Independent advisory panel established in VET shake up – will ECEC benefit?

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.


China releases white paper on vocational education and training in Xinjiang

BEIJING, Aug. 16 (Xinhua) — China released a white paper on vocational education and training in Xinjiang Friday.

There are six chapters in the white paper: urgent needs for education and training, law-based education and training, content of education and training, protection of trainees’ basic rights, remarkable results in education and training, and experience in countering extremism.

The white paper, published by the State Council Information Office, said that terrorism and extremism are the common enemies of humanity, and the fight against terrorism and extremism is the shared responsibility of the international community.

It is a fundamental task of any responsible government, acting on basic principles, to remove the malignant tumor of terrorism and extremism that threatens people’s lives and security, to safeguard people’s dignity and value, to protect their rights to life, health and development, and to ensure they enjoy a peaceful and harmonious social environment, according to the white paper.

Over the years, to ensure public safety and wellbeing, the international community has spared no effort and made tremendous sacrifices in preventing and combating terrorism and extremism. Many countries and regions, in light of their own conditions, have developed effective measures and drawn valuable lessons from these efforts.

The white paper stated that Xinjiang is a key battlefield in the fight against terrorism and extremism in China. For some time Xinjiang has been plagued by terrorism and religious extremism, which pose a serious threat to the lives of the people in the region.

Addressing both the symptoms and root causes and integrating preventative measures and a forceful response, Xinjiang has established vocational education and training centers in accordance with the law to prevent the breeding and spread of terrorism and religious extremism, effectively curbing the frequent terrorist incidents and protecting the rights to life, health, and development of the people of all ethnic groups, the white paper said, adding that worthwhile results have been achieved.


Benefit of vocational education comes down to gender

With the Morrison government extolling the virtue of vocational education and training (VET), the benefit of diplomas over degrees differs based on gender, according to a new report.

Published by the Grattan Institute, the report found that for students with a lower Australian Tertiary Admissions Rank (ATAR), VET courses can get them employed faster and higher earnings over their career, but not if they are a woman.

The report compared VET courses to their university equivalent and demonstrated that if a male student with a low ATAR chooses a VET course similar to a university degree, for example engineering rather than science, their lifetime median earnings would be higher. Similarly, a Diploma in Commerce instead of a Bachelor of Commerce, would leave the students better off financially over the course of their lifetime.

For women, however, the data showed different results. Tertiary courses popular among women, such as education and nursing, have better career-long outcomes when women enrol in a Bachelor program.

In science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields, women who study the tertiary equivalent of a VET diploma will earn more. For men, a Bachelor of Engineering will lead to less earnings over the course of their career than a Diploma of Engineering. The amount earned also differed for the same degrees between women and men. Men who studied a Bachelor of Engineering will have a median earning of $2.07 million over their lifetime, while women who studied the same course would have a meaning earning of $1.42 million over their career.

The report authors note that for students with lower ATARs, they are less likely to complete university, leading to lower employment outcomes, and that students with higher ATARs will be more likely to attain higher paying jobs after graduating university.


University debt and limited job prospects mean learning a trade at TAFE is better for income, report finds

The earning capacity of many young Australians would be significantly higher if they learned a trade instead of going to university, a new report has found.

Key points:

  • The Grattan Institute looks at the earning capacity of university students and those young people who learn a trade
  • It finds for some people, particularly young men with lower ATAR scores, vocational occupations result in higher earnings
  • The report comes as the vocational education industry is reporting a 43 per cent drop in trade-based enrolments
  • One commentator says the idea that university is the only option often comes from parents

The Grattan Institute report found that for men, particularly those who scored lower ATARs at school, vocational qualifications in engineering, construction and commerce resulted in higher average earnings than a degree qualification.

The number of students enrolling in university has swelled by more than one-third over the past decade, with more students with lower ATARs and those from diverse backgrounds now attending.

That increase has come at the expense of vocational education, with the number of students taking up a place in those trades-based courses down 43 per cent in the past five years.

The Federal Government made the issue a key focus of COAG talks last week amid concerns about critical skills shortages. It has also commissioned a review of post-secondary school pathways.

Grattan’s higher education program director Andrew Norton said some university graduates were struggling to get jobs, especially if they studied generalist degrees in humanities and science.

This was particularly the case for students with lower ATARs.

“This report is looking at the concern that some low ATAR students, who have been increasing in numbers at university, would have been better off in vocational education,” Mr Norton said.

“The report finds that is true in some cases, particularly for young men.

“We find that there is a high risk that they won’t get the financial benefits of higher education that higher ATAR students would get, and that they would do well in a range of vocational occupations such as engineering and trades related [to] construction and some commerce type degrees.”

But Mr Norton said the picture was different for women.

