Posted by VET Centre on Tuesday, 22 December 2015 in VET

The VET Blog is signing off for 2015. The ever-present Christmas dilemma is what to give our blog readers as a parting gift for the year? Thankfully, India’s EdTechReview has just the thing to feed your professional thinking over the Christmas-New Year break. The good folk at EdTechReview have put together 100 Educational Quotes Educators and Ed Leaders Will Love – some one-liners to dip into while you’re taking it easy by the pool.

Here’s a sample:

·         I like a teacher who gives you something to take home to think about besides homework (Edith Ann, aka Lily Tomlin)

·         One learns by doing a thing; for though you think you know it, you have no certainty until you try (Sophocles)

·         Do you know the difference between education and experience? Education is when you read the fine print; experience is what you get when you don’t (Pete Seeger).

Wait. There’s more in the hamper. A bundle of Aussie quotable quotes about education over at Australian Inspiration. The page headed Education & Learning comprises short thoughts from national notables like Quentin Bryce, Barry Jones and John Monash. A sample:

·         Get growing. Back yourself and make mistakes. It’s your mistakes and observations that are your greatest tutors (Costa Georgiadis)

·         Sport … teaches life’s lessons. But there’s no substitute, in my book, for education, because that gives you choice (Fiona Wood)

·         Education doesn’t give you the answers, but enables you to ask the questions! (Suzanne Connelly).


Posted by VETCentre on Monday, 21 December 2015 in VET Reforms

On 16 December the Victorian government released two much awaited documents – theVET Funding Review Final Report (174 pages) and Skills and Jobs in the Education State: The Government’s Response to the VET Funding Review (20 pages). We will devote several posts to the report and government response early in the New Year. This post offers a very general overview of aspects of both documents.

The Final Report is a comprehensive investigation of how best to design the state’s VET funding model so that private, industry and government expenditure maximises the benefits of training. Quality is the byword in the Report’s careful survey of training, student support and individual, industry and economic outcomes. It establishes the pivotal role of TAFE Institutes as publicly funded providers and recognises that private providers play a valued role in a diverse, responsive training system.

The Final Report’s Introduction provides several paragraphs (page 6) that set the context for priorities and practice in coming years:

First and foremost, the Review recommends that the Government make clear what it wants from the VET system, and its significant investment in the sector. This should include a statement of the outcomes it seeks to achieve from VET. The Review considers it should prioritise adult literacy and numeracy, youth, retrenched workers, the long-term unemployed and disadvantaged students. This will then inform the development, administration and implementation of the new system.

At the heart of the reforms being proposed is a simpler, more stable funding model, supported by a resetting of the subsidy rates. From this, funding will be able to be better targeted – to training by higher quality, lower risk providers, and in areas of real need and value. As a result, students will be more likely to get the jobs or other outcomes they seek from their training.

Students will be asked to contribute to the cost of their training.

TAFE institutes will be better supported and funded in a way that reflects the costs they bear and their contribution to the state. All of the sector will be encouraged and incentivised to improve.

The Final Report pulls no punches about the morally hollow behaviour of providers who have misdirected funding and dudded learners. The Report’s recommendations are crafted to create a VET system that lives and breathes quality. In the process the rorters will be exposed. (Sadly, some of them are gob-smacklingly slow to learn as this piece in The Australian makes all too plain – ‘Sign up now, and quickly’, by Julie Hare, 18 December.) The Final Report suggests there is plenty of room to measure and monitor performance in ways that emphasise quality and spur continuous improvement across the entire VET system. On pages 112-113 the reviewers, Bruce Mackenzie and Neil Coulson, propose a number of ways in which performance assessment could be given a sharper edge and also furnish industry, students and the public with much better information about which providers are doing the best job. For example, the Final Report floats that the idea that a performance assessment taskforce could be established which:

… could assess an individual provider’s capability through direct observation of its classes and teachers, reviewing training material, reviewing evidence of learning over time, and talking to students about their training experience.

This process could encourage continuous improvement within the training sector by giving providers independent feedback on the quality of the training they deliver, while also bolstering the states quality assurance regime.

Another option the Final Report suggests is to establish a self-assessment and external review process

… where providers undertake a self-assessment of their performance across a range of outcomes and process indicators. In New Zealand outcome indicators include training outcomes (further study or employment outcomes) while process indicators include (student supports available or assessment practices). Providers consider those outcomes and process most relevant to their organisation.

These self-assessments are then verified though an inspection carried out by independent assessors. The assessors have a track record of delivery and leadership in the relevant sector and are trained in the methodology and techniques of the inspection framework.

By incorporating elements of these approaches into its performance and continuous improvement approach to VET, government could drive real improvements in the quality and reputation of Victorian VET.

Shifting provider attention from inputs and processes to outcomes is to be welcomed. It entails a very different orientation to auditing and evidence than the one we’ve had to work with for too long.

The Final Report makes 109 recommendations. They will have considerable influence. The Victorian Government has made it very plain that the recommendations are not going to sit on the shelf. The Government’s Response embraces the recommendations, setting them on a pathway to implementation with clear statements of intent and timelines.

The Government’s Response sets out its expectations for the system like this (page 7):

The Government will define three overarching objectives that explicitly state what it expects from the VET system and will regularly measure and report on the performance of the VET system under these objectives:

1. Deliver quality training that meets current and future industry needs

Ensuring employer confidence through the availability of a highly skilled, adaptable and productive workforce and servicing the job needs of local communities, industries and the economy.

2. Grow employment and further education outcomes

Helping people to transform their lives, their careers and their future and move between different stages of education and training.

3. Promote equity and address disadvantage

Creating opportunities for all Victorians to get the skills they need for the jobs and futures they want, no matter their level of disadvantage or their situation.

Taking these three objectives as the touchstones for policy, the Victorian Government has specified six themes that will underpin the VET reform journey:

·         A clear vision for VET in Victoria, targeted to meeting industry need and providing job outcomes

·         A responsive and sustainable model that promotes lifelong learning

·         Defining clear roles for TAFEs and community sectors to ensure strong and sustainable systems

·         Transparency for students, industry and employers

·         Supporting quality and continuous improvement

·         Promotion of equity for learners of all abilities.

There is considerable work to do yet in moving from recommendations and statements of intent to clear policy and a transparent, predictable funding framework. The next steps in the journey are:

·         From January 2016 – Modelling and impact assessments to inform funding design

·         February to June 2016 – Focused consultation with key stakeholders

·         Mid 2016 – Funding model announced with details of subsidy levels

·         From 2017 – New model to be progressively implemented.

On 16 December the Victorian Government also released six Fact Sheets that distil the implications of changes ahead for key stakeholders in VET:

·         Our vision for industry

·         Our vision for regions

·         Our vision for community providers

·         Our vision for training providers

·         Our vision for TAFEs

·         Our vision for students.

You can download the Fact Sheets here, along with the Final Report and theGovernment’s Response.


Posted by VET Centre on Monday, 14 December 2015 in Research

Early in 2015 the OECD released The ABC of gender equality in education: Aptitude, behaviour, confidence (182 pages). The report looks at gender differences across a range of matters, from academic performance and occupational preferences to workforce participation. Drawing on data from the OECD’s Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), the report sets out to answer two questions:

·         why are 15-year-old boys more likely than girls, on average, to fail to attain a baseline level of proficiency in reading, mathematics and science?

·         why do high-performing 15-year-old girls still underachieve in areas such as mathematics, science and problem solving when compared to high-performing boys?

The answer to both questions has implications for VET delivery and assessment, influencing factors like who enrols in a VET qualification and what LLN support they may need. The data tell different stories from country to country, yet there is surprising consistency in what the stories are about. For the purposes of this post we’ll leave aside the big picture, and the answer to those two key questions, and zero in on occupational choice.

It’s very clear we have much work to do yet if we are to increase the proportion of girls who choose traditional trades, for example, and the proportion of boys who take up roles in traditionally feminised occupations like child care. The work we have to do isn’t confined to the last few years of school when VET taster programs are offered and careers teachers are active. We need to get to work at pre-school and primary school levels with the aim of building aptitude and confidence from the early years.

Among the research findings set out on page 98 of the report are these:

·         less than 5% of girls in OECD countries, on average, contemplate pursuing a career in engineering or computing (and the definition of computing and engineering includes such gender-neutral fields as architecture), while 16% of girls expect a career in health (excluding nurses and midwives) but only 7% of boys do.

·         in 2000, 36% of 15 year old boys and 43% of girls that age expected to work as managers or professionals when they were 30; but in 2012, only 22% of 25-34 year-old men and 23% of 25-34 year-old women worked in such occupations.

·         while PISA reveals large gender differences in reading, in favour of 15-year-old girls, the Survey of Adult Skills suggests that there are no significant gender differences in literacy proficiency among 16-29 year-olds. Boys catch up for two reasons it would seem – postsecondary access to LLN support and, importantly, skill development through job-related reading and writing.

·         among workers in their 30s, 40s and particularly workers in their 50s and 60s, men appear to be considerably more likely than women to read and write at work, as well as to use numeracy, ICT and problem-solving skills.

Figure 4.11 in the report shows the proportion of boys and girls expecting a career in engineering or computing. Only about 9 per cent of Australian students had these career directions in mind, compared to 20 per cent in Poland or 13 per cent in Norway and Taiwan. However, Australia’s 9 per cent is quite different when looked at through a gender lens – the proportion of Australian boys expecting a career in engineering or computing is around 17 per cent, while for girls it’s just 3 per cent. This expectation comes home to roost when we look at the gender differences in field of study (Figure 4.21) which shows that 30 per cent of boys are enrolled in post-secondary engineering, manufacturing and construction qualifications compared to 3 per cent of girls.

The picture is quite different in health occupations – 11 per cent of Australian boys and girls expect to end up in this field, with the gender difference being 14 per cent for girls and 8 per cent for boys.

There is more to learn from this report if you have the time. For example, look at Table 1.1 which shows the percentage of 15 year old students who are underperformers in all subjects at school. Australia comes in 20th of around 60 nations involved, behind countries as diverse as Hong Kong, Vietnam, Canada, Ireland and Czech Republic. About 8 per cent of girls and 11 per cent of boys underperform across all their subjects of study. For the roughly 20 per cent of young Australians underperforming across the board in comparison to their peers internationally, this isn’t a great platform for launching into postsecondary education, which is basically essential for a growing proportion of entry level jobs.

You may be interested in two January 2014 posts we ran in The VET Blog that looked at ‘ungendering’ occupational choice in the trades:

·         Women in trades (1)

·         Women in trades (2).


Posted by VET Centre on Tuesday, 08 December 2015 in VET

We do have a national VET system, and policies that are specific to Australia and to each state and territory. However, VET is an international endeavour. Societies, businesses and governments are everywhere concerned with the availability of contemporary workplace skills, training that maximises employees’ ability to adapt to new technologies, and training and assessment that is up to speed with innovative services, products and business processes. That global VET context is what brings The VET Blog to refer occasionally to activity beyond Australia. This post is another entry on that theme and focuses on RAVTE, the Regional Association for Vocational Teacher Education in East and Southeast Asia.

There is much effort at the moment on bringing the VET systems of Asia into closer relationship. Key aspects of the evolving relationship include improving understanding across borders about national qualification frameworks, enhancing the portability of qualifications between nations, raising awareness about the structure and operation of quality frameworks, and harmonising aspects of assessment. It’s a big agenda that Australia is both contributing to and benefiting from.

RAVTE is only a few years old, yet it sits at the centre of these efforts at aligning VET systems simply because teachers are at the heart of all VET systems – they are the people who facilitate student learning that matches the needs of employers and learners. RAVTE states its main objectives as being:

·         to enhance vocational teacher education (including institutional development)

·         to improve research activities on vocational education and to establish it as a scientific discipline

·         to foster regionalisation processes and cooperation.

Membership is institutional and RAVTE’s website explains that:

At present 23 universities from Cambodia, China, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, the Philippines, Thailand, Singapore and Vietnam are members of RAVTE.

Among the member institutions are:

·         Hong Kong Institute of Education

·         Indonesia University of Education

·         Singapore’s Nanyang Polytechnic

·         Ho Chi Minh City University of Technology and Education.

RAVTE held its second General Assembly meeting on 26-28 November at Ho Chi Minh University. There will no doubt be a report from that meeting on the RAVTE website in the near future.

RAVTE also offers an e-newsletter which you can sign up for at the bottom left of the home page.

A few weeks ago we ran a post titled A potpourri of articles on VET professional development in our region. That post focused on TVET@sia, an online journal devoted to professional development research and ideas for VET teachers and trainers. The journal is produced by RAVTE with the support of the South East Asian Ministers of Education Organization, the Regional Centre for Vocational and Technical Education and Training (SEAMEO VOCTECH) and UNESCO Bangkok.


Posted by VET Centre on Monday, 07 December 2015 in VET

The path from state and territory awards to national awards ended this year in Hobart on 19 November. The national event offered 17 awards in individual, business and RTO categories. A Lifetime Achievement Award was also announced – this year it went to Peter Henneken whose four decades in the Queensland public service saw him closely and expertly engaged with training and employment policy and programs.

The full list of winners and runners-up in each category is available here.

Those whose contributions were recognised this year included:

·         Excellence in Language, Literacy and Numeracy Practice Award – Lyn Wilson (Sydney TAFE – Petersham College Foundation Studies)

·         VET Teacher/Trainer of the Year Award – Stephen Lunn (lead Vocational Education and Training Hospitality Teacher, Guildford Young College, Tasmania)

·         School Pathways to VET Award – Southern Cross Catholic Vocational College, NSW

·         Small Training Provider of the Year Award – Plumbing Industry Climate Action Centre, Victoria

·         Large Training Provider of the Year Award – VERTO, NSW.

For 21 years the Australian Training Awards have recognised high performing individuals and organisations. The Awards website offers a snapshot page of some past winners and what’s transpired for them since winning an Award. Snapshots are included for:

·         Academy of Interactive Entertainment (2007 Small Training Provider of the Year)

·         Challenger Institute of Technology (2005 and 2012 Large Training Provider of the Year)

·         Fiona French (2012 VET Teacher/Trainer of the Year)

·         Rory Smeaton (2010 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Student of the Year)

·         Tracy Sutton (2006 Australian Apprentice (Trainee) of the Year)

·         Jonathan Kemble (2003 Australian Apprentice of the Year).

The trek to the 2016 Australian Training Awards has now begun. Applications for 2016 opened on 1 December 2015!


Posted by VET Centre on Thursday, 03 December 2015 in VET

On 6 November, Victoria’s Minister for Training and Skills, Steve Herbert, launched theCentre for Vocational and Educational Policy within the Melbourne Graduate School of Education.

The Centre’s expertise and its research program centre on the transitions and pathways within and between secondary school and post-secondary education, and encompasses work-based training.

The Centre’s current list of projects gives a solid sense of how its energies will be deployed. They include:

·         Innovative partnerships for youth engagement in education and work, funded by an Australian Research Council Linkage grant

·         Investigating quality teaching in the Victorian VET sector, funded by the Victorian Department of Education and Training

·         Independent validation of assessment: Developing and piloting and external assessment model, funded by the Victorian Department of Education and Training

·         Factors affecting demand for higher level VET qualifications by students from low SES backgrounds and possible policy interventions to increase their participation in higher VET qualifications, funded by the NSW Skills Board.

The launch event commenced with two panel discussions. Panelists included:

·         Robin Shreeve (CEO, Western Sydney Institute, TAFE NSW)

·         Bruce Mackenzie (most recently Chair of the Victorian VET Funding Review)

·         Leslie Loble (Deputy Secretary – External Affairs and Regulation, NSW Department of Education)

·         Shelley Mallett (General Manager – Research and Policy, Brotherhood of St Laurence, and Professorial Fellow in Social Policy, School of Social and Political Sciences, University of Melbourne).

The Centre’s Directors are well known to the VET sector – John Polesel and Shelly Gillis. 


Posted by VET Centre on Tuesday, 01 December 2015 in Research

In late September, the National Centre for Vocational Education Research released an intriguing report titled Adult trade apprentices: exploring the significance of recognition of prior learning and skill sets for earlier completion (102 pages).

Intriguing on two grounds, though there are lots of other reasons to read the report which comes out of research conducted by Jo Hargreaves and Davinia Blomberg.

First ground. We’ve all noticed that apprentices are getting older. Just how much older was a surprise. The report has it that:

In 1995, the average age of a commencing male and female apprentice was 19 years. In 2013, the average age of a commencing apprentice had increased to 26 years for males and 27 years for females. Although the average age has increased significantly since 1995, the most common age of a male and female apprentice has not changed and is still around 18 years of age.

What’s more, in 2004 about 1 in 50 apprentices commenced when they were 45 or older. By 2013 that proportion had grown to 1 in 10.

Second ground. It seemed at least likely that the growth in older age apprenticeship commencements would be accompanied by a substantial increase in RPL granted. The data disagrees:

An RPL-granted subject outcome for trade apprentices 25 years and older has increased from a low base (3.5% in 2009 to 7% in 2013); however, these levels for trade apprentices are markedly lower than peer-age students who either have no training contract or who have a traineeship. The subject enrolments with RPL-granted outcomes for this group are far higher, at 78% in 2013.

RPL has been around for a good spell now, so it’s surprising to learn from the report that ‘16.1% of apprenticeship graduates aged 25 years and over reported relevant prior skills and experience but did not have their training shortened because RPL assessment was not offered.’


Posted by VET Centre on Monday, 30 November 2015 in VET Reforms

A few weeks back the Australian Council for Private Education and Training (ACPET) released a thoughtful report entitled Australia’s skills reform journey: The case for VET reform and progress to-date (79 pages).

The report, undertaken by ACIL Allen Consulting, puts context around the recent spate of ugly news about the behaviour of a small number of private RTOs, rounds up the lessons from the reform activities of the past half dozen years, and assesses the best options for ongoing reform in the VET sector. The focus of the report is on what has happened in Victoria where the spate of changes and the rate of change has been most marked.

The report sets out the significance of VET in maintaining the stock of skills Australia needs to support social wellbeing and economic prosperity. It revisits the case for VET reform and identifies the key instruments of the reform agenda – a student entitlement to training, and increasing contestability in training provision. The report goes on to identify six shortfalls that have compromised microeconomic reform in the sector:

·         concerns around the quality of training and in particular, assessment of students, including the practice of using subcontractors to deliver training

·         potentially unsustainable growth in enrolments

·         predatory marketing practices, including the role of third party brokers

·         poor student selection processes, including the enrolment of students that are not suited or sufficiently prepared for higher level qualifications

·         enrolments in areas of low labour market demand and poor employment prospects

·         specific concerns around the performance and/or behaviour of a handful of private training providers.

The paper suggests, with good reason, that these problems partly relate to a longstanding focus on system design and funding inputs without a balancing focus on training outcomes. That balancing focus is likely to be more prominent as the VET reform journey continues. It’s overdue.

At the start of each chapter in the report key points are summarised. Among the key points for chapter 3 (‘Early adopters of VET reform have delivered quantifiable results’) are these:

The most apparent result of skills reform has been the increase in the volume of VET enrolments:

·         From 2002 to 2009, VET enrolments did not grow; increasing levels of government funding were unable to spur sufficient enrolment growth to keep pace with population growth.

·         From 2009 there was a significant increase in both government funding and VET enrolments, largely the result of skills reforms introduced in Victoria in 2009, and in South Australia in 2012-2013.

·         In all the other states, funding continued to grow but enrolments remained static.

This report is focussed primarily on the publicly available data from Victoria as the first-mover in the current phase of VET reform. The data show that the skills reforms have accelerated the move towards private provision.

·         In Victoria, apprenticeship and traineeship enrolments increased, with private RTOs growing their share modestly from 44 per cent to 55 per cent.

·         In other non-apprenticeship training, there was almost a doubling in enrolments and a marked increase in market share of private RTOs, which increased from 6 per cent to 48 per cent.

·         These increases in the market share of private RTOs have come primarily from growth in the market, rather than from a dramatic reduction in training delivery by TAFE institutes. Absolute aggregate enrolments in the TAFE sector have remained mostly stable over the last 10 years.

A very positive note, then, is that participation in training increased following introduction of training reforms. From the students’ perspective, it seems that expansion in training provision has not dented satisfaction greatly. As the report notes:

Overall student satisfaction with VET declined marginally following skills reform in Victoria. Students at TAFE institutes are more likely to report that they are satisfied compared to students at private RTOs, and students at ACE providers are more likely to report that they are satisfied compared to TAFE students.

It would appear that the decline in satisfaction with private RTOs coincided with the large increase in enrolments at private RTOs following the introduction of the VTG. Prior to 2008, private RTOs reported higher levels of student satisfaction than TAFE institutes in all of these measures. Similar patterns are observed in terms of reported job outcomes.

While they warrant attention, these quality concerns also need to be placed in the context of the substantial growth in the Victorian VET system following the introduction of skills reform. As the number of government subsidised enrolments doubled from 2005 to 2013, it is estimated that the proportion of students that did not report that they were satisfied with the quality of delivery rose marginally from 13.1 per cent to 14.7 per cent.

Student satisfaction is a proxy for training quality – they aren’t the same thing. Job outcomes are another measure we can turn to, but it isn’t necessarily the best pointer to quality of provision. Comparing job outcomes for two periods – 2005-2008 and 2013-2014 – the report notes that:

… private RTOs had previously held a modest lead over other RTOs in both metropolitan and non-metropolitan areas. Consistent with the marginal decline in overall satisfaction, private RTOs have lost ground in this area.

Quite a bit of ground really. Job outcomes have fallen for both TAFE and private providers, though more steeply for private providers. An important observation here is that the Australian economy has been through a bit of heavy weather since 2009 – particularly in employment for young Australians – so job outcomes are unsurprisingly lower than for the earlier period.

Neither student satisfaction nor job outcomes are good measures of training outcomes, but in the absence of more robust, nationally consistent data, they are rough stand-in measures, but rough enough.

Pages 51 and 52 of the report have lists of the top 20 Victorian RTOs by enrolments and by absolute growth in enrolments. These lists are helpful because they put market share and total enrolments in perspective. An interesting side note is that of the top 10 RTOs showing an increase in VET Fee-HELP enrolments in Victoria from 2011-2013:

·         five were private RTOs (ACTE, Careers Australia, Navitas Professional Institute, Study Group Australia, and Think Colleges)

·         three were non-Victorian TAFEs (NSW TAFE Commission, TAFE SA, and Gold Coast Institute of TAFE)

·         two were Victorian TAFE Institutes (RMIT and Holmesglen).

ACPET’s report does provide useful context for thinking through where we go with the VET reform journey from this point on. Tighter regulation, smarter management of government-funded training contracts, improved and comprehensible information about training providers and training outcomes, a nationally consistent approach to student training entitlements – all of these are essential if a reformed VET sector is to do the job the country needs it to do.


Posted by VET Centre on Monday, 30 November 2015 in VET

WAVE is a national network of women involved in VET, adult education and the broad field of work-related education and training. WAVE provides seminars & workshops, research, policy advocacy and advice, as well as networking on an international, national and state basis. 

Read WAVE’s most recent newsletter:


Posted by VET Centre on Thursday, 26 November 2015 in Research

On 20 October, the Australian Skills Quality Authority (ASQA) released a report, Targeted audits of VET FEE-HELP providers (34 pages). The report is the outcome of an audit project commenced in April this year which involved 21 RTOs and included interviews with 417 students from those RTOs. The purpose of the project was to assess compliance with the VET Quality Framework and the National Vocational Education and Training Regulator Act 2011 on three fronts:

·         the accuracy of marketing and information provided to potential students

·         the advice provided to potential students during enrolment, and

·         the information provided to students before enrolment.

Sixteen RTOs were included based on complaints received by ASQA about those providers. Another five RTOs included in the audit project were selected because they were large providers with students enrolled under VET FEE-HELP, but against which there were no recent complaints. Of the 21 RTOs audited, seven were found to be fully compliant and eight had conditions imposed pending follow up action by the RTOs. One RTO had its registration cancelled, and five are ‘still subject to ongoing regulatory scrutiny.’

Not a rosy outcome, with two in three of the audited providers having compliance problems.

The report lists four actions that ASQA will take in future. In part, they are as follows:

·         Action 1. ‘ASQA will continue to closely monitor and target RTOs approved for VET FEE-HELP where complaints and intelligence data, and the outcomes of this project, indicate this is necessary.’

·         Action 2. ‘ASQA will continue to engage with the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission and the Department of Education and Training to share regulatory intelligence and coordinate regulatory action to ensure RTOs doing the wrong thing are penalised to the full extent of the respective laws.’

·         Action 3. ‘It is proposed to establish of a dedicated working group with DET to continue sharing intelligence on areas of risk and emerging risk, including data analytics on indicators of risk in DET’s VET FEE-HELP data submitted by RTOs. This working group would meet on a regular basis to assist ASQA to better target RTOs with key indicators of risk.’

·         Action 4. ‘ASQA is using the findings of this project to develop a range of communication material aimed at:

o    RTOs – to improve their understanding of and compliance with the requirements of the relevant standards

o    Students – to provide them with relevant information and assist them to make informed decisions.’

Getting a handle on how providers interact with the VET FEE-HELP program has clear implications for getting the best outcome from government funding, which matters to citizens who foot that bill through taxes or through taking out income contingent loans. The significance of that cost is shown in a report released a couple of months ago by Commonwealth Department of Education: 2014 VET FEE-HELP Statistical Report –Summary (6 pages).

Among the highlights of the report listed on page 1 are these:

·         The number of students accessing VET FEE-HELP loans increased by around 103 per cent between 2013 and 2014, from just over 100,000 students to nearly 202,800

·         The total value of VET FEE-HELP loans accessed in 2014 ($1,757 million) was more than double the amount accessed in 2013 ($699 million).

·         Since VET FEE-HELP was first made available to students in 2009, a total of $3.1 billion in VET FEE-HELP loans has been accessed by VET students

·         As at 31 December 2014, there were 254 providers approved to offer VET FEE-HELP.

The report provides a range of data. For example, in 2014:

·         66 per cent of students accessing VET FEE-HELP loans were female

·         46 per cent were aged under 25 years

·         6 per cent of VET FEE-HELP assisted students were Indigenous

·         25 per cent were from regional and remote areas

·         25 per cent were from low socioeconomic areas.


Posted by VET Centre on Tuesday, 24 November 2015 in Research

The National Centre for Vocational Education Research has always provided us with excellent data about the training system. Now it’s taking us to new heights with the release on 10 November of Total VET students and courses 2014 (32 pages). For the very first time we have figures on accredited training provided by all providers.

The new data on total VET activity is not quite complete as some providers are yet to contribute their statistics, but it’s pretty close to a full picture. The data comes from 4601 providers across Australia – private providers (2865), schools (960), community education providers (497), enterprise providers (210), TAFEs (57), and universities (15).

There is a summary of the overall picture presented on pages 5-7 from which we glean that, for example, in 2014:

·         3.9m students were enrolled in training, including 57 per cent with private providers and 27 per cent in TAFE

·         NSW had the largest total enrolment (29 per cent) and the Northern Territory the fewest (1.3 per cent)

·         Learners were enrolled in 6344 unique programs

·         701,100 program completions were in certificates I-IV, and 114,500 completions were at diploma level or above.

The tables in the balance of the report provide us with more detail. For example, Table 1 provides the participation rate by age for each state and territory. For Victoria, the participation rate – the percentage of all those enrolled in VET – looks like this:

·         55 per cent of all people aged 15-19

·         36 per cent of all those aged 20-24

·         22 per cent of all those aged 25-44

·         14 per cent of all those aged 45-64

·         2 per cent of all those 65 or older.

There is an accompanying report Equity groups in total VET students and courses 2014(10 pages) which is another great data treasure. The highlights for 2014 shown on page 1 include:

·         Indigenous students make up 3.7 per cent of all VET students

·         Rural and remote students make up 14.3 per cent of all VET students.

The report also breaks down student enrolments by state, so if we look at Western Australia and Tasmania for the two equity groups just mentioned we find that:

·         In WA, 4.8 per cent of all student are Indigenous, and 16.8 are rural and remote students

·         In Tassie, 4.3 per cent are Indigenous, and 38.9 per cent are rural and remote.

The NCVER has also put together some data visualisations, or infographics, that help to tell the story behind the data in very accessible ways. The data visualisations are availablehere.

This latest release takes us a big step further than the data released on government funded training only, which released earlier this year. The VET Blog posted about this release in August – see Learners count –Better data on students in government funded training. The data in that report was updated in September – use this link to the updated report on Government-funded students and courses.


Posted by VET Centre on Monday, 23 November 2015 in Workforce Development

In late September, the Boston Consulting Group released a report called Man and machine in industry 4.0: How will technology transform the industrial workforce through 2025? The report zeroes in on the manufacturing industry and how the advent of digital technologies (including robotics) will change the kinds of jobs available and the skills needed. While the report is focussed on manufacturing in Germany, and advanced manufacturing powerhouse, it’s not hard to see how similar changes will occur across industry sectors in Australia.

The sections of the report are listed on the left of the web page. There are two sections we thought it might be interesting to explore a little more deeply.

The first of those sections is titled ‘How will industrial jobs evolve?’ The report notes that:

Although the extent to which Industry 4.0, especially robotics, will replace human labor remains a matter of debate among experts, we found universal agreement that manufacturers will increasingly use robotics and other advancements to assist workers. Some experts argue against the notion that all manufacturing jobs can be automated. As Ingo Ruhmann, special adviser on IT systems at Germany’s Federal Ministry of Education and Research, explains, “Complete automation is not realistic. Technology will mainly increase productivity through physical and digital assistance systems, not the replacement of human labor.” The increased use of assistance systems means that the qualitative changes brought about by Industry 4.0 will likely be positive for the workforce. The number of physically demanding or routine jobs will decrease, while the number of jobs requiring flexible responses, problem solving, and customization will increase.

One of the jobs that will change is one that has already changed very substantially and frequently over the past 100 years – the job of the mobile service technician whose job it is to repair or maintain any number of different kinds of machines that sit in offices and factories, and move around construction sites of various kinds. The report reckons the future might evolve like this:

Today’s service technicians may spend only a few hours each day on value-added work at a single site. Most of their workday is spent traveling to the site and discussing the service problem and a solution with other experts or second-level support colleagues. Manual operations throughout the end-to-end process result in significant delays and downtime. In contrast, Industry 4.0 will enable technology-assisted, predictive maintenance. By remotely reviewing a stream of real-time data on machine performance, the technician will be able to proactively identify defects and order spare parts before arriving at a site. Once on-site, the technician will be assisted in making repairs by augmented-reality technology and will be able to receive remote guidance from experts off-site.

With changes of that magnitude in the offing – 2025 is not so far away – it’s clear that the VET sector will have to be pretty nimble to keep up with changing demand for skills and underpinning knowledge. That brings us to the second section of the report that merits some exploration here: ‘What should education systems do?’ The report lists five priorities for education systems and educators:

1.    Provide broader skill sets

2.    Close the IT skills gap

3.    Offer new formats for continuing education.

Each of these priorities has implications for initial education and training, training for the existing workforce, and retraining for those who lose their jobs. The VET system is a pivotal player in each of those contexts.

(You’ll note that the report talks about universities in this section. It’s useful to recognise that Germany’s post-secondary education is designed very differently to Australia’s. For example, Germany has universities of applied sciences and universities of cooperative education that don’t have mirror images in Australia. When reading this section of the report it’s probably a good idea to go with your instincts and assume that what sounds like VET is VET Down Under.)

The VET Blog occasionally dips into the future of work and what that means for the future of VET practice. Some examples:

·         The NBN effect on jobs in Australia (posted October 2015)

·         Making your way – the working futures of young Australians (posted September 2015)

·         Changes in the work Australians will do, and who they work for (posted August 2015)

·         Growing and declining industries in Australia (posted July 2015)

·         Will advanced economies like Australia have enough workers in 2030? (posted January 2015)

·         Skill demand and skill preparation in growth industries (posted December 2014)

·         Unlocking skills in hospitals: better jobs, better care (posted May 2014)

·         Employer demand for STEM skills – AiG report (posted April 2013).


Posted by VET Centre on Thursday, 19 November 2015 in Research

Back in July the Martin Prosperity Institute, part of the University of Toronto, released its third annual ranking for The Global Creativity Index (GCI). The GCI ranks 139 nations based on measures related to talent, technology and tolerance.

Don’t like to skite, but here’s the top ten:

1.    Australia

2.    United States

3.    New Zealand

4.    Canada

5.    Denmark

6.    Finland

7.    Sweden

8.    Iceland

9.    Singapore

10. Netherlands

On the three Ts, Australia was 7th in technology (measured by research and development investment, and patents per capita) and 4th in tolerance (measured by treatment of immigrants, racial and ethnic minorities, gays and lesbians).

On talent, Australia came in in 1st. Talent is measured by looking at two measures:

·         the share of the workforce in the creative class, and

·         the share of adults with post-secondary education.

Australia does well on the creative class measure with 45 per cent of its workforce in these fields: science and technology and engineering; arts, culture, entertainment, and the media; business and management; and education, healthcare, and law.

Apart from patting ourselves on the back, what the GCI claims to show is important from the perspective of national prosperity. The GCI maps the measures it uses against a range of indicators like the amount of national income per head of population and the extent to which money is more or less equally distributed across a nation. The report notes that:

Nations that score highly on the GCI have higher levels of economic output, entrepreneurship, economic competitiveness, and overall human development.

Best not to pretend that it’s all rosy. The 2015 edition of the World Economic Forum’s points Human Capital Index shows us at number 13 overall, with a very pronounced soft spot in developing the skills of our young people aged under 15. (See our July post,Australia’s ranking on human capital, according to the World Economic Forum.)

Obviously VET contributes to Australia’s strong showing in the GCI through its active contribution to all the occupational fields listed above. We have strengths in areas measured by the GCI and it’s important to make them work hard for us. The GCI suggests we have good national conditions for promoting high levels of entrepreneurialism. Among the benefits of doing so would be to reduce high levels of youth unemployment through increasing entrepreneurial capability during initial education and training. The VET Blog often dips into questions like these. For example, recent posts include:

·         Youth entrepreneurialism can help tackle youth unemployment in Australia (June, 2015)

·         Where you live influences what kind of training you seek (April 2015)

·         Teenagers, unemployment, and tertiary education (March 2015).


Posted by VET Centre on Tuesday, 10 November 2015 in Industry

Western Australia’s Minister for Workforce Development, Liza Harvey, issued a media release on 14 October which announced the launch of a

… Training Sector Reform Project to examine the function and structure of Western Australia’s public training system to ensure a sustainable system which equips students with the best skills to get jobs.

The Project was prompted by the Independent Review of the Vocational Education and Training Sector in Western Australia which was released by the WA government in June 2014. If you’d like to recap a little, you can read The VET Blog post about the Review report  which we put up in July last year.

The project will have a steering committee chaired by Cheryl Edwardes, a long serving minister and shadow minister in the Western Australian Parliament from 1989-2005.

It’s expected that an initial report will be submitted before the end of this year.

There’s not much detail yet on the website of the WA Department of Training and Workforce Development but this looks like the right page for updates.


Posted by VET Centre on Monday, 09 November 2015 in VET

On 15 October the Senate’s Education and Employment References Committee released a report titled Getting our money’s worth: The operation, regulation and funding of private vocational education and training (VET) providers in Australia. The Committee received 89 submissions and held public hearings in Sydney and Melbourne.

It is no surprise that the report lambasts unethical practice by those private providers who have chosen to regard government-funded training through VET FEE-HELP as a profit pool rather than a training resource. A few words from the report give you the general idea:

The committee has been provided and has heard harrowing and concerning evidence of misconduct by private VET providers. The private VET sector has been subject to a range of allegations in the public arena not limited to that of exploitative conduct, shoddy training and massive profits at the public expense … It is an irony that in the name of social justice an exploitative scheme to enrich individuals has been allowed to flourish at the expense of the most vulnerable who end up with a debt, but no qualification, or a worthless qualification.

This sentiment is echoed in both the main report and the minority report. The minority report notes that:

During this inquiry the Committee has heard some very disturbing stories about the unscrupulous behavior of some training providers, using high pressure sales tactics to prey on the vulnerable in society, leaving students with a lifetime of unwanted debt that may never be repaid and taxpayers with increasing liabilities.

