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Newsletter | 14 September 2015

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In this edition  


Commonwealth takeover of VET moves a step closer

Senator Simon Birmingham

The Assistant Minister for Education and Training, Senator Simon Birmingham has delivered the strongest case yet for the Commonwealth to assume responsibility for VET, in his address to the TDA national conference.

“It is time now to take the next steps towards a national approach that gives the next generation the skills necessary for the jobs of tomorrow, and to secure our future prosperity,” the Minister said.

“By placing control of all of the funding levers — the setting of fees, payment of subsidies, and lending of income-contingent loans with one level of government, we would promote accountability in the system and could create a more effective market, driven by students rather than providers, than we've seen to date,” he said.

  • The issue of a federal takeover of VET arose at the COAG Leaders’ Retreat in July, based on the assurance that the states continue to operate TAFE.
  • “Over coming months, we will carry out consultation to ensure that this process is inclusive, collaborative and consensus-driven,” the Minister said.
Sharon Bird

The Shadow Minister for Vocational Education Sharon Bird told the conference that she was sceptical of the merit of a federal takeover.

“Even if the feds took it over, the state governments would have their own imperatives to fund and run training programs, Ms Bird said.

She also questioned the ability of the Commonwealth to deliver vocational services and the lack of any discussion about funding of VET.

“An Abbott take-over is not reform, it will just mean more cuts,” Ms Bird said.

See Minister Birmingham’s speech.

See Shadow Minister Bird’s media release.

Funding and vision more important than who runs the system

Peter Noonan

A federal takeover of VET would not be a magic bullet and could cement serious financial disadvantages into the system, the TDA conference was warned.

Pam Christie, Managing Director of TAFE NSW and Peter Noonan, Professorial fellow at the Mitchell Institute both questioned the case for a federal takeover.

“I don’t think there really is any serious vision other than a shift in funding responsibility,” Ms Christie said.

Peter Noonan said that at a time when VET funding is going backwards, transferring responsibility from the states to the Commonwealth could simply entrench the current inadequate funding base.

”It is difficult to take the type of leap forward that is necessary when the investment base is in disarray,” he said.

Pam Christie

“It (VET) is either a national priority or it’s not, and governments have made the decision that it’s not a priority.

“Government is actually defunding VET while schools are being turbocharged,” he said.

Ms Christie said that if federal responsibility for VET was to be a reality, it must entail greater investment.

“I’d like to think there is some magic solution to see governments invest in the VET sector but we haven’t seen it to date,” Ms Christie said.



Minister Birmingham flags further steps to reign in VET FEE-HELP

The Assistant Minister for Education and Training, Senator Simon Birmingham has hinted that further measures may be needed to curb unscrupulous training providers and halt the explosion in VET FEE-HELP.

The minister told the TDA national conference that recent reforms should stop “terrible, appalling practices” and break the business model of dodgy brokers and training providers.

However he said further measures were being considered.

He said the growth of VET FEE-HELP had occurred across both the private and the TAFE sector, where the number of student loans had increased from 2,400 in 2009 to over 59,000 last year.

“This represents a total cumulative value in VET FEE-HELP loans over six years of $770 million.

“The estimated 2015 funding for TAFEs via VET FEE-HELP is $381 million, an increase of 433% since 2011.”

The minister said he was concerned at a lack of transparency in pricing of VET FEE-HELP courses, as well as with unacceptable completion rates for online learning.

“We have to make sure it’s of high quality, that we’re not wasting taxpayers’ money and churning people through an online course that’s never actually completed,” he said.

“That’s well and truly on my radar screen”.

TDA national conference delegates

Four-tier classification system recommended for Victorian training providers

The Victorian government has been presented with a blueprint for reform of the training system that proposes a far-reaching classification system for training providers.

The lead reviewer with the Victorian Education and Funding Review, Bruce Mackenzie, unveiled details of the reform plan at the TDA national conference.

The classification system creates four categories of training providers from the highest, Category 1 (low-risk, highly capable) to the lowest, Category 4 (high-risk, incapable).

The classification framework is underpinned by a definition of VET providers that encompasses measures of organisational and financial capability.

“Being in Category 1 is a big advantage because you will get a lot of advantages that won’t be available to other providers,” Mr Mackenzie said.

“It’s important to stress that it is not a rating system, but to achieve the highest category you will need to have scale, size and financial capability,” he said.

The proposed blueprint, if adopted, would commence in 2017, but one of the challenges lays in getting access to the data required to compile the classification system.

The report was delivered to the Victorian government last Friday.

ACCI calls for a new model of apprenticeships and training

Kate Carnell

The Australian Chamber of Commerce and industry (ACCI) says greater flexibility in the delivery of training and a review of apprenticeships is essential to meet the needs of industry.

ACCI CEO Kate Carnell told the TDA national conference that a full review of the apprenticeship model was required to reflect the needs of apprentices and employers.

“The days of set hours of delivering generic skills is a thing of the past,” Ms Carnell said.

“We need the capacity to be able to provide training in the workplace, after hours, online and not whole courses, but perhaps chunks of courses.

“That’s what industry wants, it’s certainly what business wants.”

Ms Carnell said there were systemic problems with the apprenticeship model, including the length of time to complete an apprenticeship, which was reflected in unacceptably high drop-out rates.

“The thing we love about apprenticeships is the on-the-job training which means young people are integrated into the workplace, but it’s obviously not working.”