“By contrast, lower ATAR women who go into nursing and teaching degrees have pretty good employment outcomes, very high rates of professional employment, and we think they’ll end up earning a lot more than the women who go into vocational education,” he said.

Students growing up with university as only option

Nineteen-year-old Liam Mills enrolled in a university degree earlier this year but left in favour of a TAFE course. He’s now studying web development at Hornsby TAFE in northern Sydney.

“I prefer a much more hands-on approach, so sitting in a lecture wasn’t really doing it for me,” he said.

“I much prefer being behind the computer.”

Mr Mills said he had grown up with the idea that going to university was the only option.

“My choice to go to university was mainly based on what a lot of my friends were doing at the time,” he said.

“It was kind of the plan I’d always had basically from starting high school, [but] by the time I got there I realised it wasn’t exactly what I wanted.”

Many parents still believe university is the ‘right route’

The decline in those taking up vocational training comes despite national skills shortages in many of the trades that are predicted to soon become more critical.

It is estimated Australia will need up to a million workers with vocational qualifications by 2023.

The decline in vocational students will be a focus of National Skills Week later this month.

The event’s founder Brian Wexham said he believed change needed to come from parents.

“We’re faced with this challenge that many, many parents still believe that the right route for their child is to go to university and they will get a more fulfilling and better career, and for some that is true, but of course it’s not true for everyone,” he said.

“A lot of students are practical learners, they’re not academically inclined.

“And frankly I think universities have got a lot to answer for, because they encourage people to go there even if it might not be suitable for them.

“It’s been widely reported that some universities have accepted ATARs of 50, and frankly all they’re doing is enrolling somebody who’s probably destined to fail, and all they end up doing is having a HECS bill, but if you’re an apprentice you get paid to learn.”

Universities have defended their graduates’ employment outcomes in the light of the Grattan report.

Universities Australia chief Catriona Jackson said a low ATAR can be a sign of disruption during a student’s Year 12 studies, or which postcode they came from.

“It doesn’t predict the destiny of every student, and the vast majority of students who enter university go on to successfully complete their studies,” she said.

On graduate jobs and salaries, she said: “University graduates earn up to $1 million more over their lifetimes on average and are 2.5 times less likely to be unemployed than those without a higher qualification.

“Nine in 10 university graduates are in full-time work three years after graduation, and four out of five undergraduates work in professional or managerial roles.

“And the median salary of university graduates three years on from finishing their studies is $70,000.”


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.


Call for unity to fix vocational education

Desperately-needed reform of Australia’s vocational education and training sector can only occur if state and territory governments put political differences aside, federal Employment Minister Michaelia Cash has declared.
Senator Cash is urging the states and territories to work with the federal government on changes, after a recent review identified a spate of challenges in the VET sector.
The inquiry by former New Zealand tertiary education minister Steven Joyce found confidence in the sector is declining and that outcomes are inconsistent and not aligned with industry needs.
It also found the system is too complex for students to navigate.
“There is no question that we need to continue our path of reform,” Senator Cash said on Wednesday.
“But meaningful change cannot be achieved without the states and territories joining us on this journey.
“Agreement has never been achieved through antagonism. It’s time to put aside political differences and end the blame-shifting and find common ground.”


The encouragement comes before premiers and chief ministers meet Prime Minister Scott Morrison in Cairns on Friday for the latest Council of Australian Governments meeting.
Government funding in the VET sector has also been declining, with the Commonwealth chipping in 12 per cent less between 2011/12 and 2017/18.
That drop can be largely attributed to reductions in incentives in 2012/13 which weren’t improving skills outcomes, a clean-up of the VET fee-help scheme from 2016/17, and decreases in payments to states under a series of skills agreements.
States and territories invested 22 per cent less between the 2011 and 2017 calendar years.
“We need the VET system to work for everyone and we need it to work for them now,” Senator Cash said.
“Industry is crying out for a nationally consistent and flexible system and we as governments need to match that with cooperation and delivery.”

Having our say in Southland’s Vocational Education

1 August 2019

Media Statement:

Dr Liz Craig, Labour MP based in Invercargill

Having our say in Southland’s Vocational Education and Training

“SIT is incredibly important to us here in Southland” said Invercargill based Labour MP Liz Craig “as is having our say in what happens with vocational education and training locally. That’s why, in coming days, I’ll be continuing to talk with Minster Hipkins about how we ensure we retain the ability to decide how SITs ring-fenced cash reserves are used, so we can continue offering the kinds of incentives, like Zero Fees and Accommodation Bursaries, that have brought so many students to the south. I’ve also been speaking to him about Southland’s need to have its own Regional Skills Leadership Group, so our workforce needs aren’t lost in those of the wider Otago-Southland region.