We ought to be properly wary of assertions that all private providers are scooping the pool. The difficulty is that the appalling behaviour of some is depleting the reputation of many private providers and undermining trust in the VET system generally. As the minority report puts it:

Government Senators condemn this unconscionable behavior which has served to damage the reputation of the VET industry and negatively affected public perceptions of the quality of training that is provided by the majority of providers in the vocational education sector.

The report contains 16 recommendations that cover a broad range of matters such as:

·         Limiting access to VET FEE-HELP so that ‘only providers with the highest reputation for quality have unfettered access to the scheme’

·         Calling for ASQA to ‘ conduct a concerted and urgent blitz of all providers to ensure that they are consistently complying with the national standards, especially those relating to student recruitment’

·         Applying ‘minimum hours standards to VET FEE-HELP eligible courses’

·         Proposing that ‘an Ombudsman focused on domestic students in the VET sector be created, and further suggests that this position be industry-funded’

·         Giving ASQA ‘powers to directly regulate brokers or marketing agents in the VET sector, and to protect students.’

Also on 15 October, Luke Hartsuyker, the new Minister for Vocational Education and Skills, introduced legislation into Parliament that is designed to tackle some of the abuses which feature in the Senate Committee’s report. The Minister’s media release, VET FEE-HELP Bill to push dodgy providers out of the market, sets out seven legislative provisions. Three are intended ‘to prevent inappropriate enrolments and debts by:

·         ‘Introducing a two day cooling off period between enrolment and the application for a VET FEE-HELP loan so that course enrolment is no longer confused with the loan application process;

·         ‘Introducing minimum pre-requisites such as literacy and numeracy to ensure students can complete the higher level VET courses (diploma level and above) for which VET FEE-HELP is available; and

·         ‘Requiring a parent’s or guardian’s signature before a student under 18 years can request a VET FEE-HELP loan to protect younger students.’

The other provisions outlined in the Minister’s media release are intended to ‘further protect students and taxpayers by:

·         ‘Making it easier for a student to have their debt cancelled where they have been signed up for a loan inappropriately and for the Government to recoup the cost from providers;

·         ‘Introducing minimum registration and trading history requirements to ensure new VET FEE-HELP provider applicants have a proven history of delivering quality training;

·         ‘Introducing infringement notices and financial penalties for breaches of the VET FEE-HELP Guidelines; and

·         ‘Technical amendments to strengthen the Department’s administration of the scheme and its partnerships with Australian Skills and Quality Authority to monitor and enforce compliance.’

The new legislative proposals are contained in the Higher Education Support Amendment (VET FEE-HELP Reform) Bill 2015.


Posted by VET Centre on Thursday, 05 November 2015 in Research

Before the ink was dry on the proposed changes to the TAE, IBSA was asked to have another look at whether the Cert IV could better develop teacher understanding of assessment practice. IBSA’s has responded with Strengthening Assessment in the TAE Options Paper. The Options Paper explains the background to the request:

ASQA has recently collected evidence, through strategic audits in Early Childhood Education and in Aged Care as well as through other audits, that assessors struggle with meeting the regulator’s standards.  The ASQA audits found that one of the main reasons for non-compliance in relation to assessment is poorly developed assessment tools that did not ensure that the requirements of a unit would be met.

The Department of Education and Training has asked IBSA to conduct consultations with stakeholders regarding strengthening the emphasis on assessment skills in the TAE Training and Education Training Package.

It’s all happening in a bit of a blur. The Options Paper was released in October and consultations were due to finish by 23 October with a series of webinars. It’s likely that before this post goes to air, the option will be chosen and conveyed Australian Industry and Skills Committee for endorsement as part of the new TAE training package.

The Options Paper contains two proposals – Proposal A and Proposal B.

Proposal A is titled ‘Enhance assessment within the TAE training package’. Three enhancement options are floated:

·         OPTION 1 – Enhance assessment within the TAE Training Package by includingTAEASS502 Design and develop assessment tools as a core unit of competency in the Certificate IV in Training and Assessment and the TAEASS00011 Assessor Skill Set

·         OPTION 2 – Develop a new unit to be added to the core in the Certificate IV in Training and Assessment and added to the TAEASS00011 Assessor Skill Set

·         OPTION 3 – Enhance the existing assessment units of competency within the core of the Certificate IV by adding increased volume and frequency into the performance evidence of the assessment requirements.

The Options Paper sets out the advantages and disadvantages of each option, and there are some tricky judgements to make. For example:

·         Option 1 would reduce the number of elective units required for the qualification to just one, which would hamper the ability to shape the TAE to meet particular needs

·         Option 2 would mean that to hold a current Cert IV all teachers/trainers would need to upgrade.

The title of Proposal B tells its own story: ‘Including the Australian Qualifications Framework (AQF) volume of learning specifications in the qualification description for qualifications within this package.’ Incorporating the volume of learning is really about ensuring that short duration TAE programs that are really rip-offs are chased out of existence. Hard to quibble with that.

The wider context for a more leisurely discussion about VET teacher qualifications is worth taking time to think through. Take these two approaches, example.

First, one line of debate holds that the minimum qualification for VET teachers/trainers should be an education degree, as is the case for school teachers (though interestingly not the case for university lecturers/tutors). The argument in part is that the complexity and breadth of VET teaching practice, and the diversity of the student cohort, is such that a qualification of degree length is essential.

Another line of debate holds that a degree would put VET teaching beyond the reach of many industry practitioners who want to engage in VET teaching on a part time basis, or who want to make the shift to VET teaching from their industry job. Making those options less attractive would be bad news for the VET teaching workforce. It’s a virtue of the VET sector to welcome teachers with industry backgrounds. So the argument goes, better to see the Cert IV as an entry level qualification.

The discussion can go on. If the TAE is an entry level qualification then you need to add two or three requirements for the long haul. Perhaps these would work:

·         someone holding a Cert IV must upgrade to a TAE diploma within five years or their right to continue teaching lapses

·         teachers must complete a mandatory minimum number of points for professional learning activities each year (and some or all of these activities might count as credit towards a TAE diploma)

·         in the first two or three years of VET teaching, the minimum number of points for professional learning activities must include active engagement in coaching or mentoring with skilled VET teachers.

While that discussion goes on, there is ongoing discussion about the importance of establishing a professional association for VET teachers so they have both the opportunity and the responsibility to inform the debate about their own professional practice. On that score you might like to refer to:

·         A blog post titled The UK has a new VET professional body (posted on 18 September, and which has already clocked up 500 hits)

·         A VET Development Centre report from 2012, An association for VET’s professionals: What’s the story? You can download the report from this web page.


Posted by VETCentre on Friday, 30 October 2015 in VET

We know that VET performs an important role in Australia as a second chance for many young people who aren’t able to complete Year 12 or its equivalent. There is now some interesting evidence from Europe about that second chance. It comes fromCEDEFOP (theEuropean Centre for the Development of Vocational Training) which last month issued a Briefing Note, Vocational education and training prevents and counteracts early leaving from the education system (4 pages).

The Briefing Note tells us that:

One third of those who have experienced dropout at upper secondary level subsequently take up a vocational training programme and ultimately obtain an upper or even postsecondary level qualification.

Now you have to concentrate to follow the statistics here, but what we end up with is a clear signal about the value of the second chance afforded by VET:

… more than half of the young people who drop out of school (51.2%) eventually complete education at upper secondary level or above. Out of these, two thirds do so through vocational education and training. It allows them to acquire a qualification while gaining valuable workplace skills and experience.

CEDEFOP’s research found that:

… countries with a high incidence of apprenticeships tend to have lower numbers of early leavers … Those who prefer less theoretical forms of learning benefit from the more ‘hands-on’ approach.

A swag of European countries have put in place policies to reduce the proportion of young people who don’t finish secondary school, and Australia has been at this task for a long time too. The Briefing Note indicates that the European Union

… set itself the goal, in its Europe 2020 strategy, to lower the rate of early leaving from education and training to less than 10% by 2020. According to Eurostat data, the mid-term results are encouraging; the European average decreased from 17% in 2002 to 11.1% in 2014.

It’s important to reflect on the role that teachers and trainers play in making the second chance pay off, along with appropriate services from training providers. There’s a single sentence in the Briefing Note that wraps it up:

… both the quality of teaching and close follow-up of participants are paramount for keeping learners aboard.


Posted by VET Centre on Thursday, 29 October 2015 in Research

The July issue of TVET@sia is online and devoted to professional development research and ideas for VET teachers and trainers. TVET@sia is an online journal published with the support of the South East Asian Ministers of Education Organization, Regional Centre for Vocational and Technical Education and Training (SEAMEO VOCTECH), and UNESCO Bangkok.

The journal’s focus is twofold. It’s concerned with TVET in general, and with TVET teacher education in particular.

Published twice a year, the fifth issue of the TVET@sia focuses on ‘Approaches and achievements in TVET personnel professional development.’ A quick scan shows that researchers and practitioners with articles in this issue come from Australia, Brunei, Germany, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia and Singapore.

There are nine articles that deliver a rich sense of what VET practitioners are doing across our region. The articles and authors are as follows:

·         ‘Approaches to preparing TVET teachers and instructors in ASEAN member countries’, by Paryono Paryono (SEAMEO VOCTECH Brunei)

·         ‘Learning management strategies for in-service training of vocational instructors in Lao PDR – Using collaborative learning and a professional learning community approach in authentic situations: a case of automotive technology,’ by  Phouvieng Phoumilay (Ministry of Education and Sports), Prayong Klanrit and Chatchai Muangpatom (both of Udon Thani Rajabhat University), and Boualinh Soysouvanh (Faculty of Engineering, National University of Laos)

·         ‘The role of networking and internationalization of technical universities in academic staff competence development,’ by  Razali Hassan, Alias Masek, and Mimi Mohaffyza Mohamad (all of University Tun Hussein Onn Malaysia)

·         ‘Moving beyond talk-and-chalk-teaching – a holistic didactical approach to teacher training through trilateral cooperation between Germany, Indonesia and Myanmar,’ by  Nindya Dwi Fosa (Tabitha Consultancy), Katharina Peinemann (Technical University of Dortmund), Thomas Schröder (Technical University of Dortmund)

·         ‘TVET teachers, a reflection on trends in Indonesia and Australia,’ by  Margaret Malloch (Victoria University, Melbourne) and Abdullah Helmy (State Polytechnic of Malang)

·         ‘Australian VET teacher education: What is the benefit of pedagogical studies at University for VET teachers?’ by  Erica Smith (Federation University), Keiko Yasukawa (University of Technology, Sydney) and Steven Hodge (Griffith University)

·         ‘Pedagogical tools for continuous professional development and their impact,’ by  Helen Bound (Institute for Adult Learning, Singapore) and Sue Stack (University of Tasmania)

·         ‘Approaches to the quality improvement of TVET teachers in Mongolia: a lost opportunity,’ by Stephen J Duggan (Parkville Global Advisory)

·         ‘Boundary crossing – A theoretical framework to understand the operational dynamics of industry-school partnerships.’ By Matthew Flynn (Well Grounded Consultancy), and Hitendra Pillay and James Watters (both of Queensland University of Technology).

Issue 5 of TVET@sia was co-edited by Len Cairns from Monash University, Joachim Dittrich (University of Applied Sciences Bremerhaven, Germany), Thomas Schröder (Technical University of Dortmund), and Agus Setiawan (Indonesia University of Education).

The first issue of TVET@sia, released in May 2013, dealt with TVET collaboration in our region. Which allows us to refer to a recent post on The VET Blog, Promoting Australia’s VET capability in Asia (posted 8 September 2015).


Posted by VETCentre on Monday, 26 October 2015 in Industry

The Australian Council of Learned Academies (ACOLA) is an organisation that brings together four organisations: Australian Academy of ScienceAcademy of Social Sciences in AustraliaAustralian Academy of the Humanities and Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering.

Back in 2012 Australia’s Chief Scientist, Ian Chubb, and the Australian Research Councilput a significant challenge to ACOLA – write a report that tells us how best to deal with the impact of technology on work and society. On 23 September that report was launched. Its title is Technology and Australia’s Future: New technologies and their role in Australia’s security, cultural, democratic, social and economic systems (328 pages).

Yep, it’s a whopper and unsurprisingly so given the wide terrain it covers. You might be relieved to know that there is a summary (36 pages) available on this page. Also unsurprising is that the report has lots to say about matters relevant to vocational education and training.

For many trades and other teachers there will be some pleasure in knowing that the report puts very high value on ‘tinkering’:

Technology is a vehicle for creative expression. Encouraging hands-on tinkering with technology can instil a creative perception of technology that can lead to better engagement. Positioning technology as a vehicle for human creativity can inspire Australians to create, adopt and modify technology … Enhancing the tinkering aspect of STEM education at all levels (K–12, and tertiary) could create a culture that embraces technological change (p22).

The report suggests that we need to do some other tinkering with the VET system because making the most of, and making our peace with, technology relies heavily on skills development. It’s not just about the skills to develop new technologies. It’s also about having the skills to use and adapt technology. The ACOLA report suggests we need to rejig our approach – the quote in the following paragraph of the report comes from an NCVER publication called Linking qualifications and the labour market through capabilities and vocational streams:

Vocational training, in particular, must achieve a better balance ‘between the “generalist” qualifications of secondary and higher education and the job-specific competencies currently delivered by the VET system.’ Specifically it has been suggested that vocational training in future should focus more on ‘vocations’ or ‘vocational streams’, which represent groupings of similar occupations rather than the present focus on competencies that are highly specific to tightly defined job qualifications. The intention is that education and training to develop workers’ ‘vocational capabilities’ should provide a better balance of skills so that workers are able to perform their current duties with existing technologies and also to adapt to emerging technologies with the confidence to modify and improve processes and practices in the future (pages 77-78).

This plays into an ongoing challenge for VET. We need to train people for the jobs that are out there and that industry wants to fill right now. How do we marry that with the expectation that we will also train people for the skills they will need to adapt to the jobs we haven’t even thought of yet? Loosening the focus of training may be one way to do it by looking at a field of work rather than a specific job. There’s an intriguing footnote at the bottom of page 78 related to the paragraph quoted above, and maybe it gives us cause to think more closely about this conundrum. The footnote reads:

In this regard it might be noted that in 2013 only one third of VET graduates were in jobs directly associated with their qualification, further underlining the value of training to develop peoples’ adaptive capacity.

In effect, we are already training many people for jobs other than those that are the occupational outcome of the qualifications we deliver to them.

The report also takes time to consider workforce development and training, about which it notes that ongoing skills development relies on:

… policies that invest in a culture of experimentation, tinkering, an acceptance of uncertainty and an understanding that failure is inherent in technology change. Of course, only a small proportion of life is spent at school so it is important to instil skills of lifelong learning. Australian workers need the confidence and ability to adopt emerging technologies and processes that will improve efficiencies and productivity.

The report also emphasise the importance of being ready, as a nation, to assist workers whose skills are made obsolete by rapid technological change:

There are several ways to mitigate differential impacts of technological change:

·         Occupational obsolescence can be mitigated by ensuring that vocational training targets tomorrow’s jobs rather than yesterday’s, and by training people to be adaptable.

·         Programs that promote technology literacy for all Australians can make the benefits of new technologies more widely accessible.

·         Social safety nets can reduce the prospect of individual harm.

When launching the report, Ian Chubb made it plain that if we are to deal comfortably with technological change, then:

The key to it all is education.

·         Education that allows individuals to pursue many different paths, but gives them a common language and sense of purpose.

·         Education that teaches us our history in ways that help us shape the future.

·         Education that engages us, excites us, inspires us.


Posted by VETCentre on Thursday, 22 October 2015 in VET

UNESCO takes responsibility for the United Nations’ work on education, science and culture. Technical and vocational education and training (TVET) figures prominently in UNESCO’s work, as can be seen from the organisation’s Education Strategy 2014-2021.

Earlier this year UNESCO released Unleashing the potential: Transforming Technical and Vocational Education and Training (225 pages). The book is the result of collaborative work by TVET specialists around the world, including Griffith University’s Stephen Billett. The introduction to the book sets out three broad areas in which TVET makes substantial contributions:

·         There is an economic rationale for TVET because it is a ‘a source of the skills, knowledge and technology needed to drive productivity in the knowledge-based and transition societies of the twenty-first century’

·         There is a compelling social equity rationale because TVET builds the human capital of individuals which enlarges their life chances

·         There is a TVET sustainability rationale, about which the book quotes a 2013 NSW government report which observes that sustainability is concerned with ‘living within the limits of what the environment can provide, understanding the many interconnections between economy, society and the environment, the equal distribution of resources and opportunities.’

Each of these themes crops up throughout the book, which covers an array of topics in six chapters. Those topics include:

·         Policies and policy measures to promote social equity (p. 81)

·         Creating pathways to higher education (page 96)

·         Strengthening quality assurance arrangements (p. 110)

A great benefit of the book is that allows us to set Australia’s VET system in a global context by comparing and contrasting our own circumstances with those applying in other nations, from Germany to the Philippines and beyond.

Two areas that tweak attention are ‘Professionalizing TVET teachers and trainers’ (p. 113) and ‘New modes of work’ (p. 153).

On professionalising the VET workforce, the book notes that in Europe, CEDEFOP (theEuropean Centre for the Development of Vocational Training) has developed a Competence Framework that identifies future skills requirements for TVET professionals:

These skills include a recognition of and emphasis on informal learning; capacity to collaborate within and among TVET institutions and the world of work; ability to network institutions with local and regional stakeholders; awareness of international perspectives on training; capacity to use ICT and digital networks; a holistic perception of TVET; a need for learner autonomy and self-directed learning; competency in pedagogical, networking and communication skills for TVET teachers and trainers; ability to use new media; knowledge of the interaction between education and society; and organizational competence development

This section makes a general observation that will sound very familiar to Australian ears:

… most TVET teacher training has been hampered by two factors that are proving difficult to overcome. First, it is difficult to link specialized TVET teacher training programmes to practice in the workplace. There is little evidence of industrial placements that would provide future teachers with current experience and work practices. Second, it is frequently difficult, particularly where the academic model prevails, to link the educational part of TVET teacher training programmes to acquiring the competencies that TVET teachers and trainers need.

The book calls for more research and careful policy attention to ‘initial TVET teacher and trainer education, and continuing training and capacity-building, all of which are needed to support and implement successful TVET reforms.’

On the matter of how the nature of work is changing, the opening paragraphs of this section on pages 153-154 are worth pondering. They set out a host of ways in which occupations and industries are adapting to new ways of doing things, which is a core driver for what VET does. The book notes that change is apparent in the:

… shift from mass production, and mass-market services, to a more customized approach to meeting individual consumer preferences. Technological innovations have contributed to the changing character of consumer demand: for example the surge in mobile communications and online retail has created further changes in demand for skills. Technology has also facilitated changes in the workplace, and made changing modes of work possible. These new modes of work have both temporal and spatial dimensions. A key source of competitiveness is achieved by reducing the turnover time of capital, which means having fewer warehouses to hold stocks, manufacturing goods on demand and ordering ‘just in time’. As outsourcing results in less job security, there is an imperative on workers to be ready to make career changes, to be able to transfer their skills, abandon obsolete skills and to learn new ones. At the individual level networking and interpersonal skills are increasingly valuable.

Technology has also enabled task teams to be established in a more flexible way, around specific time-limited projects and using the Internet to overcome the barriers previously created by distance. Now that workers no longer need to be in the same location to cooperate, and there has been a rise in teleworking, this geographical dispersal has implications for how organizations work and the capacities required by their staff. International, multicultural project teams are increasingly common. As specialized knowledge and information has become more widely available, the skills demanded by the new modes of work increasingly go beyond what a person knows, to include their abilities to find relevant knowledge and information on a range of topics, and to be able to remain up to date. Analytical and ‘soft’ skills such as communication, intercultural understanding and interpersonal skills have therefore become increasingly important from an economic point of view.

The book makes a number of recommendations about how to strengthen national VET systems. These enabling strategies include strengthening capacity for data collection and management. Australia has a pretty useful capability in VET data collection, management and analysis. There are gaps that need filling. One gap it might be worth us focusing on is how we get the right information and analysis into the hands of teachers and trainers, and how teachers and trainers can assist in generating and analysing the right information and analysis. More bottom-up involvement of professionals at the front line would be a very good thing.


Posted by VET Centre on Tuesday, 20 October 2015 in Research

The Australian Society for Evidence Based Teaching concentrates on what the research tells us about great teaching in schools. That said, important principles of teaching practice apply wherever learning and teaching is the order of the day. In June the Society posted a very useful article titled 8 Strategies Robert Marzano & John Hattie Agree On.

Marzano and Hattie are the acknowledged captains of education when it comes to combing the research evidence and identifying what is effective in teaching and learning. And they don’t always come to the same conclusions. When they do it’s probably worth taking a close look.

The article is concerned with the teaching strategies that make the biggest difference to students’ results. The Big 8 are:

1.    A Clear Focus for the Lesson

2.    Offer Overt Instruction – explicitly teach the things your students need to learn

3.    Get the Students to Engage With the Content

4.    Give Feedback

5.    Multiple Exposures – if you want students to internalise new information, you need to expose them to it several times

6.    Have Students Apply Their Knowledge

7.    Get Students Working Together

8.    Build Students’ Self-Efficacy – that is, build each student’s belief about their ability to successfully complete a task.

John Hattie is Chair of the Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership. The VET Blog has run a couple of posts about research on effective teaching that draw on Hattie’s work:

·         Teaching practices with the biggest effects on student achievement (posted 28 March 2014)

·         Seven things to remember about feedback – infographic (posted 2 July 2014).


Posted by VETCentre on Monday, 19 October 2015 in VET in Schools

In July the OECD released Focus on vocational education and training (VET) programmes, a four page overview of upper secondary VET programs in OECD nations. In Australia we do VETiS differently across state and territory jurisdictions. Nonetheless, there are specific references to Australia as a whole in this paper so it gives us some broad benchmarks.

The OECD’s membership comprises 34 of the world’s most developed economies. The paper notes that in one-third of OECD countries ‘over half of all upper secondary students participated in pre-vocational or vocational programmes but less than 30% of those students were exposed to work-based learning.’ On the OECD’s numbers (presented in a chart on page 1) about 50 per cent of Australian secondary school students enrols in VETiS. Australia just squeaks into this top third. In Austria, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Finland, the Netherlands and the Slovak Republic 70 per cent or more of upper secondary students do VET programs.

We need to temper those percentages with other data. In Australia, for example, there is a strong expression of the idea that VET provides ‘second chance’ education to early school leavers. It’s not something we explicitly recognise often enough, but it’s there. The OECD paper reports that:

On average, the age at graduation is higher for vocational graduates (22 years old) than for graduates of general programmes (19 years old). However, in Belgium, Brazil, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Ireland, the Netherlands and Norway, the average age of graduates from vocational programmes is 25 or older; in Australia, it reaches 31. One reason for these differences is that, in many education systems, VET provides a second chance by enabling some to reintegrate into a learning environment, developing skills that will thereafter increase their employability. For example, the Australian VET system is flexible and able to satisfy different needs at different stages of people’s lives, whether they are preparing for a first career, seeking additional skills to assist in their work or catching up on educational attainment.

The paper also observes that:

Having a strong work-based learning component integrated into VET programmes can act as a guarantee of excellence … In some systems, school-based learning is widely combined with work-based learning. Examples of this type of ‘dual system’ can be found in Austria, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Germany, Hungary, the Netherlands, the Slovak Republic and Switzerland.

Work-based learning isn’t a strong feature in VETiS in Australia. It is mostly encountered in school-based apprenticeships. This isn’t the same as saying that VETiS should be seen as a direct pathway to employment in Australia. That kind of progression is fading fast in our economy. There are fewer and fewer entry level jobs for school leavers. The first step into the labour market is increasingly one that is taken after graduation from a post-secondary qualification. (The VET Blog’s July post on this may be of interest – VET’s crucial role in readying young people for further study and work.) However, this doesn’t have to be set in stone. It’s entirely possible for Australia to build in aspects of a dual system into our secondary school VET programs. It would be a big challenging change and we’d need the education sectors, government, business and unions to get to ‘yes’ so it would take time too.

We could explore options for VET internships and cadetships, and structure VETiS outcomes so they act as active pathways to post-secondary study and employment. This isn’t as fanciful as it might seem. The United States is a long way from a dual system, yet there are examples of effective internship programs in which secondary schools and local businesses work together – see, for example, San Diego Met High School’s Learning Through Internships/Interests program.

It’s interesting that the OECD paper reports upper secondary VET graduates are five times less likely to enrol in post-secondary education than those who complete general academic programs. But again, this varies across countries and the variations have a lot to do with how well the secondary and post-secondary education systems are joined up. Pathway management is a key, and the report offers three examples where it’s done well:

… in Switzerland, dual diplomas combining a VET qualification with a university entrance qualification facilitate access to higher education. In Germany, access to university for VET graduates was formally enhanced in 2009 and is strongly supported by government campaigns. Lastly, in the Netherlands, the different learning routes – including vocational programmes – are structured in such a way that young people have the possibility to progress within the track they have chosen, and reach the equivalent of tertiary level education.

The paper offers a ‘bottom line’ – what it is wise for VETiS policy and practice to seek to achieve. The bottom line is this:

An increasing number of countries are recognising that good initial vocational education and training has a major contribution to make to economic competitiveness. At upper secondary level, VET is more strongly correlated to employability than general education, especially when policy makers succeed in aligning the skills obtained in the programmes with those demanded by the labour market. Nevertheless, improving the quality of VET is crucial to combatting the negative image of VET in many countries and to creating opportunities for further education. To achieve this, social partners can engage with the various levels of the VET system, from secondary to higher education, to develop work-based learning and to provide flexible modes of study suitable for adults with working and home commitments.


Posted by VETCentre on Wednesday, 14 October 2015 in VET Reforms

It’s no secret that in the last 18 months or so the spotlight on quality and regulation of VET provision has got brighter and the voices for change have become louder and urgent. It’s great that the concern about VET quality is so intense. So it always should be. It’s grating that widening concern about VET quality has been focused by the unbelievable behaviour of a few providers who decided VET was about profit rather than education and training. Let there be an end to them.

The question we must now confront is how to bring an end to them. That shines the spotlight on two elements that must be at the fore in a contestable market: provider regulation, and the informed exercise of choice by people who enrol in a VET program. It’s likely the Victorian government, through Steve Herbert, Minister for Training and Skills, will have more to say on this very soon, drawing on the recommendations of the VET Quality Review (see this VET Blog post) and the VET Funding Review (due very soon). It’s also likely the new Commonwealth Minister for Education and Training, Simon Birmingham, will continue to tweak the regulatory regime as he has done for the past year or so in his junior ministerial role.

The NCVER is, as usual, doing the kind of research that helps inform the policy choices for VET regulation. In mid-September NCVER released Regulating and quality assuring VET: international developments (72 pages), written by Josie Misko. The report investigates approaches to regulation in Canada (province of Ontario), New Zealand, Finland, Sweden, South Africa and United Kingdom, and by two accrediting agencies in the United States.

The structure of the report is good because at the end of each chapter there is a section titled ‘Lessons learnt’ in which Misko suggests what it might sense to do about regulation in Australia. After an opening chapter that surveys definitions of quality and its importance, ‘Lessons learnt’ appears at the end of each of these chapters:

·         Deciding on suitable quality frameworks, standards and indicators

·         Sensible and effective regulation

·         A significant role and voice for industry

·         Improving the quality of teaching and assessment

·         The need for accountability and transparency

·         Combining internal monitoring mechanisms with external review (this means a process of structured self-assessment/self-review by providers that is linked closely to review by the responsible regulator).

That’s a lot of turf, and it’s all covered very well. We might look at just one area here, much of which is covered in the chapter titled ‘Improving the quality of teaching and assessment’ (pages 42-48). The report suggests that we really need to get to grips with teacher/trainer preparation and continuing professional development, and we need to establish accepted standards of teacher/trainer professionalism regarding external validation of assessment tools, strategies, and practices and the moderation of results. None of these ideas is new to debate in Australia. We’ve had long discussions about the adequacy of the Certificate IV in TAE, and about the need for a professional association for VET teachers/trainers. (On this last point, you might be interested in a VET Blog post of a few weeks back – The UK has a new VET professional body).

On the matter of teacher preparation, the report notes that:

… lack of knowledge about the theory or techniques of assessment as well as validation and moderation practices could be in part addressed by requiring the inclusion of more assessment modules in the Certificate IV in Training and Assessment Training Package and requiring training systems and/or registered training organisations to offer practitioners regular professional development activities about assessment, including RPL. Lack of rigour in assessments, especially for the Certificate IV in Workplace Training and Assessment, might also be addressed by implementing more stringent registration processes for registered training organisations wanting to have this qualification on scope.

Teaching, learning and assessment are continually evolving. The advent of e-learning and e-assessment is an example, and harnessing their power is still an area of pedagogy that is unfolding. Models of workplace delivery and assessment are changing too, as are industry expectations about learning and assessing soft skills. The nature of work is constantly changing and the training system must keep up with those changes in delivery and assessment practice. It’s also true that learning how to teach is a reflective exercise best undertaken individually and with collaboratively with other teachers. The initial qualification is a platform for practice – how you build on that platform is a matter for ongoing professional development. Yet we have no nationally agreed mechanism for requiring and tracking professional growth. The report observes that:

Suggestions are made for the creation of a ‘master VET practitioner’ or ‘master teacher’ category and for providing qualifications that would enable those with general teaching qualifications to acquire VET teacher qualifications. There are also suggestions for a professional association for Australian VET, which would eventually be responsible for accrediting or registering teachers and trainers; a mentoring system for beginning teachers; and a formal teaching scholarship centre, which would focus on the pedagogy of VET.

Under ‘Lessons learnt’ in the chapter on ‘Improving the quality of teaching and assessment’, Misko writes:

Effective training and assessment practices are the key components of a well-functioning VET system. They underpin the quality and integrity of knowledge and skills acquisition, the qualifications issued by awarding bodies or providers and the reputations of institutions. Key to their development is having in place comprehensive programs for the preparation and induction of trainers and assessors as well as requirements for continuing professional education.

Regulatory effort based on stringent quality principles for training delivery ought to mean that enterprises and students, who must make the decision about which RTO to go to for their training needs, can choose confidently because only competent RTOs are in the training marketplace.

Regulatory effort based on stringent quality principles for training delivery ought to mean that enterprises and students, who must make the decision about which RTO to go to for their training needs, can choose confidently because only competent RTOs are in the training marketplace. Last modified on Wednesday, 14 October 2015 Continue reading Hits: 1165


Posted by VETCentre on Thursday, 08 October 2015 in VET

The Awards season is almost over. In Hobart on 19 November the Australian Training Awards will bring together state and territory award winners in 15 categories. In addition, a Lifetime Achievement Award and a National Achievement Award will be announced.

Finalists in the VET Teacher/Trainer of the Year Award are:

·         Geoff Way from CMI Toyota Adelaide

·         Stephen Lunn from Tasmania’s Guilford Young College

·         Kate Herbert from Victoria’s Swinburne University of Technology

·         Danni Grundy from the C. Y. O’Connor Institute in WA

·         Troy Everett of TAFE NSW – Illawarra Institute

·         Melissa Dinn from Kirana Training in the ACT

·         Mathew Deveraux from the Northern Territory’s Taminmin College

·         Sharan Berry from TAFE Queensland East Coast.

Details about the finalists in all categories are being posted progressively on the Australian Training Awards website.

Victoria held its State Training Awards ceremony on 28 August. The finalists and winners in 14 categories are listed here. Among those receiving awards were:

·         Shane Lawtey from Melbourne Polytechnic – Victorian VET Client Service/Support Excellence Award

·         Lyndoch Living Aged Care Training Initiative – Victorian Industry Collaboration Award

·         Victorian Automobile Chamber of Commerce – Victorian Employer Award for Apprentice Development

·         Plumbing Industry Climate Action Centre – Victorian Small Training Provider of the Year

·         Wodonga Institute of TAFE – Victorian Large Training Provider of the Year (with special congratulations from the VET Development Centre as we sponsor this award)

·         Nhill Neighbourhood House Learning Centre – Victorian Community Training Provider of the Year.

Nhill Learning Centre also featured in Victoria’s Learn Local Awards ceremony at Collingwood Town Hall on 10 September, winning the AMES Diversity Innovation Award for its Job Ready, Lifestyle and Karen Language programs.

The Learn Local Awards winners are listed here, and include:

·         Karen Fleischer, Paynesville Neighbourhood Centre – Outstanding Practitioner

·         Creating Pathways into the Community, Shepparton Access – Outstanding Pathways Program

o    YouthNow’s BizE Centre – Excellence in Creating Local Solutions.

Congratulations to all finalists and winners.


Posted by VETCentre on Monday, 05 October 2015 in Industry

NBN Co ¬– the organisation responsible for rolling out Australia’s national broadband network – commissioned a study on how the NBN will influence what work we will do and how we’ll do it. The report, Super connected jobs: understanding Australia’s future workforce (16 pages), starts out with a section titled ‘The great Australian work shift.’ The report’s author, Bernard Salt, suggests that:

Australian jobs of the future will have two layers: jobs created by new technology and jobs created by increased population levels.

Increasing population levels marks Australia out as different from most developed economies which must work out how to deal with declining populations that will be, on average, much older than ours. Salt notes that:

High levels of immigration and a strong birth rate will lift the base population over the next decade. Australian jobs of the future will be different to jobs of the future in Japan or Germany, where the change emphasis lies with the way technology is reconfiguring labour demand. The Australian workforce will also be reshaped by the impact of new technology but there is the added fact that many quite traditional jobs will remain in high demand because of population growth in this nation.

The report points out the areas of job growth all have a common thread: connectivity. Salt looks at five categories of work that will grow, each of which will make substantial use of the benefits of connectivity:

·         The care givers – social workers, aged-care workers, child-care workers and youth workers.

·         The technocrats – medical laboratory scientists, electrical engineers, computer programmers and web designers.

·         The specialist professions – general medical practice, dentistry, gerontology, urban planning, occupational health & safety, primary school teaching, secondary school teaching, university lecturing and vocational trade teachers.

·         The doers – electricians, carpenters and sales reps.

·         The creatives – fitness instructors, pet groomers, photographers and beauty therapists.

There are several things to note about this list:

·         First, these job categories and occupations are all based on growth in specific occupations over the past 10 years

·         The occupations are very similar to the ones we are familiar with now – what will be different is how digital technology will alter the way we do them

·         Trade teachers are on the growth list, but as you can readily see, there will be a continuing need for VET teachers who know how to put digital technology to work in the occupations they teach to. Salt provides growth figures for occupations from 2001 to 2011 and notes that primary school teacher numbers grew by 22 per cent over that period. That means there are lots of lifelong learners on their way to tertiary education.

Salt explains it like this:

… whatever jobs are created in the future a common denominator will be, access to the universal connectivity designed to be delivered by the NBN network.

Digital disruption combined with universal connectivity will indeed create new business models and new jobs. But for the majority of the Australian workforce, job growth will occur in categories that are tied to population and housing growth and to an expansion of existing commercial contracts in mining, agriculture and even manufacturing.

Access to fast broadband no matter where one lives is more likely to refine and improve current jobs rather than replace them entirely.

Salt also points out that the emphasis on STEM and entrepreneurship skills will continue to grow. In both these areas Australia has a bit of work to do.


Posted by VETCentre on Wednesday, 30 September 2015 in VET Reforms

Industry Skills Councils (ISCs) were charged by the Australian government with maintaining and improving links between industry and the ongoing development of nationally recognised vocational education and training. ISC work on training package development came to an end in April this year when the government announced new arrangements for training product development.

ISCs were part of the VET furniture from 2004 so it is a good thing that the depth of experience and breadth of learning that ISCs built up is captured for future reference. The ISCs commissioned research that we’ve not mentioned before in the VET Blog. A final report on the research was released in mid-2014, titled Impact analysis of the workforce development activities of Industry Skills Councils – and lessons for the future (114 pages).

Perhaps one of the most interesting parts of the report is the identification of five critical success factors for workforce development which emerged from case studies undertaken as part of the research. The critical success factors are:

·         Senior support for workforce planning and development within the organisation

·         A consistent culture of training and workforce development

·         The availability of flexible and tailored training options

·         Alignment between workforce development plans and investments with long-term strategic objectives

·         Government co-investment and support.

