educational systems are used to gain the qualifications needed to work across a range of skilled trades, administrative, supervisory and management roles. It is an essential element to the success of Australia’s future. Unfortunately, our educational systems and their capability to maintain high quality outcomes have never been in a worse position. All indicators show they will likely continue to decline. And no political party is talking about it.
Reasons behind the decline are complex. We used to do education and training really well. The federally funded private RTO scheme to deliver VET course qualifications was subsequently shown to be worthless. It was mismanaged and extorted with billions of training dollars wasted. It now seems to have been conveniently forgotten. Many private RTO’s continue to aggressively tout for business. They guarantee customers a ‘nationally recognised qualification’ in various building courses without need for formal study or exams and this can be achieved either ‘on-line’ or at worst, a few days. They replace rigorous learning and testing of skills and knowledge by using the ‘loophole’ of Recognition of Prior Learning or ‘RPL’. This is a highly contentious and widely discredited aspect of formal educational delivery when used to facilitate unrealistic course completion. Documented ‘evidence’ of attainment of the relevant ‘prior learning’ is easily manipulated by both the participant and the RTO delivering – some would say ‘selling’ – the course qualification.
The tertiary sector isn’t immune from contributing to the decline. At the start of 2017, an investigative report by Fairfax journalists Eryk Bagshaw and Inga Ting titled “NSW universities taking students with ATARs as low as 30” should have flagged a crisis in our tertiary institutions. Of particular interest was data showing that “at Western Sydney University, 99 per cent of the 251 students offered places in its Bachelor of Construction Management program did not make the cut-off of 85.” Based on those metrics and using some positive rounding up to avoid a half student result, it meant that only three of the 251 student cohort managed to accumulate a relatively modest ATAR entry score of 85 from their year 11 and 12 assessment. ATAR values are highly contentious in their own right but for those of you like me who left their secondary education a few decades back, speak to a current high school teacher to determine how achievable a score of 85 actually is. Let me put it this way. If you turn up to school to have your name marked off on the roll book through years 11 and 12 but did little to no academic study, you could probably scrape together an ATAR of 50. To participate in a proper tertiary course of study and be awarded a degree qualification in Construction Management, it would seem reasonable to assume you need to have significantly greater higher order problem solving capabilities. I don’t want to isolate WSU in this regard. It’s happening elsewhere too. An ABC Four Corners programon May 6 provided insight into how our university sector operates in respect of their international student intake. It made interesting viewing.
If you tried to sum up the decline with a single word, ‘commoditisation’ is a good one. Basically it means the process whereby differentiation is eroded by competition, leading to a commoditised market with price-based competition. Customers treat the offering as a commodity, selecting between vendors purely on price with no differentiating factors as the basis of competition. In the post-school world, we stopped enrolling ‘students’ years ago. We now have ‘customers’. And like all customers, they shop around for the ‘best deal’. When it comes to the types of qualifications linked to licensing and professional accreditation, the ‘best deal’ doesn’t always mean the cheapest price. The main focus here is often the ease of access, the lack of assessment and the shortest time period in which the ‘customer’ can get their qualification.
Sometimes this is not relevant in terms of consequences. Should we care if a person gets a Certificate IV in floristry from a private RTO without participating in training? Would the situation be worse if a media studies degree is issued to someone simply because they were a full fee paying international student? End users of the ‘qualified’ person’s services could finish up with a strange flower arrangement or an obscure opinion piece in a local paper. This is a simplistic example and the relative importance of different fields of endeavour are subjective. I don’t wish to offend any talented florists or journalists out there! I’m attempting to make an important point that should otherwise be fairly obvious. What if the qualifications are highly significant in respect of their validity to assess whether the person who obtains them is actually skilled to perform the works associated with their qualifications?
What if the status of the qualification is linked to national or state regulatory licensing or professional accreditation and registration scheme? That’s exactly what most vocational and tertiary qualifications associated with the building and construction industry are being used for. Consumers of licensed building trades and related accredited professional services are entitled to rely on this evidence. But they are being let down.