And with SIT recently taking over primary industry training at Telford, I’ll be continuing to highlight how ideally placed SIT would be to host a Centre of Vocational Excellence, so we can continue playing a leading role in the delivery of vocational education and training nationally”.



Government reveals final plan for dramatic revamp of vocational training sector

The Southern Institute of Technology says it’s a success story and wants to be able to do its own thing. Source: 1 NEWS

The country’s 16 institutes of technology and polytechnics will be brought together to operate as a single national campus network, the Government has announced today.

In the dramatic revamp, the new institute will start on April 1 next year and will provides on-the-job and off-the-job learning.

The head office will be outside of Wellington or Auckland, and will be responsible for setting strategy and reducing duplication in areas such as programme design and development. It will take a network-wide view to investments.

Education Minister Chris Hipkins made the announcement today, along with a list of other changes to the sector.

“Vocational education, trades training and on-the-job training have been allowed to drift for too long,” he said. “These are long-term challenges that this Government is committed to fixing.”

He announced the proposal last year, but it quickly drew criticism.

There’s concern industry training will be part of a proposed mega-merger of polytechs. Source: 1 NEWS

The Southern Institute of Technology has said it’s a success story and wants to be able to do its own thing. Meanwhile, the marine industryalso ramped up calls for the Government to leave its on-the-job training alone.

But Mr Hipkins today said the comprehensive changes the Government is making will address the widespread skills shortages across most industry sectors.

“These shortages highlight the limitations of the current vocational educational system,” he said, adding repeated forecasts showed one-third of all jobs in New Zealand were likely to be significantly affected by automation.

He also said as early as 2022 more than half of all employees will require significant upskilling and retraining.

“As lower-skilled jobs disappear we need our people to learn new skills, often while on the job, earning while they are learning,” he said.

“We also know the regions are increasingly struggling to find enough skilled people to keep their economies strong. Too many Māori, Pacific and disabled learners are being left behind to achieve at a lower level because the system just won’t respond to their needs.”

Mr Hipkins said the changes will give industry greater control over all aspects of vocational education and training, making the system more responsive to employers’ needs and to the changing world of work.

Other changes made include the creation of four to seven industry-governed Workforce Development Councils by 2022 and new regional skills leadership groups to represent regional interests – working across education, immigration and welfare systems in each region.

In addition, over the next two to three years the role of supporting workplace learning will shift from industry training organisations to training providers; Centres of Vocational Excellence (CoVEs) will be established at regional campuses; and Māori will be included as key partners, including through Te Taumata Aronui, a Māori Crown Tertiary Education Group.

The dual funding system will also be unified and simplified to encourage greater integration of on-the-job and off-the-job learning, ensure learners can access more work-relevant and tailored support, and enable new models of education delivery which are more responsive to employer and industry demand, a statement of the changes says.

Mr Hipkins said the Government is not in a rush to implement the vast changes, though – saying the transition will take three to four years to get fully underway.

“We have given a great deal of thought to how to minimise disruption, and listened carefully to the concerns of employers, staff and students,” he said.


Autonomy key for NorthTec in new national merger of polytechnics

NorthTec acting chief executive Wayne Jackson says regional autonomy and decision making were key to a successful merger of polytechnics. Photo / John Stone

NorthTec acting chief executive Wayne Jackson says regional autonomy and decision making were key to a successful merger of polytechnics. Photo / John Stone

NorthTec will support the creation of a national polytechnic as long as there is sufficient regional autonomy and decision making to meet the needs of Northland learners, its chief executive says.

Wayne Jackson’s comments followed an announcement this week that the Government was spending $200m to overhaul vocational education by creating the single biggest tertiary institution in the country— a national polytechnic with more than 130,000 students.

The New Zealand Institute of Skills and Technology will created in April next year by making the existing 16 polytechnics and institutes of technology, including NorthTec, into subsidiaries of a national institute.

The institute will take over responsibility for on-the-job training, including apprenticeships, from industry training organisations over the next two to three years.

The 11 industry training organisations will be replaced by Workforce Development Councils with powers to veto vocational courses that don’t meet industry requirements.

Education Minister Chris Hipkins said the changes were needed because too many polytechnics were making deficits, too few people were in training, and vocational education was too complex.

Jackson said NorthTec supported three major proposals by the Government.

They were the creation of a single Institute of Skills and Technology for New Zealand, flowing together of the apprenticeship and polytechnic training models, and a change to the funding system to allow better learner support.

“We supported all three proposals as long as there was sufficient regional autonomy and decision making to allow both the selection of educational programmes and the way in which they are delivered, to meet the needs of Northland learners.

“For NorthTec, it is very much ‘business as usual’. We will continue to enrol and deliver programmes with confidence that our regional role will grow over future years. We will study the detail of the announcements further over the next few days”