Each of these is explained in some detail. For example, access to flexible, tailored training options is discussed from a number of angles. The report notes that:

For most enterprises, investing in workforce development comprises not just the financial costs of training, but also that oftentimes more significant costs of temporary disruptions to operations, and lost staff wages and employees are taken offline for training … the availability of flexible and tailored training options are critical, both to ensure that there is high-quality, work-based training, and to minimise the aforementioned disruptions and costs.

The authors go on to say that:

… government funding or programs should therefore allow for a high degree of flexibility in training delivery, and not discourage the development of innovative solutions that meet the specific training needs and operational context of a given enterprise. As reported by Qube Ports and Bulk [one of the case study organisations], training does not have as great an impact when it is generic, and when individuals cannot relate it to their day-to-day jobs.

The report works its way to four key lessons for design of future workforce development programs:

·         An enterprise-led model. Future workforce development programs should be genuinely enterprise-led, based on some up-front investment to help develop strong business engagement.

·         Co-investment from enterprises. Appropriate co-investment levels are both necessary for, and an indication of, high level commitment to workforce development and the attendant benefits within an enterprise.

·         Capacity, capability and credibility of supporting intermediaries. Given the need to directly engage and develop the capacity of enterprises, appropriate intermediaries will play an important role in the implementation of government workforce development policies.

·         Broad measures of benefit and outcomes. Meaningful outcomes measures that are aligned with the long-term return on workforce planning and development for the enterprises, industries or regions need to be developed and incorporated into future program designs. These could include increased profitability, productivity gains, improved competitiveness, community benefits, and industry specific parameters such as quality of care outcomes in the health sector.

There’s also a good table on page 11 of the report which draws distinctions between workforce development and training. Characteristics of workforce development include:

·         Aimed at the enterprise, industry and/or region

·         Skills needs are enterprise specific and targeted

·         Key objectives are industry productivity and competitiveness.

Characteristics of training include:

·         Aimed primarily at the individual

·         Skill needs are generic and transferable

·         Key objectives are employment outcomes.


Posted by VETCentre on Tuesday, 29 September 2015 in Research

Melbourne’s Mitchell Institute has completed an analysis of what is happening to the growth in funding across the school, VET and university sectors, and how each sector’s share of funding is changing. The analysis is reported in Expenditure on education and training in Australia (11 pages), which was released in late August.

The Institute’s work shows that from 2003-2014:

·         Higher education expenditure has grown by 40 per cent, from $16.5 billion to $23.5 billion

·         School education expenditure has grown by 25 per cent, from $33.2 billion to $41.4 billion

·         VET expenditure has grown by 5 per cent, from $6.0 billion to $6.3 billion (with a marked decline from 2012-2013 to 2013-2014)

As the authors note, ‘The gap in spending between VET and the other education sectors is growing despite national agreements to improve workforce skills levels.’

The report also provides data on the growth of Higher Education Loan Programme (HELP) payments from 2008-2013. VET FEE-HELP was introduced in 2009. By 2013 it accounted for 12 per cent of all income contingent loan payments to providers. The report observes that:

While access to income contingent loans is growing, many VET students are facing increasing levels of upfront fees but cannot access income contingent loans. Governments should consider the benefits of establishing a single and consistent income contingent loan scheme as part of a new tertiary funding model.

Earlier posts in The VET Blog have looked at Mitchell Institute reports that explore the national value in moving to a single income contingent loan scheme:

·         Fair shares – student contributions to the cost of tertiary education (posted 6 August 2015)

·         Paying for tertiary education in Australia – governments and students footing the bill(posted 11 March 2015).


Posted by VETCentre on Monday, 28 September 2015 in Research

The NCVER has announced the outcomes of its funding round under the National Vocational Education and Training Research (NVETR) program. Seven grants were awarded and all bear on matters of current significance to the evolution of VET practice and the VET system.

Griffith University’s Steven Hodgewill lead a research project looking at the contribution of the VET student placement process to innovations. The project will ‘examine the whole process of student placement, including the role of the firm, the student and the provider, and how this contributes to innovation in the host firm.’ (Readers who attended the VET Development Centre’s Teaching and Learning Conference will remember Steven as one of our keynote speakers.)

Don Scott-Kemmis and Associates have a grant to investigate ‘the current and possible future role of VET in the emerging entrepreneurial ‘system’ in Australia – and to provide a specific regional case study.’ (Entrepreneurialism is a topic of growing interest and the development of entrepreneurial skills is working its way up the agenda for education providers. You may be interested to look at an earlier post on The VET Blog –Youth entrepreneurialism can help tackle youth unemployment in Australia.)

A Brotherhood of St Laurence research team, led by Eric Dommers, will undertake a research project entitled ‘Factors enabling entry into and engagement with VET for young early school leavers.’

Justin Brown from the Australian Council for Educational Research will head up a project that will look at learner choice in fully-contestable training markets. The project will consider:

·         the awareness and perceived value of entitlements to training, from the students’ perspective

·         the extent to which these choices are restricted by local training supply and labour market needs

·         the extent to which the VET system and underpinning RTO practices are responding consistently in terms of:

o    equipping young people with information needed to make an ‘informed choice’

o    access to entitlements

o    strategies to improve access and broaden choice.

The other projects are:

·         ‘Enhancing training advantage for remote Indigenous learners’ – led by Ninti One Ltd and John Guenther from Flinders University

·         ‘Improving student participation and success in post-school VET’ – led by Stephen Lamb from Victoria University’s Centre for International Research on Education Systems

·         ‘Choosing VET: investigating the formation of VET aspirations’ – led by Jenny Gore from The University of Newcastle.

A little more detail on the projects is available here.


Posted by VETCentre on Tuesday, 22 September 2015 in Language, Literacy and Numeracy

The National Foundation Skills Strategy Project (NFSS) has done a terrific job in exploring best practice in LLN and extending support to foundation skills practitioners. You can now access a range of reports and support materials from the NFSS website, including:

·         Professional practice in foundation skills final report

·         contact details for the Foundation Skills Community of Practice projects

·         case studies of Foundation Skills Workplace Champions (scroll to the bottom of this page).

This post focuses on one key input to the final report noted above, which is titled Research to identify and qualify professional practice in foundation skills (30 pages). That key input is the outcomes of a survey of almost 800 foundation skills practitioners conducted by the NCVER in late 2014. The data from the survey is reported in Who is delivering foundation skills? (72 pages).

You can browse through the report to pick up the details, or go straight to the summary section (pages 37-40). The report tells us that of those who completed the survey:

·         78% were women aged between 45 and 64 years

·         almost 30% were from Victoria, followed by 22% from NSW

·         almost 54% were employed on a full time basis

·         about a third has worked in foundation skills for more than 15 years.

That’s a gold mine of deep experience and know-how. The survey had a particular line of inquiry related to professional learning opportunities for foundation skills practitioners.

The survey asked practitioners about the content of the professional development they had mostly undertaken, to which they replied reporting and systems compliance; using new resources, learning about new delivery modes/methods, digital literacy and integrating LLN into vocational contexts. The report notes that practitioners were happy with these development opportunities.

They were also asked what kind of professional learning would make the most difference in the future. Practitioners had three suggestions:

·         Becoming more adept at using and exploiting new technologies and incorporating their use into training would be useful to some respondents in fulfilling their current role.

·         More in-depth professional development focused on specific learner groups (such as those with learning disabilities, disengaged youth or those with mental health issues), and mixed-level groups.

·         Networking with other practitioners and experts, and professional development focused on managerial and leadership skills were also considered to be activities that could help respondents fulfil their current roles.

The survey also asked practitioners whether they would support a formal arrangement for recognising the professional development they undertake as occurs, for example, with professional associations. So you might think of something as straightforward as formal certificates of attendance, or something more structured like a system of points for continuing professional development (CPD). Nearly 80% of those who responded to the survey were in favour of formal arrangements. They came up with a long list of benefits including:

·         increased credibility of the individual and professionalism of the industry;

·         would encourage more teachers to invest more time in their own professional development

·         ensures individuals maintain currency

·         more recognition of professional development will bring greater value to it and employers will recognise its worth;

·         offers opportunities to be part of a larger networking system which may help further develop skills by associating with other professionals

·         provides a systematic means of maintaining a record of professional development undertaken, particularly important for capturing self-funded training.

That’s a pretty resounding vote in favour, and a list of sound reasons for doing so. Perhaps we need to think some more about the value of, and support for, a professional association for VET practitioners.

One question on the survey asked about the kind of work done by survey respondents who were not directly involved in LLN and employability skills training. It’s a very long list of key support activities. This is just a sample:

·         Resource development:

o    developing training and assessment resources and tools

o    gathering/collating appropriate resources for use by trainers

·         Pathways and support:

o    providing information to trainers and/or students about educational pathways or appropriate learner support groups

o    discuss study and work goals with learners

·         Capacity building:

o    training volunteers

o    organising professional development for staff involved in the direct delivery of foundation skills to learners

o    delivering LLN-related units in the Training and Education Training Package

o    mentoring trainers who deliver units in the Foundation Skills Training Package

o    working with vocational trainers to incorporate LLN tasks into VET assessment tasks and learning activities

·         Administrative-related roles:

o    administer and coordinate courses including course and session planning, timetabling, pre-enrolment information, interview and LLN assessment of students

o    compliance and audit management

o    marketing of program

o    problem-solving information technology issues

o    source funding

o    strategic planning.


Posted by VETCentre on Monday, 21 September 2015 in Research

The indefatiguable Foundation for Young Australians (FYA) has just released a report that has generated a good deal of media interest and discussion across the nation. The report is called The new work order: Ensuring young Australians have skills and experience for the jobs of the future, not the past (50 pages). The report’s appeal rested in part on its practical approach to an emerging reality we frequently skirt around. FYA’s CEO, Jan Owen, puts it pretty directly in her Foreword to the report:

Economic changes are transforming work through automation, globalisation and more flexible work. This could bring opportunity. But it could also further disadvantage young people in labour markets. For example, the report shows currently around 70% of young Australians are getting their first job in roles that will either look very different or be completely lost in the next 10 to 15 years due to automation. Nearly 60% of Australian students (70% in VET) are currently studying or training for occupations where at least two thirds of jobs will be automated. Over 50% of jobs will require significant digital skills and yet our young people are not learning them in schools.

At FYA we see a significant opportunity to sure up our nation’s future by investing in the next generation and backing them to create the kind of world they want to live in. Core to this will be a generations of enterprising young people who are job builders and creators, not only job seekers.

That’s why FYA is calling for a national enterprise skills strategy to ensure young people are prepared for the economy of the future and equipped with the tools to drive economic and social progress. We want all young Australians to learn the skills to be digitally-literate, financially-savvy, innovative and adaptable and help them navigate complex careers of the future.

The VET Blog has dipped into this territory a couple of times in recent months. If you’ve a mind, you could check out:

·         a June post titled Youth entrepreneurialism can help tackle youth unemployment in Australia ¬– the post considers a paper from the Australian Clearinghouse for Youth Studies on supporting young people through engagement with start-ups and employment focused social enterprises

·         a July post entitled Growing and declining industries in Australia – here we looked at the Careers in Australia Report from finder.com.au that demonstrates substantial shifts towards high skilled, service oriented jobs in the Australian economy (with variations between states and territories which must be acknowledged)

·         an August post titled Changes in the work Australians will do, and who they work for – this post reflects on a Committee for Economic Development of Australia report calledAustralia’s future workforce? The report suggests that around 40 per cent of Australian jobs are likely to be automated in the next 10-15 years, and that there is a strong trend towards employment growth relying much more on self-employment.

Each of these explorations is in synchrony with the FYA report. The new work ordersuggests that

our tertiary and VET education systems need reform. In the context of this education and future jobs mismatch, it may be worth exploring whether our tertiary institutions should be more directed at encouraging entrepreneurship, including self-employment. In particular, governments could explore the feasibility of making accessible HECS, FEE HELP, and government-subsidised training in VET to students who participate in entrepreneurship education facilities run by successful entrepreneurs.

FYA’s report is a useful reference for several reasons beyond the challenging analysis and recommendations for education systems and government policy.

First, the graphical representation data is very good – this makes it easy to inform discussions about future work prospects and educational planning, whether that it is at the individual level with students, or the strategic level with your colleagues.

Second, chapter 5 offers an overview of policies adopted in other countries, or proposed by the OECD, that seek to support young Australians to become working Australians with a productive future.


Posted by VETCentre on Friday, 18 September 2015 in Workforce Development

The VET Development Centre has long held an interest in the potential for a VET professional body in Australia. Some readers may recall the Centre’s research study on this topic, undertaken by Hugh Guthrie and Berwyn Clayton. Their report – An association for VET’s professionals: What’s the story? – is available from this page on the Centre’s website.

So with that abiding interest, our eyes turned to recent developments in the UK. It’s a slightly complicated background story but the end result is that a couple of months ago theSociety for Education and Training (SET) was launched. SET’s website explains that it is a professional body for

trainers, teachers, assessors, tutors, support staff, mentors, coaches and managers, working across the rich diversity of settings in education and training, including colleges, independent training providers, adult and community learning, employer/providers, the voluntary sector, justice sector, and the armed services.

SET has developed a strategy statement (6 pages) which spot up seven key areas of work. The strategy statement notes that professional development is at the heart of SET’s activities and that it will acquit this responsibility in five ways:

·         access to quality development opportunities

·         access to valuable educational content, with support to apply it in practice

·         facilitating active face-to-face and online communities to share thoughts and experiences on addressing new policy or teaching practice

·         supporting members’ involvement in their own practitioner research to add to the wider knowledge base for the post-16 sector

·         building recognition for ongoing professional development through refreshed membership levels, enhancements to Qualified Teacher Learning and Skills

(QTLS is effectively the minimum requirement for teaching in the UK’s further education sector.)

Earlier in this post there was mention of a complicated background to SET’s establishment. That might need a bit of explanation. Until late 2014 the Institute for Learning (IfL) was the professional membership body for UK VET professionals. A key reason for its closure was that at the end it had attracted to its ranks only a small fraction of all VET professionals.

The assets of the IfL were then transferred to the Education and Training Foundation(ETF) which is a standards setting body on governance, leadership and professionalism. ETF is owned by peak bodies in the UK training sector ¬– the Association of Colleges,Association of Employment and Learning Providers, and the Association of Adult Education and Training Organisations.

And the ETF assisted VET professionals to launch SET with ambitions to sign up a large proportion of their colleagues.


Posted by VETCentre on Friday, 11 September 2015 in Workforce Development

Compass is so much more than a workshop. Using the extensive leadership experience of Dattner Grant, this artfully designed program builds insight through dialogue, based on the premise that women shine when they work in collaboration with male leaders and each other. The workshop is designed to bring out the strengths and unique qualities of female leadership, and enhance and advance women’s leadership contribution.

This is a terrific program and all who have completed it have found it personally and professionally rewarding. As we know, succession planning and generational change are key management issues and critical for the ongoing renewal of the sector.

To find out more information about the program click here.


Posted by VETCentre on Thursday, 10 September 2015 in VET

Back in May we posted about the 25 Skillaroos selected to represent Australia at the 43rdInternational WorldSkills Competition in Brazil. The event ran from 12-15 August and the Skillaroos did us proud. WorldSkills Australia has a bundle of photos from the fourth day of competition on its Facebook page – worth checking out.

The gold, silver and bronze medallists for all 50 skills competitions are listed on the WorldSkills website. You might like to scroll down the page to spot up the Skillaroos who are bringing home a medal:

·         Samuel Spong ¬– Bricklaying, Bronze

·         Dylan Di Martino – Plumbing and Heating, Bronze

·         Jyothi Forman – Jewellery, Silver

·         Harlan Wilton – Web Design, Silver

·         Joseph Pauley – Industrial Mechanics Millwright, Silver.

A word of congratulations to the WorldSkills Experts who plan in exquisite detail the Test Projects that competitors are asked to tackle during the competition. Their efforts are highlighted in the WorldSkills website here.

You might also be interested to read a little about what the benefits of WorldSkills Competitions are to individual competitors, to experts, to industry and to national training systems. WorldSkills: Inspiring skills excellence (12 pages) is a brochure that conveys in brief the findings from research conducted at the 2011 WorldSkills Competition in London. (The research partners were RMIT University, the University of Tampere in Finland, and Oxford University in the UK.)


Posted by VETCentre on Tuesday, 08 September 2015 in VET

Australian VET providers have long engaged with Asia through providing onshore and offshore educational services. There is now an increasing emphasis in government policy and trade initiatives on expanding that engagement. As noted in a recent post in the VET Blog, the Victorian government is currently developing an international education strategy (see Discussion papers and consultation on Victoria’s high potential growth industries). Meanwhile the Commonwealth government is developing a National Strategy for International Education which is due for release later in 2015. Both are making lots of room for VET.

A recent trip to China and Korea by Simon Birmingham, the Commonwealth government’sAssistant Minister for Education and Training, is a useful lens through which to see how the strengths of Australia’s VET system are now being promoted with greater focus. Senator Birmingham, along with a delegation of Australian VET leaders, had a very full itinerary from 13-18 July which included:

·         Hosting the Australia-China VET Strategic Policy Dialogue in Beijing

·         Visiting Huawei’s headquarters in Beijing when Huawei announced the establishment of its first National Training and Development Centre for Australia, based in Sydney

·         Signing in Beijing an agreement that will allow ASQA to conduct audits in China to ensure the quality of vocational education and training programs delivered there by Australian providers

·         Attending a Roundtable on VET convened by the Australian Chamber of Commerce in Shanghai

·         Visiting the Shanghai Pharmaceutical School which has a decade long, very successful collaboration with Box Hill Institute

·         Visiting Korea Polytechnic which has a close relationship with Sydney Institute of TAFE in VET teacher training.

The range of activities that fill this itinerary, pieced together from Minister Birmingham’s media releases, highlight the potential for VET in our region. Recent free trade agreements (FTAs) between Australia and China, and Australia and Korea, have provided a framework for Australian VET providers to become more engaged with these nations. There is some contest around the upsides and downsides of these FTAs, but what’s interesting is that a framework is in the mix that would enable collaborations on defining occupational standards, mapping qualifications, developing a shared understanding of quality assurance, and improving labour mobility.

It’s interesting to note that a similar framework is under development with the Asia-Pacific Economic Community (APEC) through a project called Integrated Referencing Framework for Skills Recognition and Mobility. Australia is leading this project, along with the Philippines and Taiwan.

Just step back for a moment and consider the scale of VET demand in our region. As Minister Birmingham noted during his time in Beijing:

Over 30 million students undertake formal VET in China, where the State Council has set the goal of increasing total VET student numbers to 38.3 million by 2020 to ensure a highly skilled workforce to support productivity and growth.

At present, the Minister reported, there are ‘35,000 people enrolled with Australian VET providers in China, which represents 72 per cent of total offshore enrolment numbers.’

Again borrowing the Minister’s statistics (this time from his from 28 July his speech to the Committee for Economic Development of Australia):

Based on India’s updated skills strategy released on 15 July this year, their aim is to up-skill more than 400 million people. This includes more than 100 million in workforce entrance, in requirement of skills training and nearly 300 million existing workers needing skills training, reskilling and up-skilling.

In relation to India, the Minister noted that Australia is

… already working on transnational standards and benchmarking in consultation with industry. The Australian Government has funded a project to map 23 qualifications in the automotive information technology and telecommunication sectors to Indian occupational standards [which will] then form the basis for future transnational standards that will enhance the ability of Australian providers to deliver training in those areas as well as the mobility of labour between our two countries.

Memorandum of Understanding between India and Australia will soon be signed that opens the way for greater exchange between the VET systems in both nations.

Watch the Asian space!


Posted by VETCentre on Monday, 07 September 2015 in VET Reforms

The Victorian Employers’ Chamber of Commerce and Industry (VECCI) established a Higher Education Taskforce to assess what changes were needed to Victoria’s VET system. The Taskforce’s report, Reforming the Victorian Vocational Education and Training (VET) System (44 pages), was exquisitely timed to catch the call for submissions to the Victorian VET Funding Review.

The Taskforce was very direct in its criticisms of Victoria’s VET system, citing declines in recent years in quality and stability, and increases in confusion and complexity. With that assessment in mind, the report’s broad position was equally direct:

VECCI considers a new VET funding model is needed to improve public training provider sustainability, restore government control over training priorities, improve training quality and provide greater training system flexibility in relation to industry and regional training needs.

The Taskforce specified three business priorities for the VET sector:

1.    Match training delivery to the growing job opportunities in Victorian industries

2.    Ensure all government-subsidised training is high quality

3.    Build a strong and responsive public TAFE sector.

Those priorities are reflected in the report’s nine recommendations, which included:

·         Reinstate core funding for the TAFE sector.

·         Introduce a new industry skills component in a revised VET funding model.

·         Link provider payments to performance and student retention.

·         Enhance the number and quality of audits of high-risk providers to ensure compliance. Reduce the level of regulation applying to compliant training providers.

In chapter 8 of the report, the Taskforce set out a series of other business expectations about the VET system, including that rural and regional communities have ‘access to training that meets their local needs.’ Another expectation of business is that school to work pathways are improved. Among the Taskforce’s six suggestions for securing such improvements were:

·         Review funding models and resource support to expand VET in schools options.

·         Consider the re-introduction of funding for regional career development resources and Structured Learning and Workplace Co-ordinators in order to strengthen student transition pathway options.

·         In conjunction with university providers of teacher qualifications, review existing delivery models to ensure graduates have appropriate teaching placement experience that improves overall teaching quality.

It’s notable that VECCI’s Taskforce also underlined that:

·         Foundation skills must be recognised as vital to the successful transition to the workplace

·         Improvements in language, literacy and numeracy skills must be a priority.

VECCI’s submission to the Victorian VET Funding Review was based on the Taskforce report. The VET Blog has several posts about the Funding Review, and about the Victorian Quality Assurance Review:

·         Victoria’s VET Funding Review releases Issues Paper (20 July 2015)

·         Outcomes from Victoria’s Review of VET Quality Assurance (9 July 2015)

·         Victoria’s VET Funding Review (17 February 2015).


Posted by VETCentre on Tuesday, 01 September 2015 in E-Learning

In our final post in this ILeP series, we are looking at the change dynamics associated with technology itself. There is no denying that technology is the key driving force behind the change occurring in the education space. Of all the above mentioned lenses, the window of technological change provides a clear vantage point for the future of VET delivery. Veletsianos (2011) informs us that access to technology alone has limited impact on learning outcomes and is often used to support passive, teacher-centred, and didactic instruction (Herrington et al, 2009). More recent studies have alluded to the fact that more mature approaches to technology use in education meet high-level objectives and outcomes of improved learner identity, support for self-directed lifelong learning and user driven social media platforms as locales for informal professional development.

Traditionally, the marriage of educational technology and instructional design has focused innovation as a tool for instruction – for example, linking web based content to courses. However, the work of Veletsianos, (2010) and Whitworth and Benson (2010), highlight the negotiated and symbiotic relationship between technology and pedagogy, noting that innovation in ‘technology sculpts education practice and educational practice moulds technology use’. Accordingly, technological change and innovation are critical factors in shaping the role of the practitioner in VET settings.   Technology affords the practitioner many instances to design opportunities for transformation of the learning experience. Noteworthy examples include:

·         Designing opportunities that allow engagement beyond course activities

·         Design for lasting impressions

·         Design for intrigue, risk-taking and challenge

·         Design for engagement

·         Design for reflection

Another area of change observed in education settings occurs in the ways in which we physically interact with technology. Many educators are beginning to capitalise on the phenomenon fast becoming known as mLearning or Mobile Learning (Taggart, 2013). By using smart devices, educators are embracing technology to enhance their curricula, promoting many different kinds of online learning activities. Mobile devices enable dispersed learning to be synchronised and shared through collaborative and connective learning frameworks. According to research, digital natives have been instrumental in the shift towards technology-enabled learning, demanding digital tools be an integral part of the learning process (Cutler, 2014). It seems prudent to consider this current learner demographic in the future planning of VET designed courses.

A final perspective on technological change is reflected in the way that we embrace and use technology for education. Learning is both social and experiential. Digital technology and its associated tools are transforming information and knowledge sharing in the learning space as learners engage with technology and establish strong personal learning networks. Learning incorporates intuitive (Barak & Zadok, 2009), social (Masie, 2006) and environmental (Truman, 2008) dynamics. Piaget [1896-1980] believed that social interaction was an essential component of cognitive development (Alexander, 2010). Digital natives are interacting more and more with ‘social networks’ of information via the WWW. They are intuitively seeking out and determining the value of information based on the quality of the social transaction that occurs within the online environment. Changes to the specification standards for learning technologies reflect this trend with the shift towards using the Tin Can API. This new standard enables easy recognition, communication, and recording of mobile learning, simulations, virtual worlds, serious games, real world activities, experiential learning, social learning, offline learning, and collaborative learning. It is important for VET practitioners to be considerate of this and to ensure that learners are given every opportunity to engage in socially rich learning experiences.


Posted by VETCentre on Monday, 31 August 2015 in Research

In an earlier post we looked at a recent NCVER report, Lessons from VET providers delivering degrees (44 pages). Drawing on the findings from that report, NCVER has also released a companion piece in the form of the Good Practice Guide for VET providers planning to deliver degrees (4 pages).

Victor Callan and Kaye Bowman have condensed from their research six best practice principles for VET providers who are considering higher education delivery. The principles are:

1.    Build on existing skills and relationships

2.    Develop a business case

3.    Work up to delivering higher education in your own right

4.    Develop appropriate academic governance arrangements

5.    Promote scholarship

6.    Provide additional student support.

As the Good Practice Guide observes,

… the first step for organisations planning to commence higher education provision is gaining experience in other VET-to-higher education arrangements. These experiences, either through partnerships with universities or other arrangements, develop the higher education knowledge and capability of staff.

This first step has a footing in a number of the principles. For example, under the fifth principle, ‘Promote scholarship’, the Guide suggests that:

VET providers moving into the delivery of higher education qualifications need to develop their own appropriate model for scholarship. This model will underpin their higher education provision and should add value to teaching and learning in their institution. One strategy is to leverage off partnerships with local universities and other VET providers offering higher education, the aim being to access networks, communities of practice, forums and shared professional development opportunities for staff.

On the matter of scholarship, we were pleased to see the Good Practice Guide list as a useful reference the outcome of a research project managed by the VET Development Centre – Towards a culture of scholarly practice in mixed-sector institutions (52 pages) is the report in question. You can download it from this page on the Centre’s website.

The Guide also makes the point that industry relationships, an acknowledged VET strength, can be drawn on to differentiate the higher education qualifications of VET providers. Best practice, the Guide suggests, involves

… industry experts in the development of the business plan and in the design and delivery of higher education courses, as well as providing placements and industry projects for students once the degrees are in place.

Over the years the NCVER has produced a number of good practice guides which may be of interest. They include:

·         Bringing a social capital approach into the teaching of adult literacy and numeracy: Good practice guide (2010, 6 pages)

·         High quality traineeships: Identifying what works – Good practice guide (2009, 6 pages)

·         The need for intensive reading approaches in adult literacy: Good practice guide(2008, 2 pages)

·         Literacy support for Indigenous VET students: Good practice guide (2006, 2 pages).


Posted by VETCentre on Wednesday, 26 August 2015 in Research

In a post a few days ago, Learners count (2) – better data on students in government funded training, we riffled through a new NCVER report on students enrolled in government funded training. According to that report, there are 2,500 students enrolled with VET providers in government-funded bachelor degrees, and 500 enrolled in associate degrees. Not many years ago that number was zero.

The National Centre for Vocational Education Research (NCVER) thought it would be good to ask what leads VET providers to go down this path, and what lessons do they have to share with us? NCVER asked Victor Callan and Kaye Bowman to follow those questions up and they have provided a comprehensive set of answers in Lessons from VET providers delivering degrees (44 pages). The report draws on six case studies of providers that have begun to offer associate and bachelor degrees:

·         Canberra Institute of Technology

·         Holmesglen Institute

·         Polytechnic West

·         TAFE SA

·         Tabor Adelaide

·         Think Education.

If you dip into NCVER reports by habit you’ll know that the key messages for each report are set out on a briefly and early, even before you get to the table of contents. There are four key messages in this report from this group of very diverse providers, which in part read as follows:

·         They chose to deliver degrees as pathways into higher education. They generally deliver these degrees in niche markets in which they have existing strengths. They see their competitive points of advantage as including the highly applied and field-based nature of their degrees and more personalised support for students than in traditional higher education providers.

·         They highlighted the challenges in moving VET staff to teaching in higher education and with providing opportunities for scholarship for staff teaching in higher education.

·         They suggest it’s important to involve industry in planning and implementing higher education degrees. Their strategy and positioning for delivery of degrees is constantly under review.

·         Changes in VET funding policies in some states, and the burden of having to report to two separate regulatory bodies, has led these VET providers to reduce the delivery of higher education qualifications.

One primary focus for the report was to assess the challenges that the six providers confronted in building capability among staff and students. Among the challenges they face is defining what constitutes scholarship in a VET environment, and what kinds of structures and supports are necessary to develop and maintain a scholarly orientation. These are questions that the VET Development Centre has explored in a number of projects. You may be interested to revisit three of our research reports, available for download from this page of the Centre’s website:

·         Scholarly engagement – Building knowledge with industry and the community in mixed-sector institutions

·         Towards a culture of scholarly practice in mixed-sector institutions

·         Naming and claiming a research culture in TAFE.

The NCVER report notes that each provider

… highlighted the challenges associated with defining and providing access to ongoing scholarship, noting that their current interest in scholarship is still emerging and understandably is more related to its usefulness in supporting applied teaching and learning. Their position on scholarship is aligned with the applied and professional nature of their higher education programs.

There were varying approaches to this task:

·         Holmesglen seeks ‘to develop a scholarly culture, one that values the critical role that research activity plays in the formation of knowledge. Examples of good practice in the more applied approaches to teaching and learning that have been developed include the simulated learning approaches in the nursing and early childhood education degrees, while the problem-based learning approaches and the use of industry connections provide authentic learning in the Faculty of Building Construction and Architectural Design.’

·         At Polytechnic West the ‘approach to scholarship in the light of its mixed-sector experience is to build a culture of scholarship rather than one of research across all of its areas of higher education teaching’

·         ‘Think encourages all staff to focus upon scholarship, and similar to the other case studies (for example, Polytechnic West) there is a broader definition of scholarship than adopted by universities.’

·         Tabor has ‘a workload model for higher education staff for research activity, which allocates annual hours for research and annual hours for scholarship. A number of staff publish in scholarly publications, including monographs, peer-reviewed journal articles and occasional papers. Some are engaged in national and international collaborative research programs, while there is a good level of support for attendance at short courses and conferences.’


Posted by VETCentre on Wednesday, 26 August 2015 in Research

This week we ask the question, “How do we Innovate education practice?” According to Valerie Hannon, Founding Director of Innovation Unit, UK, the ‘key characteristics of innovation include partnerships and collaboration at all levels, user-centredness, exploiting ICT’s potential, the importance of a highly interconnected approach, a focus on enhancing processes and the empowerment of users and communities’ (2007).

There has been a growing and widespread interest in the understanding of innovation in learning. In addition, there is a growing distance between the research on learning that is currently being generated and the application of this new knowledge base in educational settings (MCEETYA, 2008). Innovation in using digital technology in education happen ‘top down’ and ‘bottom up’ and from ‘within out’. However, research suggests that most sustainable change is achieved by management-sponsored and supported initiatives that develop and deliver new or improved programs and products, have an agreed budget and timelines, have a designated project manager, and have and express commitment to modify processes and systems as needed to make the desired changes happen (Australian Innovation, 2010). Within the VET system, innovation should be encouraged and fostered through a culture of effective professional learning and adaptive practice that is seen as encompassing four contextual frameworks.

1.    Relevance – VET practitioners and RTO managers/owners should find new solutions to issues they face including challenging their assumptions about their practice.

2.    Collaborative – New learning, including planning for and innovating practice, is constructed through social negotiation.

3.    Future focused – Practitioners should understand what practices work in different situations, and be equipped to deal with current and future challenges.

4.    Adaptive practice – to develop ‘adaptive expertise’, that is, an ability to apply deep learning knowledge and skills flexibly and creatively across a variety of contexts. This requires a willingness and agility to change core competencies, and a commitment to and professional interest in lifelong learning (AITSL).

Most effective digital learning plans are driven by identifying and resourcing a small number of key innovation projects (or ‘success leaders’) that deliver specific benefits to clients and the organisation, and that further promote the uptake of digital learning culture.

Innovation in VET practice using technology requires the genuine support of organisational culture. Without it, the best laid plans to innovate ‘just won’t happen’ (Coghlan, 2014). A key identifier of innovative change, the internationally recognised NMC Horizon Report: 2014 Higher Education Edition, highlights emerging technologies or practices that are likely to enter mainstream use over the next five years. The report states that pedagogical practices should be positioned at the centre of all innovation, and pinpoints that changes needed in policy, leadership and practice are the driving forces behind educational innovation (Horizon Report – 2014 Higher Education Edition).  


Posted by VETCentre on Tuesday, 25 August 2015 in Industry

The Victorian government has set aside $200m for its Future Industries Fund, the objective of which is to support ‘high growth, high value industries that are critical to securing Victoria’s future as a competitive, innovative and outward looking economy.’

There is a consultation process underway on eight industry sectors that are the Fund’s areas of interest. A Discussion Paper on each sector is intended to seek stakeholder views about issues, prospects and challenges. It’s a rolling process, with some sector consultations already closed, some underway and some yet to come.

The consultation is certainly inside the scope of VET practitioners. For starters, international education is one of the eight nominated sectors. But take a look at the Food and Fibre Discussion Paper and you can see how the consultations might well be of significance to VET providers. On pages 23-25 is a section titled ‘Attracting, retaining and building skills will help capture future opportunities’. Among other key points in this section are these:

·         Boosting skills from the boardroom to the factory floor can be a big challenge for businesses and thus the sector needs access to world class, lifelong education and training options. This includes vocational training and higher education.

·         The Victorian Government is strengthening and rebuilding regional TAFEs through the TAFE Rescue Fund and the TAFE Back to Work Fund which will help institutions build partnerships with companies in the food and fibre sector, better align skills training to industry needs and improve the level of education attainment in the sector.

·         Some young farmers and manufacturers require encouragement and support to invest, develop skills and build rewarding careers. To this end a Young Farmers Ministerial Advisory Council will be assembled to advise the government and a new Young Farmers Scholarship Program will help young farmers build their skills.

Consultation has closed on both the fibre and food, and international education discussion papers, but the quotes above give a sense that the discussion papers yet to come are going to bear on some of the opportunities that Victoria’s VET providers will have before them in coming years. The other industry sectors on the priority list are: medical technologies and pharmaceuticals; new energy technology; professional services; defence technology; construction technologies; and transport technologies.

As you’d expect, the international education has lots to say about VET – just a sample:

·         Future opportunities are not just limited to the potential supply of inbound international students. The continued demand for offshore program delivery and customised training for global industry partners is also another area of significant demand.

·         Victoria is the national leader in delivering offshore Australian training qualifications. There are significant opportunities over the coming decade for TAFEs and high-quality private VET providers to increase provision of offshore training. In Asia alone, the key markets are estimated to be worth billions of dollars as countries realise the value of a skilled workforce to their economies and seek large-scale reform and investment in VET.

·         For a number of years global higher education providers have packaged together short customised programs to meet very specific needs of industry clients and professional bodies. Given its industry focussed foundations, Victorian VET providers have the potential to replicate this approach and deliver quality, cost-effective products globally.

The international education discussion paper posed 24 consultation questions, including:

·         What are the specific market development opportunities for the various sub-sectors of international education (ie schools, English language, VET, undergraduate and postgraduate/research)?

·         Given the diverse range of higher education courses, delivery modes and student cohorts, what should the future mix of Victoria’s higher education exports look like?

·         In what training fields are VET providers predicting strong demand for onshore education?

·         How can the VET sector better participate in the growing transnational education market?

·         What is regional Victoria’s distinctive value proposition as a provider of international education and how can we market this better to prospective international students and offshore governments and industry?

·         How can we support growth in outbound students programs for Victoria’s secondary and tertiary students?

·         What are the opportunities for closer engagement with business and industry as partners in the sector’s growth and sustainability?

The Victorian government’s priority for international education is apparent in the funding in the last state budget of the International Student Welfare Grants program which will support the delivery of a range of opportunities and services to post-secondary international students. And of course, Victoria is sensibly trading on its ranking as thesecond best city in the world for students – pipped by Paris and ahead of Sydney which is ranked fourth.

VET clearly has a role in each of the industry sectors for which Discussion Papers are yet to come. You can visit the consultation home page for full details about how to contribute your views. At the time of writing this post the current status of consultation for each sector is as follows.

Consultation on the following sectors closed on 17 August:

·         Food and fibre – you can still read the Food and Fibre Discussion Paper (32 pages)

·         International Education you can still read the International Education Discussion Paper(32 pages).

Consultation on the following sector closes on 7 September:

·         You can download the Medical Technologies and Pharmaceuticals Discussion Paper.

Consultation on the following sectors has not commenced – when they become available you can download the Discussion Papers at these links:

·         New energy technology

·         Professional services

·         Defence technology

·         Construction technologies

·         Transport technologies.


Posted by VETCentre on Wednesday, 19 August 2015 in E-Learning

This week we focus on the most critical element of digital education in VET–pedagogy. Web 2.0 technologies have had a major impact on pedagogy by enabling the two-way flow of information and the sharing of experience via the World Wide Web (Mason & Rennie, 2010).

There has been much discussion of how this change generates different ways of learning where the content is sourced by the learners or generated (constructed) by collaboration, rather than being provided and packaged by the teacher/trainer/RTO. The notion of student designed learning in VET in some ways is not new, but the power and convenience of the tools and the volume of material available has produced daunting demands and challenges (Miller, 2014).

Competency/Problem/Project/Inquiry based learning is replacing the push methodology of content delivery in the VET sector and across educational spectrums, from K-12 through to higher education (Johnson & Lamb, 2007). By changing the way content, assessment, and feedback are organised, and by putting learners at the centre of the educational experience, these pedagogies enable the development of critical analytical skills required for both specific subject matter and general lifelong learning (Gregorc, 2012). These pedagogies require teachers/trainers/RTOs to redesign delivery using a solution oriented approach. The literature informs us that teaching presence focuses on three major functions – design, facilitation and direction of the learning experience (Banner, 2014). This renewed look at teaching through the lens of digital learning pedagogies asks that practitioners build teaching presence by designing learning events that guide participants through learning materials, reinforce key concepts, foster critical thinking skills, provide opportunities for formative feedback and support and evaluate progress throughout the learning experience. It is important to note here that social and cognitive presence is also needed to support learning by cultivating engagement and fostering vibrant knowledge communities.

These communities, supported by Web 2.0 technologies, facilitate group sharing as they enable ease of engagement, support a learner focus and develop lifelong and problem based learning skills (McLaughlin & Lee, 2008). The social aspects of learning are also considered as the networked group builds metacognition and is considerate of the psychosocial (building social skills and making social connections) and instrumental (developing professional, academic and communication skills) aspects of PD (Baron & Car, 2009).

Web 2.0 is fast becoming an established norm within VET practice. There is clearly growth in using situational technologies, social media, ePortfolios, and online networks within qualifications, skill sets and non-accredited training. As technology advances and Web 3.0 technologies emerge (Spivac, 2014), the associated pedagogical change will further enhance ways of learning in VET.

Instructional design plays a significant role in influencing educational design (Beach, 2014). VET practitioners are cautiously considering adopting new and innovative approaches to course design and delivery. Blended frameworks, mobile delivery, flipped classrooms, MOOCS and gamification are some of the potential platforms being moderated. Heichelbech (2014) states that ALL educators would be willing to incorporate technology into their teaching practice if they had time to properly plan for relevant execution. Part of this comes down to the need to create the opportunities for educators to do so. There are a number of instructional design theories used to explain the process of technology integration into teaching practice – the ADDIE model of instructional design (Branson et al, 1975), ARCS model of motivation (Keller, 1987) and the ASSURE model of embedding media and technology (Heinich et al, 2002) are three such models.

The bedrock of educational design frameworks include Behaviourism, Cognitivism, Constructivism, Connectivism and online Collaborative learning (Bates, 2014). Support, understanding and opportunities to explore these development frameworks will better equip VET practitioners in advancing innovation in evidence based delivery practice.

The future of VET pedagogy practice is on a precipice of change. Developments in digital pedagogies and Web 2.0 technologies are forcing changes in both teaching and learning. As the role of the teacher shifts from being informative to facilitative, and the classroom expands onto a global stage; as multisensory approaches to knowledge acquisition change the way that students construct understanding; it is important that we identify successful models of digital pedagogy integration at RTO, course and activity levels.


Posted by VETCentre on Tuesday, 18 August 2015 in VET

This is a halleluiah VET event. For the first time – ever – we know how many students were enrolled for government-funded training. The specific definition is all training activity ‘delivered government providers and government-funded activity delivered by community education and other registered providers’.

That definition comes from a recent statistical publication of the National Centre for Vocational Education Research (NCVER). The publication is titled Government-funded students and courses – January to March 2015 (16 Pages).

The headline numbers are on the first page of the publication. They include:

·         There were 787,700 students enrolled in the government-funded VET system in the three months to March 31 2015

·         67% attended TAFE and other government providers

·         38.1% were aged 25 to 44 years

·         90.4% were enrolled in an Australian Qualifications Framework level program

·         36.9% were studying certificate III programs

·         18.7% were studying in management and commerce.

·         1565 training organisations delivered government-funded VET.

As this is the first reporting of these data we don’t have any earlier figures to show rises and falls on any measure. But the dataset will grow and we can at last see what’s happening in the sector without a special research project or deciding how much faith to invest in anecdotal information.

The statistical report has some interesting data to puzzle on. For example, Tables 1 and 2 show that across the country there is a very close to a 50-50 split in enrolments between males and females. Yet in NSW and WA the alignment is very different:

·         Of 259,600 enrolments in NSW, 44.3% are males and 55.6% female

·         Of 70,700 enrolments in WA, 55.4% are male and 44.6% are female.

The variations between states and territories are no less interesting when you look at Table 4 which shows the percentage of students enrolled at each AQF level. Let’s just look at Diploma or higher qualifications:

·         For Australia as a whole 20.6% of students are enrolled in a qualification at Diploma or higher – that’s close to one in five

·         However the variations are substantial, with NSW showing 27.7% enrolled at Diploma or higher, ACT showing 23.1%, Victoria 19.7% and Tassie 10.7%.

Also interesting to look at the ranking of field of education in each state and territory. The top three fields are almost the same everywhere though the proportions vary. By percentage, the fields with the highest number of students in Victoria and South Australia are:

·         Engineering and related technologies – Victoria 16.9%, South Australia 20.9%

·         Management and commerce – Victoria 15.1%, South Australia 12.5%

·         Society and culture (14.5%) – Victoria 14.5%, South Australia 12.8%.

And which part of the VET sector are students enrolled in? This too is subject to considerable variation between states and territories. Let’s compare the proportions of all students enrolled in government funded training in Victoria and NSW:

·         Enrolled in TAFE and other government providers – Victoria 47.2%, NSW 92.5%

·         Community education providers – Victoria 6.7%, NSW 3.7%

·         Other RTOs – Victoria 46.1%, NSW 3.8%.


Posted by VETCentre on Monday, 17 August 2015 in Research

In so many ways education relies on good data – evidence about student progress helps us to target teaching to need, student feedback tells us where to look for improvements in the student experience and student engagement, demographic data about the communities we serve informs decision making about priorities, data about student learning outcomes plays a role in continuous improvement and selecting strategies that we judge might offer better outcomes. And so on.

We so often lack data that tells us about learner journey within and between education sectors. Enter the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW). In 2013 and 2014 AIHW took on the job of lining up the numbers. In May 2015 AIHW released a report,Development of a national education and training data standards strategy and implementation plan (204 pages). As the report explains, the project’s purpose was to:

… develop a national data standards strategy and implementation plan to enhance the comparability, quality and coherence of information across the education and training sectors, including early childhood education, school education, vocational education and training (VET) and higher education.

It’s not surprising that such a big and detailed task would produce a lengthy report, but before blanching at the prospect of wading through a 204 page report its best to know thatthe report proper is about 32 pages, and the rest is made up of eight appendices that cover everything from stakeholder consultations to data flows.

You can cut to the chase if you go to chapter 4 which describes the national data standards strategy that emerged from the project. The importance of adopting a national, cross-sectoral approach is described on pages 18-19 where an analysis of government policy priorities in each education sector revealed a common theme:

… the enhancement of knowledge management and innovation to enable the monitoring and reporting of outcomes to build an evidence base. A national data standards strategy establishes an approach to quality, consistent national education data items that will assist in following student education pathways and outcomes from early childhood to adulthood, building the evidence base to assist research and policy and enabling a longitudinal view of education, training and outcomes for Australians. This will enhance the understanding of educational outcomes, and the social and economic returns from investing in education.

It’s worth noting that the project’s remit for VET includes upskilling the existing workforce, so the strategy has a lifelong learning scope.

The intent of the project isn’t to come up with a completely new dataset. Rather, AIHW looked at existing datasets – and there are lots of them – as a resource that could be better channelled. The idea was to examine data linkage options – how to link data already collected so that it tells a continuous story – and then to consider whether there are gaps to fill.

Stakeholder consultations included VET players like the National Centre for Vocational Education Research and state agencies like Skills Tasmania. The stakeholder consultation appendix notes that:

A number of stakeholders commented on the benefits of greater consistency between the VET Provider, VET in Schools and Higher Education data collections, in relation to specific data items and the collections more broadly … There are a number of providers operating in both VET and higher education that have to collect and report their data differently for essentially the same items, and improved consistency would ultimately help these dual-sector providers, although cost and timing are barriers.

The report steps out a considered process for lining up the numbers. We have a plan for expanding the evidence base on which to reflect on and plan for education across sectors.

There’s an added bonus in this report. If you’re normal you’ll be confused about which policies in which states and nationally are currently influencing policy in each education sector. Appendix F (pp. 162-165) provides a neat ‘Summary of current policy priorities with relevance to education and training as at October 2014.’ Yes, some things have moved on since October 2014. Nevertheless, it’s a fascinating list. Let’s hope somebody volunteers to keep it up to date and publicly accessible.


Posted by VETCentre on Wednesday, 12 August 2015 in VET Reforms

Towards the end of November 2014 the Senate established an inquiry into ‘The operation, regulation and funding of private vocational education and training (VET) providers in Australia.’

The inquiry’s terms of reference include:

·         the access private VET providers have to Commonwealth and state public funding

·         the cost of education at private VET providers

·         the regulatory regime private VET providers operate within

·         the operation of VET-FEE-HELP

·         the quality of education provided by private VET providers, volume of learning requirements and graduate outcomes

·         marketing and promotional techniques employed by private VET providers and education brokers both domestic and international.

The Senate Standing Committees on Education and Employment, which is responsible for the inquiry, is still gathering evidence with a public hearing scheduled for Melbourne on 2 September. However, the deadline for written submissions closed on 31 March. A total of 89 submissions are available for download – they come from a diverse group of organisations and individuals, including:

·         Australian Council for Private Education and Training

·         Australian Education Union

·         Australian Human Rights Commission

·         Australian Industry Group

·         Australian Skills Quality Authority

·         Brotherhood of St Laurence

·         Encompass Community Services

·         Evocca College

·         Housing Industry Association

·         NCVER

·         Study Group Australia

·         TAFE Directors Australia

·         Victorian Government

·         West Australian Department of Education.

The inquiry has produced two interim reports. The first, dated 2 March 2015, is availablehere. The second interim report, dated 5 June 2015, can be downloaded here. The second interim report essentially provides an overview of the main issues raised in submissions received, and of significant changes in VET policy across national and state/territory jurisdictions.

The Committee’s final report is due on 16 September 2015.


Posted by VETCentre on Tuesday, 11 August 2015 in VET Reforms

Last week, we looked at organisational change dynamics and we blogged that shifts in the way we structure learning is a critical aspect of supporting innovation. This week we explore cultural changes and the way that technology informs and transforms our educational culture.

You would be hard pressed to argue with the notion that the learning culture in educational settings has changed in the last 20 years. The traditional ‘chalk and talk’ method of education has been dramatically transformed, primarily due to the advances that digital learning technologies afford. The advent of the WWW has enabled learners’ easy, immediate access to information allowing them to ‘construct meaning in ways that are relevant, meaningful and fun’ (Sheninger, 2014). Marc Prensky first coined the phrase Digital Native in 2001, in an attempt to differentiate early, late and ready adopters of technology. He states that ‘students have changed radically. Today’s students are no longer the people our education system was designed to teach.’ Fourteen years on, this sentiment still holds true.

It has been observed that the learning culture is changing in response to changes in technology and this reflects the changes in learning styles of students (Rosen, 2014). Is it reasonable to suggest that our teaching practices have responded to meet these changes? Perhaps not. Implementing digital learning technologies is more than understanding how to use a particular tool or be aware of its subtle nuances. It is about thorough planning and careful execution, understanding and consideration of what drives the need for innovative solutions to pedagogical problems. It is about embracing the risks and learning curve needed to implement a new strategy (Heichelbech, 2014). It fundamentally comes back to good teaching practice.

The challenge for the VET system is to determine what good teaching practice looks like through the lens of best practice use of digital learning technologies. Lai (2011) argues that digital technology is seen as a driver of growth of the knowledge economy. As pointed out by Castells (1998), ‘information technology, and the ability to use it and adapt it, is the critical factor in generating and accessing wealth, power, and knowledge in our time’ (cited in Warschauer & Matuchniak, 2010, p.179). It also supports lifelong learning as it can be used to overcome the barriers of time and place to learn, and to provide new opportunities to learn, and is effective in enhancing metacognitive, problem solving, and collaborative learning skills (Lai, 2008). Cultural change is about attitudinal change. Attitudes change only when behaviors do (Beach, 2014). The goal is to focus our attention here.


Posted by VETCentre on Friday, 07 August 2015 in VET Reforms

The Australian Federation is sometimes a bit clunky. It takes time to get things lined up. It took around six decades to standardise Australia’s interstate rail track gauge – and that was after six decades of discussion about the idea. It only took about a dozen years to secure agreement on harmonising Australia’s occupational health and safety laws – agreement came in 2008 and we are still on track to get the job done.

Now there is an apparently determined push to move responsibility for vocational education and training to the Commonwealth. This almost happened in 1992 when the Commonwealth very nearly got unanimous backing from the states and territories for a transfer of responsibility for VET. There’s no guarantee that it will happen this time around, but it’s most definitely on the table.

In a VET Blog post last November we gave some background about how it got on the table – Rethinking education policy and funding in the Australian federation. That post pointed to an Issues Paper titled ‘A Federation for Our Future’ (70 pages) which canvassed a range of adjustments to the responsibilities of the Commonwealth and state/territory governments. In December Issues Paper 4 was released – and of particular interest was ‘Part B: Vocational Education and Training and Higher Education’ (58 pages).

Let’s spool forward to more recent times. A Discussion Paper (121 pages) was released in late June which posed several options for the future of VET:

Option 1: Clearer accountability through having one level of government in charge. Either the Commonwealth or the States and Territories could assume full responsibility for VET.

Option 2: Commonweath focuses on skills shortages and incentives for employers. The Commonwealth would provide incentives for employers to offer and/or purchase training in areas of national skill shortage and lend income contingent loans (perhaps limited to AQF levels 5 and 6) to help individuals undertake training. States/territories would be responsible for all other aspects of the VET system.

Option 3: A new agreed national framework for sharing and coordinating roles. An approach within this option might be to split responsibility by qualification level or by function (policy, regulation and funding). For example, the Commonwealth could become responsible for funding diplomas and advanced diplomas (AQF levels 5 and 6) through subsidies and ICLs, leaving States and Territories to fund lower VET qualifications through their existing subsidy system).

On 8 July the Premier of South Australia, Jay Weatherill, spoke at the National Press Club.His speech contained a key proposition on page 11:

My first proposal is to reform the education system. It essentially involves the States and Territories handling the education of people from birth to the end of secondary schooling, and the Federal Government dealing with everything beyond – including higher education and vocational education and training.

After COAG met in July the Prime Minister, Premiers and Chief Ministers held a media conference, at which Jay Weatherill said:

We’ve talked about a national approach to vocational education and training, which is a massive change. If we can achieve that and give people the skills they need to participate in the new economy, we’ll have done a massive thing for the people of our nation.

The ACT’s Chief Minister, Adam Barr, noted in a media release on 23 July about the COAG meeting that:

We must reform the vocational education and training sector so that training helps young people get jobs when they finish, as well as providing real pathways for older workers to transition between careers. We committed to change that will see a more demand driven system, greater engagement with business about their skills needs to deal with emerging industries and new ways to help support students.

We agreed to consider a shift in responsibility for VET to the Commonwealth provided States and Territories could elect to remain TAFE providers within a national system.

According to TAFE Director Australia’s 27 July e-newsletter, ‘the premiers of Western Australia and Victoria have been tasked with bringing VET reform proposals to the next COAG meeting before the end of the year.’

An agreement to consider reform proposals isn’t an agreement to proceed by any means. But the chances are now much higher that change will occur.


Posted by VETCentre on Thursday, 06 August 2015 in Research

The Mitchell Institute, based at Victoria University in Melbourne, featured in a VET Blog post in March this year, titled Paying for tertiary education in Australia – governments and students footing the bill. That post reviewed an Institute paper, Financing tertiary education in Australia – the reform imperative and rethinking student entitlements(43 pages).The paper urged us to rationalise arrangements for student tertiary education fees – let’s have one system for young people enrolled in tertiary education rather than very eight different state/territory systems and a Commonwealth system. Let’s have one system for tertiary education rather than different systems for vocational education and higher education. While we’re rationalising the system, Mitchell suggests, let’s make it fair and equitable, and ensure it reflects the contemporary realities of tertiary education in Australia.

The Mitchell Institute took up its own challenge to design a tertiary education entitlement with just those characteristics. In late July the Institute released a follow up paper titledFeasibility and design of a tertiary education entitlement in Australia(75 pages) that offers a close inspection of what such a system might look like in practice, and what the options are for putting it in place.

The Institute commissioned Tim Higgins and Bruce Chapman from the Australian National University to do the modelling and write the report. One half of this team – Bruce Chapman – was a principal architect of Australia’s Higher Education Contribution Scheme (HECS), now formally known as FEE-HELP. At the heart of HECS is an income contingent loan – students incur a debt that the government holds until their post-graduation earnings reach a certain threshold, at which point they begin to pay back the debt.

Higgins and Chapman have proposed a design for a new entitlement scheme that brings income contingent loans to all young people enrolled in Certificate III qualifications and above. They argue straightforwardly that upfront fees for a tertiary qualification are unfair and potentially discourage some young people and their families from pursuing tertiary education. They make the plain point that we need an ever more highly skilled workforce and that we can’t afford to exclude any young person from pursuing a tertiary qualification – both individual and national prosperity depend on making a tertiary education available to all, irrespective of their immediate financial circumstances.

Quite rightly, Higgins and Chapman note that extending income contingent loans to all would be very costly to government if the current repayment threshold remains as it is:

Under existing HELP rules an individual who earns less than $53,345 is not required to make any HELP repayments. Between $53,345 and $59,421, debtors pay 4 per cent of their income, and the repayment rate increases in 0.5per cent jumps for higher income bands, ultimately reaching a rate of 8 per cent for incomes at and above $99,070 (p. 24).

Because many groups of students don’t reach these kinds of income levels government is left holding a substantial unpaid debt. Widening access to such loans would see that debt rise, making government very wary of taking on a broader scheme.

Higgins and Chapman then set about investigating and explaining options for lowering the threshold and adjusting repayment arrangements. In doing this they identify the working parts of an income contingent loan – repayment thresholds, loan indexation, and loan surcharges – and how the parts can be made to work together to produce a scheme that is fair for all students.

Modelling is presented for three options based on a minimum repayment threshold of $40,000. The paper indicates that:

… a combination of lower repayment thresholds, a modest loan surcharge and hybrid loan indexation, would have the effect of passing a greater proportion of costs to the individual debtor, as well as pooling risk among the cohort of debtors, while maintaining taxpayer funding for those with the least lifetime financial resources.

(From one non-economist to another, yes, it does take a bit of thinking time to get a handle on the intricacies, but if you read the report slowly it does come together!)

This Mitchell Institute report is valuable work that establishes a platform for an informed discussion about how to make access to tertiary education affordable (on a shared basis between government and students), fair and equitable. And relevant to today’s tertiary education realities.


Posted by VETCentre on Tuesday, 04 August 2015 in Research

In 2014, the VET Development Centre undertook research to explore practitioner’s perspectives to the change required to engage appropriately in the digital space – both for themselves and for their students. The question “What kind of professional learning specifically supports the sustained use of and the impediments to adopting digital learning technologies?” was explored through focus groups, semi structured interviews and an online survey. The aim was to gain a deeper understanding of the behaviours of Victorian VET providers when implementing digital pedagogical practices and to inform an integrated professional development model.  

To support this research and build on its already strong tacit knowledge, the Centre also engaged with the literature to compare the similarities and differences between local responses of Victorian VET practitioners and international thought leaders working in the digital learning space. The literature review explored the concept of changing learning culture and supporting innovation through five lenses of change – organisation, culture, pedagogy, innovation, and technology. Over the next 5 weeks, the Centre will post a summary of the findings. This week our blog is on Organisational Change.

Having the capacity and capability to adapt to change is the critical factor for RTOs to consider when addressing organisational change. Late last century, it was predicted that in the not too distant future, universities would not survive the education surge and that distance education would surpass the requirements that traditional institutions could offer (Rosen, 2014). That future is now, and the university establishment has survived, but only due to its capacity to adapt to cultural changes in education and by adopting innovative strategies that are considerate of digital learning technologies (Hopkins, 2014). Technology is not only transforming learning, but also the environments in which we learn (Gutierrez, 2014). This continual change creates many hazardous obstacles for RTOs to negotiate. What this means for RTO owners and managers is that they have to change what they do and also change the way they think. Gutierrez (2014) identifies six key strategic directions that organisations should undertake when considering their digital learning strategic plan:

1. Learning is social – and so are people. Learning must be a collaborative experience.

2. Learner-centered courses are a must – by meeting student’s individual needs, trainers can encourage them to acquire knowledge effectively.

3. Active learning techniques are becoming the norm – they allow students to become involved in their learning, relate to their own experiences, and apply it to their daily lives.

4. Bite-size content is the right size – it is necessary to reflect learner styles and convey messages quickly using short sentences, captivating photos, infographics, and quotes.

5. Moving from linear to non-linear courses – non-linear courses allow students to make connections between information they already possess and new content they need to acquire.

6. Image-centric content is taking over – digital technologies are shaping how we learn. Learners process images 60,000 times faster than text.

For some RTOs this change represents a paradigm shift in program delivery, and in some instances the task of implementing such change seems too daunting to undertake. Further, the rate of change happening in the world demands that we reimagine and restructure the foundational learning relationships among students, teachers and knowledge (EdTechReview, 2014). What the VET sector needs is a professional development (PD) strategy and support network designed to assist the transition burden of change implementation (Devaney, 2014) and organisational redirection. These skills reflect the key directional and attitudinal changes that RTOs should consider, as the pedagogy drivers to implementation pioneer new territory in VET.


Posted by VET Centre on Monday, 03 August 2015 in Workforce Development

The Committee for Economic Development of Australia (CEDA) holds an unusual position in Australian policy debates. Its job is to bring together the best thinkers from all quarters – business, education, government, politics – and keep them thinking about what good public policy looks like so far as Australia’s economic and social development is concerned. CEDA has been around a while too – it clocks up 55 years in 2015.

In June CEDA released a valuable report – Australia’s future workforce? (258 pages). The report considers what will happen to jobs, what kind of jobs there will be, what kind of workforce skills and capabilities we will need. It’s a pretty good outline of where we are going and provides VET practitioners with plenty to think about.

The report has four sections and within each section are chapters written by a variety of contributors. Chapter 3 might be of particular interest to VET practitioners – it’s titled ‘The future worker’ and comprises four chapters:

·         Developing the capacity to adapt to industry transformation, by Sue Beitz

·         Closing the gender gap in labour supply, by Professor Patricia Apps

·         Your future employer – yourself, by Ken Phillips

·         Where the jobs are, by Phil Ruthven AM.

Sue Beitz points out that our current ways of thinking about places of work, and where work takes place, is changing fast. For example:

Cloud computing, for example, allows companies to rent and draw on technologies and associated skills that are pooled between firms. The highlevel skills needed to design, install and maintain these systems (or other aspects of a company’s work) may not need to be maintained within the organisation but instead accessed on a temporary basis through contracting or outsourcing arrangements, and accessed by workers anywhere in the world.

Or perhaps more startling:

… the emergence of advanced robotics (i.e. increasingly capable robots or robotic tools) with enhanced ‘senses’, dexterity and intelligence means that robots can now do tasks once thought too delicate or uneconomical to automate. This includes robotic surgical systems that augment procedures to make them less invasive. When we consider that it takes around 10 to 12 years to develop the skills to become a surgeon, the benefits of this new technology will be best realised by upskilling those surgeons already working in the field so that they can start to incorporate robotic technology into their current practice.

Ken Phillips underscores the importance of small businesses – such as retailers, tradespeople, small manufacturers and those in the hospitality sector – as Australia’s big employers. There are 7.1m Australians working in small businesses, and 2.6m working in large businesses. Phillips opens up the conversation about self-employed people and challenges a few stereotypes. Here is Phillips’ list of their characteristics:

·         Two-thirds male and one-third female

·         Mature – people predominantly become self-employed from age 35

·         Working longer hours than employees

·         Having a higher skills base than employees

·         Often having been in business three years or more (57 per cent)

·         Operating across all industries but mostly in the services areas – even when in construction, for example, which is the highest sector

·         Often having no children living at home (51 per cent)

·         Overwhelmingly choosing to be self-employed

·         They are motivated to control their own destiny

·         Self-employment gives them lifestyle flexibility

·         Their business cycles do not follow traditional patterns of business cycles but instead are tied to their life cycles

·         They are big spenders and optimistic and willing to spend

·         Business competency is high

·         They take a holistic approach to their work and see a need to be multi-skilled and knowledgeable.

In the report’s Foreword two statements are worth noting:

… modelling in this report has found that almost five million Australian jobs – around 40 per cent of the workforce – face the high probability of being replaced by computers in the next 10 to 15 years.

Our labour market will be fundamentally reshaped by the scope and breadth of technological change, and if we do not embrace economic reform and focus on incentivising innovation, we will simply be left behind in an increasingly competitive global marketplace. Creating a culture of innovation must be driven by the private sector, educational institutions and government. However, government must lead the way with clear and detailed education, innovation and technology policies that are funded adequately. Currently the commitment needed to link education and innovation policy with funding is significantly lacking compared with other countries.

When we think about Australia’s future workforce, we must inevitably think about Australia’s VET workforce and the kind of training we need to gear up for – 10-15 years is not so far off. This report is worth dipping into because it prompts thinking about the role we will need to play.

A recent VET Blog post – Growing and declining industries in Australia – provides a perspective on changes to the national workforce profile that we are dealing with right now.


Posted by VET Centre on Wednesday, 29 July 2015 in VET in Schools

Since the financial crisis hit in 2008, Australia’s young people have fared better in the employment stakes than young people in most other developed nations. But it’s still not a glowing picture as we discussed in a post back in March – Teenagers, unemployment, and tertiary education. As we noted there, based on Brotherhood of St Laurence analysis, ‘it’s 15-19 year olds who are faring worst as the unemployment rate stays high. There are around 780,000 unemployed Australians, and one in five of them is a teenager.’

A recent blog post from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) – Are vocational programmes preparing school leavers for a risky job market? – makes the unequivocal statement that vocational programs are critical:

Preparing young people well for the job market, either through high-quality vocational programmes in upper secondary or post-secondary education or by ensuring successful entry into tertiary education, is probably the most important mission of education systems today.

We do need to be careful about making the link between secondary school vocational programs and employment. Kira Clarke puts it succinctly in a recent article on The Conversation website: ‘VET in Schools is a pathway, not a ticket to a job.’ As Clarke says:

The capacity of VET in Schools, or secondary school generally, to prepare young people for direct entry to work is impacted by the changing nature of the labour market. Good jobs with career potential require post-school qualifications. The low-level qualifications (Certificates I and II) that dominate VET in Schools programs have limited value to employers looking for skilled workers…

A recent study of VET in Schools found vocational education programs in schools should be promoted as a pathway to higher-level post-school VET study, rather than as a pathway directly to jobs without further training.

Achieving this requires greater support for schools in making sure young people understand how to combine a VET in Schools program with their other school studies in a way that gives them the best chance of continuing in post-school training. For example, a student undertaking allied health needs to be doing biology and psychology, and a student hoping to continue into an electrical apprenticeship needs to be doing maths and science.

(The recent study that Clarke refers to is ‘Entry to vocations: Building the foundations for successful transitions’. That study, which Clarke undertook, was the topic of a VET Blog post earlier this year –Aligning VETiS with pathways to work and study.)

We need to be clear about how school-based vocational programs bring value into the lives of young people who are not on the academic track to bachelor level studies. They bring value as a pathway to higher qualifications that are valued by employers. They don’t work as entry points to the job market very often these days – low and semi-skilled entry level jobs are diminishing as a breed. But vocational programs can build job ready skills, and a platform to develop those skills while undertaking a higher level VET qualification.


Posted by VET Centre on Tuesday, 28 July 2015 in Workforce Development

The Australian government has released State of Australian Cities 2014-2015 (140 pages). The report gives us an idea of how our cities are ticking over and what the long term looks like. Let’s note at the outset that it isn’t a report on capital cities alone – Australia’s 20 biggest cities and conurbations are covered in the report, including Ballarat, Launceston, Newcastle and Townsville. It’s understandable that Australia pays particular attention to its cities – we are the tenth most urbanised nation in the world.

Chapter 5 of the report (16 pages) is titled ‘Human Capital and Labour’. This post is intended to offer you a smattering of what Chapter 5 has to offer.

The data presented makes it clear that suburbs with the highest proportions of people with vocational or higher education qualifications also have the highest levels of labour force participation – and the report notes that ‘Large cities and capital cities tend to have higher workforce participation rates.’ More specifically, the report states that:

… the percentage of people with a Certificate III or above who are employed in a skilled occupation is rising across Australia, but the strongest growth is in major cities.

The general view is that cities create human capital connections and networks that boost economic growth, and that value adding human capital tends to congregate in certain parts of a city. The report reflects this perspective:

Human capital is particularly important in post-industrial or ‘knowledge-intensive’ economies, which are increasingly located in the inner parts of Australian cities. Educated people in close proximity can spark new combinations of ideas and technologies that add value.

The monetary value of a qualification varies from city to city – a trade or diploma or bachelor qualification earns different wages in different places:

The premium for educated workers offered in Melbourne and Adelaide is below the national average and the premiums offered in other large cities. Canberra–Queanbeyan offers considerably higher wages than the Australian average for all qualification levels, particularly for trade qualifications or no qualifications. Perth, Townsville, Newcastle–Maitland and Darwin offer price premiums for trade qualified individuals, particularly males. This is likely to reflect the mining-based economies of these cities. Greater Geelong, Greater Bendigo and Ballarat offer considerably lower lifetime wages when compared with the Australian average.

There is lots more of interest in the report. For example:

·         You might be surprised to read that for people over 65 labour participation has risen from 6.5 per cent in 2001 to 11.8 per cent by 2013-14

·         It is expected that in 2061 Melbourne will edge our Sydney as Australia’s biggest town

You can download from here individual chapters from the report, and fact sheets for each of the 20 cities covered.


Posted by VET Centre on Monday, 27 July 2015 in VET

There is a consultation process in motion in which Victorians are invited to contribute ideas that will help Victoria claim the title of the ‘Education State’.

The consultation website – ‘Help Shape the Education State’ – offers a number of ways to participate.

There is a consultation paper, The Education State (34 pages), which provides background information and poses a series of discussion starters. The consultation paper makes the following statements related to VET outcomes in regional areas:

Students from regional and rural areas are less likely to complete Year 12 than their metropolitan peers.

·         A further 6,000 young people leave school to enrol in training, only to exit entirely from education within a year.

·         Student satisfaction with training is declining in Victoria. Training delivery is not meeting industry skills needs.

·         Apprenticeship and traineeship student numbers have dropped by 40 per cent since 2012.

·         TAFE enrolments have dropped by 33 per cent in 2014, and TAFE market share has dropped to 25 per cent of the total training market.

·         Completion rates in vocational training are generally low – especially among young and adult learners experiencing educational or personal barriers to learning.

The discussion starters are questions based on the background information. You can respond to the discussion starters online by logging in on this page.

There is a long list of stakeholder sessions to which you can contribute – apologies that this post is a little late and most of the sessions will be done and dusted by the time you read this. But to give you a flavour, two hour sessions are scheduled in the following locations:

·         22 July 2015 – Dandenong – TAFE/VET students

·         22 July 2015 – Geelong – Early childhood educators

·         28 July 2015 – Mildura – Indigenous Victorians

·         5 August 2015 – Frankston – General community

·         6 August 2015 – Melbourne – TAFE/VET teachers.

You can view the full list of consultation sessions here.

The consultation process also offers discussion forums on two questions:

·         What are your ideas for establishing Victoria as the Education State?

·         What is the education legacy we want to leave for future generations of Victorians?


Posted by VET Centre on Wednesday, 22 July 2015 in Industry

finder.com.au has released its first Careers in Australia Report (37 pages), which you candownload via Dropbox. The report tracks employment prospects in 18 industry sectors by state and territory.

Since February 2013 employment growth has been strongest in five industries nationally:

·         Arts and Recreational Services – 20.59%

·         Agriculture, Forestry and Fishing Industry – 10.09%

·         Electricity, Gas, Water, Waste Services – 9.35%

·         Professional, scientific and technical services – 8.48%

·         Accommodation and food services – 7.5%.

The report includes finder.com.au’s Australian Careers Index which provides a longer term perspective on employment growth by industry since 1984. The media release announcing the report’s release indicates that the industries with the highest employment growth since 1984, based on the Index, are:

·         Professional, Scientific and Technical Services (383 points on the Index)

·         Arts and Recreational Services (341 points)

·         Administrative and Support Services (334 points).

On pages 5-12 are listed specific jobs that fall under each of the 18 industry categories. In addition to those mentioned above, industry categories include health care and social assistance, manufacturing, retail trade, and transport, postal and warehousing.

The state-by-state analysis offers more granular insights for VET providers. Let’s take Queensland as an example. The report shows that the top three industries, by number of employees, are:

·         Construction – 191,085 employees

·         Health Care and Social Assistance – 166,315

·         Manufacturing – 148,083.

However, for Queensland growth in employment over the past two years occurred in three different industry sectors:

·         Electricity, Gas, Water and Waste Services – 30.88%

·         Arts and Recreation Services – 25.58%

·         Information, Media and Telecommunications – 22.47%.

Queensland’s three weakest industries for employment growth over the past two years are:

·         Mining – down 17.94%

·         Wholesale Trade – down 11.24%

·         Financial and Insurance Services – down 10.97%.

The report offers the same breakdowns for each state and territory.


Posted by VET Centre on Tuesday, 21 July 2015 in VET

The Australian Training Awards are all set for 19 November. The path to the national awards is through the state and territory training awards which are now underway.

Victorian Training Awards finalists  were announced a couple of weeks ago. They include three nominees for the Victorian VET Teacher/Trainer of the Year:

·         David Graham – RMIT

·         Kathleen Herbert – Swinburne University of Technology

·         Effie Bougias – Melbourne Polytechnic.

The VET Development Centre is a proud sponsor of the Large Training Provider of the Year Award, and the finalists for 2015 are Wodonga TAFE and Box Hill Institute.

Victoria’s finalists for Small Training Provider of the Year are Complex Training Academy, BRACE Education and Training, and the Plumbing Industry Climate Action Centre.

In Western Australia individual semi-finalists for the state’s Training Awards have been announced – categories include Apprentice of the Year, Vocational Student of the Year, and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Student of the Year.

Individual and organisational finalists in the Northern Territory Training Awards are also on the web. VET Teacher/Trainer of the Year finalists are:

·         Debbie Say – Traditional Credit Union

·         Margaret Keighley – Charles Darwin University

·         Matthew Deveraux – Taminmin College

·         Marlene Organ – Nhulunbuy High School.