Ms Carnell called for an overhaul that looks at “what young people are willing to do and what business really needs”.

ASQA admits VET “confusing” but not much can be done

ASQA Chief Commissioner Chris Robinson admits that the VET sector is very confusing for consumers but says there are limits to what regulation can do to rectify the situation.

He told the TDA national conference there was “massive variation” in the quality and length of training supplied by different training providers for much the same product.

As an example, he cited a bachelor degree at university which  typically takes three years full time study or more, while a diploma of business can take anywhere between a few weeks to a year or more.

“People don’t know the difference between those things very easily,” he said.

“I think VET is very confusing for the consumer because there aren’t sufficient product parameters that are well understood by the market, and that’s the big failing.

“No amount of regulation or funding is actually going to fix that.”

ASQA says compliance rates are improving, with latest data showing 87% of providers being fully compliant after a 20 day rectification period, but with more work to be done.

“There’s far too many people gaming the system in the sense that they’re interested in getting a credit card when they enrol people and giving them a qualification far too soon.

“This is minority but a very visible minority,” he said.

National ombudsman needed to address training rip-offs

The Victorian Consumer Action Law Centre has called for a national scheme to help people who are the victims of fraudulent and misleading conduct by training providers.

Denise Boyd, Director of Policy and Campaigns told the TDA national conference that a national ombudsman service should be established to help people resolve their disputes.

“This is what happens when you deregulate a public sector and don’t have the appropriate consumer protections in place.

“We’re looking at people in the education sector who are carrying debts of twenty to thirty thousand dollars that they didn’t even know they’d accrued.”

“It is not appropriate that you have people on commission sales flogging courses that you don’t really know are appropriate to your needs.

“We need to have a remediation package for those people who have been left with that debt. We are all going to be carrying the cost of that because that money has gone,” she said.

“Why is it being left to a government funded legal centres such as ours to try and help people through an adversarial court system to get redress for courses they should never have been signed up to?”

Flow of Chinese students to Australia may go into reverse

China’s growing economic power is likely to see a reversal of the current strong flow of Chinese students into the Australian education system, a leading China expert has predicted.

Professor David Walker, the BHP Billiton Chair of Australian Studies at Peking University told the TDA national conference that, over the next 30 years, the flow of international students will shift as China becomes a magnet for Australians.

“We’ll see their educational institutions improve in quality and ambition and we’ll see their research output increase accordingly.

Lion Dance at the TDA national conference dinner

“The student flow to Australia may slow down while the outward flow of students into their university system may increase as they become more competitive and they have more benefits to offer our students,” he said.

He believes China’s economic powerhouse will be accompanied by a cultural resurgence that will extend to areas such as skilling and education.

“The way the Chinese do things and the way they think about the world, whether we like it or not, will become increasingly important.”

The conference featured a 30-strong delegation of VET officials from eastern China as part of the Sino–Australian VET Forum that ran parallel to the main program.

Chinese delegates with Tasmanian Governor Professor Kate Warner at the Government House reception

New report identifies key trends driving VET in Asia

A new report on the global VET sector has identified key shifts in the Asian region that will impact Australian campuses, courses and methods of delivery.

The report, ‘Vocational training for the Global Economy – a focus on major trends in vocational education and training in the Asian region’, was released at the TDA national conference.

Produced by Dandolo Partners, it identifies five key elements that are driving Asia’s VET ambitions:

  • The needs of the economy and not just students
  • A focus on job readiness
  • Integration with industry
  • Technology driving pedagogy
  • The emergence of the Smart Campus

Brad Davies, Director at Dandolo Partners said Asia’s heightened awareness of the needs of industry and the economy raises the question as to whether Australia’s demand driven system is appropriate.

“In Asia, entrepreneurship is important because with digital disruption, helping students to equip themselves and create their own jobs is important,” he said.

See more.

TAFE NSW students get extended travel concessions

The NSW government has extended travel concessions to apprentices and trainees to include all-day cheaper fares on public transport using the concession Opal card.

Apprentices and trainees are currently able to access concession fares when travelling between their home, workplace and place of training.

The new arrangements will apply to travel at any time.

Concession Opal card customers pay 50% discount fares, have an unlimited travel daily fare cap of $7.50 and $30 weekly fare cap.

To be eligible, TAFE NSW students must be enrolled full-time for a minimum of 20 face to face contact hours a week.

Diary Dates

National VET Conference
Velg Training

DATE: 17-18 September 2015
LOCATION: Adelaide Convention Centre
DETAILS: More information.

NESA National Conference
The Spirit of Collaboration

DATE: 27-29 September 2015
LOCATION: The Marriott Resort Surfers Paradise
DETAILS: More information.

Australian International Education Conference 2015
International education: global, responsible, sustainable

DATE: 6 – 9 October 2015
LOCATION: Adelaide Convention Centre
DETAILS: More information.

2015 Australasian Genomic Technologies Association (AGTA) Conference
DATE: 11 – 14 October 2015
LOCATION: Crowne Plaza Hunter Valley, NSW.
DETAILS: More information.

2015 AUSTAFE National Conference
Bringing TAFE and VET to the Nation’s Capital

DATE: 28 – 30 October 2015
LOCATION: Canberra
DETAILS: Contact National President Jerome.DeRose@cit.edu.au

Corporate Affiliates