Here’s an example to help illustrate the potential problem. This is what NSW Fair Trading’s web page says:
“Any work that is residential building work under the Home Building Act 1989 which involves construction of a dwelling, or alterations or additions to a dwelling. It also includes repairing, renovating, decorating or applying protective treatment to a dwelling. Any contract for general building work can include any specialist work that is integral to the overall work, but such work must be carried out by the holder of an endorsed contractor licence or qualified supervisor certificate in the relevant category of specialist work. The current qualification and experience requirements, outlined below, commenced on 31 March 2017. 1. Certificate IV in Building and Construction (BCG40106 or CPC40108 Building or CPC40110 Building) or (BCG40206 or CPC40208 Contract Administration) or (BCG40306 or CPC40308 Estimating) or (BCG40506 or CPC40508 Site Management). This qualification is designed to meet the needs of builders and managers of small to medium-sized building businesses. The builder may also be the appropriately licensed person with responsibility under the relevant building licensing authority in the State or Territory. Builder licensing varies across States and Territories and additional requirements to attainment of this qualification may be required. Occupational titles may include Builder or Construction Manager. To find registered training organisations that are registered to deliver nationally recognised training to obtain qualifications for a building, trade or specialist licence or certificate, you can use the training.gov.au website and search via the course code or name.”
The directive is to the website of the federal government Department of Education & Training. If you use the search function for the ‘Certificate IV’ courses listed by Fair Trading as the compulsory qualification used to demonstrate capacity for a NSW building contractors licence, you will find around 145 ‘Registered Training Organisations’ (RTO’s) the government lists as providers of this course across Australia. Apart from university and TAFE providers, the majority are private sector providers. They are for profit businesses accredited by ‘ASQA’ – the ‘Australian Skills Quality Authority’ – which is the federal government agency established to oversee the VET sector. The equivalent bureaucracy for university course accreditation and compliance is the ‘Tertiary Education Quality Standards Agency or ‘TEQSA’.
Our banking and financial industry sector recently underwent close scrutiny. Commissioner Hayne was critical of the two main regulatory bodies APRA and ASIC in their failure to effectively control this sector. It is delusional to think ASQA or TEQSA are capable of carrying out their roles to properly regulate VET and Tertiary educational standards. It is equally delusional to think that our separate mix of state and territory statutory authorities can ensure adequate regulatory standards for licensing and registration of building trades and construction professionals. The end results of this situation for consumers of building and construction projects is self-evident and I’m not just referring to the fiasco of combustible ACP’s.
Who would have possibly thought that in 2018 a newly completed 36 storey residential apartment building in Australia’s biggest city would need to be evacuated due to design and construction defects? Then I saw this today “Nine multi-storey Darwin buildings found to be non-compliant after investigation into engineer.”
Small VET providers have an important role to play in offering diversity, equity and specialised training services across the sector.
The role and function of small VET providers builds on previous NCVER work to better understand the value that stable small VET providers, defined as those who maintained enrolments of fewer than 100 students across the three-year period of the study, contribute to the Australian VET system and how their operations can be supported.
We’re thrilled to announce that the dinner speaker at #NoFrills2019 will be Glenn Cooper AM, Chairman and Ambassador for Coopers Brewery.
After starting his working life as an automotive electrician, Glenn joined the family brewery 1990 as Sales and Marketing Director, which saw him oversee the launch of numerous popular Coopers products.
An entertaining speaker, Glenn is currently Chairman of Australian Made Australian Grown, and former Chairman of the Adelaide Fringe and the Adelaide Convention and Tourism Authority.
Glenn will be joining us at the ‘No Frills’ conference dinner on Thursday 11 July. With only limited places available, it’s first in best dressed, so register now!
2018 student outcomes data now available for RTOs
NCVER’s National Student Outcomes Survey is sent to VET graduates and subject completers who completed their training in the previous year.
The results of the 2018 survey were released in December.
Eligible RTOs can now access free individual reports of employment outcomes, training satisfaction, perceived benefits and relevance of training as reported by their students.
Follow us on Twitter for more on National Careers Week next week.
The 2019 OECD Employment Outlook
The 2019 edition of the OECD Employment Outlook has been released. Titled The Future of Work, it investigates how the labour market is being transformed by demographic, socioeconomic and technological trends.
It concludes that policy decisions relating to areas such as social protection for workers, adult learning strategies and harnessing the full potential of digital disruption will determine how successfully countries manage the changing world of work.
Other recent publications on the future of work include: