Posted by VETCentre on Thursday, 30 June 2016 in E-Learning

The incursion of digital technology into the workplace has hastened year on year. Old timers will be able to tell you when the first photocopier arrived in their workplace. It was under lock and key because a copy was so expensive. The old timer will also be able to tell you when the first computer arrived and made all those flash new Remington golf ball typewriters redundant.

About 12 months ago the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) produced a brief paper in ‘Adult skills in focus series’ titled Does having digital skills really pay off? (4 pages). If you’re looking for good reasons why digital literacy should be part of every certificate and diploma qualification, this paper is full of them.

The paper notes that:

In all countries, the labour force participation rate is lowest among adults with no experience in using ICT: only 47% of these adults participate in the labour force. By comparison, 90% of adults who performed at the highest levels of proficiency (Level 2 or 3 in the Survey of Adult Skills) in using digital devices to solve problems … participate in the labour force.

At the very outset the paper makes a simple statement that brings home what difference it makes if you know how to drive a computer:

Experience in using ICT has a particularly large impact on participation in the labour force and earnings in Australia, England/Northern Ireland (UK) and the United States.

There’s a bar chart in the report that is especially telling for the Australian context. It shows the percentage of workers in 22 well-to-do countries who use a computer at work. Highest is Sweden at 85 per cent and lowest is Italy at around 48 per cent. Australia comes in at number six, with 74 per cent of workers using computers at work. In addition to Sweden, the nations ahead of us are Norway, Finland, Denmark and Netherlands. Australia easily outstrips the OECD average which is 66 per cent.

The reality is that in Australia it matters more to have good ICT skills than in many other countries.

The wage premium on ICT skills is pretty substantial. The paper has it that ‘Workers who have no experience in using ICT earn 18% less per hour, on average.’

The OECD’s paper ends with a little advice that runs like this:

Since adults with no ICT experience are at a considerable disadvantage in employment prospects and wages, policy makers can consider ways of ensuring that all individuals have access to ICT training, whether during compulsory education or in adult learning activities.

Sounds like an important job for the VET system.


Posted by VETCentre on Tuesday, 28 June 2016 in VET

Skillset and match is the inventive title of the online magazine produced by the wonderfully named CEDEFOP, which stands for the European Centre for the Development of Vocational Training.

Skillset and match comes out three times a year – January, May and September. You candownload the May 2016 edition (24 pages) and catch up on topical VET matters in Europe and beyond. Articles in the current edition include:

·         ‘14 ways to tackle skills mismatch’

·         ‘Making people’s skills visible’

·         ‘Global trends and their impact on VET’.

There’s also an interview with Denise Amyot, CEO of Colleges and Institutes, Canada, who discusses the role of VET in applied research and why Canada has replaced the acronyms VET and TVET with ‘professional and technical education and training’.

Earlier editions of Skillset and match are available from this webpage.


Posted by VETCentre on Friday, 24 June 2016 in Research

The VET sector has long played an important role in assisting workers into new jobs and occupations when the industries or enterprises they have worked in hit the wall. The estimable NCVER has been looking into that space recently. In early June NCVER published an overview of research findings titled When one door closes: VET’s role in helping displaced workers find jobs (10 pages).

The paper notes how varied, and perhaps surprising, is the experience of decline and growth across occupations. The steepest decline between 2006 and 2011 was reported to be among secretaries, and to a less marked extent jobs in agriculture, forestry and manufacturing. Where was the growth? Registered nurses, aged and disabled carers, child carers, chefs, checkout operators and office cashiers, general sales assistants and fast food cooks.

Losing your job is stressful. Harder still when your occupation is no longer sought after, leaving you with what seem like redundant, or unmarketable, skills. The VET sector can play a very valuable role in these circumstances by focusing on a displaced worker’s skills transferability. The NCVER paper proposes the wider use of an occupational cluster framework to map skills. An occupational cluster map is shown on page 7 of the report. In explaining the benefits of this kind of mapping the NCVER paper has it that:

… many skills, even those that are meant to be more generic, such as the employability skills embedded into training packages, were developed in an occupation-specific way that limits their transferability. One way to overcome this is to use an occupational cluster framework (see figure 1) to allow better mapping of skills across occupations. If occupations sharing similar skills, knowledge, tasks and attributes are classified into ‘families’ or ‘clusters’, such as in this framework, workers may find it easier to move between occupations within this skill cluster. It will also help to identify roles where a retrenched worker’s skills will be of use. Another key benefit of an occupational cluster framework is that it will also improve sharing of unit of competencies across qualifications contributing to increased transition possibilities in the labour market.

To make this kind of strategy available to displaced workers involves a bit of renovation in the VET sector. What we’d need to do includes the following items extracted from page 8 of the NCVER paper:

·         Reconfiguring training packages – enable greater sharing of units of competencies across qualifications, which will encourage more transferability in the labour market.

·         Increasing awareness of transferable skills – many workers did not realise or appreciate the wider application of the array of ‘soft’ and generic technical skills they had acquired during their current employment, and instead focused on their specific technical skills when applying for new jobs. Support workers could play a greater role in educating workers about their transferable skills.

·         Improving knowledge of local labour markets – improve local labour market analyses as part of worker transition programs. With greater knowledge of the local labour market conditions, career counsellors and support services staff can more accurately identify potential job opportunities or encourage retraining in growth areas for displaced workers.

These strategies rely on VET system change as well as revisiting the skills base of VET professionals. As the paper observes, there are some parallels with RPL when considering what’s needed at an individual level. But it isn’t quite RPL as we know it so some adaption of skills and new systems are necessary.


Posted by VETCentre on Wednesday, 22 June 2016 in Industry

The frequent lament is that manufacturing in Australia is marginalised and dropping out of sight. No question that the departure of big auto manufacturers is a disappointment, but that’s not the whole story by any means.

Deloitte has just published the 2016 Global Manufacturing Competitiveness Index (GMCI) report (92 pages). The GCMI ranks 40 countries in terms of overall manufacturing competitiveness now and in five years time.

The news for Australia is that it ranks 21 on the GMCI now and is reckoned to hold steady in the rankings five years from now – it’s predicted ranking in 2020 is down one spot to 22. The glum predictions for manufacturing tend to focus on jobs moving offshore where it’s cheaper to do the work involved. It’s more complicated than that. Ahead of Australia on the GMCI are countries like the USA, Netherlands, Sweden, Canada and Switzerland, along with nations like Mexico, Thailand and Indonesia. China is number 1 in 2016, but expected to be number 2, behind the USA, in 2020.

Manufacturing isn’t in decline. It’s at the cutting edge. Consider these manufacturing technologies listed on page 7 of the GMCI report:

·         Smart, connected products – the Internet of Things (IoT)

·         Smart factories (IoT)

·         High performance computing

·         Advanced robotics

·         Additive manufacturing (3D printing)

·         Augmented reality (to improve quality, training, expert knowledge).

Each of these areas relies on manufacturing and there is ample opportunity for Australia to be a global producer of advanced manufacturing products.

The training implications are significant and VET will need to hone its manufacturing expertise to support development of the manufacturing industry. It’s no accident that Germany is ranked at 3 on the GMCI in 2016 and is expected to be in the same position in 2020. The report notes that:

Germany’s historical strength in key industries as well as its focus in ‘dual system’ of vocational training are likely key factors that resulted in its top ranking on talent capabilities. With a focus on ‘mechatronics,’ its dual system of vocational training in which approximately 60 percent of the country’s youth participates, combines classroom instruction with work experience in one of 344 available trades. In fact, this integrated educational system is a model several countries are trying to emulate.

The GMCI website has engaging infographics that make the data easy to grasp.

There’s another report on manufacturing in Australia that is worth dipping into. The report’s title says it all really: Manufacturing (Still) Matters: Why the decline of Australian manufacturing is NOT inevitable, and what government can do about it (18 pages). Written by Jim Stanford from the Centre for Future Work at the Australia Institute, the report offers a perspective on why manufacturing can and must have a big future Down Under:

·         Australians are buying more manufactured goods over time, not less. And manufacturing output is growing around the world, not shrinking.

·         Manufacturing is not an “old” industry. It is in fact the most innovation-intensive sector in the whole economy — and no country can be an innovation leader without the ability to apply innovation in manufacturing.

·         Manufactured goods account for over two-thirds of world merchandise trade. A country that cannot successfully export manufactures will be shut out of most trade.

The report identifies a range of actions Australia needs to take to stay in the manufacturing game. Those actions include:

… infrastructure investment should include facilities and services which support manufacturing: ranging from transportation infrastructure (like rail links, ports, and roads to accelerate supply logistics and exports), to utility connections (and other measures to ensure the supply of stably-priced, sustainable energy), to modern training facilities (to help better integrate TAFE and university training with industry).

Staying with the training perspective, Stanford writes:

Merely training workers does not in itself create the jobs to use those skills. In some specialized manufacturing sectors, however, enhancing the future skills and capacities of workers must be a vital component of future sector strategies. Consistent funding for skills training at all levels (including STEM and technical skills in schools, stable and accessible TAFE and VET programs, and support for lifelong learning by adult workers) is essential, as are efforts to more closely link training programs with future workforce needs in strategic sectors. Germany’s vaunted apprenticeship system is perhaps the most outstanding international role model in this area. But many other industrial countries manage the challenge of matching eager, well-prepared workers with future jobs much better than Australia does.

So there are good reasons to see upside in Australian manufacturing. We just need to tackle the challenge proactively, and entails a smart VET strategy for the sector.


Posted by VETCentre on Monday, 20 June 2016 in Industry

The Australian Industry Skills Committee (AISC) was established around 12 months ago with a brief to integrate the many functions that contribute to scoping and developing training packages and other national training products.

The AISC’s new website is worth browsing. It offers a good overview of the current process for developing training packages and prioritising the work that needs to be done.

In addition to describing its own role, the AISC website also:

·         describes the role of Industry Reference Committees (IRCs) in industry consultation and engagement

·         describes the role of Service Skills Organisations (SSOs) which support IRCs and do the training package development work

·         lists the training packages approved by the AISC (you can view them by date of endorsement and by training package name).

Once the national schedule for review of training packages is decided on it will be published on the website.

SSOs are effectively the replacement bodies for Industry Skills Councils. There are five SSOs at present with several more planned to cover the mining, manufacturing and automotive industries. The five in place are:

·         SkillsIQ which focuses on the services, community services and health sectors

·         Artibus Innovation which focuses on the property and construction industry

·         Skills Impact which has a broad remit that includes rural and related industries, and the food and forestry sectors

·         PwC’s Skills for Australia which picks up the suite of industry sectors served by the former Innovation and Business Skills Australia – business services, financial services, culture, ICT, printing and graphic arts, and education (including the TAE)

·         Australian Industry Standards which will focus on a range of sectors, including public services and utilities like rail, corrections and water, along with areas like electrotech and transport and logistics.

(You can also find the links to the new SSOs on the AISC website.)

The AISC is still working through the optimum structure for Industry Reference Committees (IRCs) which are the heartbeat of the new arrangements because gather and synthesise industry input into training product development. An IRC Review got underway in April to sort out those structures. You can read about the Review process here. The following IRCs will be reviewed:

·         Electrotechnology

·         Food, Beverage and Pharmaceutical

·         Electricity Supply Industry Transmission Distribution & Rail

·         Public Sector

·         Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health Workers

·         Financial Services

·         Construction

·         Property Services

·         Furnishing

·         Rural and Related.

The Review has made some headway with a proposed structure for the forest and wood products industry now out for consultation.


Posted by VETCentre on Friday, 17 June 2016 in VET

Australia relies on a deep and wide skills base to excel in taking its products and services to the world. There’s a lot of focus on new products and new services – no questions they are important. Equally important is the array of infrastructure needed to get agricultural produce and manufactured goods to ports and to get people to work – roads and rail. How Australia’s performance on these fronts compares to other nations we do business with, and compete with, matters for employment outcomes in Australia. And VET matters mightily to employment outcomes.

The VET Blog will offer a couple of posts in the near future on measures of Australia’s relative economic and industry performance. Later posts will look at the World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Report and Deloitte’s Global Manufacturing Competitiveness Index.

Let’s kick off this mini-series with a Swiss Business School, the International Institute for Management Development (IMD). For almost 30 years IMD has charted the relative competitiveness of economies across the world. The most recent World Competitiveness ranking encompasses 61 economies.

Australia docks in at 17, a small improvement on last year’s 18th position, and a whisker behind the Kiwis at 16. The top five economies are:

1.    Hong Kong

2.    Switzerland

3.    USA

4.    Singapore

5.    Sweden.

The rankings are based on performance against four factors: economic performance, government efficiency, business efficiency, and infrastructure. These factors are underpinned by several hundred criteria which you can examine here.

This is, of course, only one way of looking at the health of the nation. Nonetheless, it’s an important one for a trading nation like Australia. You can view Australia’s performance over the past five years by selecting the national flag on this page.

post on the Austrade website about IMD’s World Competitiveness ranking notes Australia’s high education levels is one indicators that attracts positive responses from international business leaders. It’s interesting to look at the considerable change in business efficiency over the last five years which has had a downward effect on Australia’s relative ranking. An important widget in the business efficiency mechanism is availability of skills. There’s an ongoing challenge for industry, VET and governments to is critical to ensure a high functioning VET system gets the right skills to industry at the right time. As noted in an earlier post, skills forecasting isn’t easy (Forecasting skills shortages is tricky work, posted 26 May).

You can check the full IMD rankings here. Among Australia’s near neighbours the rankings look like this:

14. Taiwan, 19. Malaysia, 25. China, 26. Japan, 28. Thailand, 29. South Korea, 41. India, 42. Philippines, 48. Indonesia.


Posted by VETCentre on Wednesday, 15 June 2016 in VET Reforms

It was little noticed in December last year that the Australian government’s Mid-Year Fiscal and Economic Outlook included a footnote about $9.2m being available for something called ‘Apprenticeship Training – alternative delivery pilots’.

It isn’t clear why this allocation was so unheralded because we need to lift apprenticeship numbers and create a buzz around apprenticeships. A bit of experimentation is a good thing when apprenticeship commencements and completions are declining. A simple way to see the decline is via the interactive infographic on this page of the NCVER’s website. Scroll down to the infographic, go to the heading ‘Commencements in trade occupations’ and select in turn each of the trades listed. You will see comparisons for commencements in 2013 and 2014. In only one trades area – construction – is there a lift. Australia has seen overall decline for several years.

The mystery of the ‘Apprenticeship Training – alternative delivery pilots’ was solved whendetails about the pilots were posted on the Australian Apprenticeships website.

Five pilots will be funded. Three organisations were approached directly to undertake them:

·         Master Builders Australia

·         National Electrical and Communications Association

·         North East Vocational College in Adelaide.

According to the information provided there were considered priority pilots because they cover industry sectors that are vital to the economy, including building and construction, electrical and communications.

Expressions of Interest for the two remaining pilots can be submitted until 29 July 2016.

The pilots will be evaluated, according to the fact sheet on the website, to assess increased industry validation and their potential to be adopted more broadly by industry. The results of this evaluation will contribute to an evidence base which informs future policy development and funding settings.

The purposes of the pilots are explained in a list of FAQs as to:

·         learn more about opportunities and barriers to increased industry usage, acceptance and validation of alternative apprenticeship training delivery arrangements

·         drive more systemic adoption of alternative arrangements, explore challenges and examine potential regulatory or administrative barriers to innovative industry training practices.

Each pilot will be eligible for up to $1.84m over three years.

While we’re on the topic of apprenticeships, let’s give a plug to the Australian Apprenticeships Ambassadors who are located across Australia and available to share their experiences with your audience. They range from Jane Alia in Darwin to Samuel Downes in Huonville, south of Hobart. You can contact Apprenticeships Ambassadors via this webpage.

Another way to find out about Apprenticeships Ambassadors is to follow the Australian Apprenticeships Twitter feed – the handle is @AusApprentice.


Posted by VETCentre on Thursday, 09 June 2016 in VET Reforms

In mid-May the NSW government issued the Statement of Expectations for Smart and Skilled Providers (2 pages). All 450 providers of government-funded training in NSW are obliged to meet these expectations. The NSW government also indicated that it would cancel a contract of a Smart and Skilled provider if the provider did the wrong thing in another state.

Page 2 of the Statement of Expectations lists provider obligations under four headings: quality, ethics, accountability, and responsiveness.

In the quality corner there is recognition that quality teaching and quality student support services are bottom-line conditions for improved learning outcomes, and retention and completion rates. Two obligations under quality are that providers must:

·         ensure that facilities, resources, student support and administration are of a high standard and appropriate to the skill being taught

·         demonstrate continuous improvement and professional development for trainers, assessors and other staff.

In the responsiveness corner there are stipulations that indicate some of the broad characteristics of quality VET teaching and student support services. This part of the Statement of Expectations stipulates that Smart and Skilled approved providers must:

·         engage with industry, businesses and the community to ensure the relevance of their qualifications and the skills of trainers and assessors

·         tailor training to meet the learning needs of students and provide appropriate support to assist students to progress and complete their qualifications

·         ensure all students and prospective students are treated fairly and equally, in an environment free from discrimination and harassment

·         ensure students with a disability can access and participate in training on the same basis as other students.