Queensland is progressively working through its seven regional finals ahead of its state Training Awards ceremony on 11 September. Regional finalists have been announced – Teacher/Trainer of the Year Award finalists include:

·         North Queensland Region: Tracey Frost (Careers Australia), Adriana Hering (Kirwan State High School), Denis Whiteley (TAFE Queensland North)

·         Darling Downs South West Region: Stephen Capewell (SWQ Training Pty Ltd), Desleigh Dickens-Kilpadi (Toowoomba State High School), Ross Haylock (Toowoomba State High School)

·         Metropolitan Region: Jade Dickins (TAFE Queensland Brisbane), Julie Hall (Help Training Institute), Suzanne Sheppard (TAFE Queensland SkillsTech).

Congratulations to all finalists.

Follow the progress of all state and territory Training Awards using these links:

·         Australian Capital Territory

·         New South Wales

·         Northern Territory

·         Queensland

·         South Australia

·         Tasmania

·         Victoria

·         Western Australia


Posted by VET Centre on Monday, 20 July 2015 in Research

The Victorian Auditor-General’s report, Technical and Further Education Institutes: 2014 Audit Snapshot (76 pages), was tabled in the Victorian Parliament in late May.

The Auditor-General notes in his comments at the beginning of the report that:

Victoria’s technical and further education (TAFE) institutes have undergone a period of structural change since 2012 when the then government altered its funding model. The agility of TAFEs to respond to these changes and associated challenges has varied, and not all have responded in a timely and/or financially sustainable way. Consequently, I am reporting a further deterioration in the financial performance of the sector for 2014.

The 10 TAFEs whose financial reports are finalised and commented on in this report had a combined net deficit of $84.3 million for 2014. This result follows a combined net deficit of $15.1 million generated by the sector in 2013 and was characterised by revenue decreasing at a faster rate than expenditure.

The declining financial performance of TAFEs has been reflected in the results of our analysis where six TAFEs have been assessed as having high financial sustainability risks with short-term challenges that need to be addressed. Further, nine TAFEs have been assessed as having longer-term financial sustainability risks in terms of the funding of asset renewal and replacement. I note that while the level of spending on new assets and asset renewal has been decreasing year on year, an additional net $56.8 million in capital funding was provided for the period to 2016–17 in the recently announced State Budget. This should reduce the risk that TAFE assets may eventually cease to be fit for purpose if they are not renewed or replaced as required.

While some steps have been taken by the sector to respond to the structural changes, bigger steps are needed by TAFE boards and the Department of Education & Training to turn around the financial decline within the sector.

A brief video (8’ 21”) summarising the report’s main findings is available here, and a pdf of the slides and commentary in the video is available here.


Posted by VETCentre on Monday, 20 July 2015 in Research

Victoria’s VET Funding Review, led by former Holmesglen CEO Bruce Mackenzie, began work in early February – this VET Blog post from 17 February provided information about the terms of reference.

On 16 July the Review released an Issues Paper (60 pages) which sets out the ideas it is considering for inclusion in its final report, due with the government later this year. TheIssues Paper was informed by an extensive consultation process and more than 900 submissions – very high for any review process and indicative of the importance that the community places on VET. The reviewers also had access to the report of the Review of Quality Assurance in Victoria’s VET Systemwhich the VET Blog leafed through with youin this 9 July post.

The Review recognises that a contestable funding system is a policy fixture and accepts that contestability can ‘drive innovation, efficiency and improvement, and empower students and industry to choose their training and provider.’

Page 2 of the Issues Paper notes five broad focus areas for the Victorian VET system:

Funding should be targeted towards education and training that is high quality, meets Government’s objectives, and is delivered by capable providers.The design of the system should place greater emphasis on quality and less emphasis on the number of providers. A provider classification system could help government prioritise its investment in VET to fewer, capable providers. Government funding could be directed to areas of labour market need.

Students need to be better protected and supported, to make informed training decisions that have the best chance of meeting their needs, and to avoid being overly influenced by providers. This could include more and better information and support services, and tighter regulation of marketing, brokers and aggregators. Reintroducing a compulsory student contribution to training (with appropriate concession arrangements) may also assist student decision making by making them more conscious of the costs of their VET choices.

The Review considers a sustainable TAFE sector is essential to the provision of VET. However, arrangements for TAFEs need to be reconsidered to ensure they are reasonable and allow TAFEs to survive and thrive in the future. Such arrangements could include an additional funding stream that recognises their contribution and costs. In the longer term, the establishment of polytechnic universities in key areas to improve educational and economic outcomes could also be considered.

VET must meet the skill needs of industry. Most students undertake VET in order to get a job, or a better job. But the training is not matching industry skill needs to the extent that it could or should, and this is limiting the potential of the system. There is scope for the funding system to better reflect priorities, and for greater cooperation and information sharing between employers, training providers, government and students.

VET has an important role in providing training and access to further education by vulnerable, disadvantaged and high needs groups, and the funding system should ensure that this is recognised and supported. This could include a new way of thinking about community service obligations, changes to loadings and concessions, and creation of a new preparatory year to provide students with foundational skills.

Page 3 of the Issues Paper lists 27 changes the Review is considering, related to these five focus areas. These changes are stepped out in greater detail in the Issues Paper. And change is clearly in prospect. Chapter 6 (pages 27-32) is simply titled ‘The case for change’. The chapter identifies eight key reasons why change is essential:

1. An economy in transition

Victoria’s economy is undergoing substantial shifts and VET plays a key part in ensuring that those shifts are managed productively and positively, for the state as a whole and for individuals.

2. An unreliable system and falling satisfaction

There are too many instances of poor quality affecting student and employer perceptions of quality and reliability in the VET system.

3. A proliferation of VET providers contributing to quality concerns

This has introduced competition in one sense but has not been a good guarantee of quality. Quality expectations need a higher profile within VET funding and regulatory systems.

4. Impact on students

Too often the interests of students have received lower priority than the commercial interests of providers. This has undermined VET’s principle purpose of securing greater social and economic participation

5. Meeting the needs of industry

‘The demand-driven system, combined with significant variability in funding rates has led to mismatches between training and industry need.’ Mechanisms are needed to ensure that both industry and students ‘have greater influence over, and be encouraged to invest in, the quality and volume of VET to support productivity and growth.’

6. TAFEs are not sustainable

The current system marginalises TAFE. This must be rectified because ‘a strong, dynamic and sustainable TAFE sector is vital to Victoria’s economy and to ensuring a complementary, strong and quality driven non-government VET sector.’

7. An unstable policy framework

Too often policy shifts that respond to the poor behaviour of some providers have affected all providers. This kind of catch-up policy change has had consequent impacts on planning and investment which represents ‘the sort of long-term commitment to high-quality provision that would be of long-term benefit to Victoria.’

8. Curriculum design

‘In some cases narrowly focused training is not meeting the needs and demands of the modern labour market and does not provide the broader, transferable skills required in a modern, dynamic workplace.’ Further, the Issues Paper notes that ‘all providers are mandated to use the same occupational packages, so there is limited incentive or capacity to invest in developing curricula or innovating in educational design to better meet industry and student needs.’

One of the 27 changes on the Review’s radar relates to improved teacher training. This is presented on page 36 of the Issues Paper as follows:

·         A key characteristic of a high-quality training system is the effectiveness of its teachers, and robust teacher training can support long-term improvements in the training system

·         There could be greater oversight and regulation of teacher training, including limiting delivery of the Certificate IV in Training and Assessment to providers with a high classification rating

High-quality VET teachers must have a combination of up-to-date technical skills, relevant industry experience, a strong conceptual foundation in their teaching area, and the ability to engage and teach students with a variety of backgrounds and learning styles.

The Quality Review recommended that there be a panel of providers approved to deliver the Certificate IV in Training and Assessment. The Review supports this recommendation.

The Review is now entering a second round of consultation which will concentrate on 25 consultation questions posed on page 50 of the Issues Paper. Submissions are invited until 7 August 2015. A round of consultation meetings will be scheduled and information about them will be posted on the Review’s website.


Posted by VET Centre on Thursday, 09 July 2015 in VET

In February the Victorian government asked Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu to identify options for improving how Victoria’s VET system is supported and regulated to produce high quality training delivery and training outcomes. On 29 June the government released the review report. The Review of Quality Assurance in Victoria’s VET System (20 pages) responded to its terms of reference (2 pages) with 19 recommendations.

Also on 29 June, the Minister for Training and Skills, Steve Herbert, released theGovernment Response (6 pages) to the review, endorsing all the review’s recommendations and setting out the government’s action plan for implementing them.

The review identified 12 issues which ‘restrict the system’s ability to support high quality training and assessment’ – they include:

·         The regulatory system focuses on ensuring that RTOs meet the requirements of the training packages and provider standards prospectively, rather than on the quality of student outcomes attained or the student experience retrospectively

·         The Department of Education and Training doesn’t sufficiently specify provider quality requirements prior to the RTO accessing Victorian Training Guarantee (VTG) contracts; therefore there are providers holding a government contract that deliver training of variable quality

·         There is a lack of systematic information/performance data and analysis that enables the Department to monitor the quality of RTOs, qualifications delivered and student outcomes

·         The volume of training and mode of training delivery is, at times, perceived to be inadequate or inappropriate to ensure student competency

·         Poor assessment practices, adopted by some RTOs, are perceived to undermine the integrity of the qualification

·         The consumer is not empowered to drive quality in the VET sector, primarily hindered by the limits of current information provision mechanisms and the way in which the VTG entitlement operates (via providers).

The review concluded that:

The issues and evidence identified through this Review suggest that the Department should take a new, crucial and more active role in assuring the quality of Victorian VET. This transformation can be effected over the short-to-medium term. However, the Review’s findings do not call for a total market redesign, and the proposed changes should be reviewed after three years.

Four areas for reform are highlighted. They are:

·         Market Access – DET should proactively manage and minimise risk to improve training quality in Victoria through access to a VTG contract and freedom to operate within the contract. This includes introducing higher quality access thresholds for training providers seeking to deliver training to students eligible for a VTG subsidy. Ultimately, the awarding of the VTG contract should be a strong signal to the market that an RTO is delivering an acceptable level of quality training and assessment.

·         Delivery of Quality Training and Assessment – Quality in VET is driven through a composite of factors, including trainer and assessor competency, the training and learning process and provider improvement and innovation. Stakeholders perceive that providers need to raise the quality of trainers and assessors and improve the process of learning. Given the level of stakeholder concern, interim measures are warranted while further work is conducted. However, the contract must ultimately avoid excessive prescription and standardisation, which may limit providers’ innovation in educational practice and prevent their meeting individual students’ needs.

·         Managing Performance – An enhanced regime of quality assurance for providers accessing VTG contracts is required to supplement DET’s current funding assurance regime. This should serve a dual purpose –removing contracts from training providers whose performance does not meet acceptable levels, and building a greater focus on continuous quality improvement amongst all providers contracted under the VTG.

·         Strengthening Consumer Information – An effective training market is only possible when the consumers in that market (students and employers) are fully empowered to make appropriate choices. This requires robust, accessible information, support for susceptible cohorts and rapid redress when providers fail to provide services to a sufficient level of quality.

The review’s 19 recommendations focus on actions that will improve quality assurance in each of these four reform areas. The business end of these recommendations is contained in the Government Response. For example, Recommendation 10 from the review is as follows:

·         Inject additional resources into DET’s VET review function to allow an immediate focus in 2015-16 on rapid investigation and enforcement, targeting a core cohort of RTOs with known performance issues. This will send a strong message to the sector that high quality training and assessment is a priority.

Regarding this recommendation, the Government Response specifies the following action:

·         Immediately commence audit blitz of up to 50 contracted training providers, targeting problem areas, such as:

o    short duration courses;

o    serious misconduct, like exploitative marketing and fraudulent claims

o    courses where substandard training could represent high risk to students or the general public; and

o    providers with low student and employer satisfaction ratings.

On the matter of improving trainer and assessor qualifications, the government indicates that it will:

·         create a list of providers approved to deliver trainer and assessor qualifications within the government funded system

·         only allow approved providers to issue trainer and assessor qualifications to their own staff

·         require providers to establish a register of their trainers and assessors

·         investigate whether there should be amendments to the skills and abilities required of the VET workforce.

The Government Response indicates that from 2016 VTG contracts will include a new quality framework that articulates expectations about high quality training and assessment in the government funded system, and that provider performance standards will be in place in 2017.

In 2016 the government has undertaken to establish a ‘new body to investigate and resolve Victorian students’ complaints’ about courses and providers.

Renewed attention on low quality VET providers has also led to Commonwealth government action. The Commonwealth’s Assistant Minister for Education and Training, Simon Birmingham, issued a media release on 25 June stating the government will impose ‘a ban on withdrawal fees that will make it easier for students to withdraw from courses that they have been inappropriately signed up to.’

In a press conference on 12 March, Senator Birmingham outlined a series of changes to VET FEE-HELP which he expects to ‘eliminate shonks, and fraudsters, and charlatans from the system.’ The Commonwealth’s changes are set out in a VET FEE-HELP Reform Factsheet which explains eight changes, including:

·         Banning inducements to students under the VET FEE-HELP scheme

·         Tightening VET marketing and recruitment practices

·         Strengthening the assessment criteria for, and ongoing scrutiny of, all training providers

·         Establishing minimum pre-requisite and prior education qualifications, including demonstrated literacy and numeracy requirements.

All this adds up to substantial change in government funded VET provision, and in regulatory provisions. Alignment of funding and regulatory arrangements across jurisdictions will be followed closely by stakeholders who will need to make a series of adjustments of business practices and business models.


Posted by VET Centre on Tuesday, 07 July 2015 in Research

This post began with a tweet from Dennis Owen (@DennisOwen2) who provided a link to an article on the World Economic Forum (WEF). The article is titled Which country comes top for skills and education?

In the article is a link to the WEF’s Human Capital Report 2015, where you will find, in addition to the report, infographics and country rankings. The report presents a human capital index that is used to compare the performance of nations on key measures of learning and employment. The report takes the view that human capital – our skills and capabilities put to productive economic use – is more important than almost any other resource we have.

The country profile for Australia shows us as number 13 in the world on the Human Capital Index (HCI). On a scale of 1-7 business scores specialises training services in Australia at 5.21, which is a pretty solid outcome. Which countries outperformed us on the HCI? In order, the top 12 are: Finland, Norway, Switzerland, Canada, Japan, Sweden, Denmark, Netherlands, New Zealand, Belgium, Austria and Ireland.

Perhaps a bit dispiriting is Australia’s score on the index for the under-15 age group where we come in at a disappointing 29th. We climbed back up the overall rankings because we pulled ranked 6th in our human capital development for the 15-24 age group.

You get a good general idea of how countries stack up by looking at the Heatmap. The detailed table showing the scores for 124 countries is here.

There’s a statement in the report’s conclusion that will interest VET practitioners:

Business must re-think its role as a consumer of ‘ready-made’ human capital. Some companies understand this and are already investing in the continuous learning, re-skilling and up-skilling of their employees, but most employers still expect to obtain pre-trained talent from schools, universities and other companies. Instead, business must work with educators and governments to help education systems keep up with the needs of the labour market. At the same time, given the rapid and ongoing changes in the skill sets required for many occupations, business must re-direct investment to on-the-job training and lifelong learning in order to remain competitive and talent management must be a critical part of any company’s growth and innovation strategy. And while business cycles can naturally lead to peaks and troughs in employment, any socially responsible business in today’s deeply interconnected and transparent world must consider how it can contribute to mitigating unemployment and enhancing people’s abilities to earn a livelihood.

Thanks for the tip, Dennis!


Posted by VETCentre on Wednesday, 01 July 2015 in Research

In October last year we ran a good news post about Youth Foyers situated at three Victorian TAFE Institutes – Kangan, GOTAFE, and Holmesglen. The Youth Foyers are a collaboration between the Institutes and Hanover, a community agency that supports those dealing with homelessness, the Brotherhood of St Laurence, and Victoria’s Department of Human Services.

The good news keeps on keeping on with this story on Hanover’s website about Jacqui who moved into Holmesglen’s Youth Foyer after experiencing a period of unstable housing. You’d be hard pressed to find a finer example of someone who is animated by a sense of civic purpose and draws on great personal reserves of resilience.

The story tells us that: Now in secure and affordable accommodation, Jacqui has embraced her new surroundings and is completing a Bachelor of Science degree. She has also started a new volunteering role for the Bendigo Bank’s Junior Observers Program.

Jacqui received well deserved recognition in the 2015 Leadership Awards of the Victorian Young Achievers Awards. She was finalist and won the People’s Choice Award.

Holmesglen’s Waverley campus is the site of the first Youth Foyer, launched in 2013. 


Posted by VETCentre on Friday, 26 June 2015 in E-Learning

There is a multitude of ways in which Twitter can play a role in learning, both for students and teachers.

Online Colleges has a blog called Inside Online Learning which featured a post titledOnline Teaching and Twitter: Beyond the Basics. It presents a variety of ways in which Twitter can be used in class activities and assignments, integrated with the LMS, and as a professional learning goldmine.

The post has many links to resources. An example is Rick Reo’s Twitter Adoption Assessment Tool which identifies active and passive uses for Twitter, including in-class and outside class discussions, feedback, and group work. There’s also a link to theUniversity of Wisconsin’s Twitter Rubric which assists teachers to assess students’ use of Twitter as a learning tool.  

Twitter debates are becoming more common too. The VET Blog recently ran a post on the socio-economic backgrounds of students who apply for TAFE degrees. The post reflects on a research report from National Centre for Student Equity in Higher Education(NCSEHE) titled Student Preferences for Bachelor Degrees at TAFE: The socio-spatial influence of schools.

As it happened the NCSHE arranged a twitter debate on 29 April between Trevor Gale from Deakin University (one of the report’s authors) and Andrew Norton (Higher Education Program Director at the Grattan Institute). You can read the Gale-Norton Twitter debate on the NCSHE’s website.

Ordinarily The VET Blog refers you to resources that are in the public domain and free. We’ll make an exception for this article: Using Twitter in vocational education and training. If you have access to issue 5 of RTO Management magazine from 2011 then you won’t need to spend $10. If you can’t find a copy then you can buy the article here. Rose Grozdanic takes you on a tour of Twitter basics before looking at how Twitter can be deployed with students, in your RTO, and in professional development.


Posted by VETCentre on Thursday, 25 June 2015 in Research

In April the Productivity Commission released a Research Paper on International Education Services (166 pages). It largely focuses on the significant contribution that international education makes to the Australian economy and how policy settings can help (and hinder) the sector’s growth. The Commission estimates that from 2012-2014:

the average annual growth rate in the number of international students was 4.6 per cent in higher education, 2.9 per cent in VET, 11.8 per cent in intensive English language courses (a major study pathway to higher education and VET), with a marginal fall in the growth rate in school enrolments.

It’s interesting to look at the comparisons of VET enrolments in English-speaking nations as a proportion of all student enrolments (figure 2.2 on page 39). In Australia in 2012 they made up around 11 per cent of all enrolments, about the same as Canada and well ahead of the UK and the US – but well behind the 20 per cent reported for New Zealand.

The report indicates that 85 per cent of international VET student commencements were with private providers. At the same time, there are substantial differences between provider types when you break down the numbers for onshore and offshore enrolments. Public VET providers enrol nearly 90 per cent of offshore students.

The report looks at the influence on enrolments and reputation of legislation, regulation, visa categories and processing, and education agents. The Commission draws on the 2013 Review of Higher Education to compare the investment in VET and higher education regulation – important because, as the report notes, good reputation can be quickly lost. The Commission’s report notes that:

… in 2013-14 TEQSA would have regulatory responsibility for about 170 higher education providers, an average staffing level of 99 (excluding five Commissioners), and a budget of $20 million. In contrast, in 2013-14 ASQA would have regulatory responsibility for about 4000 registered training organisations, an average staffing level of 211 (excluding three Commissioners), and a budget of $38 million.

A simple comparison shows TEQSA’s funding would be just over $117 000 for each provider it regulates on average, whereas ASQA’s would be about $9500 for each provider on average, and that TEQSA has a ratio of staff to regulated provider almost 10 times greater than ASQA.

That concerning discrepancy is somewhat alleviated by the Commonwealth government’s increase to ASQA’s budget of $68m in October last year. The Commission’s report makes yet another call for regulation to be work from outcome measures rather than input based standards, observing that:

… the current regulatory regime provides no publicly available information on the relative quality of education services offered by providers or measures of comparative education outcomes, such as completion rates, the distribution of levels of attainment for students completing their studies and demonstrated competencies against generic and discipline-specific learning objectives.

The absence of this information makes it difficult for international (and domestic) students to choose the provider and course that best meets their education goals, and precludes an incentive for providers to improve the quality of their education services. Accordingly, the Commission considers that where such information is already collected, it would be desirable for the national regulators to make that information publicly available. In addition, and notwithstanding the difficulty in measuring relative quality outcomes, the national regulators should also consider the merit of collecting and publishing other information that would assist students to choose between providers when making the choice of which course best suits their purpose.

Each chapter of the report commences with a summary of the key points. Chapter 6, on education agents, offers six key points, including:

·         Education institutions in Australia use education agents extensively for the recruitment of international students, more so than in comparable countries. Further, on average, Australian institutions pay agents higher commissions relative to other countries. Commission-based payments provide a strong incentive for agents to maximise the quantity of enrolled international students.

·         Anecdotal evidence strongly suggests that the unscrupulous behaviour of agents is an issue in some segments of the market, particularly in relation to providing false or misleading advice and information, and the onshore poaching of international students. More generally, there is concern that an over-reliance on agents for student recruitment is detrimental to the quality of Australian international education services.

·         In some cases, concerns stem from the incentives of agents not being aligned with those of the principal (in this case, the education provider). In other cases, incentives of agents and providers may be aligned, but they are not aligned in the interests of the broader Australian community.

The Commission suggests that one way of reducing the risk presented by dodgy agent activity is for providers to take the lead in student recruitment:

… the present reliance on agents is sub-optimal and is a long term threat to Australia’s international education exports. The most effective way to eliminate the risks associated with the principal-agent problem is for institutions to fully internalise international student recruitment. This enables institutions to ensure they are receiving high quality and genuine students, and provides them with control over student diversity, thus contributing to the sustainable growth of their student cohort. 


Posted by VETCentre on Tuesday, 23 June 2015 in Research

CEDEFOP is a delightful acronym for a very serious organisation. It stands for theEuropean Centre for the Development of Vocational Training – a European Union body that assists EU member states to frame and implement VET policy. The website brims with resources – reports, data visualisations, briefing notes – about VET in Europe. This post takes a quick peek at a couple of items.                              

On the way to 2020: data for vocational education and trainingpolicies (162 pages) pulls together data on 33 indicators about VET and lifelong learning for each of the 28 EU member countries. You can download it at the bottom of this page. The indicators are presented by country, along with a written analysis comprising key points, followed by a comparison of each country’s performance on the indicators with overall EU outcomes. The entry on Ireland, for example, runs to four pages.

The indicators include:

·         VET students as a percentage of all upper secondary students

·         Young VET graduates in further education and training

·         Employment rate for VET graduates (20-34 year-olds)

·         Enterprise expenditure on VET courses as a percentage of total labour cost

·         Average number of foreign languages learned in VET.

Stronger vocational education and training for better lives (4 pages) is a CEDEFOP Briefing. You can download in a choice of languages from this page. The publication reviews progress among EU nations in implementing policy initiatives designed to improve social outcomes and economic performance through VET. Here’s a sample, under the heading ‘Making VET more attractive and relevant and encouraging quality and efficiency’:

… countries have made great efforts to make VET a more attractive learning option. Growing recognition that work-based learning can improve labour market effectiveness has led to an apprenticeship renaissance. Several countries, including those with well-established programmes, are creating or expanding work-based learning. For example, Italy’s apprenticeship schemes now offer programmes leading to higher education degrees, including doctorates. In the UK, apprenticeships are increasingly offered in service industries, including law and accountancy as an alternative to university. Sweden’s school-based VET system is also encouraging apprenticeships.

Skillset and Match is CEDEFOP’s occasional magazine. The May 2014 edition is downloadable here. CEDEFOP is 40 years old this year so this edition celebrates the anniversary with a look at what CEDEFOP has achieved, and what it intends to do in the years to come.

There are lots of data sets available as data visualisations. For example, the visualisation on Employment growth rate (%) allows you to look at how different occupations are expected to grow in EU countries over the period 2015-2025. The visualisation tells me that ‘Craft, related trades workers’ will see employment growth of around 35 per cent in Ireland and a contraction of around 27 per cent in Romania. They are at the extremes. The Nordic nations and France are expecting no growth or low growth while the rest of Europe is looking at a fall in this occupational category.


Posted by VETCentre on Thursday, 18 June 2015 in Workforce Development

Date:     11-16 August 2015

Theme:  Inspiring Skills Excellence and Development

Venue:  Anhembi Park, São Paulo, Brazil

The WorldSkills Conference runs over the same period as the 2015 WorldSkills Competition. If you can crack a leave pass to the Conference you can take time out to cheer on the Skillaroos whom we congratulated on their selection in an earlier post –Skillaroos off to Brazil in August for the international WorldSkills Competition.

The Conference has a different focus on each day:

·         11 August: Senai and Industry Excellence

·         12 August: Future Trends

·         13 August: Exploring Skills Excellence

·         14 August: Global Policies and Innovation

·         15 August: Skills Development Initiatives.

To take Exploring Skills Excellence as an example, the conference day is described like this:

Attend the WorldSkills Leaders Forum, the Conference Programme’s premier event. The WorldSkills Leaders Forum strives to develop the power of the WorldSkills network to meet the needs of industry and commerce. Take the time to network with international partners over lunch before heading out for a guided tour of the Competition. You can pick which days to attend, and on 16 August you can tour São Paulo and finish the day sitting in on the WorldSkills Closing Ceremony.

Full conference details are available here

You can follow the WorldSkills Competition, and the progress of the Skillaroos, on this page  of the WorldSkills Australia website.


Posted by VETCentre on Wednesday, 17 June 2015 in Research

Rising levels of youth unemployment is a serious concern for Australia, as it is for other nations. One response to this besetting problem is to encourage youth entrepreneurship. The 2015 Commonwealth budget provided small business with tax and spending incentives that the government believes will boost employment and economic growth. It’s useful to think about this in the context of youth unemployment – both because we hope that jobs will ensure for young people engaged in VET studies, and because the opportunity arises to provide young people with the skills to create their own small businesses.

The Australian Clearinghouse for Youth Studies (ACYS) provides insights that can help shape our thinking and planning on this front. ACYS has assembled a range of resources on youth entrepreneurship – available here – which include:

·         Snapshot

·         Briefing (56 pages).

The Snapshot concentrates the mind through a graph that charts the rise of unemployment from 2004 to 2014, showing that for 15-19 year olds unemployment has risen from 15 per cent to 20 per cent over the decade. For 15-24 year olds the proportion has risen from 11 per cent to 15 per cent. The VET Blog ran a post in March (Teenagers, unemployment, and tertiary education) about a Brotherhood of St Laurence study which provides a similarly grim picture.

The Briefing, Growing Youth Employment through Entrepreneurship, calls attention to another element in the picture of youth unemployment – it notes that the underemployment trend for 15-24 year olds is running at 16 per cent. The report focuses on the potential of two kinds of businesses that have real potential to tackle youth unemployment and underemployment – start-ups and employment focused social enterprises. These businesses are defined in the Briefing like this.

Startups are typically micro- or small-scale enterprises … that are in early stages of development with regard to their product/service and the market they intend to target (Clune 2014a).

Social enterprises…

·         are led by an economic, social, cultural, or environmental mission consistent with a public or community benefit;

·         trade to fulfil their mission;

·         derive a substantial portion of their income from trade; and

·         reinvest the majority of their profit/surplus in the fulfilment of their mission (Barraket et al. 2010, p.16).

In the wider economy, small businesses account for around 7 in every 10 jobs. That alone suggests that it makes practical sense to focus on the small business sector. What’s perhaps more illuminating is the analysis presented in the Briefing on young people who run small businesses themselves:

… in 2007, 3% of all business owners were aged between 15 and 24; by 2012, this figure appears to have essentially doubled: 4.9% of all independent contractors were aged between 15 and 24 years, and 1.3% of all other business operators were in that age group.

Small numbers perhaps, but solid. It’s a growing profile rather than a static presence. Pages 23-25 of the Briefing make the case for thoughtful attention to the role of education and training in growing it further. It details the positive contribution of programs that encourage youth entrepreneurialism and help to deepen their business and entrepreneurial skills – among them the New Enterprise Incentive Scheme, the Apprentice to Business Owner Program, and the Prince’s Trust Youth Business International network. 

The Briefing suggests that we need a much wider lens on building skills than we currently have:

The current focus of most existing entrepreneurship training appears to be largely on university courses in Australia. However, some commentators have suggested that talented entrepreneurs are not always successful at university … the provision of educational programs in primary and secondary schools may assist more Australians to gain entrepreneurial skills at an earlier age. Startup industry representatives have called for entrepreneurship education in primary, secondary and tertiary education systems to equip young people to start businesses.

A set of interlocking steps is proposed for fostering the growth of startups and social enterprises with a youth employment mission. One set of steps – enhancing entrepreneurship education and skills – sets out six actions, most of which touch in some way on what we do in the VET system. Those actions are:

·         Embed entrepreneurship skills from primary school onwards

·         Expand proven skills and training pathways

·         Expand mentoring programs

·         Invest in professional support staff in social enterprises

·         Provide a supportive environment that accepts creativity, risk, failure and multiple attempts

·         Nurture computer-coding skills for high-tech startups.

These steps are explored in some detail on pages 47-48.

There is a wealth of good information in the Briefing that explains how social enterprises operate, and describes many initiatives around Australia that are helping to realise the potential in youth entrepreneurialism. It seems we still need to understand more about how the VET system can make a difference: Research is needed on the impact of existing TAFE courses (e.g. entrepreneurial and business skills, computer programming, social enterprise) on actual entrepreneurial activity with a view to expanding those approaches that have demonstrated impacts.


Posted by VETCentre on Monday, 15 June 2015 in Research

The Commonwealth Department of Education has released the results of the 2014 International Student Survey, which follows up on surveys conducted in 2010 and 2012. The Overview Report (29 pages) summarises the outcomes for international students enrolled in VET, higher education, and ELICOS. The survey – called the International Student Barometer – Is also used in other countries and the overview report provides some comparative data. (A separate survey is used for international students in Years 11 and 12 and results from it are also included in the report).

International VET students had a largely rosy view of living and learning in Australia. To quote the report:

Ninety per cent were satisfied or very satisfied with their living experience (89% in 2012 survey) and 86% were satisfied with their learning experience compared to 87% in 2012 survey.

There were 5397 international VET students who voluntarily completed the survey.They were drawn from:

·         20 public VET providers – 2391 respondents

·         32 private VET providers – 2006 respondents.

The VET sector is performing strongly in areas of importance to international students. According to the report:

The VET sector gained the highest satisfaction levels for both work experience (78%) and careers advice (78%), although both these ratings were below the international benchmark which was 80% for both work experience and careers advice. Students in the higher education sector reported 65% satisfaction for work experience, and 68% forcareers advice…

The higher levels of satisfaction reported by VET students may be a result of there being more structured opportunities for work-integrated learning in VET courses compared with higher education courses. The question about careers advice focused on the students’ plans after graduation.

On matters of employability, international VET students were also in a positive frame of mind, reporting 84% satisfaction.

Of considerable importance to international students is what happens when they arrive in Australia. VET providers are doing well on this front it seems, with 93% of international VET students saying they were satisfied with accommodation support and advice, and 86% satisfied with welcome/pick up arrangements. In addition:

Satisfaction levels in areas such as meeting staff, finance office and registration all scoring 91% or over.

It is interesting to note the variations in accommodation choices for international students in different education sectors – 33% of VET international students lived with friends or relatives, compared to 20% of higher education students and 18% of ELICOS students.

The report also notes that:

For the VET sector [items related to] good place to be, campus environment, safety, andeco-friendly attitude all scored satisfaction ratings of 90% or above. Satisfaction levels for living costs, accommodation costs, financial support and earning money all scored in the mid 60%, which is higher than the higher education cohort … However satisfaction with financial support (69%) and earning money (68%) were rated lower in 2014 than in the 2012 survey where the satisfaction levels were 77% and 75% respectively.

There is much more in the Overview Report and the news is mostly very good: Australia consistently exceeds the international benchmarks established through the International Student Barometer.


Posted by VETCentre on Thursday, 11 June 2015 in Workforce Development

The Council of Australian Governments is the mechanism that brings together the Prime Minister, Premiers and Chief Ministers from the Commonwealth, state and territory governments. Its job is to coordinate policy reforms across the Australian Federation. COAG has eight councils which provide forums for relevant ministers to work out the nuts and bolts of policy and implementation. Two of those councils are particularly relevant for VET practitioners – the Education Council, and the Industry and Skills Council.

The Industry and Skills Council met on 8 May, and issued a Communique which reports on the discussion of two sessions – one on industry and one on skills. COAG communiques tend to be general in tone – you need to read them carefully and fill in the details.

Readers of the VET Blog may find the following excerpts interesting because they foreshadow some policy priorities that are likely to influence the day-to-day work of VET practitioners and RTOs.

The text under the heading ‘The Review of Training Packages and Accredited Courses’ reads as follows:

Consultations on the review of training packages and accredited courses found strong stakeholder support for the current system of industry-informed skills standards. Ministers agreed to investigate a number of reforms designed to strengthen the system and better prepare students for changing workplaces and jobs in a modern economy, reduce complexity in the system, including rationalisation of qualifications, and place a greater focus on resolving systemic issues around the quality of assessment.

Under the heading ‘Improving consumer information and measurement of the outcomes of training’ is one paragraph of interest:

Ministers agreed to work together to improve existing surveys and data collections about student outcomes, and streamline the compliance burden on providers and students of collecting this information that contributes to high quality training. 


Posted by VETCentre on Thursday, 04 June 2015 in VET

The Australian Skills Quality Authority (ASQA) has progressively added to its series of fact sheets since 20102. On 1 April four new fact sheets were added to the list:

·         Determining the amount of training

·         Marketing and advertising

·         Meeting trainer and assessor requirements

·         Sample forms of AQF certification documentation for nationally recognised VET qualifications..

The fact sheets step out in detail, and very clearly, what ASQA’s role is in each of these areas and what expectations ASQA has of RTOs. For example, the fact sheet on ‘Meeting trainer and assessor requirements’ (5 pages) explains how ASQA will interpret the requirement that trainers and assessors must demonstrate vocational competencies. On the matter of demonstrating equivalence, the fact sheet states that:

Trainers and assessors can demonstrate they have vocational competencies at least to the level being delivered and assessed either by:

·         holding the competency they are delivering, or

·         demonstrating equivalence of competency.

How trainers and assessors demonstrate equivalence of competency is subject to the discretion of your RTO, however, your RTO must be able to provide evidence showing how it determined its trainer and assessors’ vocational skills and knowledge are equivalent to the requirements of the training product being delivered.

Your RTO must ensure your trainers and assessors undertake professional development.  Your RTO must demonstrate that you have developed and implemented a plan for professional development for all trainers and assessors (including new employees, long-term staff, subcontractors and third-party providers). Examples of professional development activities include:

·         Participating in courses, workshops, seminars, and conferences: trainers and assessors can attend both external and internal courses — that is, courses developed by professional development providers and internal programs developed and delivered by your RTO.

·         Demonstrating recent completion of a VET training product.

·         Participation in learning networks — there are various professional associations which provide educative forums about vocational training and assessment.

·         Personal development through reading of publications and other relevant information.

·         Participation in validation or moderation activities.

·         Shadowing or working closely with other trainers’ and assessors’.

You must record evidence of professional development, including positive results of professional development activities.  The full list of ASQA fact sheets is available here.   


Posted by VETCentre on Tuesday, 02 June 2015 in Research

 On the last day of March, the Competition Policy Review, headed by Professor Ian Harper, delivered its report to the Federal government. The Competition Policy Review Final Report spans 548 pages and covers everything from pharmacies, intellectual property and taxis, to aspects of competition law – and education, including vocational education.

It might seem that competition is at the margins of what is at the centre of education, but in a mixed economy like Australia’s the reach of competition policy is wide. As the Harper Review is the first overall assessment of competition policy in more than 20 years, you’d expect it to have some influence on how government decides to turn the competition policy knobs. Obviously after that length of time there is a bit of housekeeping to do at the very least. There’s a lot of debate about what the role of competition is and should be in areas like health and education – some believe it’s essential for high quality provision and others charge that competition undermines quality provision. The Harper Review is broadly on the side of competition wherever possible, recognising that sometimes competitive markets don’t work effectively and governments need to step in, primarily through effective and efficient regulation and funding mechanisms that support quality. 

The report deals with education in chapter 12 under the umbrella of ‘human services’, which includes health, education, disability care, aged care, job services, public housing and correctional services. The review panel made a specific recommendation about human services. Here it is – Recommendation 2:

Each Australian government should adopt choice and competition principles in the domain of human services.

Guiding principles should include:

·         User choice should be placed at the heart of service delivery.

·         Governments should retain a stewardship function, separating the interests of policy (including funding), regulation and service delivery.

·         Governments commissioning human services should do so carefully, with a clear focus on outcomes.

·         A diversity of providers should be encouraged, while taking care not to crowd out community and volunteer services.

·         Innovation in service provision should be stimulated, while ensuring minimum standards of quality and access in human services.

Much of this is familiar in vocational education. User choice has been with us for about two decades, introduced first for apprenticeships. It is now apparent in funding models in most states where (under varying rules) a VET learner can take an entitlement for training to their provider of choice. 

There are many angles from which to ponder Recommendation 2. The last dot point, for example, invites questions about what constitutes a ‘minimum standard’ – how high should the minimum standard be in health and education? The review report doesn’t duck this question (see page 250 for example), though the knotty task of defining the minimum is left to further practical testing. The report suggests that in human services, governments need to carefully enact a role as market stewards so that over time experience is gained about the kinds of providers and contracts that deliver the best outcomes for consumers.

There is a lot of emphasis on ‘consumers’ in the report. The report notes that the Competition Review Panel

… believes that markets work best when consumers are informed and engaged, empowering them to make good decisions. The Panel sees scope for enhancing Australian consumers’ access to data to better inform their decisions.

There has long been lively discussion about whether it’s appropriate to use the label ‘consumers’ for students. Is it just a matter of different words meaning the same thing? Or is there something distinctive about the word ‘student’ that the word ‘consumer’ doesn’t embrace? 

At this stage it isn’t clear what the influence of the Review report will be when it comes to competition policy in the human services. But if policy follows the broad directions of the Review report then we might expect that user choice will continue to be prominent, that policy will favour many providers rather than a small number of providers, and that governments will experiment with models of education delivery that produce the best quality outcomes. The upshot of that kind of policy orientation would be that policy change in VET funding models and system design will remain on the agenda.

The Harper Review presents a set of perspectives that are widely held among policy makers and within the wider community. What follows is a lengthy quote from a paper released in April by the Australian and New Zealand School of Government at the University of Melbourne. Titled Contestability in public services: An alternative to outsourcingthe paper brings together the upsides and the downsides of competition, and how they jockey for position in our minds when we try to think through how we should manage markets in education or other human service areas:

The public don’t like monopolies. And they are suspicious of them in the public sector as well as the private sector. Sometimes there is no other way of organising the production and delivery of goods and services, but we all know from experience that monopolies are generally unresponsive to the needs of customers and service users, and they pay too much attention to the convenience of management and staff.

On the other hand, we are also worried about the use of competition and outsourcing in the delivery of public services. In certain parts of the public sector – in primary health care; primary, secondary and higher education; and now in disability care – Australians have made it clear that they value user choice. And where contracting has been done well, the public seem to be more relaxed about the private management of public services. Sydney Ferries is an example of a public service that has been recently franchised, where service quality remains high and the public no longer care who is responsible for its operation.

But the public do want social services to be delivered by people who are motivated by a desire to serve. They worry about the profit motive. And they are concerned that public servants may be outwitted by commercially-savvy contractors.

The public have much greater confidence in those who deliver front-line services than those who manage the finances. Understandably, they identify more closely with those who care more about service quality than those whose care about cost. Front-line staff are much more likely to identify with service users, which is one of the reasons the public trusts them more. In short, the public wants social services to be delivered by people who are motivated by a ‘public service ethos’.

Monopolies are also a problem for those charged with delivering value for money in public services. With rare exceptions, mostly in the management of public utilities, governments have not employed robust performance benchmarking to ascertain whether services are being delivered well. In many cases, there are no agreed performance standards, so it is impossible to know whether providers are delivering value for money.


Posted by VETCentre on Thursday, 28 May 2015 in Research

In late April, the National Centre for Student Equity in Higher Education (NCSEHE) based at Curtin University released an intriguing research report, Student Preferences for Bachelor Degrees at TAFE: The socio-spatial influence of schools (53 pages). Intriguing because it puts a question mark beside whether degree programs offered by non-university higher education providers are serving the objective of enrolling more students from low socio-economic status backgrounds. The hope is that such programs would improve their representation in higher education enrolments, given that young people from the poorest 25 per cent of the population backgrounds make up only 15 per cent of higher education enrolments. 

The NCSEHE report focuses on Victoria and South Australia where data is available to support the kind of analysis undertaken. Specifically the analysis looks at applications by school leavers for places in degree programs offered by TAFE providers. The analysis found, among other things, that:

·         Just over half of students who indicate a preference to undertake a TAFE bachelor degree are from government schools (noting that 60 per cent of students attend government schools)

·         Students who indicate a preference for a TAFE bachelor degree are most often from metropolitan schools and schools in high socioeconomic status (SES) areas

·         Preferences for TAFE bachelor degrees are more likely to come from students in high SES schools than from students in metropolitan schools.

This passage from page 17 of the report is instructive:

In Victoria, the largest group of students (47.1%) is from high SES schools; the smallest (14.9%) is from low SES schools. These are gross over- and under-representations respectively compared to their representations within the general population. They are also inconsistent with preferences for higher education more broadly (see Gale & Parker 2011). The proportion of students from low SES schools in Victoria applying for TAFE bachelor degrees is lower than the proportion of low SES students applying for university through Tertiary Admissions Centres nationwide (DoE 2014a). It is also lower than the participation rate of low SES students in Australian university bachelor degrees (17.4%; DoE 2014c). In South Australia, the spread across SES groups is more even, although students from high SES schools (39.2%) remain over-represented and students from mid (38.3%) and low (22.5%) SES schools are under-represented. 

None of this is to say that TAFE degree programs are unsuccessful. Far from it. As we reported in two previous posts – TAFE providers get a tick from their higher education students, and Non-university providers get a tick from their higher education students – students in TAFE and other non-university degree programs are happier with their student experience than university students. And as the NCSEHE report points out, the 2013 data ‘show a 30 per cent increase in student preferences for TAFE bachelor degrees on the previous four-year period.’ They are good programs with a growing level of acceptance.

The report suggests that there is a tactical response from students in high SES schools – when their ATARs are lower than anticipated or hoped for they use their understanding of how the higher education system works. They alter their preferences to include a TAFE degree because they recognise they are more likely to be offered a place given that TAFE degrees have a lower entry score.

The final paragraph of the report states the key finding directly:

In summary, the most prominent finding from the research is that the student who includes a preference for a TAFE degree on VTAC or SATAC forms is most likely to have a relatively low ATAR, come from a high SES school and government school, in a metropolitan area.

The capability of TAFE to offer degree programs is strong. What we do still have to work on as a nation is lifting the representation in higher education of young people who hail from low SES backgrounds. TAFE has an equally strong capability to make a fundamental contribution to that outcome. 

As important as TAFE providers may be in lifting enrolments of low SES school leavers, the schools they are leaving, and the communities they live in, are key players in realising that objective. The report explores the role of schools in some detail, noting at one point that:

In public schools, redirecting student aspirations through career advice, strong school-university engagement and balanced subjects of study requires a considerable level of political and financial commitment towards low SES and regional/remote schools. 

There is important work yet to do across the education sectors in securing equitable representation of lower SES students in higher education.


Posted by VETCentre on Tuesday, 26 May 2015 in Research

On 11 May, WorldSkills Australia announced the Skillaroos team that is off to Brazil for the 43rd WorldSkills Competition this year. 

Our team of 25 Skillaroos will compete in a range of skill competitions including bakery, floristry, painting and decorating, refrigeration and air conditioning, restaurant service, and welding. Each team member is profiled on the WorldSkills Australia website. Australia’s representatives come from across the continent. They include:

·         Dylan Di Martino, who will take the Aussie colours into the plumbing and heating competition. Dylan’s employer is Paul’s Plumbing Service, and his training provider is Victoria University

·         Karl Geue, who will compete in the cabinetmaking competition. Karl’s employer is Kingston Kabinets, and his training provider is TAFE SA, Mt Gambier.

·         Sharlene Kidd, who will represent us in painting and decorating. Sharlene’s employer is GV Painting, and her training provider is WA Group Training Organisation, MPA Skills

·         Blair Watters, who will compete in car painting. Blair’s employer is T&K Restorations, and his training provider is the Hunter Institute

Key contributors to the WorldSkills Competition are Australia’s group of expertswho include:

·         Christine Churchill, a WorldSkills International Expert in beauty therapy with a 9 year involvement with WorldSkills Australia

·         Hilton Jones, a Deputy Chief Expert in Sheetmetal Technology, who has clocked up 32 years of engagement with WorldSkills Australia

·         Sarah Jones, A Deputy Chief Expert in Graphic Design Technology, who has been involved for 13 years with WorldSkills Australia

·         James Sun, an International Expert in Restaurant Service who has eight years of WorldSkills Australia behind him.

The 2015 WorldSkills Competition will be held in São Paulo from 11-16 August. The Competition website provides a thorough run down on proceedings.

There is a list of skills in competition, which fall into six broad categories – Manufacturing and Engineering Technology, Information and Communication Technology, Construction and Building Technology, Transportation and Logistics, Creative Arts and Fashion, and Social and Personal Services.

There is also a list of 59 countries represented with links to details about each team. Countries represented include BelgiumCanadaDenmarkEgyptHong Kong, China,IndonesiaSingaporeTurkey, and Vietnam.


Posted by VETCentre on Wednesday, 20 May 2015 in VET Reforms

 On 20 April, Assistant Minister for Education and Training, Simon Birmingham, released details about how we will go about training package development and maintenance. The details are on the Vocational Education and Training Reform website, under the banner of ‘New Arrangements for Training Product Development for Australian Industry.’ If you scroll to the bottom of that page you’ll find links to the policy statement, a factsheet, a diagram of the new arrangements, and a PowerPoint presentation (called Post Announcement Q&A).

We say farewell to the role of Industry Skills Councils and welcome a new system. We have a bit of homework to do in brushing up on how all the parts fit together and what all the new acronyms are, as this paragraph from the factsheet shows:

IRCs through their SSO will approach the AISC with a business case for the development or reform of training products. The AISC will then assign work to the IRC with support from the SSO on a prioritised basis.

IRCs are Industry Reference Committees. As the policy document describes them:

Industry reference committees provide the industry engagement mechanism at the centre of training product development. They provide the forum for industry engagement, an avenue for feedback on industry trends and a conduit for promoting VET. Committees will not do this without support. The Government will fund skills service organisations to provide this support.

SSOs are Skills Service Organisations. The policy document outlines the function of an SSO in these terms:

In addition to supporting industry reference committees discharge their responsibilities, the service organisations will also:

·         be responsible for facilitating the development of training products on behalf of their IRCs, including engagement across industry and the training sector;

·         provide quality assurance of training products and conduct the training product development process in accordance with the approved IRC business case;

·         manage the training products through the endorsement process on behalf of their IRC;

·         upload training products and other materials, including procedural information, onto training.gov.au; and

·         prepare support materials and services as agreed with their IRC, to help with quality training delivery.

SSOs will be funded via a competitive basis. There is a transition period to the new arrangements. According to the factsheet, ‘A small number of SSOs will be established from October 2015, with the new model commencing full operations from 1 January 2016.’

IRCs are central as they provide the industry input into training package development. However, they are not necessarily permanent bodies. As the policy document explains:

Committees would be set up on an as needs basis. Some may operate on a standing basis and meet regularly given the priority of training for the sector or the rate of change to training products. Some may be [established] for a specific purpose and would be time limited.

Again, the policy document fleshes out the IRCs role:

Depending upon the training product coverage of a committee, it would have responsibility, with assistance from the skills service organisation, to:

·         gather industry intelligence for their industry sector/s to inform advice on training product development and review;

·         prepare a business case to support a major change or renewal of training products;

·         oversight product development; and 

·         prepare support materials and services that would help in rolling out the training in the sector.

A media release from Australian Ageing Agenda –‘Industry handed responsibility for training development in government shake-up’ – gives the perspective of aged care providers and a round up on the positive response from industry bodies. The media release indicates that at this stage it’s unclear whether the current Industry Skills Council will be able to tender for the newly created role of Skills Service Organisations.


Posted by VETCentre on Tuesday, 19 May 2015 in Research

Online education is now part of the furniture. It’s hard to imagine providing education at any level without an online component. Hard even to remember what is was like before online education took off a decade or more ago. So it was interesting to read a report by Babson Survey Research Group which has been following the steady evolution of online learning year by year. Produced in 2013, and covering the period 2002-2012, the report is called Changing Course: Ten Years of Tracking Online Education in the United States (42 pages).

Obviously there will be differences in perceptions in Australia and the US. All the same the results seem to stack up with the views expressed by practitioners and educational leaders in Australia. It’s worth browsing this report to get a sense of how the online experience is panning out for teachers and students. The report card is mixed.

The Executive Summary (4 pages) provides a great snapshot of what has changed over the past ten years, based on survey results. Setting aside Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) – which seem to have faded as the advance guard of the online revolution – the results are presented under the following headings: • Is Online Learning Strategic?  • How Many Students are Learning Online?  • Does it Take More Faculty Time and Effort to Teach Online?  • Are Learning Outcomes in Online Comparable to Face-to-Face?  • Has Faculty Acceptance of Online Increased?  • Barriers to Widespread Adoption of Online Learning.  There are plenty of highlights in the report. Let’s take just a couple of them.  So, does it take more faculty time and effort to teach online? In 2006, 41 per cent of academic leaders reported that it takes more teacher time and effort to teach online. By 2012 that percentage had risen to 44 per cent. Breaking that percentage down by provider type, it’s interesting to note that private for-profit providers went against this trend, from 31.6 per cent in 2006 to 24.2 percent in 2012.

It’s also interesting to note that in 2012 only 30 per cent of survey respondents believe their teachers ‘accept the value and legitimacy of online education. This rate is lower than the rate recorded in 2004.’ Even among those providers with fully online programs only 38 per cent reported a positive view.

In 2007 80 per cent of respondents believed that a lack of discipline on the part of online students was a barrier to adopting online learning. By 2012 this proportion had grown to 88 per cent. That’s a big number, isn’t it? At a guess this would partly explain why most teachers had concerns about the value and legitimacy of online education. Another guess might have it that students aren’t entirely comfortable with migrating all, or some, kinds of learning to the online environment. The attractions of scale – lower costs to larger numbers of learners – might not be the same as the effectiveness of learning.

However, the view among survey respondents is that the learning outcomes are not at the heart of the problem. In 2003 57 per cent of survey respondents believed learning outcomes in online education were ‘the same or superior to those in face-to-face. That number is now 77.0 percent.’ In reality, online learning is still relatively new and it’s unsurprising that all of us – teachers, learners, and leaders – are still working out how to make the most of it, and how to get the blend right. There are a few more years yet to run before we can make a decisive call on when online works, and how it works best.


Posted by VETCentre on Friday, 08 May 2015 in VET

It seems that VET policy settings and programs are constantly under review. Funding arrangements, expectations and objectives of the VET sector never seem to settle. A few weeks ago someone asked whether it was like this everywhere, or just in Australia. We thought we’d check.

This post, and the following post, records the outcome of a quick mid-April browse of what was in the news about VET around the globe. It was a random check but what it revealed is that the next steps for VET are under active scrutiny well beyond our shores, and the kinds of puzzles we deal with here are also on the minds of our colleagues in other countries. A flit to the US and Germany will be followed in the next post by a hop, skip and jump to India, Vietnam and the UAE.

United States

Washington’s National Journal asked on 15 April, ‘Could Vocational Education Be the Answer to Failing High Schools?’ The article says that:

… states from California to Georgia have invested in building connections among high school coursework, postsecondary education, and job experience. Some employers, seeking skilled workers, have invested in partnerships with local school districts to develop more robust training programs.

But like our own VETiS programs, getting this link right isn’t simple. Gene Bottoms, senior vice president of the Southern Regional Education Board, put the conundrum like this:

‘Everybody thinks that career and technical education and course pathways will be the answer to many of our problems … Part of the struggle we’re into is simply this: what, in the 21st century, what would qualify as high-quality career and technical studies in high school?’

Inside Higher Education is an online news site for US higher education, including community colleges which provide technical education and pathway programs to universities. They have a long history in offering two year degrees, or associate degrees. They have begun to enter the bachelor degree space with four year programs. An Inside Education article on 20 April expresses some of the frustrations and hopes of the community college system as it moves into the four year arena, which is typically the preserve of public, private, and for-profit universities. It’s a little reminiscent of the path we’ve travelled Down Under in recent years with non-university providers entering the bachelor degree market.

The article, ‘Fighting for 4-Year Degrees’, focuses particularly on Florida and California, while noting that in the US, 22 states now allow community colleges to award bachelor’s degrees. In California,

… authorities approved four-year programs at community colleges in dental hygiene, biomanufacturing and health information management, but nursing was excluded because that would have duplicated public university programs.

Yet California faces a shortage of suitably nurses and community colleges reckon the public university system doesn’t have the capacity to meet the need. Florida is also facing a shortage of nurses. The article quotes Jackson Sasser, president of Florida’s Santa Fe College: ‘…

the resistance hasn’t just come from the public universities. It’s the for-profits and private colleges and universities opposing this because they see us as competition. Eight years ago they wouldn’t offer these degrees, but now they’re in opposition to us.’

The August Financial Times ran a report on 14 April under the title ‘Lack of vocational education stifles US mobility’, which indicates that long term under-investment in VET has left the United States without a training capability that responds to the contemporary skills needs of employers. The US has relied on universities and neglected of VET, unlike other parts of the world, noting that ‘In parts of the US such as the southeast it has taken the arrival of big German manufacturers to give local vocational education a kick-start.’

In Australia the role of VET in improving life chances is well recognised. It remains an important work in progress. But perhaps we are a little further down the road. Harry Holzer, a visiting fellow at the US Brookings Institution think tank, has just released a report on social mobility and VET. He is quoted as saying:

‘If we care about social mobility in America we can’t just dismiss this … It requires America to be more serious about career and technical education than it has been in a long time.’


And while the influence of German companies on US training capability may be positive, German news agency Deutsche Welle ran a report on 14 April under the headline ‘Low-level graduates neglected in Germany’s “dual” vocational system.’ In many ways the German VET system is often seen as the gold standard, particularly for apprenticeships. According to the report, the German Federation of Unions says the current system is failing those young people who struggle with the academic side of their studies. Germany’s main business group, the German Chambers of Commerce, disputes this. Nonetheless, it’s an ongoing debate.


Posted by VETCentre on Friday, 08 May 2015 in VET

 The last VET Blog post started a brief world tour of VET, visiting the USA and making a quick trip to Germany. We continue our travels looking at what was keeping VET thinkers awake at night in mid-April. The purpose of this tripping around was to see whether VET is in a constant state of change and challenge anywhere else in the world besides Australia. The answer is the same on this leg of the trip: Yep.


For India, skills formation and skills deepening are obviously critical in providing millions of people with a hopeful future. The Hindu, one of India’s biggest newspapers, ran an opinion piece on 14 April titled‘Towards demand-driven training.’ It gets down to work in the first paragraph by observing that:

… vocational education and training (VET) has been the blind spot of the central and state governments for the past six decades and is riddled with numerous problems which stops it from developing into a successful framework.

The author suggests six actions that governments need to take so that India’s VET system becomes fit for purpose:

1.    Improve data collection about the performance of training providers, and outcomes for students.

2.    Ensure improved collaboration between senior secondary schools and training providers.

3.    Implement competency based training so that training is a link to employer needs and employment opportunities.

4.    Expand the role of private training providers.

5.    Require closer collaboration between employers and training providers.

6.    Lift the public profile and acceptance of VET as a viable pathway to employment.

The tune might be different given that our economies are at different stages of development, but each of those actions rings Australian bells too.


In Australia we’ve long seen responsibility for VET shuttle between portfolios, both at the Commonwealth and state levels. Usually the shuttle is between education and industry portfolios, though occasionally VET has its own ministry. It can be frustrating. It’s just as frustrating in Vietnam. In an article on 17 April VietNamNet tells us that it is frustrating in Vietnam too, and the acronyms for government departments can be just as bemusing as DIIRD was. ‘Fate of vocational schools unclear’ reports that:

The vocational education law will take effect in three months. However, vocational schools still don’t know which management agency they will belong to – the Ministry of Labor, War Invalids and Social Affairs (MOLISA) or the Ministry of Education and Training (MOIT).

The report shares with us the consternation of a Hanoi vocational school headmaster who said that:

… the new vocational education law had surprised everyone when it was made public. ‘I cannot imagine what will happen if vocational education establishments do not belong to the education ministry.’


The National in the United Arab Emirates ran a report on 15 April under the headline ‘UAE needs more students in vocational education, professionals say.’  Here the lament is that VET has lower status than university education and this perception creates problems for young people who want to play to their strengths, and for the national economy which needs people with the skills that VET provides. A young person quoted in the story puts it pretty neatly:

Karan Zavar, 17, said parents were pushing their children to enrol in universities. “But academic education doesn’t prepare you properly for the world of work, so I think there should be vocational elements added to it,” he said.

The story also quotes Prof Ahmad Al Ali, vice chancellor of Emirates Aviation University:

‘A successful country and economy are based on having a large population of skilled people and researchers. In Britain, polytechnics have played an important role in building that skills base with vocational courses and that is something we should look at. You need people with the relevant skills to turn research into reality, and that is done with vocational training.’

All sounds a little familiar, doesn’t it? Yet we are doing a little better here in Australia just on the numbers. The National Report indicates only 1 to 3 per cent of UAE students enrolled in VET which is ‘below the global average of 10 per cent and significantly lower than developed countries such as Germany and Japan, which have enrolment rates of 40 to 50 per cent.’

Gulf News ran a report with a similar line on 16 April:‘Parents, students look down on vocational education.’ However, the report notes that acceptance of VET is improving in the UAE, though obviously there is a good way to go based on the number of enrolments.


Posted by VETCentre on Tuesday, 05 May 2015 in E-Learning

Flipping the learning design – the flipped classroom – has quickly become part of the teaching lexicon. We use it in a variety of ways for a wide variety of practices and the central ideas that sit behind flipping occasionally get a bit fuzzy. The VET Blog recently came across a short post packed with good leads that take the fuzzy out of the picture.

The post is on th ee-Literate blog site, and dates all the way back to October 2014. Six months is a couple of lifetimes on the web! The post is titled Flipped Classrooms: Annotated list of resources. There are links to a dozen resources so it’s not a long list, but it is a quality list.

One of the resources is A Guide to the Flipped Classroom – follow this link because the one in the blog post seems to lead somewhere else. This two page guide sits on theEDUCAUSE website, which is always worth dropping into. It lists seven things you should know about flipped classrooms.

There’s a terrific website listed, Flipped Classroom ePortfolio: a community college teaching experiment in which a community college teacher, Michelle Pacansky-Brock, explains why she introduced flipped classroom strategies, and how she went about it. (You can follow her on Twitter – @brocansky is the handle.)

Another good link is to the University of Austin’s Center for Teaching and Learning.In case you miss it, there’s a link at the bottom of the webpage to the Quick Start Guide: Flipped Classroom. This one pager unpacks flipping very accessibly within this framework:

F Figure out where ‘flipping’ makes the most sense for your course

L Look for in-class activities requiring students to apply what they are learning

I Identify the content students will engage to prepare for class

P Prepare students for the unique roles everyone will have during class


Posted by VETCentre on Monday, 04 May 2015 in VET Conferences

Date:     27 May 2015

Venue:  Centre for Training Excellence, Northbridge, Perth

Theme:  Policy decisions and impacts on vocational education and higher education

WA’s Centre for Training Excellence and the LH Martin Institute, based at Melbourne University, are teaming up to run this Symposium in Perth. The Symposium brochure sets out the aims of the Symposium, which are to provide participants with:

·         An overview of the complex external factors influencing the vocational education and higher education sector in Australia

·         An understanding of the historical and proposed funding models for a tertiary entitlement model across vocational education and higher education

·         A perspective on the impact of national policy and its implication for TAFE and the VET sector across the States

·         An insight into current developments shaping TAFE and the VET sector in Victoria and Western Australia.

Speakers at the Symposium include:

·         Leo Goedegebuure, Director, LH Martin Institute, who will speak on ‘Global trends in tertiary education’ (including rising participation in tertiary education, globalisation in education, and technology in tertiary education)

·         Peter Noonan from the Mitchell Institute for Health and Education Policy, based at Victoria University, who will speak about ‘Alternative perspectives on funding models for a tertiary entitlement’

·         Bruce Mackenzie, Chair of the Victorian VET Funding Review, who will speak on the impact of the reforms on TAFE and the VET sector in Victoria, and their implications for other jurisdictions.


Posted by VETCentre on Wednesday, 29 April 2015 in Research

In the last seven or eight years we have put considerable effort and imagination into improving tertiary participation rates, particularly among young people from lower socio-economic backgrounds who are under-represented in post-school study. Among the many conversations we have engaged in is that around how we foster in young people an aspiration, a desire, to enrol in tertiary education programs, including pathway programs. The conversation is ongoing, and needs to be because the work is far from done.

NCVER has just provided some valuable conversation points through the release in February of a research report titledGeographical and place dimensions of post-school participation in education and work (68 pages).

The report identifies 14 key findings from the research, each of which is explained under its own heading. This sentence from the report’s conclusion gives you bearings on the objective and approach of the research:

This report has investigated the ways by which different aspects of living in a neighbourhood, including how people relate and participate in the structures, opportunities and networks available in their neighbourhoods, affect young people’s (16—25 years old) post-school education and training pathways and decision-making. By exploring the influence of neighbourhood factors, including access to education and training and other community aspects, on education and training outcomes, this study has contributed to an understanding of the geographical and place aspects of social exclusion and the role that education and training can have in reducing its risk and in improving labour force participation.

Four postcodes were included in the study – one in east Gippsland, one in West Gippsland, one in north Adelaide (Elizabeth), and one in south Adelaide (Onkaparinga).

As always with NCVER reports, the key messages from the research are neatly and briefly captured in a page. They include:

In all four geographic areas young people are significantly influenced by their educational and career ‘inheritance’, envisaging they will follow in the footsteps of their parents. By encountering educational cultures different from their own, young people are more likely to make life choices divergent from those they ‘inherit’.

… practical and financial constraints significantly impact on aspirations and opportunities. A particular concern for young people is access to education provision and the cost of transport. A tolerable travel-to-study distance is a key factor, especially once they finish school.

Vocational education and training (VET) provides an essential pathway of choice to further education and work.

·         There is evidence of school retention rates increasing because of the presence of VET in Schools programs.

·         Certificate I and II courses establish an important foundation for learning not acquired in a school setting.

·         The status difference between VET and university pathways is an enduring issue and continues to perpetuate a powerfully entrenched view that VET has to do all the ‘heavy lifting’ in socioeconomically disadvantaged communities.

A close reading of the 14 findings brings home the point that lifting aspirations isn’t a simple matter. The influences on aspiration are many and the interactions of those influences are distinctly personal. Finding 13 is particularly revealing about the importance that informed, attentive adults can have on shaping aspirations and making them tangible. The finding is labelled ‘Positive critical interruptions by organisations or individuals.’ These quotes from young people involved in the research say all that needs to be said on this front:

I tried to get into Cert IV in youth work through TAFE for two consecutive years, but I never got accepted, because I left school early and my history — I missed out on a lot of schooling when I was younger too. And then one of my case managers was: ‘why don’t you try through Tabor Adelaide, because they’ve got a different way of looking at it, it’s not just about your education, it’s about your background, they fully take other things into consideration’. And then I got accepted and I had my books within two weeks.

I got such a close relationship with them that when I left high school, I could still go to the principal’s office and be like, do you want to have a coffee and he’ll just make a coffee and we’ll sit in his office and talk … they gave me the help that I needed and … they were just amazing … I’ll always be grateful for that.

Mentors matter, don’t they?


Posted by VETCentre on Friday, 24 April 2015 in Workforce Development

Workplace delivery of accredited training comes with the challenge of integrating skills development into organisational function in precise ways that deliver real business benefits. McKinsey Quarterly ran a recent article recently,‘Do your training efforts drive performance?’, that provides some insights into how organisations plan to secure those benefits and how they monitor them. The article focuses on in-house training in large businesses, but nonetheless provides some clues for training providers about what constitutes good design for workplace training. In the end, good workplace training delivered by a training provider has to earn its stripes by being as good as, or better than, in-house training.

The article reports on the outcomes from a 2014 survey of senior executives on organisational capability building. The survey found that businesses are finding it increasingly difficult to define ‘a clear vision linked with the overall business.’ The question that appears to sit behind this is an important one: how does training contribute to our business objectives? This is related to the struggle that businesses report in coming up with credible ways of measuring the impact of training on business performance.  According to the article:

Almost one-fifth [of survey respondents] said that their organisations did not attempt to measure the impact of training and learning programs at all; only 13 percent told us that these companies tried to quantify the financial return on their learning or training investments.

In planning and designing workplace delivery it looks as though there is work for training providers to do in assisting business to measure the impact of training. Companies that reported organisational capability building was a top priority are much likelier to ‘use a range of both qualitative and quantitative metrics to assess the impact of programs and were generally better at meeting the stated targets.’

Another useful observation in the article is that effective training outcomes are more likely when human resource departments and business units within the business work together:

Sharing responsibilities – with HR guiding the ‘how’ and the businesses the ‘what’ – has a number of practical advantages, starting with the greater relevance of the resulting programs to the actual work of employees.

External training providers may need to form a productive three-way exchange between themselves, HR and business units if design, delivery and measurement are to offer an integrated package.


Posted by VETCentre on Wednesday, 22 April 2015 in E-Learning

In early February we posted on outcomes from NZ discussions about innovations in tertiary education delivery. The outcomes were reported by Education Counts, the research and statistics arm of New Zealand’s Ministry of Education. Education Counts is front and centre again in this post with its February release of E-Learning in the Workplace: An annotated bibliography (194 pages).

The report extracts research findings from five nations – NZ, Australia, Canada, the UK and the USA. If workplace learning is your bag, then e-learning must be in the bag, and this report should be too!

The key findings are helpfully listed on page six of the document. They include:

·         Large organisations are more likely to adopt e-learning than small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) because they have better infrastructure and systems and can more readily achieve economies of scale and return on investment. SMEs can form collaborative networks to share knowledge, resources, and expertise to overcome the cost and relevance barriers they face when implementing e-learning.

·         The focus in workplace e-learning has moved from ‘courses’ to learning content that is available to employees as and when needed. E-learning is more effective when people can access it in small ‘chunks’, reflect on it, and then apply it immediately.

The key findings include a list of barriers to implementing e-learning in the workplace, including:

·         High up-front costs that include new and/or upgraded systems, training the trainers, and developing interactive and/or personalised content

·         Employees and trainers lacking the skills and capabilities to teach and learn in e-learning environments.

·         Irrelevance to real-time work tasks and not integrated with business processes.

For trainers and RTOs seeking guidance on how to shape e-learning delivery for their clients, this bibliography is a trove of ideas, options, and sensible cautions. The findings are presented succinctly – a summary is presented for each research paper (almost all of them in a page or less). The summary is also written with practitioners in mind. The practical take home message is the centre of gravity for each summary.

A selection of the research papers summarised gives you some idea of the diversity of matters the bibliography attends to:

·         Online versus classroom training: Is there a clear winner?

·         Pull learning: Ensuring elearners learn through effective design

·         Cutting edge or cutting loose? An exploration of apprentices’ experiences of workplace e-learning

·         Development of organizational learning through web based training

·         Online vs. in-class success

·         Putting professional development online: Integrating learning as productive activity

·         Social networks, web and mentoring approaches in SME continuing vocational education and training

·         Blended learning and work: Real-time work flow learning

·         Learning Management Systems for the workplace.


Posted by VETCentre on Thursday, 16 April 2015 in VET Reforms

The VET Reform Taskforce is steadily working through its agenda. There is atable on VET Reform websitewhich ticks off the items that have been worked through, with a link to more information about each item.

Progress has been made across 20 or so matters under six objectives:

1.    Better governance

2.    Qualifications that meet industry needs

3.    Trade apprenticeships that are appropriately valued and utilised as a career pathway

4.    More responsive and fair regulation

5.    Better access to consumer information

6.    Better targeting of funding.

As this post is written we are still waiting to hear what the new arrangements will be for developing and maintaining training packages under a contestable model. Watch this page for details which are expected soon as the new model is scheduled to kick in from July this year.

One visible change is the revampedMySkills websitewhich provides more information to prospective students. According to the VET Reform website, this year MySkills ‘is on target for nearly 1 million visits from people looking for information about VET courses and providers.’

You may be interested to read a VET Blog post from mid-March – Summary of National Consultations on VET Reform.


Posted by VETCentre on Tuesday, 14 April 2015 in VET

It isn’t all plain sailing of course. In Australia we are still getting our act together around pathways and it shows in some student comments. As one student noted:

·         ‘Several of the units do not seem to be much different from similar units at Diploma level in terms of knowledge learned. I’m not sure how this compares to university as I have not yet attended, but I feel there should either be an improvement in quality or more opportunity for advanced standing from Diploma to Associate Degree.’

Improving our management of pathways is an important task for the whole tertiary education sector. No excuse for resting up just yet. TheAustralian Council for Educational Research(ACER) has researched the most effective strategies that we can deploy to increase tertiary participation for young people. A research summary –Increasing participation in tertiary education– posted in early March on ACER’s website identifies five factors that really work to increase participation. One of them is:

·         Building partnerships between communities, schools, tertiary providers, employers, industry groups and social enterprise that aim to develop qualifications that will benefit the regions they serve.

That sense of broad partnerships is one that needs attention. A pathway or articulation arrangement is often focused on student flows between providers. A broad partnership is a more generous, inclusive and productive context in which pathways can flourish.

The ACER research also points to specific approaches that are needed in regional areas:

… the research suggests the continuation and improvement of allowances to fund accommodation and the cost of moving from home, and higher education programs facilitated by other providers such as TAFEs or ‘university centres’. A further suggestion for regional areas is the facilitation of collaboration between education providers and employers, whereby courses and qualifications are jointly developed with a focus on enhancing existing industry strengths and developing a regional workforce equipped with skills to innovate for the future.


Posted by VETCentre on Monday, 13 April 2015 in Research

TAFE Directors Australiareported in November 2014 on an independent survey it had commissioned to get a sense of how TAFE higher education students evaluated their learning, teaching and student experience. The Higher Education Student Survey Report(20 pages) was undertaken at a time when the higher education reforms proposed by the Commonwealth were still to be considered by the Senate. Consequently, some of the items surveyed relate to a set of policy proposals that have since been voted down. However, there is a good deal more to the survey than that and it’s worth digging out a few of the gems.

In our last post we looked at survey results reported by Graduate Careers Australia (GCA) from a small sample of higher education students enrolled with non-university providers. The results from TDA’s survey back up GCA’s survey findings. Student satisfaction with higher education at TAFE was tested on a five point scale, with 1 being very dissatisfied and 5 being very satisfied. The outcomes are strong as shown by the following ratings (averaged across all respondents):

·         ‘Communication with teachers’ rated at 4.2

·         ‘The skills and knowledge for work’ rated at 4.1

·         ‘The quality of teaching’ rated at 4.1

·         ‘Academic support for my study’ rated at 4.0.

The survey invited written comments from students and more than 1000 were received. They were categorised into five groups:

1.    The applied nature of the learning and ‘work readiness’ of higher education courses

2.    The quality of courses and teaching

3.    Academic and career support

4.    Facilities and resources

5.    Articulation pathways.

Each of these categories is reported on separately in the report (pages 12-16). On the applied nature of learning, the report notes that:

The majority of comments from students reflect the high value they place on the applied nature of learning in TAFE, the industry experience of teachers, the industry focus of the curriculum and opportunities for work integrated learning through work placements, internships and simulated work environments.

Of particular importance to many students is academic and career support. The best way to get a handle on these views is to read individual student comments, which include:

·         ‘Not having been at a schooling facility for a number of years prior, I found that TAFE has enabled me to adjust to a learning environment without overwhelming me.’

·         ‘You can’t get lost in the system at TAFE as easily as at university.’

·         ‘Having earlier in my life done a university degree, I find the TAFE teaching system to be more to my liking, where teachers are very approachable.’

·         ‘I have a personal relationship with most of my lecturers, who are also our tutors and lab technicians for practicals, and this has greatly assisted my commitment, enthusiasm and confidence. I feel this would be less available at a university.’

·         ‘I have been supported through a number of different student services (personal counselling, study counselling, tutoring, assistance with Centrelink, etc.) and it has been absolutely essential to my success at TAFE.’


Posted by VETCentre on Thursday, 09 April 2015 in Research

In March, Graduate Career Australiareleased the results of its annual survey of higher education students, the 2014 University Experience Survey National Report. The survey asked students to indicate how they rated their educational experience at their higher education provider. This is the first year that students at non-university higher education providers (or NUHEIs) were included in the survey. In the past the survey only covered the nation’s university students.

Okay, there are lots of unknowns about the data. This was a pilot survey and only students from 15 of 130 NUHEIs were asked to respond. And it’s true that that NUHEI’s teach into a smaller number of subjects and qualifications than universities. And it’s also true that, as the report points out on page 35:

NUHEI students are more likely than their peers from universities to be international students, speak a language other than English at home and be the first in their family to enrol in higher education.

All this means that direct comparisons are a bit tricky. But next year the sample of NUHEI students will be bigger and we’ll have a more substantial basis for making those comparisons. That ought not stop us from getting ready, and for NUHEIs – mostly TAFE and private providers who are settling into higher education delivery – you can probably get ready for some good news.

The survey investigates five focus areas, and the number given for each focus area is the percentage of students that was satisfied with their higher education experience.

On page 34 there’s a table that compares responses from NUHEI and university students for each of the focus areas. This is the good news for non-university providers.

Focus Area 1 – Skills development:

·         NUHEI students – 88

·         University students – 81

Focus Area 2 – Learner engagement:

·         NUHEI students – 71

·         University students – 61

Focus Area 3 – Teaching quality:

·         NUHEI students – 89

·         University students – 82

Focus Area 4 – Student support:

·         NUHEI students – 82

·         University students – 73

Focus Area 5 – Learning resources:

·         NUHEI students – 80

·         University students – 86

The survey also posed two specific questions.

Question 1 – Quality of entire educational experience:

·         NUHEI students – 85

·         University students – 81

Question 2 – Quality of teaching:

·         NUHEI students – 86

·         University students – 81

You’ll see from this list that on six out of seven items NUHEIs outdo universities, according to their students, and sometimes by a fair margin of seven or more percentage points. Only on one question about learning resources did NUHEIs fall behind – they were six percentage points lower than universities.

Our students have valid observations to make about the quality of their educational experience – most of them have been students for 12 or more years after all. Their observations are good news for the student experience in non-university providers.

The 2014 survey asked university students only whether they had considered dropping out. The Executive Summary had this to say (covered in more detail in section 4.6 of the report):

In addition to questions on their higher education experience, students were also asked to indicate whether they had seriously considered leaving their university in 2014. Overall, 17 per cent indicated that they had considered leaving. Commencing students, older students, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students, students with a disability and students who were first in their family to attend university were the most likely to consider early departure, as were those who had achieved low grades to date. The most common reasons given for considering early departure are situational in nature, including health or stress, difficulties relating to finances and workload, and study/life balance (Section 4.6).

We are keen to see this question asked of students enrolled with non-university providers. Many non-university providers work closely with students who are on pathways that will lead them into higher education qualifications, or who have a set of personal challenges that make it tougher to finish their qualifications. At a guess, that group of students is likely to have a lot of positive things to say about non-university providers.


Posted by VETCentre on Wednesday, 08 April 2015 in Research

Cast your mind back to those few days at the start of 2015, when you were weighing up how well you’d go with your New Year’s resolution. At the same time that you were wondering whether you’d get it over the line, Newspoll was out there asking Australians what they had in mind for 2015.

brief snapshot of the answers (3 pages) reveals that at the top of the list, 34 per cent of us were going start looking for a new job, and 33 per cent of us were planning to go overseas. At the other end of the list, 5 per cent of Aussies were planning to sell their homes, 3 per cent were planning to retire, and 2 per cent thought they might join the Australian Defence Force Reserve.

What’s all this got to do with the VET blog? Glad you asked. There are 33 items on the Newspoll list, and at number 13 we have ‘Start a new training course or in enrol in university’ – 14 per cent of Australians identified that as one of their main objectives for 2015. One in seven of us were planning to do some study.

If we assume that intention is reasonably consistent over time then we seem to do a good job at following through. In 2013 11.9 per cent of the population aged 15 years and older were participating in training in the public VET system. You can pick that figure up, with lots of others, on page 8 of the NCVER’s Australian vocational education and training statistics: Students and courses 2013 (28 pages).

There was another entry on the Newspoll list that mightn’t work out so well – ‘Go social media free for at least two weeks’ was on the minds of 11 per cent of those polled. No Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, texting, Instagram, Pinterest, YouTube. Not likely.


Posted by VETCentre on Thursday, 02 April 2015 in Industry

RTOs and trainers are often an important source of information about training support beyond the VET system itself. You may already have a good handle on the Commonwealth’s new Industry Skills Fund. If you’re still catching up, this post is just a tour of the website that houses information about the Fund. In August last we posted about the consultation process that was then in train to finalise the Fund’s design details.

The Fund comprises a Growth Stream and a Youth Stream. This post is about the Growth Stream. You can view a suite of materials about the Youth Stream here.

The Industry Skills Fund was announced in the 2014-2015 Commonwealth Budget and funding applications were invited from 19 January this year.

Key targets are micro, small and medium sized businesses. Large companies are also eligible, as are consortia of businesses. The Fund features an industry co-contribution to the total cost of any proposed training project. The co-contribution schedule is:

·         Micro Business (0 – 4 FTE employees) – 25%

·         Small Business (5 – 19 FTE employees) – 34%

·         Medium Business (20 – 199 FTE employees) – 50%

·         Large Business (200+ FTE employees) – 75%.

There are two useful videos about the Growth Stream:

·         short video (just over two minutes) on the Growth Stream landing page that gives you the bare bones about how it works

·         ten minute video which gives a more detailed explanation of the Stream’s objectives, eligibility criteria, and how to access to support via a grant.

The longer video is a good overview which can help to provide an overall context for thesix fact sheets which cover:

·         skills advice

·         training grants

·         the co-contribution model

·         business growth opportunities

·         priority industries

·         the assessment process for applications.

When you’re ready to grapple with the deep detail, you can find any amount of it on the webpage titled Guidelines and Key Documents.


Posted by VETCentre on Monday, 30 March 2015 in Research

The Cooney Centre in New York has a pretty good education pedigree. Joan Ganz Cooney was among the instigators of Sesame Street. Fifty years later the Cooney Centre continues to work on how children and young people learn in a digital world. Late last year the Centre released Level up learning: a national survey on teaching with digital games(66 pages).

The main findings are simply stated in the foreword to the report:

·         a majority of teachers are using digital games in their classrooms

·         games are increasingly played on mobile devices that travel with their students.

The report looks at what is happening in classrooms from what in Australia would be pre-school to Year 8. A little younger than most VET learners, but they grow up fast don’t they? The oldest of these kids will be in tertiary education in just four or five years.

It’s a fascinating document that covers a lot of territory. One section in particular is worth mulling over – it starts on page 13 and delves into the characteristics of ‘game-using teachers and their perceptions of the value of digital games.’ A few snippets from the engagingly presented data:

·         19% of teachers use digital games in their classes 2-4 days per week

·         Only 26% of teachers never use digital games in their classes

·         There’s no gender divide – 69% of male teachers and 75% of female teachers use games in instruction

·         78% of teachers who play digital games also use them in instruction, whereas only 55% of teachers who do not play games use them with their students

·         Game-using teachers are way more likely to use other media in their classrooms, like tablets, projectors, and the internet.

When asked how they first learned about using games in the classroom teachers overwhelmingly responded that they learned from another teacher, coach, or supervisor, or less often they figured it out themselves. This was true no matter how long they’d been teaching – 1 year or 25 years. Those who had been teaching for more than 15 years were more likely to say they had learned through formal professional development programs – but that was still only at 24%.


Posted by VETCentre on Thursday, 26 March 2015 in Research

Melbourne’s esteemed Brotherhood of St Laurence (BSL) keeps us focused on the personal and social impact of poverty and disadvantage.

In March BSL released The Teenage Dream Unravels: Trends in Youth Unemployment (7 pages) which shows that it’s 15-19 year olds who are faring worst as the unemployment rate stays high. There are around 780,000 unemployed Australians, and one in five of them is a teenager.

The unexpected twist in the BSL research report is that since the Global Financial Crisis (GFC):

… the proportion of the pool of unemployed people with less than Year 12 has declined. This group made up more than 44 per cent of the unemployed in every year up to 2010, then dropped sharply to 32 per cent in 2011 and 36 per cent in 2012. Meanwhile, the proportion of unemployed people with some tertiary education has increased since 2010.

The Brotherhood makes the case that the GFC isn’t really over yet. We had a really nasty recession in Australia in the early 1990s and unemployment shot up. Within two years employment had recovered. The GFC arrived in 2009, less forcefully than in other developed countries and with a lesser immediate impact on unemployment. The difference is that unemployment is still rising, and those between 15 and 24 years of age are facing deteriorating employment prospects.

If you want to track employment conditions a little more closely in your own neighbourhood, the Commonwealth’s Department of Employment can help through itsSmall Area Labour Markets series. The data for September quarter 2014 are now available. Here’s a tale of three Fairfields taken from that report:

·         Fairfield in Sydney’s west had an unemployment rate of 17.8% in September 2013, and a year later, in September 2014, it stood at 21.2%

·         In Fairfield in Melbourne’s inner east the unemployment rate in September 2013 stood at 5.3%, and a year later was at 5.7%

·         Fairfield in Brisbane’s inner south was running at an unemployment rate of 6.2% in September 2013, and a year later was up at 8.1%.

What the Brotherhood of St Laurence wants us to be aware of is that one in five of those unemployed Australians are aged 15-19.


Posted by VETCentre on Wednesday, 25 March 2015 in Research

If you work in VET in Victoria you might be surprised to learn that some economists at theMelbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research think you are part of a world first natural experiment. They have written about that experiment in an Institute Working Paper released in February. If you take a deep breath you’ll be okay to get through the title without pause. It’s called If You Get What You Want, Do You Get What You Need? Course Choice and Achievement Effects of a Vocational Education and Training Voucher Scheme(69 pages).

What natural experiment? The introduction in 2009 of the Victorian Training Guarantee (VTG). Because Victoria implemented a demand-driven system several years before any other state it’s possible to compare what happened in Victoria with what happened in other states which didn’t buy in until 2012 at the earliest. The comparison is with NSW which didn’t adopt the system until 2014.

The researchers were interested to check whether the demand-driven system improved outcomes for students and industry. They explored the data for a story on two key outcomes:

·         the alignment of course choice with skill demand – in other words, they wanted to know whether 15-19 year old students enrolled in qualifications that led to employment in areas where skills were in shortage

·         academic achievement, a proxy for training quality – in other words, they looked for evidence that told them something about the robustness of learning outcomes in Victoria compared to NSW.

At this point it’s probably helpful to note that the paper styles the VTG as a voucher system. This means a student can take their entitlement to a training place to the provider of their choice and the government will steer a training subsidy to that provider.

The paper is interesting because it takes to task on some of the ready views that have formed about voucher systems. According to authors – Duncan McVicar and Cain Polidano – the outcomes are pretty solid.

They note that the VTG:

triggered three changes: the uncapping of the number of publicly-funded places available to 15-19 year-olds, the linking of funding to student choice rather than government priorities, and the introduction of competition for funding from private colleges.

To the findings, in sections 5 and 6 of the paper. They open with this observation:

While the popular media fixated on post-VTG enrolment increases in fitness instructor and other ‘soft’ courses with questionable career prospects in reality there were enrolment increases across the board … Victorian enrolments increased by more in courses with higher expected returns, including large increases in engineering and related areas.

More directly, they interpret their data as showing that after the VTG was introduced there was ‘an improvement in the responsiveness of VET enrolments to skill demands.’ They also found that students from socially disadvantaged groups benefited as much from the VTG as other students – the VTG didn’t increase disadvantage. Except that a student-choice model seemed to widen the gender gap with more males going into apprenticeships than females.

Let’s leave the paper with this quote from the report:

the VTG is associated with improvement in private provider and public college completion rates. If this is in part a competition effect, then the positive effect among existing public colleges suggests they are upping their game in response to the reforms.


Posted by VETCentre on Tuesday, 24 March 2015 in Research

At the beginning of every year the NCVER does us the grand service of combing its own research from the year just gone to see what the most pertinent findings are. That’s what’s in Research messages 2014 (50 pages). It’s the quick way to find your way through the VET research landscape.

The summaries are very straightforward. In the section on highlights for 2014, there’s a rundown on two papers published in 2014 concerning apprentices. The overview goes like so:

In Understanding the non-completion of apprentices Alice Bednarz reviews all the existing literature on this subject, investigating it from a number of perspectives, including apprentices’ accounts for their non-completion and the role employers and training providers play in apprentice non-completion. Bednarz found that employment-related issues were cited as the most common reason for non-completion and included difficulties with employers and colleagues, redundancy and dislike of the work. Tom Karmel, David Roberts and Patrick Lim in The impact of increasing university participation on the pool of apprentices analyse the impact of increasing university participation on the intake and quality of apprentices. Karmel and Roberts found that, over the 11-year period covered by the research, participation in both university and apprenticeships grew. That said, an increase in the probability of university entry was shown to impact unambiguously on the quality of apprentices, with young men less likely to undertake an apprenticeship if they are academically inclined. The growth in apprenticeship numbers arose largely from less academically inclined young men and those from low SES backgrounds, while the increase in university participation was attributable to academically lower-performing young men from higher SES backgrounds.

In the final section on the NCVER Core Research Program, there is a summary of a paper by Tom Karmel who led the NCVER from 2002 to 2013. The paper is called The contribution of education to economic growth in Australia, 1997-2009. The two key messages in the report are handed over to us like this in Research messages 2014:

1.     Increasing education levels are contributing to improved productivity: of the order of 0.14% per annum between 1997 and 2009 (less than for the period 1968-69 to 1989-90). They will do so as long as the wage premiums associated with qualifications are maintained, noting that over the period in question the ratios of the hourly wage rates between education levels have been fairly stable.

2.     Increasing education levels have had a sizeable impact on the hours worked by the workforce. In fact between 2001 and 2009 this impact (of over 3% on hours worked) was larger than the improvement in labour quality. This effect was almost entirely due to increases in the number of women with degrees and postgraduate qualifications.

It sometimes helps to rewrite findings like these because they tend to stick in your mind if you can find your own way of saying. Here’s the result from rewriting the two findings above:

1.     Productivity improves the more highly educated the population becomes, and you can bet that will continue to happen so long as people with higher qualifications continue to get paid more than people with lower qualifications.

2.     The more highly educated we are the more hours we work – and most of the extra hours done in Australia since 2001 was done by women with higher education degrees.


Posted by VETCentre on Friday, 20 March 2015 in VET

The Apprenticeship Staff Support Programme (ASSP) is a UK initiative that provides professional development resources to providers of apprenticeship programs. How various organisations that fund and support ASSP all fit together is difficult to work out from half a world away. Let’s leave it that the Association of Employment and Learning Providers and the Education and Training Foundation are key players in putting the ASSP on the ground. Best to appreciate the resources they’ve created.

Don’t be puzzled when you see a resource kit put together by Babington Business College which is called ‘employer engagement guide and Financial Services Apprenticeship resources for employer-facing staff’. Some of what we call traineeships Down Here is called apprenticeships Up There. (The apprenticeship system in the UK is undergoing substantial change. A parent’s guide to Apprenticeships is a simple one pager that outlines the apprenticeship model in the UK today. The Skills Funding Agency’s website is also a helpful port of call.)

There is a Resource Guide (6 pages) which provides hyperlinks to 18 sets of resource which were produced in two strands:

·         Strand 1: Securing and further developing employer involvement in Apprenticeship delivery

·         Strand 2: Further improving curriculum development, and teaching, learning and assessment on Apprenticeship programmes.

Take a look at one of the Strand 1 resource kits as an example – a Moodle toolkit for employer-facing support staff and employers. Here you’ll find a bundle of goodies created by Economic Solutions – one of more than a dozen organisations that won a competitive tender to produce the resources. The goodies relate to the two key project activities that Economic Solutions undertook:

·         Design and deliver a 5-day blended learning program allowing staff to provide:

o    Effective, ongoing advice to develop employer capacity to recruit and train apprentices

o    Long-term, effective support for employers in the context of the future Apprenticeship landscape.

·         Create an accessible online toolkit (videos, activities, factsheets, etc.) for staff to support employers to take ownership of the apprentices’ journey. This can support the learning and development programme for staff and be used when engaging with employers.

You can download all the resources directly from the webpage devoted to each project.


Posted by VETCentre on Thursday, 19 March 2015 in VET Conferences

Date:     14-15 May 2015

Venue:  National Wine Centre of Australia, Adelaide

Theme:  Equipping for the future: assess, train, learn

ACER has planned a diverse program for the 2015 National Adult Language, Literacy and Numeracy and Assessment Conference – otherwise known as NALLNAC. The conference will have streams for VET practitioners, industry, researchers, and policy makers.

But before you get to the conference proper, on 13 May there are two pre-conference workshops.

Workshop 1 is called ‘Work ready, set, GO!’ The workshop is presented by Sue Goodwin and Kate Perkins, members of the team that developed the Core Skills for Work Developmental Framework. The workshop’s brief is to:

·         consider the latest findings on what employers mean by ‘work ready’, and

·         explore ways in which you can use the Core Skills for Work Developmental Framework and the Foundation Skills Assessment Tool to enhance your current practice and design a work readiness strategy for your organisation.

Workshop 2 is called ‘Engaging ALL learners in maths and numeracy’. The facilitator is David Tout, ACER’s Senior Research Fellow and Manager, Vocational, Adult and Workplace Education. The workshop is billed as a ‘hands-on workshop will focus on the development and practice of core mathematics skills through a wide range of approaches such as games, whole-group and other cooperative small-group work, as well as on enjoyment and having fun with mathematics.’

Now to the conference itself. Keynote speakers include:

·         Professor Geoff Masters, ACER’s CEO, who will speak on ‘Equipping VET for the future: Reforming educational assessment’

·         Ros Bauer, Australian Training Awards Winner – Excellence in Adult Language Literacy Numeracy Practice Award, who will speak on ‘Learning, earning and yearning: Indigenous learners, LLN, and VET success – from theory to practice’.

Among the papers and panel sessions are the following:

·         Top Down, Bottom Up: better understanding the learner by using a variety of assessment types (Jim Spithill, test developer at ACER, and Philippa McLean, former project manager for the development of the ACSF 2012)

·         Joining the dots: How do we move beyond the focus on literacy and numeracy compliance and into learning? (Koula Lykourinos, Melbourne Polytechnic)

·         Embedding LLN in VET training (Jen Zhao, an ACSF specialist currently undertaking a PhD on language assessment, Linda Are, Principal Lecturer in Foundation Skills in TAFESA)

·         The return on investing in LLN in industry (Justin Brown, Senior Research Fellow (VET) in ACER’s Teaching, Learning and Transitions program, and Michael Taylor, National Policy and Projects Manager with Australian Industry Group)

·         SIHHCLS201A + TAELLN411 + FSKNUM08 = A simple sum for a VET teacher? (Carolyn Johnstone, lecturer in VET at Federation University)

·         Quality assessments: practice and perspectives (Josie Misko, Senior Research Fellow, NCVER).


Posted by VETCentre on Thursday, 19 March 2015 in VET Reforms

During January and February the VET Reform Taskforce convened stakeholder consultations in all capital cities, inviting feedback on two items:

·         priorities for future VET Reform; and

·         the Review of Training Packages and Accredited Courses.

On 27 February, the Taskforce issued a one page summary of the points made during the consultations about priorities for VET reform. They fall under five themes: industry responsiveness, quality, streamlining and deregulation, funding, and implementation.

For example, the points raised about funding were as follows:

·         The recognition of skill sets was a common issue raised in most consultations. Participants agreed that skill sets should be funded along with full qualifications as they are important for meeting industry needs of many employers.

·         Pathway courses and apprenticeships/traineeships also require greater funding.

·         Participants called for consistency and stability in funding arrangements within and between states and territories, stating that the fast pace of change can affect the viability of RTOs.

·         Participants raised a number of concerns that the targeting of funding is pushing students into inappropriate courses and RTOs are making delivery decisions based only on what is funded.

The Taskforce also issued a one page summary of the points made during consultations about the Review of Training Packages and Accredited Courses. There were 13 main observations recorded, including:

·         There is also general agreement that the one-size-fits-all approach to the development, design and regulation of training packages is not working for all industries within the national training system. Some industries require more flexibility within training packages while other industries require more specificity.

·         There is scope for clearer guidance on assessment requirements in some sectors. More guidance should be included in training packages regarding industry’s expectations in relation to the assessment of the student.

·         There is a role for a better balance of generic and specific skills in the VET system, particularly in relation to non-regulated occupations.

·         The literacy and numeracy of VET students, and the extent to which school systems should have greater responsibility for preparing students to undertake training as a pathway to employment.

We might expect that many of the points in both summary documents will begin to work their way through the VET system in the next 12 months.

If you are interested in what was said in your capital city, scroll to the bottom of this page for a record of each consultation.


Posted by VETCentre on Thursday, 12 March 2015 in VET Reforms

On 5 February Simon Birmingham, the Commonwealth’s recently appointed Assistant Minister for Education and Training, spoke at an event organised by the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ACCI). The Minister titled his speech ‘The skills for the job: Ensuring Vocational Education and Training delivers for employees and employers’. It’s worth reading because it provides some insights into the work initiated by former Minister Ian Macfarlane on VET reform.

There are some nice reflections that put VET statistics in human form. The Minister noted:

With all of the attention that the university sector receives in schools and in the media it may surprise many to hear me say that VET directly impacts on most Australians. But the statistics verify this claim.

Around 40 per cent of school leavers go straight onto university. More than half do not, with around 21 per cent proceeding automatically into some form of vocational education.

However, it is in learning throughout life that VET comes to overtake the university sector for community wide participation. In 2013, 1.31 million studied at university, yet around three million Australians participated in some form of vocational education and training.

He also notes that for many people VET also serves as a pathway to higher education – these systems are not, to use the Minister’s words, ‘independent siloes’.

He points to some worrying signs that there is decreasing use of the VET system by employers and increasing concern among employers about VET quality. Later in his speech the Minister puts this into perspective, saying among other things about ‘dodgy providers’:

Our Government is providing $68 million over four years to bolster the enforcement capacity of the Australian Skills Quality Authority (ASQA) and enable ASQA to be more efficient and proactive. We have also established a one-stop-shop complaints hotline that will triage complaints to ASQA or any other relevant state or federal agency.

While boosting the role of ASQA in targeting dodgy training providers we are also reducing its burden on those doing the right thing. Improved compliance reporting requirements and the removal of full cost recovery measures have eased the red tape burden for many RTOs.

Progressively ASQA will seek to introduce a system of earned autonomy, so that RTOs of the highest standards can further reduce their reporting to the regulator, freeing it up to concentrate more closely on necessary audits and areas of concern.

In particular, our new regulations crack down on unscrupulous and misleading behaviour by some training providers and brokers.

Training providers and their brokers must now be upfront with students and provide clear information about any VET FEE-HELP loans, state entitlements and subsidy arrangements that they sign up to. The standards also stipulate that training providers are ultimately responsible for services delivered by brokers on their behalf, ensuring that the buck stops with training providers.

ACCI issued a media release following the Minister’s speech which included the following statement:

Jenny Lambert, the ACCI Director of Employment, Education and Training, said: “In his speech, Senator Birmingham discussed the benefits of his early and extensive consultation and said a key concern is ensuring quality across the system. A small number of profiteering providers are damaging the reputation of an otherwise world-class system of skills development. The regulator needs to be swifter and more robust in enforcing the existing standards and the new training provider standards rolling out in coming months.


Posted by VETCentre on Wednesday, 11 March 2015 in VET

Paying for tertiary education – both VET and higher education – is a thorny issue. It’s widely accepted that both governments and students should share the cost of tertiary education. The tricky bit is working out fair shares. The nation gains from having a highly skilled and knowledgeable workforce – that’s a competitive edge we have to keep sharpening. Students benefit because tertiary education improves life chances, labour market opportunities, health and wellbeing, and lifetime income – the return on investment is pretty solid. However we strike the balance, we need a sustainable way of financing tertiary education – the system we adopt has to be affordable to governments and students over the long term.

The Mitchell Institute for Health and Education Policy has tangled with these realities in its Issues Paper, Financing tertiary education in Australia – the reform imperative and rethinking student entitlements (43 pages), released on 25 February. Whatever the outcome of present debate about higher education reform, the paper makes it clear that as a nation we need to revisit the financing framework for the whole of tertiary education. The Issues Paper suggests that the inequities and imbalances across the VET and higher education sectors ought to be considered as a whole and a new path struck that makes room for all tertiary students.

The paper reviews the history of student entitlements to support from governments when it comes to paying for their tertiary education. The original Higher Education Contribution Scheme (HECS) was a groundbreaking policy that others nations have looked to when framing an affordable entry to tertiary education. Under HECS, governments paid the tuition fee upfront and students paid the government back after their income reached a threshold. That central design idea has persisted over a generation as HECS has morphed into HELP.

Yet the Mitchell Institute Issues Paper suggests that VET students have had a rougher ride in recent years compared to university students. The introduction of upfront fees across the VET system has occurred in different ways across the states and territories, and access to government support varies widely. In effect, the paper says, we have eight different systems guiding a student entitlement to government support for VET study.

If we’re serious about VET having the same esteem as higher education, and we should be, then it’s time to sort out the inconsistencies so that every young Australian works with the same rules wherever they happen to live.

The Issues Paper notes that the inconsistencies in the amount of support a student receives are related to four factors:

·         the state/territory in which they undertake education or training

·         the sector in which their qualification is accredited and delivered – VET or higher education

·         whether they undertake education and training at a public or private institution, and

·         the qualification in which they enrol.

The authors of the paper, Peter Noonan and Sarah Pilcher, look to changes in the way the Australian Federation allocates responsibilities for funding as a key to reform. The allocation they propose looks like this:

·         the Commonwealth funds all subdegree and degree level qualifications, regardless of the sector in which they are delivered.

·         states/territories fully fund:

o    certificates III and IV, including apprenticeships, other forms of entry level training, and posttrade training;

o    certificates I and II as pretertiary qualifications (which would sit outside the tertiary student entitlement); and

o    preparatory and secondary school equivalent education.

Luckily there is a process underway that seeks to clarify the responsibilities and roles of governments within the Federation. There is a specific focus in this process on education – we looked at this in a blog post last November titled ‘Rethinking education policy and funding in the Australian federation’.

The Issues Paper identifies the design tasks involved in coming up with a national student tertiary education entitlement system for people aged 18-24. It acknowledges that a different approach is needed for older people. The Mitchell Institute isn’t stopping at floating a good idea in the Issues Paper. Work is already underway on detailed modelling that will look at the design and costs of an entitlement for young people. Stay tuned for more.


Posted by VETCentre on Tuesday, 03 March 2015 in VET

The Commonwealth Department of Industry and Science no longer has responsibility for VET. VET has moved to the Department of Education and Training. However, the Department of Industry and Science’s YouTube channel is still posting videos starring VET people.

The most recent constellation of stars to appear on camera comprises the winners of the 2014 Australian Training Awards. They include:

·         2014 Australian Apprentice of the Year – fitter and turner Melinda Lethbridge, who makes the simple point that ‘your gender should never ever stop you’

·         2014 Australian School-based Apprentice of the Year – Eylish Perry, a learning support assistance who is determined to advocate for VET and people who have disabilities

·         Excellence in Language, Literacy and Numeracy Practice Award – Freya Merrick dos Santos, from Yarraville Community Centre

·         2014 VET Teacher/Trainer of the Year – Steven Atkins who teaches Certificates III and IV in Commercial Cookery at TAFE NSW – Western Sydney

·         Maria Peters, CEO of Chisholm Institute, accepting the 2014 Large Training Provider of the Year Award

·         Rory Byrne, CEO of Seafood Training Tasmania, accepting the 2014 Small Training Provider of the Year Award.

And a special mention here for Berwyn Clayton who received the 2014 Lifetime Achievement Award, who was guest speaker at the VET Development’s Centre’s conference in September 2014.

If you are into heartwarming stories about the influence of VET on people’s lives, it’s hard to go past a video, posted in June 2013, about Jane Alia. She arrived in Australia as a refugee at the age of 15. Four years later she had completed her Certificate III in dental assisting and was working at a clinic in the Top End. Jane’s video is here.


Posted by VETCentre on Wednesday, 25 February 2015 in VET

Learning Craftsmen is a US company that provides learning, design, development, implementation, and assessment services to training providers and businesses. Looks like it has just started a blog sporting posts like:

·         Healthy e-Learning

·         Football-Themed e-Learning Challenge.

What interested us is a post from 26 January titled ‘Being a Craftsman‘. Interesting because it looks at training as a trade or craft. It’s an appealing angle on VET teaching.

Here are a couple of excerpts from the post, written by Caitlin McKeown who is the company president:

·         ‘Just as a craftsman builder will custom build based on his customer’s exact specifications and desires, so too should a learning craftsmen be driven by the goals and needs of their audience. Crafting learning from scratch can be painstaking, but it ensures that the solution will be the perfect fit.’

·         ‘Quality craftsmanship is often first recognized in the aesthetic beauty and attention to detail evident in the object. These special touches are what make it unique and valuable. The same is true for learning products.’


Posted by VETCentre on Monday, 23 February 2015 in Research

Every year the Productivity Commission releases its Report on Government Services, affectionately known as ROGS. This year ROGS is having a significant birthday – 20 years, which is a long time for something to persist in government circles, so you know it’s doing something right.

A key purpose of ROGS is to ‘measure and publish annually data on the equity, efficiency and cost effectiveness of government services’ – that’s a quote from paragraph one of the ROGS terms of reference.

ROGS 2015 was released chapter by chapter between 28 January and 6 February. Volume B, which covers child care, education and training, was the last to hit the desktop. We say hit with a grim smile because Volume B weighed in at 1,840 pages. Thank goodness it’s virtual. Before you take fright, there are two easier ways to get to the VET bits – there’s a Factsheet (2 pages) which guides you in to those parts of ROGS that might be your particular interest, and the VET chapter in Volume B (still a pretty solid 467 pages).

Enough with the background. One item from the innards of ROGS – we’ll leave you to browse the rest.

There’s a nice bit of unpublished NCVER data on page 5.79 that basically shows the number of VET qualifications completed in each state and territory from 2009-2013. In the last three years, only South Australia has posted a steady rise.


Posted by VETCentre on Thursday, 19 February 2015 in Industry

Agrifood Skills Australia is one of our 12 national Industry Skills Councils. September 2014 marked the launch of Agrifood’s Australian Core Skills Framework Mapping Tool.

You can download several items, including:

·         Training Package Companion Guide which provides information to RTO staff (trainers, assessors, and instructional designers) about how to identify core skills that are critical to vocational competence within an AgriFood unit of competency

·         an ACSF sample mapping activity for cross sector OHS units

·         an ACSF sample mapping activity for Agrifood units.

While you’re at the Agrifood website checking out these excellent resources you might as well have a glance at Agrifood’s 2014 Environment Scan (72 pages). It’s a fascinating document. There’s this for example:

Despite perceptions to the contrary, Australian agrifood sectors are becoming increasingly hi-tech and early adopters of advanced technologies. While this has implications for the upskilling of existing workers and business owners, particularly in smaller operations, there are views that in the longer term, adoption of intelligent robotics and advanced technologies will significantly reduce the need for lower skilled roles, seasonal or casual workers where the role is repetitive.

And this:

As climate change takes hold and overseas travel and volume of trade increases, scientists warn that exotic pests and diseases will find new homes across the globe and disease outbreaks will become more common, requiring the utmost vigilance and skills of all within the supply chain. It is an enormous task. In 2012-13, the Australian Government facilitated the arrival of more than 15.6 million passengers from international destinations, nearly 200 million items of international mail, over 30.9 million cargo items and over 15,000 ships.

And this:

While many are quick to point to agrifood’s stereotypical image as the cause of declining higher education completion rates (figure 4), there are also views that universities have been too slow to reconceptualise their pedagogical approach and products in- line with the demand for ‘rapid learning’ and an industry where job roles are quickly evolving and new job roles emerging. In particular, significant opportunities exist for development of … joint VET/ higher education programs for emerging para-professional job roles which bring together knowledge and practical application

And there’s also a really natty overview of the environmental scan outcomes presented on a single page – see page 22.


Posted by VETCentre on Wednesday, 18 February 2015 in Research

The NCVER never rests! In early December it released Entry to vocations: Building the foundations for successful transitions (34 pages), a research report written by Kira Clarke from the University of Melbourne.

The report reaches into the variety of ways that VET in Schools is delivered across Australia. VETiS is important – as the paper notes, nearly a quarter of a million young Australians undertake VETiS every year. We need to make that time count for them.

Clarke investigates the differing ways that VETiS is managed and delivered in our states and territories. You won’t be surprised to know that it’s a bit of hodgepodge. On page 10, Clarke gives a bit of a Cook’s tour of the way we do VETiS:

In some states, such as Victoria, schools deliver VET in Schools programs themselves as registered training organisations. In others, the various departments of education and archdioceses in the Catholic sector are the registered training organisations responsible for delivery. TAFE (technical and further education) institutes and private training organisations are also heavily involved in the delivery of VET in Schools, both through delivery in their own facilities and through auspiced delivery in schools. There has been a decline in auspiced delivery of VET in Schools but it is still used in some contexts, particularly in South Australia. Students undertaking vocational education and training as part of their senior secondary certificate of education may also participate in a school-based apprenticeship or traineeship (SBAT), which involves a combination of school, workplace and learning that takes place in a registered training organisation.

How we do VETiS really does matter because kids’ lives are at stake. There’s a good scene setting paragraph on page 8 that’s worth quoting:

The findings of this study reinforce the need for greater alignment of the school vocational curriculum with labour market opportunities. The vocational curriculum should reflect the broader range of skills and knowledge needed to enter and move up and through an industry. The current narrowly defined occupational focus of VET in Schools qualifications does not achieve this. A new approach to address this must recognise both the limited currency of the entry-level VET in Schools certificates and the need for the models of vocational education in schools to be ‘certified’ or distinguished from the ‘mainstream’ pathway to university.

What’s heartening is the set of very doable suggestions Clarke has for getting some order about the place. The report proposes four structural changes that together would improve the relevance and focus of VETiS in senior secondary certificates. They are detailed on pages 26-27 of the report. In abbreviated form, they run like this:

·         Development of thematic packages of curriculum: this is in contrast to the inclusion of one or two vocational subjects in an unconnected collection of senior secondary subjects, subjects that do not necessarily provide a well-signposted pathway to further education and training.

·         Expanding the mandated curriculum to include English and maths: this is connected to the first point and reflects the need for coherent programs of study that provide clear pathways.

·         Explicit connections made between school VET and post-school VET courses: clearly defined but flexible packages of school-based vocational education and post-school vocational courses could strengthen the pathways from VET in Schools to intermediate-level training.

·         Use of ‘exploration’ units of competency in junior and middle years: if AQF VET qualifications at certificate I and II levels are to remain the dominant basis of the VET in Schools curriculum, consideration should be given to how some competencies within those qualifications could be used to support and inform exploration and decision-making prior to the senior secondary years.