These obligations don’t specify these characteristics at a level of detail, but they do provide a reference framework. It’s a reference framework that would look very unfamiliar to providers that have always prioritised industry-oriented learning outcomes and the interests of students.

It’s positive to see an emphasis on professional development for trainers, assessors and other staff. The emergence of new industries, demand for new skills, new knowledge about learning through neuroscience for example, and new educational technologies combine in ways that continually revise our understanding of what a VET professional needs to know and do.


Posted by VETCentre on Wednesday, 08 June 2016 in VET

Just a few weeks ago the VET Blog wrote about a UK initiative that twins apprenticeships with degrees – Would you like a degree with your apprenticeship? The post mused that ‘there’s a chance Higher Apprenticeships and degree apprenticeships will catch on Down Under as lessons emerge from the UK.’

On 16 May The Straits Times reported that Singapore’s government is working with universities and companies to launch pilot apprenticeship programmes. The news article reports a couple of observations from David Leong of human resources firm PeopleWorldwide Consulting, and a member of a recent Singapore government-commissioned review on learning design in polytechnics. Leong noted that degree-apprenticeships:

·         combine work and degree studies that will turn out highly productive graduates who can hit the ground running

·         ‘the employee will not only have up-to-date knowledge on his field, he would have also developed all the necessary work skills and absorbed the company culture’

·         will help workers avoid the problem of ‘skills mismatch’, or the gap between one’s skills and the job market’s demands.

So it does look like degree apprenticeships might be on the way to Australia from the UK, with a Singapore stopover.


Posted by VETCentre on Thursday, 26 May 2016 in Industry

Australian governments, national and state, have a range of approaches to forecasting skill needs. Those approaches change frequently, not because we’ve necessarily found a better way to do it but because the way we’re doing it always seems to have shortcomings. We’re not alone though. Other nations have struggled with the same challenge for just as long. If we could get a whole lot better at it we’d have a much better idea about how to spend our VET dollars, and prospective students would have a much better idea about how to commit their future study time for a job outcome.

Forecasting is a treacherous business because you don’t know what you don’t know. Will robotics recast the skills profile of the construction industry, and when will it happen? Will artificial intelligence reduce the legal workforce by 30% or 50%, and how quickly will that happen? Is there another invention like the internet just around the corner? How quickly will renewable energy industries take off and where will they be located? If there’s an economic downturn, how will that affect employment in each industry sector? If there’s eventually a big infrastructure spend in Australia, when will it be and how many tradies will we need?

Not easy questions. Nevertheless, the OECD decided to ask them and think about how best to answer them. Where they have got to thus far is explained in Getting skills right: Assessing and anticipating changing skill needs (98 pages), released earlier this year.

There’s a bar chart on page 22 which shows, for selected countries, the percentage of all firms with ten or more employees facing skills shortages. Australia comes in 12th of 33 nations, with managers at about 50% of firms saying they have skills shortages. In Japan it’s 80%, in Canada around 35%, in South Africa around 10%. Explaining those variations between nations is a long story in itself. At a guess, Japan is high because of rapid population ageing and a tiny immigration program. But New Zealand, which is also high at 60%, would have neither of those problems.

The OECD report doesn’t have definitive answers about how to do skills forecasting better. It does have a couple of general observations to make about how skills forecasting might improve.

One observation is that if there’s agreement among stakeholders about how forecasts will be used in policy making you tend to get better outcomes. For example, ‘employment and education authorities are jointly involved in the design and development of the forecasts carried out by Statistics Norway.’

Another observation is that if forecasting is linked to specific policy outcomes, say youth employment in regional areas, then you get more useful data, but you lose the ability to make more general assessments.

Good tips in here for Australia’s governments, not least the way that Canada goes about skills forecasting by focusing in part about what skills are common across occupations rather than looking only at what skills are different for each occupation.

A very early post on the VET Blog is worth dipping into if skills shortages are your thing. Posted in April 2013, What is a skills shortage? follows Sue Richardson’s excellent analysis of four kinds of skills shortages. Other posts from the VET Blog that refer to skills shortages include:

·         Employer demand for stem skills – AiG report (posted 11 April 2013)

·         School work – VETiS and job placements (posted 23 June 2014)

·         World class skills for world class industries (posted 17 March 2014)

·         Skill demand and skill preparation in growth industries (posted 12 December 2014).


Posted by VETCentre on Tuesday, 24 May 2016 in VET Reforms

The NSW government’s new ATLAS mobile app gives apprentices and trainees a one stop online shop for their training plans, uploading documents, getting units signed off by their supervisors, information about workplace safety and bullying, what to do if they lose their jobs.

ATLAS also provides advice for RTOs about a range of things from linking ATLAS to in-house systems and setting up a training plan using the app.

You can sign onto ATLAS from the website. There are also downloadable guides available – one for apprentices and trainees and one for RTOs.

We’re in a bit of a fix here. According to the NCVER’s Apprentices and trainees 2014, the most recent annual report published in July last, trade ‘commencements decreased by 21.9% from 2013 to 2014, with non-trade commencements down 25.3%’. The double whammy is that commencements are down and so are completions – again according to NCVER data, ‘Contract completion rates for apprentices and trainees in trades occupations were 46.0% for 2010 commencements, and are projected to decrease to 41.4% for the latest 2014 commencements’ (Completion and attrition rates for apprentices and trainees 2014).

In light of that glum news, it’s good to see the likes of ATLAS – we need smart supports to assist apprentices and trainees get to the end of their programs. It’s not all glum news though. After falling in 2012, 2013 and 2014, according to the Victorian training market report 2015 apprentice enrolments in Victoria went up a shade in 2015 – from 42,650 to 42,940.

Across the Ditch, the NZ Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment has a nifty app too. The VET Blog mentioned Occupation Outlook in October 2014. It’s worth investigating and you can download the app from the Occupation Outlook page. On that page you’ll also find information about the purposes and design of the app.

Occupation Outlook provides an overview of income and job prospects for about 60 occupations, and tells prospective students what fees they’ll pay to train in each occupation. You can also download pdfs for these occupations, with the detailed data in static form, from the Occupation Outlook page.


Posted by VETCentre on Monday, 23 May 2016 in Research

This has been in the inbox for a year now, so it’s lightly old for a blog post with the ring of a new brass bell, and not old enough for a tolling post from the past. Maybe the time is just right.

In April 2015 the Queensland Centre for Population Research at the University of Queensland released a report called Changing post-school pathways and outcomes: Melbourne and regional students (18 pages). The report is part of a larger study funded through an Australian Research Council Linkage grant, which involved University of Queensland, Latrobe University Bendigo, Graduate Careers Australia, and the Victorian Government.

What’s interesting about this report is the way in which post-school choices differ depending on which of three groups you belong to:

·         Regional movers – you moved from regional Victoria to Melbourne after completing school

·         Regional stayers – you grew up and stayed in regional Victoria after finishing school

·         Melbourne stayers – you grew up and remained in Melbourne after leaving school.

The study and work outcomes for each group are distinctive. As the authors note, young people brought up in regional Victoria tend to be educationally disadvantaged and to be employed in less skilled occupations. They are:

·         1.3 times less likely to complete Year 12

·         3.8 times less likely to hold a bachelor degree

·         1.6 times more likely to be employed in a technical and labour occupations at the age of 23

The researchers compared the experiences of young people who grew up and stayed in regional Victoria with those who moved to Melbourne after leaving school. They found that young people who moved from regional Victoria were 1.3 times more likely to complete a university degree and to be employed in a managerial and professional occupations.

What’s interesting is that regional stayers are much more likely to set their sights on a post-school VET qualification than either regional movers or metropolitan stayers. This personal objective is driven according to research, by limited regional access to university education, combined with a lack of support from parents and teachers.

There’s a sense in this report that university education is preferable to VET. That’s a narrow view, but it is clear that access needs to improve to cater for as many post-school options as possible. Perhaps there might be a little more focus on the research finding that

… non-metropolitan youth displayed greater participation in lower-level VET qualifications, including entry-level certificates (certificate I and II), apprenticeships and traineeships, rather than higher certificates (III and IV), diplomas or advanced diploma qualifications.

There’s a riddle to be solved about encouraging more regional stayers to set their sights higher up the VET qualification ladder, not just to encourage them to make a university qualification a priority.

Perhaps it’s a reflection of the research study partners’ perspectives on the world that it’s assumed a degree is a university qualification. Degrees are higher education qualifications and offered by non-university higher education providers. Indeed, TAFE Institutes in particular are making their own degrees available, co-deliver degree programs with universities, and provide partnered pathways to university programs.

So access and aspiration are both important. Both have particular resonance in regional areas. VET providers have a social task on their to do lists – generating demand from capable young regional school leavers for higher level VET qualifications, and meeting that demand locally. VET and higher education providers – and sometimes it’s one organisation straddling both sectors – also have to continue working together to generate demand for, and ensure regional access to, higher education qualifications.

There’s a good deal more in this report that’s worth mulling over, particularly the different (and less positive) employment experiences of regional movers. Australia is an overwhelmingly urban nation. On one reputable ranking we come in 18th – very high when you consider that some of the countries ahead of us are Singapore, Vatican City, Iceland, Nauru and Japan. (There’s a Wikipedia entry here that gives you the lowdown.) Maybe we need to think more carefully about how to help country kids make the transition to the city – it isn’t as procedural and simple as we sometimes think.


Posted by VETCentre on Friday, 20 May 2016 in Language, Literacy and Numeracy

We have done good work in improving the language, literacy and numeracy (LLN) skills of the existing workforce. But the end of the journey is a good distance away yet. A recentAustralian Industry Group (AiG) report, Tackling Foundation Skills in the Workforce (21 pages), offers a pretty good idea of how far there is to go and what the direction of travel ought to be.

Released in January, AiG’s report, paints in clear colours the employment backdrop to the need for getting Australia’s LLN act together. The report notes that ‘In Australia worker access to the internet as part of their job is higher than the OECD overage for all enterprise sizes’ – and that means, in addition to ICT literacy, having the LLN skills to find your way around a screen. The report’s authors write that:

The change in employment by industry sector is reflected in the growth in the service sector. The fastest growth in this sector requires the highest level of skills such as finance, insurance, business services and real estate. These services are highly dependent on computer and ICT skills. The same is the case for high-technology manufacturing where growth occurs counter to the trend for an overall decline in manufacturing.

A little later they write about the importance of writing, and therefore reading. Note too the significant relationship between reading and numeracy tasks inferred in the following quote from the report:

Given the centrality of written information in all areas of life, workers must be able to understand and respond to textual information and communicate in written form. Many occupations now require the use of numerical tools and models. The presence of ICT in the workplace and the related changes in the delivery of many services make the mastery of literacy and numeracy skills even more important for full participation in modern life. A certain level of proficiency in literacy and numeracy is also a pre-condition for success in undertaking more complex problem-solving tasks.

The OECD has also reported that labour productivity and the use of reading skills are positively associated. Differences in the average use of reading skills explain about 30 per cent of the variation in labour productivity across countries.

That’s the backdrop to the growing significance of foundation skills in getting into work and getting the job done. How does the Australian workforce stack up against these demands? Well, we’re off the pace really. The economic club for wealthy nations, the OECD of which Australia is a founding member, runs an international survey called Programme for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies (PIAAC).

To grasp the urgency behind the following takeouts from AiG’s report you need to know that on PIAAC level 3 is the minimum requirement to operate effectively in workplaces and society – below level 3 and it’s going to be a struggle in the workplace:

·         in literacy proficiency, 44 per cent of Australians had skills below level 3

·         in numeracy proficiency 55 per cent of adult Australians had skills below level 3.

The case for investing in foundation skills in the workplace is further made by results from an AiG survey which asked employers about the impact of low literacy and numeracy skills on their business. High proportions of employers reported the following:

·         poor completion of workplace documents and reports (almost 42%)

·         material wastage and errors (almost 32%)

·         teamwork and communication problems (over 28%)

·         time wasting (over 27%).

The Workplace English Language and Literacy (WELL) program ended in 2014 and was rolled into the Industry Skills Fund. This move has diluted attention on LLN skills. Some aspects of WELL are still running strong though; for example, there is still an intake of 50 people per year into the Language, Literacy and Numeracy Practitioner Scholarships Programme. But AiG is saying we need to get back to tin tacks – LLN needs very close attention via a structured national strategy.

AiG recommends the skills improvement terrain we need to cover which include:

·         The Australian Government initiate consultations with industry about the system implementation of strengthening foundation skills in the workplace.

·         The Australian Government, in collaboration with industry, develop and implement a national awareness campaign about the benefits to employers of investing in workplace foundation skills programs.

·         The Australian Government initiate the process to develop a new national foundation skills program to be delivered in workplaces to directly address the identified and widespread low levels of literacy and numeracy in the workforce.

·         The Australian Government dedicate the resources to the expansion of the Language, Literacy and Numeracy Practitioner Scholarships Programme beyond 50 participants per annum and investigate the potential of linking the completion of scholarships to offers of employment.


Posted by VETCentre on Thursday, 19 May 2016 in Research

On 11 April TAFE Directors Australia (TDA) released Trends in public and private VET provision: participation, finances, and outcomes (120 pages). TDA commissioned theNVCER to undertake the research and write the report. It’s quite a complex read because you need to familiarise yourself with a blizzard of categories about provider types and funding arrangements. But don’t let that put you off because the report offers an intriguing insight into how a marketised VET system produce different results.

In a managed market like VET the aim would be to design the market so that outcomes are maximised for all students. This report is a strong indication that maximisation isn’t yet within grasp.

The analysis shows that while TAFE had the majority share of training from 2010 to 2014, it had lost market share, mostly to private RTOs, and especially for Certificate III qualifications. That’s widely known, but perhaps it’s worth drilling down for a little more detail. Regarding Cert IIIs the analysis shows that:

TAFE continues to have the overwhelming majority shares of government-funded enrolments for plumbing and electrical apprentices. By comparison, private RTOs dominate the market for aged care trainees. ‘Other’ RTOs and providers, including enterprises, are gradually moving into the market for electrical apprentices.

The NCVER’s analysis indicates that in 2014 TAFE had around 77% of electrical apprentice enrolments and private RTOs around 14%. What’s notable is that the share of enrolments for ‘other’ RTOs jumped from 2% in 2013 to 10% in 2014. That ‘other’ group of RTOs is a diffuse category and includes include schools, universities, non-government enterprises, professional associations, industry associations, equipment and product manufacturers, and suppliers.

Completions data shows that:

The greatest shares of program completions for the top five training packages (in government-funded training) for TAFE are for qualifications in construction, plumbing services and integrated framework, followed by training and education, and community services. For private RTOs the top five shares of program completions were for qualifications in tourism, hospitality and events, followed by business services and community services.

Digging a little further into the completions data, the report notes that ‘The highest completions of nationally accredited course qualifications are those produced by TAFE, with the share produced by private RTOs being almost half that of TAFE.’

On the all important front of employment outcomes, NCVER’s analysis shows that:

85% of graduates from fee-for-service TAFE and other government (domestic) providers were employed six months after training; they had the best employment rate performance. By comparison, 80% of graduates from private providers found employment six months after training.

The report also picks apart where VET FEE-HELP funding is going and the outcomes for learners who have a HELP loan. We’ll leave that for another time!


Posted by VETCentre on Monday, 16 May 2016 in VET Reforms

The Australian Industry and Skills Committee (AISC) has approved an update to the Certificate IV in TAE. In its 1 April Communiqué the AISC announced:

… the inclusion of two new core units for the Certificate IV qualification. The inclusion of an additional unit in addressing adult language, literacy and numeracy skills will ensure that VET practitioners will have a greater understanding of the foundation skills required in their industry sectors.

The addition of a core unit on the development of effective assessment tools (Design and develop assessment tools) will help to assure employers that students graduating from VET courses will be more effectively assessed as having the necessary skills and knowledge to do the job.

The new core units will apply to new students undertaking the TAE. In addition, the AISC recommends ‘that the COAG Industry and Skills Council consider applying the new requirements to the existing workforce’.

The Skills Council comprises Commonwealth, state and territory ministers responsible for VET. It also met on 1 April. The Skills Council Communiqué notes that:

Ministers have agreed to consider the Australian Industry and Skills Committee’s recommendation that the new requirements be applied to the existing VET workforce. The Council has directed senior officials to develop an appropriate implementation strategy by the end of July 2016 to be considered by Ministers.

It isn’t a done deal yet, but it seems mighty close.


Posted by VETCentre on Thursday, 12 May 2016 in VET Reforms

The Victorian government has identified six industry sectors considered most likely to make substantial contributions to the state’s economic growth. The six sectors are Medical Technologies and Pharmaceuticals, new energy technology, food and fibre, transport technologies, defence, professional services and international education. The government has released a strategy for each sector and you can download them from the home page of the Future Industries Fund.

VET has a part to play in realising the potential in each sector. This post is focused on international education and refers to two documents – the International Education Sector Strategy released (32 pages) and the International Education Fact Pack (36 pages). TheFact Pack gathers together data that was important in formulating the strategy document, so let’s start with the Fact Pack which is a series of slides that sets out where Victoria stands in the international education marketplace and what growth opportunities there are.

The Fact Pack reports that ‘Victoria is the major Australian player (77% share) in offshore delivery of VET/TAFE’. That strong showing is counterbalanced by a much smaller share of onshore international student numbers – 29.5% of onshore international VET students are in Victoria, compared to the NSW share of 41.9%. On the reckoning reported in the Fact Pack, ‘Increasing international students in VET/TAFE to NSW’s level could deliver $100m’ annually to Victoria’s revenues. That big round figure is made up of $36m in estimated additional fee income, and $63m in estimated additional goods and services income (or what onshore students and their families spend in Victoria).

The Fact Pack, which was put together by Boston Consulting Group (BCG), identifies four actions that government could take to grow onshore VET/TAFE student numbers, including facilitating coordinated marketing of TAFE/VET products into offshore markets and working with Commonwealth to relieve constraints so that VET products can be tailored to market needs. With an eye to burgeoning international student enrolments in the school sector, the Fact Pack poses a good question: How can Victoria leverage the student pathway through schools and VET into higher education?

The International Education Sector Strategy gets down to business. One of the Victorian government’s 10 strategic goals is squarely in the VET domain:

·         Grow a globally oriented, high quality Vocational Education and Training (VET) sector.

To realise that goal, the Strategy specifies four aims the Victorian government wants to get to work on:

·         Ensure a better focus on quality throughout the VET sector to meet domestic needs and enhance our global market position

·         Capitalise on global demand for high quality VET systems and training through a more collaborative approach by private and public providers

·         Support public and private providers to enter new markets, maximising our success in global tenders and offshore work

·         Identify and develop key opportunities for global partnerships between industry and the VET sector.

In pursuit of those aims, the government has five specific actions in mind:

·         Support VET providers to respond to global partnership opportunities, further positioning Victoria as a leader in training solutions across a range of foreign governments and corporate partners.

·         Support a new approach to bring together Victoria’s TAFE institutes to secure high-value offshore training projects, partnering with quality private providers where required.

·         Proactively identify global decision makers to visit Victoria as part of the inbound training and leadership programs to showcase our approach to skills development.

·         Support the establishment of high-value, cooperative skills and training partnerships through a new skills partnership fund.

·         Maximise government-to-government relationships to create market opportunities for VET sector reform, global skills and VET teacher training.

It seems we can expect quite a bit of focus and change on the international front for Victoria’s VET system.


Posted by VETCentre on Wednesday, 04 May 2016 in Research

The American Psychological Association (APA) has distilled lessons from research in psychology that have the most relevance for learning and teaching. The lessons are framed with specific reference to school education, but it doesn’t take much reflection to realise what’s tucked away in these lessons applies to learning and teaching anywhere, anytime.

Top 20 principles from psychology for PreK-12 teaching and learning (38 pages) is the work of the APA-supported Coalition for Psychology in Schools and Education. Each principle is presented in a page or two, with an explanation of the research that backs up the principle, followed by a section on how the principle is relevant to teachers.

Principle 9, for example, holds that ‘Students tend to enjoy learning and to do better when they are more intrinsically rather than extrinsically motivated to achieve’. The relevance of Principle 9 to teachers is presented in part like this:

A useful strategy when using any external constraints such as deadlines is to think about whether the constraints will be perceived by students as too controlling. Much of the perception of control can be managed by the way in which a task is communicated to students. Autonomy needs are more likely to be satisfied when students have choices. Allowing students to select from an array of achievement activities and to have a role in establishing rules and procedures helps foster perceptions of autonomy. This approach can also help students learn the value of choosing tasks that are of intermediate difficulty for them. Tasks are optimally challenging when they are neither too easy nor too hard.

The principles are presented accessibly – you don’t need to be a psychologist to get the gist. For example:

·         Principle 5: Acquiring long-term knowledge and skill is largely dependent on practice.

·         Principle 11: Teachers’ expectations about their students affect students’ opportunities to learn, their motivation, and their learning outcomes.

·         Principle 18: Formative and summative assessments are both important and useful but require different approaches and interpretations.

The principles are grouped into five categories:

·         How do students think and learn? (Principles 1-8)

·         What motivates students? (Principles 9-12)

·         Why are social context, interpersonal relationships, and emotional well-being important to student learning? (Principles 13-15)

·         How can the classroom best be managed? (Principles 16-17)

·         How to assess student progress? (Principles 18-20).


Posted by VETCentre on Monday, 02 May 2016 in VET Reforms

A few weeks ago Universities UK (UUK), which represents 133 UK universities, released a report that seeks to bring apprenticeships into the higher education sphere on a more secure policy and funding footing. The future growth of degree apprenticeships (32 pages) was launched to coincide with the UK’s National Apprenticeship Week.

There are degree apprenticeships already available in digital, automotive engineering, banking relationship manager, construction, surveying, electronic systems engineering, aerospace engineering, aerospace software development, defence systems engineering, laboratory science, nuclear, power systems, and public relations. It’s early days though – UUK’s report tells us that:

The current number of degree apprentices is relatively low, but in a short space of time forty universities will deliver – or are committed to deliver – an estimated 1,500-2,000 starts for 2016. With the number of starts on higher apprenticeships having risen rapidly (more than doubling between 2013-14 and 2014-15) there is clearly a demand for growth.

The report lays out something of a roadmap for how universities might develop degree apprenticeships, noting that such degree programs ‘can be particularly attractive to non-traditional students, thus providing an opportunity for degree apprenticeships to support widening participation goals’. The report sets out a series of recommendations for universities, government and employers. Universities are encouraged to ‘Talk to local further education colleges; they have a wealth of experience in delivering apprenticeships’.

Clearly there is high level policy interest in what degree apprenticeships can offer. In the context of the British government’s promise to create 3 million new apprenticeships in England by 2020, the report quotes British Prime Minister David Cameron as saying:

Degree apprenticeships will give people a great head start, combining a full degree with the real practical skills gained in work and the financial security of a regular pay packet. They will bring the world of business and the world of education closer together, and let us build the high-level technical skills needed for the jobs of the future. I want to see many more businesses and universities begin to offer them.

There’s more on the government’s intentions in this media release from March 2015. Under the UK funding model, according to the report, government contributes two-thirds of the cost of degree apprenticeships (up to a capped amount) and the employer contributes the remaining third.

There are a couple of examples in the report of how degree apprenticeships are delivered and administered. Aston University is partnering with Capgemini, a major national employer in and around Birmingham, to deliver a digital degree apprenticeship which:

… begins with a seven-week technical training block held on campus, delivering core computing and business skills to enable apprentices to become an effective team member in the workplace. Following this the remainder of the programme is delivered through blended learning. Most teaching is delivered through a virtual learning environment. Online tutorials typically take place out of office hours through online video conferencing. In this way teaching is delivered to students who are working on a client site, have irregular working patterns, and are dispersed across the country (and, potentially, in different time zones). Each six-month block of modules requires attendance at four on-campus teaching days (which may include weekends) and an additional two days for examinations.

There’s more about the program in a media release from Aston University, which notes in part that:

Over the duration of the course they will be introduced to Aston’s cutting-edge research and detailed industrial case studies to complement their own working experience, helping them develop into the technical and business leaders of tomorrow.

The forerunner to the degree apprenticeship in the UK is the Higher Apprenticeship that provides training up to degree level. The Employer Guide to Higher Apprenticeshipsexplains how they work. Indeed, not too long ago Victoria considered Higher Apprenticeships – the Victorian government commissioned Victoria University to investigate whether a Higher Apprenticeships model might fly in that state. The 2012 report, Higher Apprenticeships: Scoping report to Higher Education and Skills Group (25 pages) sees value in the idea but found pretty mixed views among stakeholders.

Germany, Austria and other European nations have blended apprenticeships across tertiary education qualification levels for many years. What’s happening in the UK isn’t new in that wider context. But there’s a chance Higher Apprenticeships and degree apprenticeships will catch on Down Under as lessons emerge from the UK. How these forms of apprenticeships knit with more traditional apprenticeships is something we’ll have to work on. If the degree apprenticeship model take off in Australia, presumably there’s an advantage to VET providers that both offer apprenticeships and are registered as non-university higher education providers.


Posted by VETCentre on Thursday, 28 April 2016 in VET Conferences

Our previous Blog post titled ‘VET and STEM’ considered STEM and the ways it impacts on work, education and the community at large.  Considerable investment has already been made in understanding the role that STEM qualifications have on the VET workforce and the subsequent contributions to Australia’s skill base.  The VDC 2016 Teaching and Learning conference held at the RACV Resort at Torquay, extends on the idea of STEM and focuses it more narrowly through a VET lens to highlight how VET educators can achieve high quality delivery, innovative teaching practices and improved student outcomes.  Therefore, the program focuses on STEAM:

·         The science of learning strategy

·         Enhancing teaching with technology

·         Engineering student engagement

·         Developing the art of assessment

·         Managing with mathematical precision

This two day event will feature workshops, forums, masterclasses and presentations from leading VET professionals.  More information and registration details can be found on ourwebsite page.


Posted by VETCentre on Wednesday, 27 April 2016 in VET Reforms

You’ve been sleeping if you haven’t heard the growing clamour about the importance of boosting Australia’s stock of knowledge and skills in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM). The Office of the Chief Scientist has beaten this drum for a good few years and marched out the brass band in February with a detailed report called Australia’s STEM workforce (223 pages).

Before burrowing into the report, there are two headline findings on the first page of chapter 2 that provide some context for this longish post:

·         Of the STEM-qualified population, approximately two thirds held Vocational Education and Training (VET) qualifications, while one third were higher education graduates with bachelor degrees or higher.

·         Of the 1,117,011 people with certificate III and IV qualifications, just over one million had Engineering qualifications.

Both findings serve to underline VET’s importance in building and maintaining our STEM capability.

STEM’s relevance to work

Let’s take a step back from the numbers to dwell on why STEM skills are valuable – that’s a question the report addresses directly in chapter 1:

STEM skills are critical to the management and success of R&D (research and development) projects as well as the day-to-day operations of competitive firms.

They are the lifeblood of emerging knowledge-based industries – such as biotechnology, information and communications technology (ICT) and advanced manufacturing – and provide competitive advantage to established industries – such as agriculture, resources and healthcare.

Strong performance in STEM is also critical to our education sector – now Australia’s fourth largest export industry.

An education in STEM also fosters a range of generic and quantitative skills and ways of thinking that enable individuals to see and grasp opportunities. These capabilities – including deep knowledge of a subject, creativity, problem solving, critical thinking and communication skills – are relevant to an increasingly wide range of occupations. They will be part of the foundation of adaptive and nimble workplaces of the future.

Australia’s STEM workforce burrows deep into the data, unearthing interesting perspectives on VET’s contributions to the nation’s STEM capability. Business ownership is a case in point:

People with VET level qualifications had a much higher level of business ownership compared to those with university level qualifications across all fields.

Across the different fields, business ownership was highest for those in Agriculture and Environmental Science, across all levels of qualification, at 27 per cent for those from VET and 15 per cent for those from university. Business ownership was lowest for those with IT qualifications for both the VET and university levels, at 10 per cent.

That’s a pretty impressive VET influence on entrepreneurial activity and employment.

STEM for all

There are many reasons for VET practitioners and providers to claim the sector makes a very real difference in shaping the STEM workforce Australia needs. Before we get to flag waving though, there are one or two things we need to think hard about and get to work on. As we’ve long known, there’s a gender imbalance in the STEM workforce that Australia really needs to get to grips with, and the VET sector in particular. The report records several ways that imbalance plays out. For example:

… the proportion of females with VET level STEM qualifications was the same in 2006 and 2011 at 9 per cent (91 per cent males in VET). Amongst the population with university level STEM qualifications, the proportion of females increased slightly from 2006 to 2011 from 28 to 29 per cent …

The highest occupation group for those with certificate to advanced diploma qualifications for males was as Technicians and Trade Workers (49 per cent), and as Clerical and Administrative Workers for females (22 per cent).

The unemployment rate for those with STEM qualifications was 5.2 per cent for females and 3.5 per cent for males with university level qualifications; and 6.3 per cent for females and 3.3 per cent for males with VET qualifications. The unemployment rate was higher among females than males across each STEM field at the university level; and all fields except Science and Mathematics at the VET level.

Apart from being unfair, it’s plain stupid for a smart country to put up with a situation where half the working population has more limited participation in fields underpinning our economic future.

Recognising VET’s role in shaping the STEM workforce

Shadows aside, the Office of the Chief Scientist directly reflects on VET’s importance to STEM like this. In assessing future directions for Australia’s STEM workforce, the report makes the point that we have closely examined the role of the university sector in creating a STEM-capable workforce, but overlooked VET’s role:

The VET sector makes a critical contribution to Australia’s STEM skills base, a contribution yet to be fully reflected in the evidence base for policy development. What is known of the employment outcomes of VET graduates across STEM disciplines, and how can this knowledge be integrated with this report’s analysis of outcomes from the university sector?

The STEM return

Another report that highlights the importance of STEM knowledge and skills is A smart move: PWC report on Future-proofing Australia’s workforce by growing skills in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) (24 pages). By consulting firm PwC, this 2015 report notes that PwC modelling indicates ‘shifting just 1 per cent of the workforce into STEM roles would add $57.4 billion to GDP’. GDP is Gross Domestic Product – the total dollar value of all the goods produced and services provided in Australia. Based on the size of Australia’s GDP, if that 1 per cent shift occurred we’d be around 3 per cent richer than we are now. PwC’s report also notes research indicating ‘75 per cent of the fastest growing occupations now require STEM skills, and over 70 per cent of Australian employers identify STEM employees as being among the most innovative’.

Starting STEM early

Of course, developing the STEM workforce doesn’t start in tertiary education. It starts in schools. PwC’s report tells us that after 13 years of primary and secondary education this is where end up at the moment:

Year 12 participation in STEM subjects is declining. Over the twenty-year period from 1992 to 2012 there was a fall in participation of 11 per cent for intermediate mathematics, 10 per cent for biology, 5 per cent for chemistry and 7 per cent for physics.

We need to boost those percentages. Starting now would be a good idea. Starting now isn’t without its challenges though. The State of our schools 2016 report (18 pages), produced annually by the Australian Education Union, offers the unsettling statistic that ‘51% of principals reported having maths & science classes taught by not fully qualified teachers’.

To sum up, it would seem to be a good idea if we:

·         started STEM early with the right knowledge and skills to hand

·         made STEM inclusive

·         valued VET’s STEM role.


Posted by VETCentre on Wednesday, 27 April 2016 in VET

It seems the upcoming Federal Budget might announce decisions that seek to moderate the cost of VET FEE-HELP to government. There are many opinions about what should be done, from doing nothing to scrapping VET FEE-HELP. They are the extremes. The policy setting is likely to have more balance.

It’s easy to get bamboozled by all the economics and the budget modelling and the statistics. Good news is that Andrew Norton from the Grattan Institute has written a very readable report on why VET FEE-HELP needs a funding fix and what the fix could be.HELP for the future: fairer repayment of student debt (54 pages) looks at all the HELP programs, including VET FEE-HELP. This post takes a few extracts from the report to provide some background to what may come in policy announcements on Budget night in early May.

In getting to grips with the argument for change, the all important notion is the ‘threshold’. Norton explains it like so (along with a second paragraph about the overall cost of HELP):

HELP’s distinctive feature, compared to other types of loans, is that repayments are income contingent. Debtors earning less than $54,126 in 2014-15 do not need to repay. Once their income reaches this initial threshold, debtors repay a proportion of income starting at 4 per cent, up to a maximum of 8 per cent. HELP repayment is progressive; repayments go up with income.

As HELP eligibility has expanded, and student numbers and fees have increased, total annual HELP lending has escalated rapidly. It doubled between 2010-11 and 2014-15, to reach $7.8 billion. As of mid-2015, $42 billion of HELP debt was outstanding.

Okay, with the idea of the threshold in place, where are we with VET FEE-HELP, and how did we get here? The report provides a broad answer on page 14:

Since 2009 HELP has been available for upper-level vocational qualifications, mostly diplomas, through the VET FEE-HELP scheme. The number of students borrowing under VET FEE-HELP has increased dramatically, from 5300 in its first year to 203,000 in 2014. The scale of growth is due partly to unscrupulous vocational education providers enrolling large numbers of students with limited earnings prospects. Most will never complete their qualification, triggering high rates of bad debt. Rapidly escalating average tuition fees have compounded the financial problems caused by enrolment growth. While new regulations and enforcement measures should reduce provider malpractice and borrower numbers, they will not be enough. VET FEE-HELP will remain costly, even if most students complete their qualifications.

The threshold was originally set with university students in mind. On average, VET graduates have lower incomes than university graduates. VET FEE-HELP will remain costly because too many people with a VET FEE-HELP debt will not earn enough to reach the current threshold and commence repayments.

The Grattan report proposes a new threshold:

A new initial threshold must do three things: ensure that more debtors repay, preserve HELP’s protections against financial hardship, and present an arguable case for change, given current political constraints.

An initial threshold of $42,000 for 2016-17 would meet these conditions … more new graduates, part-time workers, and diploma holders would repay. A $42,000 threshold exceeds the minimum wage and welfare benefits for working age individuals.

Comparisons aren’t everything, but they can offer perspective. Andrew Norton sets the existing threshold beside the thresholds that apply in England and New Zealand:

An Australian HELP debtor earning $54,000, just under the initial repayment threshold, repays nothing. English debtors on the equivalent of A$54,000 would repay $1000 a year – 9 per cent of their earnings above the threshold – if they borrowed on or after 1 September 2012. In New Zealand, a low threshold equivalent of A$17,900 combines with a high repayment of 12 per cent of income above the threshold. With New Zealand’s repayment system, an Australian earning $54,000 would repay $4300.

There’s no certainty the Budget will set out changes to VET FEE-HELP, and there’s no knowing ahead of time what any changes will be. Maybe it’s worth reading an article in theSydney Morning Herald on 28 March (Government may act as Grattan Institute urges reining in of ‘overly generous’ student loans scheme), in which journalist Matthew Knott wrote:

The report, by the respected Grattan Institute, has been welcomed by Education Minister Simon Birmingham, who has repeatedly said the government needs to rein in the spiralling costs of higher education.


Posted by VETCentre on Thursday, 21 April 2016 in Research

The Foundation for Young Australians (FYA) is keeping a watching brief on how well our policy settings and education systems are serving young people. For the last 17 years FYA has released an annual report called How are Young People Faring in the Transition from School to Work? The 2015 report card was released in November last year, so we are a little late in getting to it. But in this case, better late than never is absolutely true.

The report’s nine pages present a lot of compelling information in a way that’s easy to grasp – it’s an infographic stream.

Here are a few take-aways.

Around three-quarters of all future jobs will have a STEM requirement. It’s disconcerting then that ‘proficiency in maths, science and reading is getting worse and Australia is falling in international ratings’. Of Australia’s 15 year olds:

·         42 per cent are not proficient in maths

·         35 per cent are not proficient in science

·         35 per cent are not proficient in technology.

There’s much talk about digital natives – the idea that young people have grown up with digital technology and are naturally expert users of it. This matters because 90 per cent of future jobs will involve digital literacy. But the idea of a generation of digital natives is appealing rather than real – 35 per cent of 15 year olds are not digitally literate.

On the upside, 15-24 year olds are staying in education longer:

·         in 2011, 18 per cent of this age group was studying VET, dropping to 17 per cent in 2014

·         in 2007, 19 per cent of this age group was studying in higher education, ticking up to 21 per cent in 2014.

Not so good is that the percentage engaged in apprenticeships fell from 6 per cent in 2011 to 4 per cent in 2014.

It’s getting tougher to make it into the full time workforce. The report indicates that ‘it takes on average 4.7 years for young people to find full-time work after completing full-time education and 2.7 years to find any work (from one year respectively in 1986)’. For those who finished their qualification in 2014, this is the experience four months after graduating:

·         65 per cent of university graduates were in full time work (down from 84 per cent in 2008)

·         58 per cent of Certificate III or higher graduates were in full time work (down from 70 per cent in 2006).

Overall, 30 per cent of 21 year olds are working but want more hours.

The report is not just a bevy of statistics. FYA has a clear agenda for addressing the shortfalls. That agenda is neatly summarised on page 3. The introduction reads:

The Foundation for Young Australians is calling for a national enterprise education strategy to ensure young people are digitally literate, financially savvy, innovative and adaptable and can navigate the increasingly complex careers of the future. Enterprise skills are transferrable across different jobs. They have been found to be as powerful predictor of long-term job success as technical knowledge and it is predicted they will be increasingly important in the future.

This proposition is accompanied by a suite of skills – LLN, technical, enterprise and career management skills.

You can explore the agenda in more detail with a good browse through another FYA report, The new work order: Ensuring young Australians have skills and experience for the jobs of the future, not the past (50 pages). The VET Blog ran a post on this report in September last:

·         Making your way – the working futures of young Australians.


Posted by VETCentre on Wednesday, 20 April 2016 in Research

In early March Chartered Accountants Australia and New Zealand released The future of work: How can we adapt to survive and thrive? (64 pages). The report was prepared with the assistance of economics consultancy firm Deloitte Access Economics.

The report steps through the implications of four major changes that are fundamentally influencing the nature of work:

1.    The world is getting smaller – Globalisation is opening up international trade and work and workers are increasingly mobile.

2.    Digital disruption: more waves – Digital disruption is a long way from over. There is much more to come, both for industry and for government services. (And as VET teachers and providers know, education has seen plenty of digitally driven change.)

3.    An older and more experienced population – The workforce is ageing and it’s a good idea to adapt to that reality rather than seeing it as a negative. (And this change will necessarily require adjustments in VET’s role and in VET practice.)

4.    The peer-to-peer economy – Uber and AirBnB are just two examples of business models that are forcing change across the economy. (Think how these peer-to-peer models could change banking and real estate.)

There are two infographics –here and here ¬– accompanying the report that convey many of its the main messages. This post will simply highlight a handful of thought-provoking observations in the text that bear on how the tertiary education sector will need to respond to change that is already accelerating through the four areas listed above. Education is not a by-stander – it’s critical. As the report fairly says:

The future of work – and the pre-requisites for success – will emerge over time. It is clear that we need to be ready and willing to adapt to new circumstances and learn new skills. Governments and businesses should consider how to leverage experience while providing pathways for re-training and education.

We will need to update our understanding of the kinds of workforce skills that employers emphasise, and we will need to establish good pedagogies that develop those skills among learners who will be typically older than most of our students today. The report sets the scene for this:

In a world where skills requirements can vary throughout someone’s working life, formal training shouldn’t be ‘set-and-forget’. Over half of early-career employees think that their field/s of study is not ‘very much’ relevant to the field that they are working in. Relevance declines with experience – 59% of those with over 15 years’ experience don’t think their study is “very much” relevant.

There are a few stereotypes that we may need to chase out too. Have a guess, for example, at the average of an Aussie entrepreneur. And the answer is:

Our older population also offers value through entrepreneurship – the average age of entrepreneurs in Australia is 45.

There’s a good chance that more VET learners will have higher education qualifications than is now the case. That’s not least because of the significant increase in participation at bachelor level and above. As the report has it:

Given the accelerating rate of change, it will be important for future knowledge employees to be equipped from the outset with the education and skills required in a knowledge-based economy. While this includes formal study such as university education, ongoing training and professional development once employees have entered employment will also be important in ensuring that employees’ skills remain relevant to businesses’ requirements. This will help to facilitate continued growth and innovation across knowledge-intensive industries in the future.

The demand for ongoing training across a working life is not a surprise – that is a space VET has worked in effectively for a very long time. But perhaps the pace of ‘skills decay’ is picking up. A final word from the report:

Our survey figures show that two-thirds of early-career Australians are expecting that their job will not exist, or will fundamentally change, in the next 15 years. One in five employees with five or fewer years’ experience think their current job will not exist in 15 years. A further 47% think that their job will require very different skills or tasks. More experienced employees are less likely to expect fundamental change. Almost one-third of employees believe that the biggest driver of change in their job will be changes in digital and IT.

It should also be acknowledged that technology will lead to a reduction in job opportunities in some areas, for example as particular services are able to be automated, or productivity gains mean that less labour is required to complete a task. In the US, estimates suggest that approximately 47% of total employment may be at risk.

You may be interested in earlier posts that cover similar territory:

·         The CSIRO’s solid hunches about how work and workforce must change (posted 1 April 2016)

·         The NBN effect on jobs in Australia (posted 5 October 2015)

·         Changes in the work Australians will do, and who they work for (posted 3 August 2015).


Posted by VETCentre on Monday, 18 April 2016 in VET Reforms

The Mitchell Institute has been doing sterling work on developing practical proposals for the future of the tertiary education system, backed up by thorough analysis. The VET Blog has looked at a number of the Institute’s reports in earlier posts, including:

·         Ongoing declines in Australian VET expenditure (29 September 2015)

·         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).

In mid-March the Institute released another valuable report, VET funding in Australia: Background, trends and future directions (36 pages). Written by Peter Noonan, a former Chair of the VET Development Centre’s Board and now a Professorial Fellow at Mitchell, the report is well summarised by Brendan Sheehan here on The Scan website.

Rather than repeat that summary, this post picks just a couple of ‘headlines’ from the report.

First, we need to get our data and our ideas together if we are to create an equitable and productive VET funding system. It’s extraordinary to read in the report that ‘there has not been a fully independent review of VET funding since the Deveson Report in 1991’. Twenty-five years is a very long time.

Second, it’s essential that there is a nationally consistent resolution to the constant to and fro between Commonwealth, state and territory governments about who funds VET and how. The Council of Australian Governments has yet to get this sorted out. Peter Noonan makes a very straightforward observation:

The worst outcome for VET would be an impasse at COAG and a default to the current flawed funding model. The case for a decisive move towards a national VET funding system is as compelling now than when it has been raised in the past. It’s a logical extension of the national regulation of VET and the growth in the role of the Commonwealth’s funding.

Third, it doesn’t make sense today to treat VET and higher education as separate policy realms. We need an integrated tertiary education policy. The Mitchell report rightly notes that can only happen if the Commonwealth takes a lead.

Beyond that, VET history buffs will enjoy pages 3-8 which step out the development of the VET funding system from 1974 to the present day.


Posted by VETCentre on Thursday, 14 April 2016 in Research

In April last year the VET Blog reported on the release of the 2014 University Experience Survey National Report. That was the first time that students at non-university higher education providers (or NUHEIs) were included in the survey.

Now we have the second annual report that includes NUHEI students – the 2015 Student Experience Survey (SES) (76 pages) Note the change of name as the survey is now bundled into QUILT (Quality Indicators for Learning and Teaching).

QUILT is a suite of national surveys that track student views about their study experience and report on job outcomes. The QUILT website enables prospective higher education students to compare universities and study areas against the bundle of measures. The intent is to provide students with reliable and objective information to support their decision making about where to undertake their tertiary studies. QUILT as yet only offers an interactive capability for comparing universities. NUHEIs aren’t part of that at the moment.

However, the SES report does provide aggregated data for both universities and NUHEIs. And for the second year NUHEIs come through with a very big tick. The data for 2015 comes from survey responses submitted by 145,382 higher education students, made up of 368,698 university students (a response rate of 37.6 per cent) and 22,707 NUHEI students (for a response rate of 39.2 per cent). It’s important to note that while all 40 universities participated, only 39 of the 130 or so NUHEIs participated.

The SES checks in on student satisfaction for five main areas. Here are the university and NUHEI outcomes for each area showing the percentage of students who are satisfied.

Focus Area – Skills Development

·         NUHEIs – 83%

·         Universities – 81%

Focus Area – Learner Engagement

·         NUHEIs – 61%

·         Universities – 60%

Focus Area – Teaching Quality

·         NUHEIs – 83%

·         Universities – 82%

Focus Area – Student Support

·         NUHEIs – 76%

·         Universities – 72%

Focus Area – Learning Resources

·         NUHEIs – 74%

·         Universities – 86%

As you can see, it’s pretty much level pegging on the first four focus areas, with NUHEI’s just besting universities in each case. The substantial difference is in the last area listed above – Learning Resources. On that scale NUHEIs lag by 12 percentage points. What’s tied up in Learning Resources? Students were asked to respond to each item in the following question by selecting one of Poor, Fair, Good or Excellent:

Thinking of this year, overall how would you rate the following learning resources provided for your course?

a) Teaching spaces (e.g. lecture theatres, tutorial rooms, laboratories)

b) Student spaces and common areas

c) Online learning materials

d) Computing/IT resources

e) Assigned books, notes and resources

f) Laboratory or studio equipment

g) Library resources and facilities

NUHEI’s need to pick up speed in those areas. But universities and NUHEIs all need to pick up speed on Learner Engagement – on that scale the satisfaction rates are 61 per cent and 60 per cent respectively. Given how important student engagement is for learning outcomes and retention, these are very low levels of satisfaction for things like having a sense of belonging, frequently participating in discussions online or face-to-face, and interacting with students who are very different from you.

The very clear upside, though, is that NUHEIs are doing a great job for their students.


Posted by VETCentre on Wednesday, 13 April 2016 in Research

The VET Blog began three years ago in April 2013. There are now more than 420 posts in the archive. The posts have ranged from ideas about teaching practice and summaries of policy changes through to international perspectives on VET and the summaries of reports that tells us more about VET students and our industry clients.

The first post went up on 3 April 2013. It concerned a position paper on reforming regulation in the VET sector – some things don’t change! That post has around 1800 hits.

It’s interesting to note that another post from April 2013 referred to a House of Representatives inquiry into the role and operation of the TAFE system. Interesting because just a few weeks ago, on 15 March 2016, we posted about another House of Representatives inquiry, this time into tertiary education’s role in developing workforce capabilities for innovation and creativity. Interesting but not surprising. VET matters to Australia’s future and policy makers are constantly adapting the VET system to cope with the rapidly changing world of work.

The VET Development Centre’s brief is to build the professional standing of VET practitioners. Part of what constitutes good professional standing is keeping up to speed with the evolving context for professional work – policy, practice, new ideas and opportunities, research findings, student and industry perspectives. A look at some of the posts from April 2014 is as good a way as any to demonstrate the breadth of topics that matter to VET professionals:

·         Research Snapshots from Australian Education International

·         We can work it out (two posts on the future of work)

·         Recommendation to include non-university providers in demand driven funding system

·         Good News – Victorian and Tasmanian design students recognised for excellence

·         #Hashtags for educators

·         Keeping on: improving completion rates for engineering apprentices

·         The kinds of training that workers and managers value

·         Data on VET in the European Union.

Our aim for the VET Blog has been to offer busy VET professionals accessible information about matters like these. The VET Development Centre is grateful for the support of the VET Blog’s many readers over the past three years.


Posted by VETCentre on Thursday, 07 April 2016 in VET

VET providers have extensive links with small businesses throughout Australia. Many of our students own them, work in them, or will work in them. The Australian Parliamentary Library has published a series of small business statistical snapshots that help to underline their significance in the economy:

·         Statistical snapshot: count of small businesses

·         Statistical snapshot: small business employment contribution and workplace arrangements

·         Statistical snapshot: small business contribution to economic performance in Australia

·         Definitions and data sources for small business in Australia: a quick guide

VET engagement with small business matters – maintaining an adequate supply of skills, training in small business management, maintaining the apprenticeship system, helping sustain local economies.

The definition of a small business is one that employs fewer than 20 people. As at June 2014 there were 2.1 million small businesses in Australia employing 4.7 million people – around 44 per cent of the total workforce. By contrast, medium sized business (defined as those employing 20-199 people) account for around 24 per cent of the workforce, and large firms (200 or more employees) around 32 per cent.

VET matters in many ways to the small business sector. For example, the construction industry accounted for 16.3% (333,000) of all small businesses in June 2014. It’s reasonable to assume that this group is primarily made up of tradespeople meaning that VET, in conjunction with employers, has laid the foundation for one in seven of the nation’s small businesses. An NCVER report tells us that over half of all apprentices work in very small businesses (The outcomes of education and training: what the Australian research is telling us, 2011-14, p. 9). VET is also the main provider of post-secondary qualifications in some industry areas, such as rental, hiring and real estate – a sector that accounts for 11.1 per cent of all small businesses.

In June 2014, 19,970 small businesses accounted for 44.1 per cent of all exporting firms – very close to its share of the workforce as a whole. The value of their exports was only 0.5 per cent of national export income – small, but important to note that exports are dominated by some very big players, like resources companies that account for 56 per cent of our international trade income.

Of course, the next medium-sized or large business is a small business right now. VET is doing much to support small businesses to innovate and expand, and could do more in the context of the federal government’s National Innovation and Science Agenda that was launched in December 2015.


Posted by VETCentre on Wednesday, 06 April 2016 in Research

The unfailingly wonderful National Centre for Vocational Education Research has pulled together its annual overview of findings from the research it has undertaken and commissioned. Research messages 2015 (40 pages) steps you through 18 research reports, extracting the key research outcomes in two broad streams of inquiry – qualifications and participation. Three complementary research papers are also included.

The overview for each report runs to one or two pages, along with a url address to the full versions. For example, there is a one page overview of Adult trade apprentices: exploringthe significance of recognition of prior learning and skill sets for earlier completion, written by Jo Hargreaves and Davinia Blomberg. Five key messages are offered, including these:

·         There are significantly more individuals aged 25 years and over commencing a trade apprenticeship today (40.1% in 2013) compared with ten years ago (14.9% in 2004).

·         The data confirm that a large number of adults commence an apprenticeship with no formal prior education but with knowledge and skills gained through existing workforce participation; yet RPL is still not being offered by all publicly funded registered training providers.

·         Shortened pathways are not adversely affecting outcomes for the individual adult trade apprentice:

o    One in five who completes their qualification reports having at least one subject where RPL was granted. This compares with only one in ten for those aged 24 years and below.

o    Adults using RPL end up with slightly higher average annual wages.

o    Prior experience itself, even without RPL to shorten training, has a positive impact on wages and being employed at a higher skill level.

The summary of one of one of the complementary report written by Francesca Beddie is well worth reading, as is the full report. The outcomes of education and training: what the Australian research is telling us, 2011-14, also lists five key messages that the VET system will need to keep working away at. They include:

·         Employers and enterprises have a crucial role to play in matching skills to jobs, improving the image of vocational education and training (VET), and in workplace learning. The VET sector’s role, in partnership with employers, is to re-imagine the nature of vocations and occupational groupings. That partnership should extend to improving the workplace as a site of learning.

·         There is an expectation for VET to meet a number of purposes: to prepare new workers; upskill the existing workforce; and offer alternative pathways for young people and second chances to disadvantaged adult learners. To enable VET to tackle this daunting list requires the deft coordination of policy settings, co-investment in services and a talented VET workforce.

·         We still need to develop reliable and meaningful ways to measure the returns from investment in education and training for both employers and society, a complex task in a global economy.

NCVER’s 2016 research agenda

The NCVER has also just made its call for research proposals under the National Vocational Education and Training Research Program. There are three priorities for this funding round which are detailed in the information kit. In abbreviated form they are as follows.

1. Meeting skill demand for the future – The Australian Government’s industry innovation and competitiveness agenda outlines a number of ambitions to strengthen Australia’s economy, one of which is a more skilled labour force through a focus on reform of the VET sector … How might the VET sector, in particular, provide students with the skills needed to succeed in this increasingly modern labour market? How can the VET sector, underpinned by a national system of training packages, be nimble and flexible enough to cater for rapidly changing skills needs?

2. New delivery and assessment modes (emerging technology) – A deeper understanding of the extent and growth of online delivery (which is subject to broadband availability and affordability), and the associated student outcomes, is needed. Additionally, a better understanding of how assessment is carried out and the quality of that assessment is required … This topic focuses on how to improve our understanding of the potential for contemporary teaching and learning technologies to produce better learning outcomes for students, including in workplaces as sites of learning.

3. Future-proofing the VET workforce – This topic is concerned with better understanding potential approaches to initial teacher training, possibly through a comparison of Australian and international examples, and the effectiveness of different tactics to engaging VET practitioners in professional development. The ability for teachers to have a dual role, in both industry and teaching, for example, is one way of keeping knowledge relevant. A better understanding of this and other models, and how they compare, is required to gain insight into how to create and maintain an adaptive and modernized VET workforce. There is a need to address both the current and medium term requirements of the sector, and also to “future-proof” the VET workforce.

Successful proposals will be expected to furnish by or before July 2017 research reports and other products (like webinars, overviews, good practice guides and conference presentations for NCVER).


Posted by VETCentre on Friday, 01 April 2016 in Research

February saw the launch of a CSIRO report, Tomorrow’s digitally enabled workforce: Megatrends and scenarios for jobs and employment in Australia over the coming twenty years (112 pages). The report is the outcome of a collaboration between CSIRO’s Data61, the Australian Computer Society, the Commonwealth Department of Employment, ANZ and Boston Consulting Group.

The report identifies six trends that will fundamentally shift the nature of work in Australia, and the workforce skills profile:

1. The second half of the chessboard – Since the turn of the century we’ve seen technology change the world of work at a quick clip, but in the next couple of years the pace will speed up exponentially. More data, more connections, the internet of things will impact on work and skills quickly and irreversibly.

2. Porus boundaries – Technology will enable new business models to take hold – the likes of Uber and Airbnb are just the beginning. Peer-to-peer employment will grow, freelancing (where a person is employed by many employers rather than one) will be a common form of employment, large companies will outsource much more of what they do.

3. The era of the entrepreneur – Small businesses are likely to employ more people and have a larger share of the economic pie. As job opportunities contract in large firms, they will grow in smaller enterprises. Entrepreneurial skills will become more important. Making your own job is the new black.

4. Divergent demographics – Australia’s workforce is ageing and we are all living longer. Retirement ages are being pushed back – maybe age-related retirement is a 20th century idea on its last legs. The workforce will include a wider range of ages, be more ethnically and gender diverse.

5. The rising bar – To quote directly from the report: ‘The growing use of automated systems is increasing the complexity of tasks and requiring higher skill levels for entry-level positions. Income growth in Asia is associated with increased educational and skills levels, as well as growing competition for Australia’s labour force. Many low skilled jobs are being offshored or automated. The consequence is likely to be a raised skills and education bar for entry into many professions and occupations.’

6. Tangible intangibles – Perhaps the easiest way to capture this trend is simply rattle off some of the sub-headings related to it – Health care and professional services are leading employment growth; The experience economy continues to expand and diversify; Employment in the creative sector is growing; Generation Z will enter the workforce with new expectations.

The report then goes on to consider how we might adjust to these megatrends, each of which has substantial bearing on school education, post-secondary education and lifelong learning. Four scenarios are set up to explore how the trends might come together and influence the world of work. Each scenario comes with key impacts identified for education and training providers.

Recognising that there is much in the report that will repay a close reading, let’s go straight to section 7.4 of the report which deals with education. Here’s the introduction, and it applies whatever scenario comes to pass:

Education is likely to be one of the most critical factors shaping workforce outcomes in the future. The research not only suggests that most of the new jobs of the future will require high levels of skills but also that continual investment in education will be required in order to keep up with the rate of change brought about by developments in digital technology. Thus, lifelong learning (and importantly, appropriately targeted learning) will be important in order to secure the productive and well paid jobs of the future. The educational sector might need to work in close collaboration with business and industrial organisations as well as governments to ensure educational programs are developed in accordance with future employees’ needs.

The report reckons that:

The current youth unemployment crisis can be viewed as a sign that training providers are not providing new workforce entrants with skill sets that are sought after in the current labour market. How we educate is important, but it is also important that we invest in the skills and competencies likely to be required in the future. Individuals who need to re-skill or who are making important educational investments need to understand where there is demand for workers, the type of skills required for these jobs and the income earning potential associated with these jobs. While STEM skills will certainly be in demand, current concerns about the participation in STEM might require some effort from decision makers and educators to make STEM subjects attractive to current and future students, especially females, and integrate them in a wider curriculum for all levels of education.

This report is a terrific white knuckle ride from beginning to end. A bit like the education and training journey will be over the next decade or two. Hang on to your ticket!

The VET Blog has dipped into a number of reports that cover similar territory. You might be interested in these posts:

·         New technology will require new workforce skills and knowledge (posted 23 November 2015)

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

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


Posted by VETCentre on Friday, 18 March 2016 in VET

On February 16 WorldSkills Australia formally started the countdown to the 2016 National Competition which will take place at the Melbourne Showgrounds on 6-8 October. More than 50 skills categories will feature in the Competition, from vehicle painting and hairdressing to programming and plumbing.

The competitors come from their successes in 31 Regional Competitions. WorldSkills has while competing in Melbourne they will work through 8 tonnes of steel, 10km of cabling, 80 mannequin heads, over 600kg of flour and close to 3,250 stems of flowers and foliage.

The National Competition is a big affair with 40,000 people expected to attend. There will be opportunities to learn about vocational pathways and career opportunities, and the chance to try your hand in lots of Try a Skill activities.

Between now and October WorldSkills will be posting to the #achievegreatness hashtag, with links to competitors’ stories and information about the Competition.

Some Competition details are already up on. The description of the 2016 Refrigeration Project runs as follows:

Refrigeration competitors have just 18 hours to claim the title of ‘National Champion’. Pitting themselves against nine other competitors, the under-23-year olds have the chance to demonstrate that they have the best refrigeration and air conditioning skills and knowledge in the country. In order to take home the gold and a trip to the annual Chillventa Exhibition in Germany, they need to prove to the judges that they can successfully install and commission a refrigeration system and diagnose system and electrical faults.

For some participants the National Competition will be a prelude to the 44th WorldSkills International Competition scheduled for 14-19 October 2017 in Abu Dhabi.

Keep up to speed with preparations and news on the National Competition pages of WorldSkills Australia’s website.


Posted by VETCentre on Wednesday, 16 March 2016 in VET Reforms

CEOs from New Zealand’s Industry Training Organisations, institutes of technology and polytechnics are collaborating to devise a set of outcome indicators for the country’s VET system. It’s worth watching from over here in Oz because of the growing interest in measuring our own VET system from an outcomes perspective rather than an outputs perspective.

The group has invited feedback on its recently released discussion paper, Developing an outcomes framework for New Zealand’s vocational education and training system (18 pages). The Discussion Paper notes that:

Improving outcomes from New Zealand’s VET system will depend on performance measurement that focuses on outcomes. For the VET sector, this will require a significant shift from the focus of the last 20 years of raising participation (especially during the 1990s) and more recently of lifting learner achievement. While the performance of VET sector organisations (as measured by course/qualification completion and credit achievement) has improved over recent years, the associated VET system contributions to workforce skills and economic productivity are not necessarily clear.

The challenge therefore is to move beyond these earlier performance measures to an assessment of VET sector outcomes; i.e. beyond whether a learner/trainee completed a programme/qualification to posing questions about the value of that achievement (and/or integrated workforce development programmes).

The proposed outcomes framework set out in the Discussion Paper is presented in a graphic on page 9. It proposes to establish performance outcome measures for four elements:

·         Worker/learner capability (a highly skilled and employable workforce)

·         Workplace leadership and skills utilisation

·         Workplace productivity and employment

·         Wellbeing, including income per capita

Each of these elements is described, and feedback has been invited on possible outcome measures attached to each element. Possible measures for ‘Workplace leadership and skills utilisation’, for example, are introduced like this:

Outcome measures must focus on how managers and entrepreneurs received the education and training appropriate to their leadership role, and how they demonstrate competence for sustaining and improving workplace performance, including through the recruitment, development and utilisation of skills.

Four measures, or indicators, are put forward for this element of the framework – for some the data is already available, while others are new data items. Among the indicators proposed for this element are:

·         Management quality – the ‘Management Matters in New Zealand’ survey of the quality of management practices could be extended to include a measure of management practices influenced by a proactive and work-integrated VET system

·         Skills utilisation – a new measure will need to be developed for assessing the extent to which employees consider they are able to use the skills they gained through the VET system, although the ‘Survey of Adult Literacy Skills’ provides some information.

We’ll stay tuned to hear of the updates from the discussion paper.


Posted by VETCentre on Tuesday, 15 March 2016 in Research

On 3 February the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Education and Employment was tasked by Minister for Education and Training, Simon Birmingham, with holding an inquiry into ‘matters that ensure Australia’s tertiary system can meet the needs of a future labour force focused on innovation and creativity’.

There are five terms of reference which the accompanying media release condenses into a couple of main issues:

·         the capacity of Australia’s education providers to offer the qualifications and skills needed to meet the needs of Australia’s new and emerging industries

·         the relationships between tertiary education entrepreneurship programs and private incubators

·         factors that may discourage closer partnerships between small and medium sized enterprises, the research sector and education providers.

The media release quotes the Committee Chair, Andrew Laming, as saying that:

Education is the strongest link when it comes to innovation and creativity. Our ability to deliver this effectively, in conjunction with industry for industry, is the premise of this inquiry.

Obviously the VET sector has much to offer, not least because of its close, longstanding engagement with small and medium enterprises.

The inquiry follows hot on the heels of the Commonwealth government’s major policy initiative, National Innovation and Science Agenda, which was announced just prior to Christmas.

TAFE Directors Australia (TDA) was active on this front well in advance of the inquiry’s establishment. TDA organised an Innovation and Applied Research Roundtable which ran in Canberra on 2 March. The Roundtable will involved representatives from government, industry and the TAFE sector.

It’s also worth recalling that the Victorian VET Funding Review recommended the establishment of a Workforce Training Innovation Fund, suggesting that some portion of this Fund could be dedicated to extending the Victorian VET sector’s applied research capability. You can read a little about this recommendation in a post on The VET Blog from 18 January, Some implications of the Mackenzie Review for teachers and trainers. Going back a little further in time, in December 2013 The VET Blog also posted about theAustralian Innovation System Report and quoted this passage from the report:

The VET system is an important vehicle for training technicians, engineers, managers and designers who can bring about high performance workplaces, which are more likely to be innovative. Both flows and stocks of vocational skills are important to process and product improvement as more sophisticated technical skills drive businesses to adopt increasingly complex technologies to complement their stock of skills or vice versa. Many of the business management skills and trade/technician skills required for these mixed mode innovations prevalent in advanced countries come from the development of a large and skilled, vocationally trained workforce. Industries that experience comparatively rapid changes in the knowledge base of their processes and products require more intensive vocational training.

The VET Blog will be very interested to hear of the follow-up from the inquiry.


Posted by VET Centre on Thursday, 03 March 2016 in VET

Our post in early February, Australian Industry Group’s economic and industry statistics, noted that ‘people with a range of roles in the VET sector are often on the lookout for current data about particular industry sectors.’ We’re shifting focus just a little because people are also on the lookout for data about the relative strengths of state economies. CommSec’s State of the States quarterly report is a go-to source for this very thing.

The January 2016 State of the States report (8 pages) offers a ranking of state and territory economic performance, an overall summary, and then a ranking of state and territory performance against measures like equipment spending, unemployment, construction work done, and population growth.

The 2016 report ranks the state and territory economies like this:

1.    NSW

2.    Victoria

3.    ACT and Northern Territory (a tie)

4.    WA

5.    Queensland

6.    South Australia

7.    Tasmania.

The data reported helps to distinguish the effects that state and territory performance might have on education and training. For example, there is data reported for the real value of construction work completed in the September quarter 2015, and how far above the 10-year average this is. The stand out performer on this measure if the Northern Territory, which came in 117% per cent above the 10-year average. A distant second was Western Australia, up 35%, through Queensland at number 8 with real value of construction work completed coming in 12% below the decade average.

Of course, population growth also has a direct influence on education and training, both in the short term (through interstate migration and immigration) and the long term (there’s a 17-year gap between a new baby’s arrival and when they pitch up at a VET provider). However, the overall trend is always interesting. On population growth, Victoria’s population in June quarter 2015 (the latest data) was 1.7% higher than it was a year before, which is below the state’s 10-year average growth rate of 2.1%. Nevertheless, on this measure Victoria is ranked at 1, followed by ACT and NSW (almost level pegging at 1.39% and 1.35% respectively).


Posted by VET Centre on Tuesday, 01 March 2016 in Research

City & Guilds Group is a UK organisation that has a vocational education and training history going back to 1878. Today City & Guilds develops qualifications with industry in the UK and around the world. That’s a pretty good background for commissioning research on whether the economic benefits of technical and professional education vary across countries and why.

Sadly, Australia wasn’t a focus for the research. There are case studies (all 12 pages) forIndiaSouth Africa, the United Kingdom, the United States.

An infographic based on the research report and case studies presents variable impacts:

·         For the UK –

o    a 10% increase in 16-18 year olds in vocational education could produce a 1.5% drop in youth unemployment

o    £1 invested into an apprenticeship has a £16-£21 return on investment

·         For the US –

o    again, a 10% increase in 16-18 year olds in vocational education could produce a 1.5% drop in youth unemployment

o    apprentices can earn $60,000 more after 9 years than those who didn’t take an apprenticeship

·         For India, there are challenges that constrain the capacity of vocational education and training to produce its potential economic impact. The challenges include a bias against vocational occupations, lack of coherent delivery mechanisms, and obsolete curricula – all of which are implicated in the predicament that only 2.3% of the workforce has undertaken formal skills training

·         For South Africa, 36% employers are extremely concerned (according to a survey by PriceWaterhouseCoopers) about the availability of key skills, compared to a world average of 17%. That’s in a context where youth unemployment in 2013 hit 54% compared to a world average of 13%. Obviously vocational education and training could be wisely at work on this.

The Summary Report (12 pages) sets out the findings in an integrated way, and presents the evidence that vocational education and training benefits national economies, employers and individuals in almost every situation. It’s a very positive story which, the report says, governments across the world are ‘waking up to’.

As the report also notes:

… there are still a number of barriers that need to be overcome; namely the stigma against

vocational education – which is prevalent in all of the countries we explored – and the complexities of running an effective system that meets the needs of employers.


Posted by VET Centre on Thursday, 25 February 2016 in Research

Kay Bowman and Suzy McKenna have done a wonderful piece of work uncluttering a bewildering landscape. There is no national approach to funding a student’s entitlement to vocational education and training. There are eight approaches – one for each state and territory. Bowman and McKenna got the four wheel drive out of the research shed and did and bit of fossicking around the nation.

Just before Christmas the NCVER published the outcomes of their investigation in three reports:

·         The development of Australia’s national training system: A dynamic tension between consistency and flexibility (56 pages)

·         Jurisdictional approaches to student training entitlements: Commonalities and differences (104 pages)

·         Student entitlement models in Australia’s national training system: Expert views (36 pages).

So there you have it – the history of VET nationally and how variations have appeared within the national system, the nature of the student entitlement variations, and a series of views on what needs to happen next.

There’s a fourth publication in this suite – an overview of just 20 pages titled Balancing consistency and flexibility in student training entitlements: Research overview.

To keep this post brief, we’ll pick up an aspect from each of the three main papers.

From The development of Australia’s national training system there is the straightforward finding that:

Greater national coherence can be achieved in student entitlements if nationally consistent principles are developed to determine eligibility for subsidies and loans, and aid market design and the provision of consumer information.

Straightforward, perhaps, though we have struggled to get this national consistency. There is an appendix to this report set to appeal to those with long memories and a taste for history. It takes us all the way from the Australian National Training Authority (ANTA) in 1992 to the current suite of VET reforms.

Jurisdictional approaches pegs out each jurisdiction’s approach to student entitlements through til March 2015. This includes a close analysis of:

·         which RTOs can deliver the entitlements and under what conditions

·         how information is provided to support student decision making about using their entitlement.

The Expert views report is bound to set you thinking. All up, 17 experts contributed their ideas. You’ll recognise man of the names: Stephen Bolton, Gerald Burke, Rod Camm, Pam Caven, John Churchill, John Dawkins, Pat Forward, John Hart, Megan Kirchner with Blye Decker, Peter Noonan, Craig Robertson with Peta Furnell, Chris Robinson, Robin Ryan, and Anne Younger with Michael Taylor.

A common view among experts is that a student entitlement should have quality as a key dimension in its design. Summing up the expert’s views on quality, Bowman and McKenna write:

Quality should be the main driver in designing entitlement schemes, with the financial levers (subsidies, fees and prices) aiming to assure quality. Caps should not be set through subsidy levels that affect the quality of outcomes. More total funds for VET are needed as well.

We still need a better means of assessing the quality of training. This is a real weakness. Students need this information to make good training choices.

The biggest threat to quality is courses that are far too short, reduced in length to meet the available dollars and/or allow for a profit. Training packages should state the duration that the training should take.

A summary of experts’ views on defining a national training entitlement says, in part:

An overarching observation was that there is no national training entitlement. That was not the intention. All states and territories have extended the entitlement beyond the minimum agreed to, as was encouraged. The extensions have contributed to perceptions of complexity and fragmentation rather than ‘flexibility’.

The training entitlement system should be better defined and that definition be applied consistently across the nation. We need more national agreement on who the entitlement is for and how the training entitlement works and the various elements that support good-quality training and meet Australia’s economic needs.

The need and design principles for a national VET student entitlement were carefully weighed in 2015 by two thorough Mitchell Institute reports. The VET Blog wrote about both:

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

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


Posted by VET Centre on Tuesday, 23 February 2016 in VET

Formative assessment, or assessment for learning, is gold for learning. There’s a terrific post by Todd Finley on the Edutopia website that does some productive mining about formative assessment – what it is, why it makes a difference, and how to do it effectively.

Finley quotes a nice analogy from Robert Stake, Professor Emeritus of Education at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. Stake distinguishes between formative and summative assessment very simply:

When the cook tastes the soup that’s formative; when the guests taste the soup, that’s summative.

It’s a particular kind of feedback, and ample research points to the substantial impact formative assessment has on learning outcomes. The post makes reference to that body of knowledge with a link to a great 1999 paper by Paul Black and Dylan Wiliam called ‘Inside the Black Box’. The paper is behind a paywall which is a never-ending pity, but you can get an idea of where Wiliam’s research has taken us since on The Journey to Excellence website.

It’s sometimes said England and America are two countries divided by a common language. (There’s a wonderful linguistics blog called separated by a common language.) You could say that Australia and America are similarly divided. Finley’s post is calledDipsticks: Efficient Ways to Check for Understanding. In Oz we have other uses for the word ‘dipstick’ besides the one Finley has in mind. We commonly use it to describe someone who made hash of something pretty straightforward. Finley explains his usage:

Alternative formative assessment (AFA) strategies can be as simple (and important) as checking the oil in your car – hence the name ‘dipsticks’.

Finley goes a step beyond describing AFA and offers a list of 53 strategies that you can read at the end of the post, or download. The strategies help you as a teacher to check for student understanding of concepts and skills. The list is put together with school students in mind, and many of them relate to reading tasks. However, you can adapt many of them to VET learning and teaching. For example:

You’ve Got Mail

Each student writes a question about a topic on the front of an envelope; the answer is included inside. Questions are then ‘mailed’ around the room. Each learner writes her answer on a slip of scratch paper and confirms its correctness by reading the ‘official answer’

before she places her own response in the envelope. After several series of mailings and a class discussion about the subject, the envelopes are deposited in the teacher’s letterbox.


Play the part of a content expert and discuss content related issues on a podcast, using the free Easypodcast.

The Minute Paper

In 1 minute, describe the most meaningful thing you’ve learned.

KWL Chart

What do you know, what do you want to know, and what have you learned?

There are several The VET Blog posts mentioning the importance of formative assessment and feedback, including:

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

·         Influences on teaching practice over the next five years (posted 28 January 2015)

·         Pedagogy change (posted 19 August 2015).


Posted by VET Centre on Monday, 22 February 2016 in Research

In mid-December the NSW Parliamentary Research Service released a Research Paper titled

Future workforce trends in NSW: Emerging technologies and their potential impact (80 pages). Written by Research Officer Chris Angus, the Paper takes a close look at how computerisation is likely to influence the nature of the workforce in NSW 10-15 years down the track.

The Paper makes a number of references to reports that have scored a relatively recent post in The VET Blog:

·         Changes in the work Australians will do, and who they work for (3 August 2015) – a very brief dip into a report by the Committee for Economic Development of Australia(CEDA) called Australia’s future workforce? (258 pages).

·         Making your way – the working futures of young Australians (21 September 2015) – a zip through a report from the Foundation for Young Australians (FYA) called The new work order: Ensuring young Australians have skills and experience for the jobs of the future, not the past (50 pages)

·         The NBN effect on jobs in Australia (5 October 2015) – a quick look at a report commissioned by NBNCo called Super connected jobs: understanding Australia’s future workforce (16 pages).

Rather than revisit the ground covered earlier, this post will look at just a couple of particulars Angus considers in his Research Paper. In chapters 6 and 7 the Paper considers the impact of technological change on jobs in NSW, but much of the data and analysis presented earlier is from national and international sources.

Technological developments that will impact on Australia’s workforce

From the get go the Paper underlines the increasing employer demand for STEM skills. That demand is likely to accelerate as five technological developments impact on Australia’s workforce:

·         cloud services

·         the ‘Internet of Things’

·         big data

·         machine learning and robots

·         immersive communications.

Each of these is described in a table on pages 15-16. The most unfamiliar of these terms, immersive communications, actually describes something increasingly familiar:

When broadband networks are combined with rapidly developing screen technology, workers may be able to work almost anywhere for work-life balance reasons, and may even be able to compete for highly skilled jobs in other geographies.

Immersive communications are what we have long assumed to be part of the NBN’s promise.

The Paper notes that ICT functions are becoming as widespread and essential as electricity and that ‘emerging technology has the potential for its cognitive capacity to be greatly expanded in future, allowing machines to perform many tasks more effectively than humans ever could.’ The rise of robotics, machine learning and other forms of artificial intelligence.

The risk of computerisation varies

In NSW, the Research Paper suggests (page 31), ‘approximately two out of five NSW jobs have a high risk (above 70%) of being computerised over the next decade or two. This is similar to CEDA’s estimate of the Australian average (41.6%), which is higher than the UK average (35%) but lower than the US (47%)’. The risk is greatly varied between occupations – ‘secondary school teachers have a 3.3% chance of being computerised, while surveyors and spatial scientists have an 83.7% probability of being made obsolete by new technologies’ (page 32).

While two out of five jobs have a high risk of being computerised, the Research paper reckons that if you spread the risk net a little wider then:

51.58% (1.57 million) of all NSW jobs are at risk of being computerised in the next 10 to 15 years. However, this figure does not apply evenly throughout NSW. This is because some State regions have particularly high numbers of managers or professionals, while other parts have greater numbers of lower skilled workers.

There are two Appendices that might interest you to look through.

Appendix B shows the size of the workforce in each NSW electorate, and the number and percentage of jobs at risk of computerisation. A couple of random picks:

·         North Shore – total workforce is 39,394, of which 14,431 (36.63%) are at risk of computerisation

·         Blue Mountains – total workforce is 31,402, of which 14,397 jobs (45.85%) are at risk of computerisation

·         Parramatta – total workforce is 34,641, of which 19,176 (55.36%) are at risk of computerisation

·         Mount Druitt – total workforce is 32,834, of which 21,264 (64.76%) are at risk of computerisation.

Appendix C lists occupations in NSW and shows the probability of their computerisation.

The upside, and the role of education and other policies

While it seems a bit scary, as the Research paper says:

Despite these seemingly grim findings, it is unlikely that two-fifths of the NSW workforce will become unemployed within a decade or two. As has happened in the past, new technologies bring many positive developments to society, including economic prosperity, new types of work, and an increasingly educated (and potentially happier) workforce. On balance, the net gain from technology is likely to outweigh the negative consequences of change.

The role of VET professionals in this rapidly changing jobs landscape is to ensure that the vocational education and training they offer is up to speed with technological change, both for the existing workforce and new workforce entrants. That puts a premium on professional development and industry currency.

The Research Paper considers a range of policy areas that must adapt to this jobs outlook. Education is, of course, one of them. The Paper notes that the Office of the Chief Scientist has responded to the growing concern about lack of STEM skills in the existing workforce and school leavers, and has proposed a range of strategies including

… accelerating the integration of STEM experts into industry, business and public sectors; increasing recognition of STEM education and careers as a public good; and promoting inquiry-based STEM teaching in vocational education in consultation with States and Territories.

However, as the Paper sagely observes, education can’t do all the heavy lifting. Other areas include initiatives to support start-up companies and inclusive growth policies. The Paper also offers a glimpse of the Danish idea of flexicurity, quoting a Danish government description:

Flexicurity is a compound of flexibility and security. The Danish model has a third element – active labour market policy – and together these elements comprise the golden triangle of flexicurity.

One side of the triangle is flexible rules for hiring and firing, which make it easy for the employers to dismiss employees during downturns and hire new staff when things improve. About 25% of Danish private sector workers change jobs each year.

The second side of the triangle is unemployment security in the form of a guarantee for a legally specified unemployment benefit at a relatively high level – up to 90% for the lowest paid workers.

The third side of the triangle is the active labour market policy. An effective system is in place to offer guidance, a job or education to all unemployed. Denmark spends approx. 1.5% of its GDP on active labour market policy.

So much technological change will lead to much change in skills demand which must lead to much change in VET. We’re up for a busy decade or two.


Posted by VET Centre on Tuesday, 16 February 2016 in Research

The VET Blog has offered three posts on the VET Funding Review Final Report (the Mackenzie Review, 174 pages) and Skills and Jobs in the Education State: The Government’s Response to the VET Funding Review (20 pages):

·         New directions for VET in Victoria – Mackenzie Review and the Victorian government’s response (21 December 2015)

·         Some implications of the Mackenzie Review for teachers and trainers (18 January 2016)

·         The Mackenzie Review – community service obligations and provider classification (25 January 2016)

This fourth and final post reflects on the Review’s consideration of the role of VET in regional areas of Victoria.

It’s perhaps worth starting with the state government’s response, released on the same day as the Mackenzie Review’s Final Report. In his introductory message, the Minister for Training and Skills, Steve Herbert, put regional delivery to the fore, saying that the Review:

… delivers a range of recommendations that will greatly assist Government as we transform VET in Victoria into a system where:

·         the unique requirements of regional Victoria’s economy for quality training and skills is understood and supported

·         all students, wherever they live across Victoria, get the skills they need for jobs now and into the future.

Referring to an earlier decision to establish the Office of the Victorian Skills Commissioner, the government’s response notes that among the roles of the Commissioner is to ‘liaise with regional stakeholders and employers to understand and support regional skills and economic needs’. In devising a new VET funding model with reference to the Mackenzie Review, the government response indicates that the model will seek to ‘Meet the needs of regional and rural communities and deliver the skills they need for their differing local industry needs’.

The government response also notes that:

·         ‘public training providers in rural and regional areas face high community expectations about the training they are able to deliver. However, it’s costly to maintain facilities and to reach the people who need the training most’

·         the government will ‘promote genuine partnerships between VET providers and industry, schools, employers, and universities, and, focus on ensuring that student pathways are supported and stronger links are formed, particularly in regional Victoria’

·         funding will need to be targeted for ‘training delivery where the market is not likely to deliver the best outcomes, such as in thin markets or specialist training in regional areas.’

Given those undertakings it’s worth spending just a little time looking at four aspects of regional delivery considered in the Final Report of the VET Funding Review.

Understanding regional labour market needs

The Final Report emphasises the ongoing importance of labour market data for thoughtful, strategic planning of VET delivery. That data must be up-to-date and rely as much on qualitative intelligence as it quantitative statistics. Just as importantly, the Final Report establishes the need for data that is geographically specific. In recommendation 46 it is proposed the Skills Commissioner seeks regular advice on existing and future labour market needs by establishing an engagement strategy that ‘is inclusive of broad range of stakeholders, including employers, peak bodies, unions and regional representatives’ and that the strategy considers ‘regional labour market differences’.

The recommendation flows from a number of points of analysis, including (page 63) that productive engagement

should draw out the different trends in different industries and parts of the state, and understand that it is crucial to the economy that training occur not just in areas with large need or that are priority growth sectors, but also in smaller areas that are still vital to the economy, like regional areas or specialist industries’.

Obviously it will be enormously helpful if the planning for VET delivery can account for data about delivery in thin markets, and that there is information that helps to distinguish local needs and trends from statewide needs and trends. Thin markets can occur, as the Report suggests, in specific industries and in specific geographic locations. As the Final Report puts it (page 24):

To allow rural and regional communities to access training that meets their local needs, there should be provision for Government to target funding at thin markets, and the rural and regional loading should be retained. Cost-based subsidies should also ensure that regional areas with particular training needs (such as tourism or hospitality) are not adversely affected by the past practice of reductions in subsidy levels based on statewide, rather than local, training needs.

Student loadings

That last point leads to a second aspect of the Final Report’s analysis of regional delivery contexts. Recommendation 12 reads:

That the Government maintain a rural and regional loading to reflect the relatively higher costs involved in rural and regional training provision.

In getting to that point the Final Report states a real concern (page 32):

The Review has not seen clear evidence that loadings have been effective at achieving outcomes for its target groups – while there has been growth in training by those students attracting the existing loading (Indigenous, students under the age of 20, and rural and regional students), this has not been as strong as overall growth in training across this system. It is also unclear whether this growth would have been slower if the loadings had not been in place.

Lower levels of participation in post-secondary education and training among rural and regional populations is an ongoing policy challenge facing all education sectors. The Review’s suggestion of establishing polytechnic universities (discussed later in the post) in regional areas is partly a product of this concern. Despite the lagging participation rate in regional areas, the Final Report explicitly acknowledges that VET delivery in regional areas costs more for a range of reasons:

The Review heard that rural and regional training delivery faces additional costs. For example, providing face to face delivery at small campuses or workplaces to smaller groups of students is inherently more expensive, in terms of staff time compared to lower revenue derived from smaller classes. Regional providers, particularly public and community providers, also face additional costs associated with maintaining multiple campuses, and the resulting travel time and costs for staff management and governing bodies.

Equity considerations figure largely in the recommendation to retain the rural and regional loading.

Regional TAFE Institutes and ACFE providers

 The Final Report makes a strong case for the significance of regional TAFE Institutes and ACFE providers in regional areas. In respect of TAFE the report puts its case plainly (page 72):

The TAFE institutes area vital component of regional Victoria, as both a part of the community and provider of higher education. Throughout the Review’s consultations, it was clear that industry and the wider community in regional Victoria look to these institutes for their educational and training needs. They are a critical part of the Government’s social and equity objectives and play a major role in the provision of educational opportunities for the disadvantaged. Their broad geographical spread, diverse course coverage and the non-commercial focus that stems from their public ownership means that these institutes are well placed to provide equal access to tertiary education to all Victorians.

About regional ACFE providers the Report is equally plain:

ACFE providers have been particularly important in regional areas where there are relatively few providers and they have been instrumental in supporting students in thin markets. The closure of a number of regional ACFE centres has weakened the provision of VET in Victoria as often they were the sole provider.

The Final Report expresses disappointment that the operation of a VET market has undermined once strong links between TAFE Institutes and ACFE providers. Time, the report reckons, to reinvest in that connection:

The Review believes that it is important to restore and recognise the connections between ACFE and TAFE institutes. It’s important because close links may overcome access issues for students in thin market areas.

Polytechnic universities

And finally, to the Report’s suggestion that polytechnic universities may be a viable way ‘to address the concern that in some areas of Victoria, a lack of local provision was leading to lower educational attainment, and consequently to lower social and economic outcomes’.