The research methodology for the report included a series of roundtables involving people from government, training providers, and schools. Their words are found from time to time in the pages of this report. An industry representative made this observation:

One of the things is the world of work is changing, which you all know, hugely! And work is not so certain as it has been in the past and I think there’s something to be said about preparing kids in order to manage their own careers throughout their life and I think that’s something that has to be built into the curriculum at some point.

You may be interested in one or two of our earlier posts on VETiS:

·         Dinkum VETiS, from November 2013

·         Renewing VETiS – reform plans sketched out, from March 2014

·         School work – VETiS and job placements, from June 2014.


Posted by VETCentre on Tuesday, 17 February 2015 in VET Reforms

On 9 February the Andrews’ government in Victoria announced details of its VET Funding Review.

The Review will be led by Bruce Mackenzie, former CEO of Holmesglen Institution.

The Review’s website is up and running – and very simple one page affair at the time of writing. There are eleven terms of reference for the Review listed on the website’s home page. Here are some of them:

The Government has asked the Review to inquire into and report on how to improve the quality, stability and sustainability of the Victorian training market, by recommending alternative VET funding models and settings that:

·         ensure all government subsidised training is high quality

·         allow rural and regional communities to access training that meets their local needs

·         build a strong and responsive public TAFE sector

·         ensure eligibility to access subsidised training is fair and well-targeted

·         the implications of recommended reforms for other directly-related areas of education in Victoria (including secondary schooling and the roll out of new Tech Schools, and the higher education sector).

One of the terms of reference is a catch-all. The Review is asked to make recommendations about the quality, stability and sustainability of the Victorian training market, which could cover any of the following, or other things besides:

·         the regulation of training providers

·         requirements for government contracted training provision

·         information and decision support tools for students

·         implications for national training policy.

It’s a pretty broad brief and the Review panel and its staff will be working like the clappers. They are required to provide an interim report to Victoria’s Minister for Training and Skills, Steve Herbert, within 100 days of getting underway (let’s say about mid to late May). The final report is due by 31 August 2015.

There will be consultations undertaken by way of ‘state-wide face-to-face forums, engagement with leaders in industry and private and public providers, as well as other experts on VET reform.’ Details to come on that front so it’s a matter of keeping your eye on the website.

The Review has an email: contact@vetfundingreview.vic.gov.au

Hoping to see a Twitter handle and Facebook page too!

You may want to read the public announcement of the Review in this media release from Minister Herbert.

It may be of interest to check out a VET Blog post from July 2013 about Bruce Mackenzie:

·         Bruce Mackenzie on the work of a VET leader.


Posted by VETCentre on Friday, 13 February 2015 in E-Learning

Date:     31 March-02 April 2015

Venue:  Rydges Sydney Central

Theme:  Improving learning and teaching through technology innovation, course evolution and digital transformation

Okay, the first thing to acknowledge that this is targeted at universities. The second thing to say is that the distinction between universities and VET providers is old hat and you wonder why it continues to have any currency. When it comes to teaching and learning, it’s about the provider of a qualification these days – higher education isn’t a synonym for university education any more. The third thing to quibble about is that all tertiary education teachers and providers are in the same elearning boat so it doesn’t make sense to share the digital rations with just some of the sailors.

This conference looks to have any amount of valuable learning to offer all tertiary teachers.

Here is a sampling of what’s on the conference agenda:

·         ‘Beyond the Sage on a Stage: Changing to Survive’, by William Confalonieri, Chief Digital Officer at Deakin University – this keynote will consider, among other things, addressing the shift from ‘faculty-centred’ to learner-centred institutions, Enabling asynchronous (anytime, anyplace) learning, and driving interactive and collaborative learning

·         ‘Overcoming the Culture Challenge’ is a roundtable discussion that will look at, among other things, overcoming resistance to change, empowering faculty and professional staff to use technology effectively, and enabling a culture of widespread engagement and digital transformation from within.

·         ‘Undertaking Digital Transformation and Moving to the Cloud’, by Shirley Leitch Dean of Business and Economics, ANU

·         ‘Improving Student Retention: Charles Sturt University’, a case study session presented by Garry Marchant, Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Academic), Charles Sturt University – the session will consider, among other things, developing early intervention systems to identify students at risk before they drop out, and using case management systems to track students

·         ‘Enhancing the Student Experience by Learning from Gamification’, a case study session presented by David Gibson, Director Learning Engagement, Curtin University – the session will consider, among other things, increasing engagement and performance success by using learning analytics data from interactive digital-games, new authoring methods for more highly interactive mobile learning platforms, recent insights from game-based learning analytics, and implications for scalable e-learning design.

Which all sounds like it is relevant to adult education providers, providers of apprenticeships qualifications, providers of diplomas and bachelor degrees.

The conference website is here.

There’s a link on the right of the page for downloading the agenda. This takes you to a page where you have to provide your name, rank, and serial number before you can download the agenda. Don’t be put off by the marketing demand. It is an agenda worth grazing.


Posted by VETCentre on Thursday, 12 February 2015 in VET

The VET Blog doesn’t go to the Top End often. Good news is a good reason to take the digital trip.

The Batchelor Institute of Indigenous Tertiary Education has campuses in Batchelor, Darwin, Nhulunbuy, Tennant Creek, and the Alice. It has study centres, annexes, learning and training centres all over the Territory, from Jabiru and Borroloola to Wadeye and Yuendemu. That’s a lot of turf.

The Institute had a lot of highlights to report for 2014, including winning the 2014 Northern Territory ‘Training Provider of the Year’ award conferring its first doctoral qualification at the Central Australia campus. These and others are covered here with a little detail.

The website also has a great personal learning story about Alison Nannup who is now enrolled in a Bachelor of Indigenous Languages and Linguistics degree at the Australian Centre for Indigenous Knowledges and Education (ACIKE), a collaborative partnership between Batchelor Institute of Indigenous Tertiary Education and Charles Darwin University.

As the story tells it, ‘Alison’s journey to become a linguist began in 2013 when she completed the Preparation for Tertiary Success (PTS)’. The PTS is an enabling program for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

The website also provides a link to Alison’s first book, Bindi-Bindi Koondarminy wer Maamoong Waangka, published in 2013 by Batchelor Press. The summary on the Batchelor Press website explains that the illustrated book

… tells two important stories about spirit children and how they are tied to the unique Noongar totemic system. The stories help us to understand how Noongar land, plants and animals are interwoven; caring for each other and looking after Noongar spirituality, the matrilineal totemic system and the responsibilities of Noongar culture.


Posted by VETCentre on Monday, 09 February 2015 in VET

City & Guilds is a UK VET organisation with a fascinating history steeped in learning by doing. It provides a range of qualifications to apprentices and other learners, and services to employers and training providers. Among its range of activities is policy analysis and it’s that function that leads to this post. In October 2014, City & Guilds released Sense and instability: Three decades of skills and employment policy (70 pages).

The report is squarely targeted at influencing thinking about the future of VET ahead of the UK general election which is on 7 May. While that’s the target there isn’t much doubt that the central observations in Sense and instability resonate as loudly for the future of VET systems generally.

The report’s review of the past 30 years of skills policy in the UK identifies a bewildering array of changes that have caused confusion and frustration for learners, training providers, and employers. What’s lacking, the report says, is a willingness to learn lessons from past policy interventions, a determination to base VET policy change on evidence, and a focus on long term planning linked to trends in economic development.

Part of the explanation for these serious shortcomings in VET policy development and implementation is in the turnover of political leadership. Since 1981 the UK has seen 61 secretaries of state (government ministers in Australian political parlance) with responsibility for VET policy – that’s a lot of churn in 34 years. Not just that – in the same 34 years the responsibility for UK VET policy implementation and oversight has moved from one government department to another on 10 occasions. All this instability has led to what the report calls a ‘collective amnesia’ about what we’ve done, what we’re doing now, and why we’re doing it.

One of the report’s recommendations responds to this flightiness by proposing that:

The Government should establish a body with independent oversight of the skills and training sector, to ensure that changes to the system are scrutinised and tested, and that their sustainability is assured. This body should also be responsible for evaluating Government’s performance against skills and training targets, and scrutinising the costs and benefits of new policy.

In other words, ramp up accountability and independent thinking.

This is reflected in the report’s four key messages, which are simply put on page 16 like this:

·         the skills and employment system has been characterised over the past three decades by frequent change and unsustained initiatives

·         administering funding at local levels has proven to be effective and can take account of local employment and training needs

·         skills policies and initiatives need planning, phased implementation and monitoring to ensure success

·         there is a lack of organisational memory regarding past policies and programs in the skills landscape, resulting in an inability to learn lessons.

The report’s main sections cover:

·         the policy context

·         training for young people

·         training for people in the workforce

·         training for people who are unemployed.

Each section presents a set of key findings. A couple of examples might whet your appetite for delving into the report.

A key finding about training policy for young people:

The history of policy in this area demonstrates an unhappy compromise between two conflicting aims: training people to work in a specific occupation, and ensuring that individuals’ training is broad enough so that their occupational choices are not limited.

A key finding about training policy for people who are in the workforce:

Linkages between training targets and labour market needs are essential to ensure that training is not being delivered needlessly. This demands the production of relevant, local labour market data that can shape local and industry-level targets. Similarly, ongoing reviews of policies and funding relating to skills development will enable lessons to be learnt continually.

And a key finding about training policy for people who are unemployed:

It is not enough to prepare individuals for work; ensuring that quality jobs are available is an important determinant of people seeking and accepting employment.

The report has a very respectable list of supporters whose endorsements appear throughout the report. They include Andrew Adonis (a former UK Minister for schools and for transport), Martin Doel (Chief Executive, Association of Colleges), and Stewart Segal (Chief Executive Officer, Association of Employment and Learning Providers). There is a perceptive comment in the report from Peter Lauener, Chief Executive Officer of theEducation Funding Agency, who notes that:

The elusive goal of policy has been to develop a skills system that gives opportunities for many young people and adults, as well as the skills that employers and the economy need. The main achievement of this period has been to broaden access but we still need to improve quality, make the system easy to understand and build an inseparable bond between skills and employers.


Posted by VETCentre on Monday, 02 February 2015 in Research

In mid-2014 New Zealand’s Ministry of Education hosted the Innovations in Tertiary Education Delivery Summit 2014. In October the Ministry’s statistics and research arm,Education Counts, released the Summary of Proceedings (23 pages).

The overview section of the Proceedings puts the purpose of the Summit like this:

… to start a national conversation about innovative new ways of delivering tertiary education; the opportunities and challenges these present, and the future of tertiary education … The decision to hold this Summit followed the release of the Tertiary Education Strategy (TES) 2014-19, which noted that ‘technology-driven changes will require New Zealand’s tertiary education sector to advance its thinking quickly on new delivery models’.

In a keynote address, Jim Barber, formerly Vice Chancellor at the University of New England, shared seven strategies for success in the digital era:

1.    Go international, go online

2.    Re-examine teaching methods

3.    Divest yourself of infrastructure

4.    Demand-driven education

5.    Pursue mergers and acquisitions on an international scale

6.    Promoting a more efficient academic workforce

7.    Culture of innovation.

When speaking about teaching methods, Barber is reported as saying that:

… teaching is no longer solely about transmitting information. Learners can access a vast range of resources and scholars through technological means and this means that institutions need to carefully consider what they are offering to potential students. Technology also offers institutions opportunities to maximise networking across institutions and the pooling of resources for content delivery.

The Proceedings tallies up the main points from workshops that considered focus questions, including this one: ‘What do changed education consumption patterns mean for accredited programmes and approved qualifications?’ Responses to this question ranged far and wide – they included:

·         Some suggested that qualifications may no longer be relevant, and that the move towards portfolios of learning might be a replacement, particularly for learners who weren’t interested in gaining a ‘credential’, but instead the requisite knowledge/skills for their chosen career.

·         Employers see a qualification as a proxy for capabilities, and some alternative would be required if a move toward a ‘portfolio of learning’ approach was to occur.

There were four main themes emerging from the Summit:

·         evolution of practice enabled by technologies

·         the value of innovative teaching and learning practices, on their own and in combination with traditional delivery

·         recognition and support for new ways of learning

·         roadblocks to change.

The Proceedings offer a summary of each theme. The second theme – the value of innovative teaching and learning practices – captures a fascinating spread of ideas. The general view was upbeat about the value of learning technologies:

There was general agreement from attendees that technology was enabling and would continue to afford opportunities to reform and improve the way education is delivered and consumed. Such changes were seen as an advance that could operate alongside traditional teaching practice and the value that face-to-face delivery and interaction also provides.

That said, participants were of the view that ‘there were two areas where face-to-face interaction, at least under current technological constraints, was not seen to be replaceable.’ Those two areas are:

·         The building up of “soft” or “transferable” skill sets in learners – in particular, skills based around human interaction, working with others, and building empathy.

·         Practical, hands-on experience. There was particular mention of laboratory work and those profession al degrees which require practical components – for example, medicine, nursing, and engineering. In addition, experience in the trades or in other fields such as teaching, where an in- work practicum is essential, would be relevant to this point. The general feel was that technology was unlikely to ever be able to fully compensate for practical experience in those fields which particularly require it.


Posted by VETCentre on Thursday, 29 January 2015 in Research

Each year the NCVER produces a report that summarises the employment and study outcomes for VET students who were enrolled in an accredited program. Student outcomes 2014 (28 pages), released in early December, is the most recent summary – and just to be clear, the data relates to students enrolled in 2013 because we need a year or so to work out what happened.

The NVCER identifies the following highlights for 2013 graduates.

Employment 77.6% of graduates were employed after training, similar the outcomes for 2012 graduates.
74.2% of module completers were employed after training, similar to the outcomes for 2012 graduates.
Further study 35.0% of graduates were enrolled in further study after training, similar to the outcomes for 2012 graduates.
87.9% of graduates and 75.7% of module completers were employed or in further study after training, similar to the outcomes for 2012 graduates.
Reason for training 82.4% of graduates and 81.1% of module completers reported that they had fully or partly achieved their main reason for training, down 1.1 percentage points for 2102 graduates and similar to 2012 for module completers.
Satisfaction 87.6% of graduates and 84.6% of module completers were satisfied with the overall quality of their training, similar to the outcomes for 2012 graduates.

As the table indicates, the outcomes for those who completed their training in 2013 are very similar to the outcomes for those who completed their training in 2012.

For apprentices and trainees, the NCVER reports that:

·         91.4% of graduates who undertook their training as part of an apprenticeship or traineeship in a trade occupation course and 82.1% of those who undertook their training as part of an apprenticeship or traineeship in a non-trade occupation course were employed after training

·         71.2% of graduates who undertook their training as part of an apprenticeship or traineeship in a trade occupation course were employed in the same occupation as their training course. A further 14.8% were employed in a different occupation but found the training relevant to their job.

One measure of satisfaction with their VET training is whether someone who completed in 2013 would recommend that others take the same path. The results on this measure were:

·         91% of graduates would recommend their training; down 1.2 percentage points from 2012.

·         90.2% of graduates would recommend their training provider; similar to 2012.

There is one concerning statistic regarding Recognition of Prior Learning:

·         16.6% of graduates considered themselves to have relevant experience and skills prior to undertaking their training but did not receive an offer to have these assessed by the training provider, down 1.3 percentage points from 2012.

Better than 2012 to be sure, but still means that 1 in 7 people who thought they had relevant prior experience didn’t get a chance to demonstrate it.


Posted by VETCentre on Wednesday, 28 January 2015 in E-Learning

Innovating Pedagogy 2014 (43 pages) is the third in an annual series from the UK’s Open University. The Executive Summary tells you what’s coming:

This series of reports explores new forms of teaching, learning and assessment for an interactive world, to guide teachers and policy makers in productive innovation. This third report proposes ten innovations that are already in currency but have not yet had a profound influence on education.

The top ten is:

1.    Massive open social learning

2.    Learning design informed by analytics

3.    Flipped classroom

4.    Bring your own devices

5.    Learning to learn

6.    Dynamic assessment

7.    Event-based learning

8.    Learning through storytelling

9.    Threshold concepts

10.  Bricolage.

For each entry in the top ten the report estimates what the potential impact of the innovation will be and how long it will take before the innovation is as familiar as an interactive whiteboard.

Dynamic assessment, number 6 on the list, is expected to have a medium impact and to kick in about 4 years from now. Dynamic assessment shifts the focus quite a bit. At present assessment is largely concerned with assessing what students have just done. We also conduct formative assessments that help students to identify with some precision what it is that they need to do next so that their performance moves closer to an expected standard. Dynamic assessment takes formative assessment more directly into the realm of personalising learning. In the words of the report:

Testing acts as a diagnostic tool that enables a teacher or the computer to offer guidance to the student during the assessment process.

This means that one outcome of an assessment process is that each student receives a personalised intervention that boosts their learning potential. Technology is a fundamental support for the emergence of dynamic assessment. It makes personalisation of assessment possible. As Einstein once noted, ‘In theory, theory and practice are the same. In practice, they are not.’ Personalising teaching by providing each student with an intervention that will move them from where they are in their learning to be where they need to be – we know the theory is right and we can see how if we put that theory into practice it would work a dream. The trick is to do it consistently for every student – time and resources usually get in the way and theory and the practice don’t meet. The Open University report reckons the dream is getting real.

The flipped classroom, at number 3 on the list, is expected to have high impact in 2-5 years. This came as a bit of a surprise. Hasn’t the flipped classroom been around since forever? Isn’t it already having an impact? The answer to both those questions is ‘yes’. The report is on about innovations that are already with us and are yet to exercise their full potential. And arguably the flipped classroom is a VET strength because it relies on what VET does all the time – blend learning inside and outside the classroom. The report shares some survey results that are pretty impressive:

Surveys have indicated that teachers who flip are enthusiastic, with 96% saying they would recommend it, 71% reporting an increase in student grades and 85% an increase in student engagement and classroom participation.

At the end of the write up on each top ten entry there are links to related online resources.


Posted by VETCentre on Friday, 23 January 2015 in Workforce Development

Now 2030 might seem a long way off, but let’s remember that the kids entering the workforce in 2030 are probably starting pre-school this year. It’s a question we need to think about on their behalf.

In July 2014 the Boston Consulting Group (BCG) released The global workforce crisis: $10 trillion at risk (29 pages – you can read the report in parts on the website, or download a pdf if you register).

That’s a good deal of cash – $10,000,000,000,000 to be exact. BCG has looked at workforce supply and demand in 25 major economies and estimates that between 2020 and 2030 most countries in that group will have a shortfall of workers. If employers can’t fill the jobs then the goods and services they would have provided aren’t available – BCG reckons the value of goods and services not provided could be as much as $10trillion.

However, the picture is varied depending on which country you’re talking about. If we skip through some of the detail – important as it is – we get this assessment of Australia’s workforce position:

Thanks to its commodity-rich economy, Australia was able to continue growing through the end of the first decade of the twenty-first century – successfully insulating itself from the global downturn. If it continues on this trajectory and maintains its GDP growth of above 3.0 percent, Australia will likely experience a severe labor shortage by 2030.

There are a few ‘ifs’ in there, but taking a positive economic outlook would mean that Australia’s demand for labour will start exceeding supply in around two or three years. By 2030 we’d be looking at a gap of 18% – that is, we’d need 18% more workers to meet demand. That’s among the highest of gaps in the 25 economies BCG reports on. Australia shares this outlook with countries like Germany (which has an estimated shortage of 8.4-10 million workers by 2030, or 27%) and Brazil (34%).

The US, on the other hand, is one of the few economies that could reckon on a surplus – around 7.4 million workers more than are required by 2030. There aren’t many countries in this position – Spain and South Africa the only others on one scenario.

BCG suggests there are four main ways that countries looking at a labour shortage, like Australia, can respond. You won’t be surprised to learn that each of them has implications for training. In brief they are:

·         Implement social and training programs which ‘help underqualified and less-educated working-age people improve their employability’

·         Increase the workforce participation rate by ‘encouraging women to take part in the labor force, raising the retirement age, promoting jobs for the elderly, and increasing yearly working-hour totals’

·         Increase immigration

·         Encourage higher birth rates.

It’s always worth remembering, of course, that there’s a difference between having enough people to fill the jobs available and having enough people with the right skills for the available jobs. There’s an earlier post on this conundrum here:

·         What is a skills shortage?

Maybe it helps to ground all this if we look at a particular industry sector. The Community Services and Health Industry Skills Council does this very accessibly for us via its summary of key findings from the Council’s 2015 Environmental Scan (EScan). There were 530 respondents to the EScan, 70% of them being organisations that provide health and/or community services.

Among the Key Findings are these:

·         Only 14% of respondents agreed that by 2025 the community services and health workforce would have the number of workers required.

·         Over half (59%) indicated that they were not ‘confident that Australia has a strategy for the workforce that will be successful in responding to changes in service demand’

·         61% of service providers reported to have experienced difficulties recruiting staff in the previous 12 months

·         The majority (85%) agreed, at least to some extent, that increasing the number of workers in our industry will require incentives and supports targeting under-represented or disadvantaged groups in the labour market (e.g. informal carers, long term job seekers, people with a disability)

·         Ensuring that workers have the right qualification(s) for the job that they do continues to be a priority for 97% of respondents (71% to a great extent, 26% to some extent)

·         Most (87%) service providers surveyed indicated that their organisation’s leadership and management capability needed to be developed, at least to some extent.

If BCG’s estimates turn out to be close to the mark then the scope and rate of change in industry sectors is likely to be as considerable in the coming years as it has been for a good while. And if the reflections in the EScan are sound, then the community services and health industry must change at a fast clip. As an example, an April 2014 post on The VET Blog looked at a Grattan Institute report which proposes significant changes in the way we organise the hospital workforce:

·         Unlocking skills in hospitals: better jobs, better care.


Posted by VETCentre on Thursday, 22 January 2015 in VET

Settle in for a long post – mostly because of a long and intriguing dot point list of organisations in Adelaide. But before we get to Adelaide let’s first head west and then south-east to Victoria.

Based at Curtin University until the end of this year, the National Centre for Student Equity in Higher Education has a brief to ‘inform equity policy design, implementation, and institutional practice in Australia to improve higher education participation and success for marginalised and disadvantaged people.’

In December 2014 the Centre released Partnerships in Higher Education (72 pages) which presents 31 short studies of partnerships funded under the Commonwealth government’sHigher Education Participation and Partnership Programme (HEPPP). The role of HEPPP is to improve access to university for capable community members from low SES backgrounds, and to support them to complete their studies successfully.

One quibble with this report is that the contents page lists only the university partners. Yet most partnerships involve VET providers, schools and community organisations who more than pull their weight. Foregrounding only the university partners in this way is a little disappointing.

However, the partnerships themselves are anything but disappointing. The case studies demonstrate a remarkable sense of purpose and keen sense of what kinds of strategies and supports make a difference.

The Bendigo Tertiary Education Partnership (pages 30-31) has a broad partnership group – Latrobe University, Bendigo Kangan TAFE, Bendigo Senior Secondary College, and participating schools from nine local government areas in Victoria’s north and north central areas.

The Bendigo program has three major elements:

1.    Foundation: to provide program sustainability through robust governance and planning underpinned by data and evidence which provides a picture of regional student aspiration, participation, attrition, attainment, and destination landscapes.

2.    Scaffolding: to provide an integrated Pathways Hub to support teaching staff, parents and students to broaden aspirations to include tertiary study. Interventions will include school outreach and engagement, capacity building of school teaching staff, career information for parents and industry engagement and participation.

3.    Reinvigoration: to redevelop two higher education course offerings to allow regional participation and collaborative delivery strategies between TAFE and the university.

Bendigo Senior Secondary College has a longstanding reputation in effectively assisting young people to pin down their career preferences and pathways. Drawing on that expertise, the College’s Pathways Hub plays an important link role in the following ways:

·         facilitates outreach and engagement activities on TAFE and university campuses guided by student ambassadors, provides industry-based expos showcasing pathways through education and employment opportunities in the Bendigo region, and connects ‘Return to School’ mentors to their home town schools to encourage aspiration for and understanding of tertiary study in Bendigo.

·         provides a capacity building professional development program for Careers, Managed Independent Pathways and Pathways teachers.

Children’s University Australia (pages 44-45) in South Australia has a wonderfully inclusive group of partners. This list is so rich that we think it’s worth listing all of them:

·         Adelaide Arcade

·         Adelaide Botanic Gardens

·         Adelaide City Council

·         Adelaide Festival Centre

·         Adelaide Zoo

·         Art Gallery of South Australia

·         Barr Smith Library

·         Carclew (South Australian youth arts organisation)

·         Children’s University Trust UK

·         City of Playford

·         Confucius Institute (The University of Adelaide)

·         Red Cross

·         Rundle Mall Group

·         SA Water

·         Sammy D Foundation

·         South Australian Museum

·         South Australian Migration Museum

·         Tandanya National Aboriginal Cultural Institute

·         The Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for the History of Emotions

·         The University of Adelaide

·         The Other Side of Science

·         Upside Down Circus.

Are you still with us? Children’s University (CU) has its own website. You’ll love the home page. The case study explains in broad terms what CU is about:

The central aim of CU is simple; offering superior educational experiences for children outside of school. Through CU, children are encouraged to explore and discover new ideas, concepts and experiences via public and restricted (school-based) ‘Learning Destinations’. The model leverages local educational and learning activity providers, including sports clubs, museums, galleries and school clubs. A strong emphasis is placed on acknowledging the value of accessing the wide range of learning experiences and environments in which children engage.

The benefits for students are to extend the learning opportunities beyond school and to assist children in making their own decisions about learning. It allows them to explore and develop new talents and interests and interact with people who have similar interests. CU also offers children the chance to manage and measure their own success through receiving certificates and public recognition.

It’s worth noting that the partnerships are not exclusively focused on school leavers. The Adult Learner Network (pages 26-27) based in south-east Queensland has

an adult learner engagement and support strategy focused on low-income adults bridging to tertiary study via generic tertiary preparation or Year 12-equivalent programs. Partnership activities include multifaceted learner support, staff professional development, research, shared professional practice, and public policy activism.

The key partners in the Network are:

·         Coorparoo Centre for Continuing Secondary Education

·         Eagleby Learning College

·         Griffith University

·         Kingston Centre for Continuing Secondary Education

·         Queensland University of Technology (QUT)

·         TAFE Queensland Brisbane

·         TAFE Queensland Gold Coast.

The array of approaches adopted by partners is stimulating to read. Sets you to thinking about how powerful partnerships can be for learning generally.


Posted by VETCentre on Tuesday, 20 January 2015 in TAFE

On 24 November 2014, the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Education and Employment tabled in Parliament the report that wrapped up its Inquiry into the role of Technical and Further Education system and its operation.

TAFE: an Australian asset (206 pages) covers a lot of turf and we won’t get in that much exercise in this post.

The committee offers brief comments at the end of three chapters in the report and it’s worth focusing a little attention there.

Chapter 3 is titled ‘The development of skills in the Australian economy’, and after reviewing the evidence collected during the Inquiry the committee observed that:

·         … it became evident to the Committee over the course of the inquiry that a foundational articulation of the role and function of TAFE is necessary.

·         The Commonwealth and the states and territories should arrive at a shared understanding of, and publicly state, the role of TAFE as a public VET provider together with its future direction in the training market. This statement should recognise the importance and value of TAFE within the VET sector.

·         … such a statement should recognise that the affordability and accessibility of the training market is underpinned by a strong public sector provider, and should acknowledge functions that TAFE, as a public provider, can uniquely bring to the VET sector.

At the end of chapter 4 – ‘TAFE pathways to employment and university’ – the Committee comments included the following:

·         … TAFE has a critical role in the community as a provider of pathways to employment. This role spans a range of different needs and demographics, from those needing foundation skills development or LLN assistance, to mature age students and those coming to TAFE for further practical training after university. It is also important that technical and trade qualifications remain as recognised in the wider community as tertiary qualifications, and that technical and trade careers are valued.

·         TAFE is also instrumental in providing a pathway to tertiary education, and, while the traditional linear path remains, it is evident that the routes students take to further education can vary according to preference and need. As for pathways to employment, partnerships involving TAFE are key, and linkages between TAFEs and universities are to be supported.

·         The impact of fee increases on student ability to access TAFE is of concern. The VET FEE-HELP scheme is to be supported in principle, as is the current trialling of extended income contingent loans to certain subsidised Certificate IV qualifications and a rigorous Government review of the trial.

Then to chapter 5, ‘TAFE in the competitive training market’, after which Committee comments include the following:

·         As this report demonstrates, TAFE plays an essential role in the vocational and further education of Australians. It is integral to the development of skills for the Australian economy and provides crucial pathways to employment and tertiary education. TAFE also fulfils an important community support role as a provider of opportunities for those in positions of disadvantage and vulnerability. In discussions of the competitive market encompassing VET, the significant capital required by TAFE to carry out these functions is sometimes missed.

·         Calls from industry for TAFE infrastructure and facilities to be available to private providers are supported. However, given that TAFE operates in the competitive training market, such arrangements should be on a commercial basis. It should not be the case that TAFEs provide their facilities on a ‘cost’ basis, thereby in effect providing a form of assistance to private providers.

It’s interesting that the Committee recommends, at the end of chapter 5, that we actually work out how much Commonwealth funding actually goes into funding the TAFE system. The Committee comments that:

·         It is a concern that Australian Government funding for TAFE cannot be quantified. The Australian Government should put in place reporting, via the NCVER, that captures the exact federal financial contribution made to TAFE and its application by state and territory governments.

Fair call on that point.

There are seven recommendations to the report – all are listed together just before chapter 1 kicks off. The recommendations reflect the kinds of issues captured in the Committee’s comments outlined above.

That’s a wrap really. More than 170 submissions were made to the Inquiry – you can access them here.


Posted by VETCentre on Wednesday, 14 January 2015 in Research

Way back in February 2014 the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) issued for the first time a catalogue titled Perspectives on Education and Training: Australians with qualifications in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), 2010–11. It’s been on the list of items to blog about for a long time – best to get this one done before the slate is wiped clean in readiness for 2015.

The ABS reports that:

·         2.7 million Australians had a Certificate III or above in a STEM field in 2010-11

·         around 2.1 million (78%) were in paid employment; a similar proportion to those with non-STEM qualifications (77%)

·         people with university level STEM qualifications were more likely to be employed (82%) than those whose highest STEM qualification was at the vocational level (76%)

·         workers with higher level STEM qualifications accounted for 18% of the 11.5 million people employed in Australia at the time

·         the majority of employed people with STEM qualifications tend to be in the higher skill occupation groups such as Technicians and trades workers (28%), Professionals (28%) and Managers (16%)

·         among those qualified in Engineering and related technologies, the most common occupation group was Technicians and trades workers (38%), followed by Professionals (19%).

The STEM workforce is growing at a rate that outstrips what’s happening on other sectors. According to the data, between 2006 and 2011:

·         the number of people employed as Design, engineering, science, and transport professionals increased by 23% between 2006 and 2011

·         there was also strong growth among ICT professionals (19%) and Engineering, ICT and science technicians (19%)

·         the level of growth in each of the top 10 STEM occupation groups exceeded the average growth of other occupations over this period (9%), with the sole exception of Automotive and engineering trades workers, which grew at a rate of 4%.

The data in this catalogue also includes information about those working in health fields:

·         of the 17.7 million people in Australia aged 15 years and over in 2010-11, around 1.1 million (6%) had completed a Certificate III or above in the field of Health

·         of them, 23% reported a Diploma or Advanced diploma as their highest Health qualification, and 15% a Certificate III or IV

·         just over half (52%) of those with Health qualifications were aged 45 years and over, compared with 42% of those with qualifications in other non-STEM fields.


Posted by VETCentre on Wednesday, 14 January 2015 in VET

Okay, this is the kind of thing you do at the end of the year – look back and sum up. The VET Blog started in April 2013 and we broke the 250 post mark this month. The most visited posts for 2014, month by month…


·         Women in Trades (1)

·         TAFE features in Australia Day Honours


·         ASQA report on RTO marketing and advertising practices

·         Good news – SWSI TAFE students contribute to award winning film


·         What makes a good teacher?

·         World Class Skills for World Class Industries


·         The kinds of training that workers and managers value

·         Recommendation to include non-university providers in demand driven funding system


·         Higher VET – let’s think about that

·         TAE changes


·         Changing the shape of tertiary education

·         School work – VETiS and job placements  


·         Literacy, numeracy and work outcomes in Australia

·         ‘National Skills Summit Address’: The Hon Ian Macfarlane MP, Minister for Industry


·         Just blogging about

·         Australia’s new Industry Skills Fund – under design and seeking your ideas


·         Learning in the workplace, and where training fits in – the 70:20:10 model

·         Understanding the non-completion of apprentices


·         Good news – Youth Foyers in Victoria

·         Qualities that help old hands to mentor early career teachers


·         Professional development for VET trainers – a European Union perspective

·         National Foundation Skills Strategy Project – take the survey by 19 December.

Thanks for reading along with us.


Posted by VETCentre on Tuesday, 13 January 2015 in Industry

The Chief Economist sits in the Office of the Chief Economist which sits inside the Department of Industry in Canberra. The Office has published the Australian Industry Report 2014 (220 pages) – the first of what seems will be an annual publication.

The Report is long but not so long if you pick and choose from the menu. The chapter headings divide up the main meals like this:

·         Chapter 1 – Economic and business conditions

·         Chapter 2 – Structural change and Australian industry

·         Chapter 3 – Selected industry factors in focus.

The industries in focus in chapter 3 are:

·         Food and agribusiness

·         Mining equipment, technology and services

·         Oil, gas and energy resources

·         Advanced manufacturing

·         Medical technologies and pharmaceuticals.

From a VET perspective, this passage from pages 115-116 is interesting – it’s from a section in Chapter 2 titled ‘A closer look at structural change in the Manufacturing industry’ but its implications run across industry sectors. Here it is:

Regions with greater increases in the proportion of their populations with post-secondary qualifications were more likely to have increased their participation rates. However, the specific effects of different types of tertiary education were somewhat unexpected. Those areas that displayed increases in the proportion of the population with vocational education and training (Certificate III or IV qualifications) were more likely to experience falling unemployment rates than those regions that experienced increases in the proportion of their population with university level qualifications.

This may reflect a number of underlying causes. For example, Certificate III and IV qualifications may be more commonly obtained by workers who maintain full-time employment while studying, through apprenticeship programs. As such, graduates of vocational education may be less likely than their higher education counterparts to experience a period of unemployment (or underemployment) immediately following graduation. Another explanation could be that local economies require a balance of workers with certificate level qualifications and university qualified workers. For example, economies require trades people, construction workers and transport workers, as well as lawyers and accountants. This may imply that regional labour markets struggle to absorb large cohorts of university graduates.

Like much in economics, you can’t be sure what the facts tell us but they are interesting.

You might care to check out an earlier post from one of the world’s chief economists:Second June speechmaker – Joseph Stiglitz on ‘Creating a Learning Society’ was posted on 10 July 2014.


Posted by VETCentre on Tuesday, 13 January 2015 in VET Reforms

The VET Reform Taskforce will be out and about in Australia’s capital cities during January and February. National face-to-face consultations are planned to check in with stakeholders on two themes:

·         priorities for VET Reform in 2015

·         the Review of Training Packages and Accredited Courses.

The Taskforce is encouraging ‘a broad range of stakeholders to participate, including:

·         employers

·         industry

·         industry and training peak bodies

·         registered training organisations

·         students

·         VET service providers.’

You can register for the face-to-face consultations here.


Consultation Date

Consultation Times & Registration

Melbourne 15 January ·         9.00am–12.00pm

·         1.00pm–4.00pm

Hobart 16 January ·         9.00am–12.00pm

·         1.00pm–4.00pm

Darwin 22 January ·         9.00am–12.00pm
Brisbane 23 January ·         9.00am–12.00pm

·         1.00pm–4.00pm

Sydney 28 January ·         9.00am–12.00pm

·         1.00pm–4.00pm

Adelaide 2 February ·         9.00am–12.00pm

·         1.00pm–4.00pm

Perth 3 February ·         9.00am–12.00pm

·         1.00pm–4.00pm

Canberra 11 February ·         9.00am–12.00pm

·         1.00pm–4.00pm

There are also webinar consultations on 19 and 21 January which you can register for on the same page as the face-to-face consultations.