Specifically, the Final Report suggests that polytechs could be a valuable addition to the education network in regional Victoria and south-east Melbourne. Recognising that establishing polytechs is a task with a long lead time, the Final Report takes the view that now is a good time to consider the option. Recommendations 101 and 102 propose than the government sets in train an assessment project that investigates the utility of the polytech idea, the pedagogical basis for which would be

… based upon adult learning principles, problemsolving and the demonstration of capability. The target group would be students who did not follow conventional pathways to tertiary education and training. The university would emphasise lifelong learning underpinned by ease of access to, and the ability to move through, flexible, integrated tertiary education.

More broadly, recommendation 103 of the Final Report suggests that the government ‘consider the development of a Victorian Tertiary Plan to consider, at a whole of state level, educational attainment and higher education provision’. Last modified on Tuesday, 16 February 2016 Continue reading Hits: 708


Posted by VET Centre on Monday, 15 February 2016 in Language, Literacy and Numeracy

Lots of your students (and lots of teachers too) struggle with the grammar game. It can be challenging to construct that good sentence and work out when and where an apostrophe should get a gig. But make a real game of it and maybe the struggle becomes engaging rather than tedious confusion.

Two apps that might assist your learners (and maybe you too) have just made it to iTunes –Apostrophe Power, and Sentence Hero. They were created by Dr Shamus Smith and Dr Erica Southgate from the University of Newcastle. As Shamus Smith’s bio informs us: ‘With Dr Erica Southgate from the School of Education, and The Centre of Excellence for Equity in Higher Education, Smith is using gamification to explore m-learning to support literacy’.

Apostrophe Power asks you to put the apostrophes in the right places. Sentence Hero invites you to play with full stops, commas, colons, semicolons and sentences. Pick your avatar and climb the levels. Both are simple to use and would assist any number of writers from foundation studies students through to advanced diploma and undergraduate students.

We were alerted to these apps via this page on the website of the National Centre for Student Equity in Higher Education – if you scroll to the bottom of this page you can sign up to the Centre’s e-newsletter. 


Posted by VET Centre on Thursday, 04 February 2016 in VET

Industry and Skills Council meeting – November 2015

It’s worth starting this post with the November 2015 meeting of the Industry and Skills Council of the Council of Australian Governments. That meeting in Hobart marks the starting point of focused attention on improving VET assessment.

Attended by ministers with responsibility for skills in every Australian jurisdiction, and representative from New Zealand, the Council discussed many dimensions of VET policy. The Communiqué from the meeting summaries discussion on:

·         improved data access to transparent data to ‘assist consumers of VET to choose between course and provider offerings and provide a more accurate picture of student progression through the VET system and employment outcomes’

·         continuing reform of the VET FEE-HELP system

·         pursuing ‘further harmonisation of systems, including access to publicly subsidised training for multi-state employers to upskill their workforce’

·         agreement to a range of changes to training packages and accredited courses, including fostering greater recognition of skill sets and ensuring ‘the training system better supports individuals to move easily from one related occupation to another’.

The Skills Council also endorsed close investigation of ways in which to improve the quality of VET assessment. On this point, the Communiqué reads as follows:

Training provider compliance with assessment requirements has been an area of some concern within the system. To ensure high quality within the system the Hon Luke Hartsuyker, Minister for Vocational Education and Skills, will consult with VET stakeholders and all jurisdictions on reform options to improve assessment in VET and the Council will give further consideration to actions to improve assessment and quality outcomes. Priority areas to be investigated will be approaches to strengthening the skills of VET trainers and assessors, consideration of improved validation of assessment including potential for greater industry involvement and options for tougher regulatory interventions.

January release of Discussion Paper on improving VET assessment quality

That decision led to the release in late January of a Discussion Paper, Quality of assessment in vocational education and training (34 pages). The Discussion Paper includes reference to earlier consultations and reports which have reflected on the patchy quality of assessment. The assessment-focussed consultation and policy development process kick-started by the Discussion Paper will be keenly observed by practitioners, providers, regulators and industry. It goes without saying that assessment is central to trust in the VET system, and to VET teacher and trainer practice.

The Discussion Paper sets out the broad agenda considered at November’s Skills Council meeting with reference to four principles considered as priorities:

1.    Graduates have the required competencies for the job role and there is consistency across RTOs in the quality of assessment.

2.    Trainers and assessors have the capability to assess appropriately.

3.    Assessment meets the standard set by industry.

4.    The regulator has the capacity to effectively regulate assessment practices and outcomes and take appropriate action.

The Discussion Paper proposes three broad areas for reform, each of which is presented in a separate chapter. Various approaches to pursuing reform are presented in the Discussion Paper and stakeholders are invited to offer feedback on all or any of the reform ideas by 11 March 2016.

Foundation reforms

To return to the change proposals, Chapter 1 ‘Foundation reforms’ suggests two areas for reform.

The first is to adjust the TAE so that there is more emphasis on assessment practice and that assessment of assessment practice is strengthened.

Recognising that the TAE is an entry level qualification, a second reform suggested is to establish a national association for VET professionals that would have responsibility for monitoring ongoing professional development, including professional development about ‘best practice in the development and use of assessment tools’. (The Discussion Paper refers to a number of reports over a number of years about the benefits of such a body, including a 2011 VET Development Centre report, An association for VET’s professionals: What’s the story? An association for VET’s professionals: What’s the story?)

Three models are floated for a professional association, along with consultation questions about the utility of a capability framework for VET professionals that would provide ‘a common language for the knowledge, skills, behaviours and attitudes for professional practice as a VET trainer and assessor’. (It may be of interest to you to revisit a VET Blog post from September last under the title The UK has a new VET professional body.)

Reforms to the assessment of students

Chapter 2 ‘Reforms to the assessment of students’ also poses two areas for reform.

The first is ‘Assuring quality assessment through industry engagement with review and control mechanisms’. As the Discussion paper, the focus here is on:

… enhancing opportunities for independent validation of assessment judgements and the role of industry in this validation. This could involve both the validation of the assessment tools of an RTO as well as the validation of the application of those assessment tools in one or more particular cases.

The Paper further notes, referring to pilot studies conducted in states and territories, that:

It is not realistic to require independent validation of all assessments undertaken by RTOs. This would place an unreasonable burden, including cost, on RTOs and industry. The pilots indicate that the requirement for independent validation of assessment and the form that validation should take varies depending on key risk factors, such as the type of training delivery and the industry involved.

Among the consultation questions attaching to this section are these:

·         Is there a need to build industry capacity and capability regarding involvement with training and assessment? If so, how might this be done?

·         How can we ensure engagement with industry is appropriately targeted so it does not add undue burden and is targeted to those within industry with appropriate expertise required for validation of assessment?

·         Should high-risk student cohorts be required to undergo independent reassessment of industry agreed sets of competencies before being issued with their qualifications? (For example, particular qualifications; students undertaking qualifications with RTOs with high levels of non-compliance; or that conduct assessment wholly online or on-the-job; or in areas of public safety.)

The second area for reform in Chapter 2 is ‘Ensuring employer expectations of graduates are clear and realistic, and align with assessment’. Discussion in this section commences with the observation that ‘it has been suggested that satisfaction with VET graduate capabilities is not due to poor assessment, but due to a mismatch between industry expectations and the outcomes outlined in the relevant training product’. The reforms proposed turn on the option of better informing industry about VET graduate capabilities and interpretation of VET language such as ‘competent’ and ‘job ready’.

Regulatory reforms

Finally, Chapter 3 ‘Reforms to the regulatory framework’ attend to three areas:

·         Improving the detection of poor quality assessment

·         Ensuring quick action can be taken against RTOs delivering inadequate assessment

·         Managing the consequences of inadequate assessment.

Consultation end date and process

As mentioned earlier, feedback on proposals in the Discussion Paper is invited until 11 March. The process for lodging stakeholder submissions is described on page 29 of the Discussion Paper. The template for written submissions is available here. Hop in.


Posted by VET Centre on Monday, 01 February 2016 in Research

VET activity is closely tied to industry activity. Current circumstances, and the business outlook in the short and medium term, can influence when workplace training is scheduled, what the training requirement is, whether an employer can consider taking on or keeping an apprentice, what kind of business development approach an RTO might adopt. Whatever the reason, people with a range of roles in the VET sector are often on the lookout for current data about particular industry sectors.

One very useful port of call for this kind of data is the Australian Industry Group’s online collection of economic and industry data and analysis. The collection includes:

·         quarterly performance data for manufacturing, services and construction industrieswhich shows whether those industry sectors are expanding or contracting and what the trend is

·         the Weekly Economic Update which provides an update on important moving parts in the economy, such as how economic growth is tracking, what the labour market is doing overall and what’s happening to growth in particular industry sectors

·         Economics Fact Sheets which provide regular analyses of what’s happening to wages and the Consumer Price Index, along with occasional fact sheets on other matters like the relative size of major industry sectors

·         Economic Outlook fact sheets and reports on various matters such as the outlook for particular industries and regions.

AiG also undertakes research on specific issues and you can access research reports on matters as diverse as:

·         Australian Dollar Fact Pack

·         Global Competitiveness Report 2015-16 Summary

·         Impact of Grand Final public holiday in Victoria, October 2015

·         World Economic Forum: Human Capital Report 2015

·         Australia’s performance in a global market


Posted by VET Centre on Thursday, 28 January 2016 in Industry

In early December the UK’s Open University released Innovating Pedagogy 2015: Exploring new forms of teaching, learning  and assessment, to guide educators and policy makers (42 pages). This is the fourth report in the Innovating Pedagogy series. The introduction explains that the 2015 report ‘proposes ten innovations that are already in currency and are having an increasing effect on education.’

The ten innovations examined in the report are:

1.    Crossover learning: Connecting formal and informal learning

2.    Learning through argumentation: Developing skills of scientific argumentation

3.    Incidental learning: Harnessing unplanned or unintentional learning

4.    Context-based learning: How context shapes and is shaped by the process of learning

5.    Computational thinking: Solving problems using techniques from computing

6.    Learning by doing science with remote labs: Guided experiments on authentic scientific equipment

7.    Embodied learning: Making mind and body work together to support learning

8.    Adaptive teaching: Adapting computer-based teaching to the learner’s knowledge and action

9.    Analytics of emotions: Responding to the emotional states of students

10. Stealth assessment: Unobtrusive assessment of learning processes

Each of these innovative pedagogies is presented via a description, examples of the pedagogy in practice, and links to resources. Many of them have a base in digital learning technologies, but by no means all. Each of the ten pedagogies has potential to be used in both school and post-secondary education – they aren’t bounded in their application to degree or curriculum based learning and teaching. Some of them simply ignore the familiar boundaries. Here’s an example from crossover learning:

… students studying American Literature built their own chairs and, in the process, developed skills of problem solving, communication and collaboration. Identifying connections between the poetry they were studying and furniture making helped them appreciate the craft and structure of written texts.

So there! And think about this concluding statement about embodied learning:

New developments in wearable and implanted technologies, including internal microchips and digital tattoos are likely to provide even greater amounts of personal data about physical movements and physiology. However, these possible extensions or enhancements to minds and bodies will not always be a comfort or a benefit. It is clear that we need carefully to consider the potential negative impacts on learning, such as demotivation and intrusion, before we engage with these developments more extensively.

Wearable technologies are beginning to make themselves felt in learning and teaching as this report makes clear. We need to engage with them, if cautiously in some instances. (Mind you, some of use will be very pleased to have that internal microchip that remembers our passwords and credit card pin numbers.)

This is a valuable report if you are wondering about what pedagogies are coming over the hill and how they might influence your practice.


Posted by VET Centre on Monday, 25 January 2016 in VET

The VET Funding Review’s Terms of Reference included recommending alternative funding models and settings that ‘meet community service obligations to support vulnerable and higher needs learners to complete training and transition to employment.’

The Review Report submitted in mid-December by the reviewers, Bruce Mackenzie and Neil Coulson, grapples with this task very clearly on pages 113-119. That’s an explicit compliment given we’ve talked about Community Service Obligations for years without a shared and explicit understanding of what they are and how, or if, they should be recognised in a funding model.

The first good move proposed by the reviewers is to use a different tag so we can talk without confusion – the Review Report dispenses with the term Community Service Obligations and refers instead to Community Service Grants (CSGs). The Report takes the view that:

CSGs should support areas or services not covered by the standard subsidy or any loadings. The Review recommends that the priorities for CSGs be consistent with the role of VET – providing a strong skills base, supporting lifelong learning, and addressing disadvantage – and targeted across the student lifecycle.

The Report sees CSGs as having a particular role in targeting

localised disadvantage. VET should work in partnership with other parts of the education system, and Commonwealth and Victorian human service providers to lift rates of educational attainment and improve pathways to employment. These could be targeted, intensive supports to assist disadvantaged students into, through, and out of the VET system.

In the past we have talked about CSOs as falling to TAFE Institutes in particular. The Review Report takes a different tack. It suggests that:

Government should articulate its objectives for CSGs, and then invite selected providers … to submit proposals. The proposals should:

·         identify how the proposal aligns with the Government’s objectives;

·         identify the specific community need – for example, increasing the level of participation in VET by an identifiable cohort;

·         detail the approach for addressing that need, including any community or service partnerships and other streams of funding available to support the approach; and

·         include measurable targets (such as the expected increase in education participation or course completions in the target area).

The notion of ‘selected providers’ is filled out like this:

The Review considers it important that CSGs are only available to RTOs that are highly capable and possess the necessary expertise and breadth to support the students targeted by the CSG. They should have a history of quality training and student support, particularly with vulnerable students.

Partnerships with other service providers could be encouraged. Partnerships will help ensure students are provided with appropriate and high-quality, specialised support, avoid service duplication and maximise the benefits of complementary funding streams and programs.

Should the Government accept the recommendation to develop a provider classification system, only those providers rated as the most capable in their region or training area be able to access CSG funding.

In other words, any provider that meets the criteria should be able to bid for CSGs. The emphasis is on learner support and learner outcomes rather than which category a VET provider falls into. The Report also suggests that ‘CSGs should be time-limited (between one and three years), to balance certainty with the benefits of flexibility to respond to emerging needs.’

The Review Report does that, as public providers, TAFE Institutes have a distinctive status within the VET system which carries additional costs that the funding model should recognise. Pages 75-77 of the Report examine this matter in detail. In effect the Report takes to task the current training market design because it funds delivery on the basis of a ‘level playing field’ but then imposes additional costs on TAFE Institutes which are not recognised in the funding arrangements. Pages 75-76 list the additional costs, obligations and restrictions on TAFE Institutes that erode their capacity to compete. They are:

·         Workforce arrangements

·         Asset maintenance

·         Board composition

·         Public sector financial and operating reporting obligations

·         Requirement to seek government approval for marketing and material commercial decisions

·         Investment restrictions.

Provider classification system

The idea of a provider classification system is mentioned earlier in this post in a quote from the Report about limiting access to CSG ‘to providers rated as the most capable in their region or training area be able to access CSG funding.’ The idea is filled out on pages 108-11 of the Review Report.

It is envisaged that a provider classification system could rate providers using two sets of measures – one set of measures would establish a provider’s financial and organisational stability, and the second set would establish a provider’s educational breadth and capacity. These outcomes of these measures could then be used to determine whether a provider presented a high or low risk in meeting the purposes of the training system.

The possible uses of the classification system are explored on pages 110-111. Broadly speaking, a provider that is financially stable and has the breadth and capacity to meet all the purposes of VET could:

·         be used to determine suitability of a provider for a VTG funding contract

·         be subject to lighter auditing and regulatory requirements

·         be considered appropriate to deliver the Certificate IV in Training and Assessment

·         be considered appropriate to deliver training to students who are exempted from the upskilling requirement.

For more on the upskilling requirement refer to our earlier post, Some implications of the Mackenzie Review for teachers and trainers.

On 21 December we also posted a ‘general summary’ about the Review ReportNew directions for VET in Victoria – Mackenzie Review and the Victorian government’s response.


Posted by VET Centre on Thursday, 21 January 2016 in Research

Late last year the European Commission (EC) released a report titled High-performance apprenticeships & work-based learning: 20 guiding principles (83 pages). The report feeds into the EC strategy to tackle the transition of young people to employment. The strategy,European Pact for Youth, has a specific objective of promoting apprenticeships and other forms of work-based learning.

The introductory statement to the report poses a series of questions we often ask Down Under too:

·         Who are the stakeholders that should be involved in designing and delivering apprenticeships?

·         How can companies, in particular SMEs, get involved and offer apprenticeship places?

·         How can we increase the attractiveness of apprenticeships so that many more young people are inspired to follow this route, and what role can career guidance play?

·         How do we make sure that apprenticeships and work-based learning programmes give a genuine, high quality learning experience that gives young people a solid foundation and an entry-ticket to rewarding careers?

The report works three these questions by identifying 20 principles that best inform proactive and productive responses from industry, training providers, schools and governments. Each principle is accompanied by examples that are working in practice.

The principles are presented in four groups, each of which comprises five principles:

1.    National governance and social partners’ involvement

2.    Support for companies, in particular SMEs, offering apprenticeships

3.    Attractiveness of apprenticeships and improved career guidance

4.    Quality assurance in work-based learning.

Principle 12, for example, falls in the third group and reads as follows:

·         Improving the image of VET and apprenticeships by promoting excellence.

In setting the scene for this principle the report observes:

Promoting excellence means that all stakeholders involved in the provision of VET and apprenticeships (students, schools, teachers, training companies, social partners) should attempt to enhance the professional pride of their trade by doing their best to develop skills of high quality and make them visible to the public, especially to potential learners and their parents.

The discussion of Principle 12 suggests a range of measures that could be instituted:

·         Benchmarking of apprenticeships and VET systems (in particular using skill competitions as a benchmarking mechanism)

·         Sharing experiences between VET systems and making good practices visible (for example, ‘the Education Reform Initiative of South Eastern Europe is a cluster of ten partner-countries that have exchanged experiences on different themes such as marketing and communication, guidance and counselling and responsiveness to students’ needs in order to improve VET systems’

·         Using learners as role models (in Denmark, for example, young people already engaged in apprenticeships were presented as role models to students in graduating classes)

·         Highlighting successful VET entrepreneurs as role models.

The final measure presented for Principle 12 is to award employers for providing good apprenticeships, noting that ‘receiving an award can also be commercially beneficial to employers.’

At the end of the section on Principle 12 three extended examples are provided that show these kinds of measures in action:

·         In the UK, the National Apprentice Award is an example of an initiative launched to promote excellence among companies that employ apprentices

·         In Germany a scholarship scheme encourages talented VET students to attend further education

·         In Austria, the Ministry of Economy confers the state prize ‘Best training companies – Fit for future’ in the categories of small, medium-sized and large enterprises. The objective of the prize is to improve quality, innovation and sustainability in apprenticeship training and involve more companies in providing apprenticeship.

Each of the Principles is presented in broadly the same manner, with links provided to relevant websites or further reading (not all in English of course).

Principle 14 is:

·         Enhancing the attractiveness of apprenticeships by raising the quality of VET teachers.

The measures proposed are:

·         Ensuring professional development of VET teachers

·         Continuous update of vocational skills

·         The key role of VET teachers in establishing and maintaining connections with the workplace

·         Enhancing teachers’ capabilities to foster passion and entrepreneurship among students

·         Increasing the attractiveness of being a VET teacher.

Many of the principles and measures in the report are familiar. What makes it interesting reading is the way the material is organised and the array of examples offered. There is plenty of scope for providers to use the report as a kick starter for strategy development.


Posted by VET Centre on Tuesday, 19 January 2016 in VET

VET is a warren of acronyms and special terms. Your mum, your local councillor or your podiatrist will think you mean something very different when you drop into conversation words and terms like moderation, recognition, day release and logbook. They might raise a perplexed eyebrow when you enthuse about a learning object or contextualisation.

And the acronyms – CRICOS and TRAC and LLEN and LLN and ASCH and so on. Sometimes even long standing VET practitioners get lost in the VET vernacular maze, never mind what it’s like for new teachers and trainers, students and employers who are trying to latch on to the system.

Never fear. VOCEDplus has a guide to help navigate a path through the forest of VET language. The Glossary of VET takes you from A-Y, from AAACE to Youth Allowance. (There isn’t an entry under Z yet but we’re confident that an appointment will soon be made.)

The Glossary’s home page sets out what it contains:

·         VET terms and concepts, including adult and continuing education and lifelong learning

·         Australian VET organisations and some key international VET organisations

·         key Australian historical documents

·         VET-related acronyms.


Posted by VET Centre on Monday, 18 January 2016 in VET

2016 is about to start in earnest so it’s time for The VET Blog to follow up on unfinished business from 2015. There can be no better place to start in Victorian VET than to delve more deeply into the Report of the VET Funding Review, presented in mid-December to the Victorian government by Bruce Mackenzie and Neil Coulson. We posted a ‘general summary about the Report New directions for VET in Victoria – Mackenzie Review and the Victorian government’s response (21 December). That post also looked at the Skills and Jobs in the Education State: The government’s response to the VET Funding Review, which was released on the same day as the Report itself.

The task we’ve set ourselves is to write several more posts on the Review outcomes. This post will look at aspects of the Review Report with direct implications for teachers and trainers. Later posts will look at community support obligations and regional delivery.

So down to work – implications for teachers and trainers. Perhaps it’s useful to begin with the Victorian government’s response which specifies three overarching objectives for the VET system:

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

2.    Grow employment and further education outcomes

3.    Promote equity and address disadvantage.

Each of those objectives relies heavily on the professional skills and knowledge of teachers and trainers. When students, employers and government pay for training they assume that high standards of professional teaching will be part of the package they receive. The Review Report takes a good look at extending and sustaining high quality professional practice so that stakeholders can invest in the system with confidence. The remainder of this post looks at some of the proposed changes that will affect teachers and trainers. Some changes will affect the practice of all teachers and trainers delivering VTG-funded qualifications, some changes will affect specific groups of teachers and trainers.

Improving training and assessment quality

The Review Report opens its discussion on improving training and assessment quality (pages 89-91) by noting:

A key characteristic of a high-quality training system is the effectiveness of its teachers and trainers. Robust teacher and trainer training can support longterm improvements in the training system.

The Report states unqualified support for the recommendations of the Quality Assurance Review, which The VET Blog perused here in July 2015. Among the recommendations of the Quality Assurance Review related to delivery of quality training and assessment are these:

·         Recommendation 5: Implement a more independent approach to issuing trainer/assessor qualifications. Training providers contracted under the VTG should, going forward, be prohibited from credentialing their own trainers and assessors with the Certificate IV in Training and Assessment. Where the Department identifies that providers may be non-compliant with their regulatory obligation to employ suitably qualified trainers and assessors, these matters should be referred to the regulators.

·         Recommendation 6: Establish a panel of providers approved to deliver the Certificate IV in Training and Assessment. Trainers and assessors with certificates that pre-date the panel would not be excluded from delivering training and assessment, but may be subject to a reasonable transition period.

·         Recommendation 7: Grant RTOs with a track record of performance in delivering high quality training and assessment, particularly across qualifications for trainers and assessors, the right to self-accredit trainers and assessors.

·         Recommendation 8: Commission further research into whether, and to what extent, there should be amendments to qualification levels and skills sets required by trainers and assessors to deliver quality training and assessment.

Taken together with the discussion in the VET Funding Review Report, the recommendations just listed indicate ongoing professional development is as important as initial teacher education. Regarding ongoing professional development, for example, the Review Report makes explicit an positive reference to a Victorian government initiative that

will provide up to $1 million in funding for staff at Victorian contracted RTOs, to complete thePut students first: delivering suitable and appropriate training professional development program.

As to initial teacher education, the Review Report observes:

Current arrangements for their training have not evolved strategically. There are too many providers of Certificate IV Training and Assessment, many of whom cannot demonstrate the breadth and range and purposes of VET to potential students.

The Review Report goes on to say that:

From a quality assurance perspective, the Certificate IV in Training and Assessment should be delivered only by experienced and qualified staff. Moreover, those who are delivering the qualification should be experienced in the delivery of VET to different cohorts of students across a wide variety of AQTF levels.

To achieve this, the Review agrees with the Quality Assurance Review that an approved provider list should be developed for the delivery of a Certificate IV in Training and Assessment. The Review considers that only providers who offer the full AQTF program range should be on the provider list.

Training standards under Victorian Training Guarantee contracts

The Review holds that standards be introduced ‘to ensure that ‘students receive the same quality of learning no matter the mode of delivery’ (page 87). This means that training quality must be the same whether training is provided face-to-face, online or in the workplace. Teachers and trainers in each of these contexts will need to have the expertise to maintain quality at a consistent level in line with the standards that are established.

Approved provider status

The Review Report recommends revised eligibility rules for access to Victorian Training Guarantee funding. The Report suggests that VTG eligibility continue to focus on upskilling – so individual learners must track up the AQF ladder to secure VTG support. However, it recommends several exemptions to the upskilling rule, which it suggests should not apply to those under 24 years of age, those who are unemployed for 12 months, retrenched workers, and where a person’s qualification is more than seven years old. Obviously exemptions like these will influence student profile. Recognising that, the Review proposes that:

… students exempt from the upskilling requirement only undertake training at providers that are equipped, capable, and in some cases specifically resourced through community service grant funding, to provide a training program properly and individually designed to meet their needs (page 52).

That proposition carries a direct implication that approved providers will have teachers and trainers who have specific capabilities to design and deliver training that meets the particular needs of learners in these groups.

Workforce training innovation fund

The Review Report recommends establishment of a workforce training innovation fund which would focus

on initiatives that improve workforce productivity at an industry or firm level. This could include working with training organisations to develop and trial new and innovative training programs and methods that:

·         build into their training a focus on commercial application of their skills and knowledge, such as attention to service standards, new products, and applying new technologies to contribute to a productive workplace;

·         effectively mix theoretical understanding and workplace-based experience;

·         incorporate training programs into the workplace to improve on-the-job effectiveness and skills;

·         help employees and businesses maximise the benefits of introducing or adapting to new technologies or processes into the workplace; and

·         more quickly develop new or adapt existing training packages to emerging industry needs (page 60).

Given these purposes, the impact of the workforce training innovation fund would depend substantially on the professional expertise and industry currency of teachers and trainers. It seems a fair bet that providers wanting to participate in this funding arrangement will need to demonstrate a strong commitment to sophisticated, ongoing professional learning.

Summative assessment as a quality assurance mechanism

Sound assessment practice is fundamental to the quality and credibility of any education system. The Review Report recommends adopting a regulated summative assessment regime in high risk that ensures a student has ‘the critical skills and knowledge identified by industry as required by job ready individuals, prior to the qualifications being issued’ (page 88). The high risk areas are identified on pages 88-89 of the Review Report as:

·         qualifications where the consequences of inadequate training are serious – for example, the risk to workers or clients is high, or where the occupation has higher levels of responsibility to its clients; and

·         competencies within a qualification or unit where the consequences of inadequate training are serious – for example, anaphylaxis training; and

·         training in these high risk areas that has taken place exclusively in the workplace.

Teachers, trainers and providers working in high risk areas (which are indicated by example in the Report rather than a specific listing) will need to come to grips with new approaches to managing assessment in the relevant qualifications on their scope.

Specialised training for students considering start-up businesses

Entrepreneurship and small business start-ups are seen as important contributors to the wider economy, impacting employment levels and for economic growth. The VET Blog has posted about this a couple of times, including Youth entrepreneurialism can help tackle youth unemployment in Australia (June 2015). The Review suggests that for learners ready to launch their own businesses, the government might trial

a program to better support these students with small business and entrepreneurial skills to improve their transition from study to full time work.

For example, an apprentice could be provided training in setting up a business, invoicing and GST rules, or business development skills (page 67).

VET professionals involved in this kind of training activity are likely to need a specialised skill and knowledge set, and a professional network that facilitates sharing of ideas and resources.


Posted by VET Centre on Thursday, 07 January 2016 in VET

A couple of weeks ago the European Centre for the Development of Vocational Training(which goes by the acronym CEDEFOP) released a Briefing Note that happens along at just the right time for our national conversation about policies that nurture innovation, entrepreneurship and ideas. The Briefing Note is titled Innovation and training: Partners in change (4 pages) – the sub-title runs ‘Vocational education and training is contributing to innovation and training is becoming more innovative.’

CEDEFOP’s short paper outlines VET’s innovation contribution by presenting a summary analysis of what prompts innovation in VET, with particular emphasis on smart changes in curriculum and cooperation. The Briefing Note underlines that VET’s contribution is both social and economic with many advances in VET system and instructional design building individual capability which directly supports industry needs. Examples of this dual impact include: improving access to vocational education and training for those who are unemployed; quicker cycles through some qualifications; and building in higher level VET qualifications so pathways are expanded while a skills orientation is maintained.

The Briefing Note explains that working with new partners – new forms of cooperation – is a signature mode of innovative VET practice. For instance:

Cooperation between employers and VET is strengthening. The Czech Republic is testing new cooperation models between VET providers and enterprises to promote work-based learning. Sweden’s ‘college concept’ is based on strong cooperation between different levels of education (secondary, higher and adult) and the world of work …

International cooperation is also boosting innovation. Lubuskie province in Poland and Brandenburg State in Germany, have established an education cluster to encourage cooperation. The cluster shares resources (workers, learners and infrastructure) between the municipalities, education providers and enterprises, as well as higher education and research institutions …

In France, 31 new Campus des métiers et des qualifications link VET with the world of work to ease entry into the labour market. The campuses also network VET and general education, training centres, higher education and research institutions and enterprises. They provide VET programmes at all levels to strengthen links between initial and continuing training.

In Denmark there is the education laboratory project which

… challenges how education institutions think of and develop learning, teaching, organisation, management and guidance in VET. Some 10 education and four research organisations undertook more than 120 experiments from VET to PhD level on how to make the education and training system more flexible and demand-oriented.

CEDEFOP’s Briefing Note also shines a light on innovation in VET teaching which is essential to support a changing partnering environment as described above, and to ensure that teaching practice is informed by the evolving skill and knowledge demands of industry. As the paper observes, ‘Innovation in the labour market is reshaping VET. This requires VET itself to become dynamic and innovative.’ There is growing interest in the use of problem-based and project-based learning. Among the examples given is this one from Cyprus:

… working groups of VET school teachers and students, supported by professional advisors, carried out market research, developed ideas and designed product prototypes. These included garages with solar panels for charging hybrid/electrical cars and benches with solar-powered USB connections for charging mobile phones at the bus stop or in the park.


Posted by VET Centre on Tuesday, 05 January 2016 in Research

In early December the Committee for Economic Development of Australia (CEDA) shared the results of its 2015 Big Issues survey. According to CEDA, ‘The short 12 question survey’s aim is to capture a snapshot of the business community’s views on the critical policy choices – the big issues – in the year ahead.’

Given that they are front and centre in national policy discussion at present, it’s unsurprising that tax and innovation figure prominently in the survey responses gathered from more than 1000 CEDA members. (Membership comprises 700 Australian businesses, organisations and academic institutions.)

But also figuring large in the survey responses were issues related to education and skills. Indeed, the media release that announced the survey results has CEDA’s Chief Executive, Stephen Martin, providing a summary of key survey results which included:

·         To improve Australia’s workforce capabilities the top ranked response was a consistent strategy for education, that promotes the appropriate skills for driving Australia’s economic sustainability

·         The key sectors predicted to provide future growth for our economy were education services, healthcare and agriculture.

Question 4 on the survey asked:

·         In repairing the budget, what should be the priorities to cut expenditure?

Of seven options for reducing expenditure education was ranked sixth.

Anticipating slow economic growth in 2016, the survey asked:

·         How should the Government respond to the expected low-growth environment?

About 85 per cent of survey respondents nominated incentivising innovation and R&D. But second ranking, and nominated by 70 per cent of respondents, went to:

·         Invest in education to support workforce capability.

In response to Question 6, survey respondents were asked to rank policies, in order of importance, as priorities for improving Australia’s workforce capabilities. The ranking ended up like this:

1.    A consistent national strategy for education, that promotes the appropriate skills for driving Australia’s economic sustainability

2.    A targeted workforce strategy aimed at engaging and, as needed, reskilling underutilised groups in the workforce

3.    Changes to workplace relations laws to improve flexibility

4.    Policies for increasing workforce participation such as childcare option and altering the age at which the Age Pension can be accessed.

CEDA doesn’t make government policy, of course, but it’s probably fair to say that CEDA’s members are influential in policy development. If their views are persuasive then policy support for education is likely to be pretty strong. You can view written comments from survey respondents here.


Posted by VET Centre on Monday, 04 January 2016 in VET

NCVER’s Managing Director, Craig Fowler, recently penned a short article for the Centre’s e-newsletter, Insight‘Learning on the job: alternate views from afar’ briefly surveys the attractions of the apprenticeship/traineeship tradition because of the apparent advantages in the ‘learning on the job’ component of those qualifications.

Fowler notes the rising interest of government across the world in investing in apprenticeships and extending learning pathways to take in higher level apprenticeships. He writes that:

… in the UK there is growth in numbers of higher or degree apprenticeships in areas such as advanced technology, construction, digital media, and opportunities intended to attract students not going to university. Entry standards are higher than traditional apprenticeships, with off the job training blending both vocational and university courses. This responds to companies seeking higher skilled apprentices who are more employable in the longer term. This is coupled with collective industry input into higher quality design of apprenticeships under the Trailblazers programme.

As the article indicates, the UK government plans to lift apprenticeship numbers and pay for them through an industry levy.

These ‘cross-sectoral’ apprenticeships/traineeships could be worth pursuing in Australia, Fowler suggests. Doing so would mean much closer learning and teaching collaborations between VET and higher education provider than is common in Australia, and sophisticated industry engagement. And as the article makes clear, ‘new initiatives such as those above need to be valued by employers and championed by industry for them to work.’

If you’re interested in keeping up to date with all things NCVER you can subscribe to theInsight which comes out three times each year. In addition to Craig Fowler’s article briefly outlined above, the most recent edition, dated 26 November, included the following:

·         From volunteering to paid employment: skills transfer in the South Australian Country Fire Services

·         Creating inclusive learning environments to support students with disability or ongoing ill health.