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Newsletter | 21 March 2016

In this edition


TDA meeting with skills minister Ryan advances discussion of VET FEE-HELP reform

The Minister for Vocational Education and Skills, Senator Scott Ryan, met with senior executives of TAFE Directors Australia (TDA) to discuss plans for reform of the VET FEE-HELP student loans scheme.

Senator Ryan and senior staff held discussions in Parliament House, Canberra with Stephen Conway, Chair of TDA and CEO of TasTAFE, Mary Faraone, CEO of Holmesglen and TDA board member for Victoria, and Martin Riordan, CEO of TDA.

Senator Ryan confirmed that a redesign of the troubled loan scheme was his biggest priority.

The meeting explored opportunities for a tighter, risk-based criteria for loans eligibility for those registered training organisations and institutions offering higher education, under a reformed scheme.

The ministerial crackdown was ordered late last year by Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull after national media reports exposed flaws in Commonwealth management of the scheme.

National media has continued to probe ‘for profit’ private colleges, including cases of misleading marketing and enrolled students not completing courses, and directors allegedly banking vast proceeds of loans ahead of a collapse.

In response to questions from TDA about the timing of reforms to the loan scheme, Senator Ryan acknowledged that legislation was likely to proceed later this year.

For more than five years, TDA has advocated greater transparency in RTO provider risk categories, both with the federal regulator, ASQA, and the Commonwealth regulation of VET FEE HELP loans. TDA is making a detailed submission to Senator Ryan on the issue.    

"Commercial realities" impacting private training for young learners, says NCVER research

Private, for-profit training providers working with early school leavers in the VET sector are falling victim to commercial pressures, according to new research for the National Centre for Vocational Education Research (NCVER).

A total of 130 private, for-profit registered training organisations (RTOs) were surveyed to find their perspectives on teaching and learning practices, engaging with early school leavers and educational and wellbeing support services.

"The private RTOs in the study were eager to show a commitment to early school leavers and a willingness to support these learners in completing their qualifications," the report says.

"However, unsurprisingly, this is limited by the commercial realities of running a business in the ever-changing VET landscape and funding regimes," it says.

"The authors conclude that private RTOs and the trainers who work for them need to be better equipped and better supported to continue to provide training to this high-needs group of young learners," the report says.

See more.

Evocca chief says government VET reforms forced closures and job losses

Troubled Evocca College has sought to blame the federal government's reforms to VET FEE-HELP for its decision to close campuses and sack staff.

Evocca College CEO Craig White said in a statement that the government's January tightening of VET FEE HELP payments had a "large impact" and contributed to the decision to close or merge 17 campuses and axe 220 staff.

“Fewer students will now be able to qualify to enter Diploma-level courses at all training organisations under new rules including more stringent language, literacy and numeracy testing requirements," Mr White said.

"In addition, VET FEE-HELP has been capped to 2015 levels, restricting the growth of all providers, both public and private,” he said.

In January, ABC reported that Evocca College had one of the lowest completion rates for its vocational courses, many of which had been registered by the Commonwealth for VET FEE-HELP loans.   

Federal opposition pledges full VET review

The federal Labor opposition has committed to the first comprehensive review of the VET sector since the 1974 Kangan review, if elected to government.

The Shadow Minister for Vocational Education Sharon Bird said the review would ensure the VET sector is properly equipped with proper standards and ensuring the central role of TAFE.

"While schools and universities have had full reviews into funding with the Gonski and Bradley reviews – the vocational education and training sector has been left behind," Ms Bird said.

"This adds to the announcement last year that a Shorten Labor Government would guarantee TAFE funding into the future by working with Premiers and Chief Ministers on a comprehensive National Priority Plan that defines the role of TAFE and places it squarely as the public provider within the VET sector," Ms Bird said.

See more.

TDA/LH Martin national innovation & applied research roundtable presentations now available

Presentations and photos from the recent Innovation and Applied Research Roundtable in Canberra are now available.

The event, initiated by TDA and the LH Martin Institute, saw a host of speakers from TAFEs and their industry partners, government, and agencies overseeing the National Innovation and Science Agenda.

Speakers from Canada, New Zealand and the UK presented case studies on how applied research had become a major feature of their own government’s initiatives on innovation and workforce development, especially for higher level skills.

In Australia, case studies from TAFE and major industry partners were reviewed, highlighting applied research and innovation in sectors such as gas exploration (TAFE Queensland), nursing and healthcare (Holmesglen Institute) and forensic science (Canberra Institute of Technology).

See more.

ASQA discusses TVET reform in Taiwan

The Australian Skills Quality Authority (ASQA) has included Taiwan in its Asia-Pacific visits, supporting the Taiwan’s Ministry of Labour TVET Reforms.

The ASQA visit covered engagements to help Taiwan’s Workforce Development Agency (WDA) to design plans for vocational education quality systems, and included audit training.

The Australian Office (AO) in Taipei, headed by Ms Catherine Raper, the Australian Representative to Taiwan, hosted a ’Boomerang lunch’ for special guests of the AO and Taiwan’s Ministry of Labour.

Following introductory remarks by Ms Raper, TDA’s TVET consultant Dr Richard Bowen joined ASQA’s Christine Chatburn to co-present, ‘Skills for Prosperity: why vocational education and training policy is so important to productivity’.

Later in the week, Taiwan’s Ministry of Labour hosted a workshop on ‘Australia’s Quality Assurance Mechanism & the Practice of Auditing in VET’.

The event which was co-organised by WDA and TDA and hosted by the Industrial Technology Research Institute, attracted audiences across Taiwan’s public and private education sectors.

Guests of AO: Dr Richard Bowen (4th form left), Catherine Raper and Christine Chatburn, Manager of Regulatory Operations ASQA. Deputy Representative AO, Richard Neumann (3rd from left) and Sandy Chen, Project Manager TVET Reform Project (far right).

New Queensland training and skills Facebook page

The Queensland Department of Education and Training has launched a new Training and Skills Facebook page to provide information on key training initiatives and subsidised training opportunities.

It will also engage with the training community and gain insight into needs and demands.

Follow Training and Skills – DET Queensland, or provide content suggestions and feedback via Infoservices@dete.qld.gov.au

Australia-Pacific Technical College recruiting for senior executive

The Australia-Pacific Technical College (APTC) is seeking a person to fill the position of Executive Director, Corporate & Commercial Operations, based in Suva, Fiji.

The role is responsible for financial management and performance, legal and commercial operations.

The position provides leadership, line management, direction and operational support to the Finance, ICT, Property and Facilities, Commercial Development and Human Resources teams.

See more.

Diary Dates

Group Training National Conference
‘Skilling for Growth’
7 – 8 April, 2016
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AVETRA 19th Annual Conference 
20 – 22 April 2016
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WAVE National Conference
Women: Education, Empowerment, Equality. A New Agenda?
20 April 2016
Northern Sydney Institute, TAFE NSW
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EduTECH 2016
30 - 31 May, 2016
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2016 Skills Conference
Group Training Association of NSW & ACT
15 June, 2016
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25th National VET Research Conference ‘No Frills’
4 – 6 July 2016
Rockhampton, Queensland
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VETnetwork Australia
Biennial National Conference
27- 28 July, 2016
Gold Coast
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Victorian TAFE Association State Conference
18 - 19 August, 2016
More information coming soon.

NSW TAFE Managers Association
19 August, 2016
Taronga Zoo, Sydney
More information coming soon.

National Skills Week 2016
29 August – 4 September, 2016
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VET Development Centre Teaching & Learning Conference
1 - 2 September, 2016
RACV Torquay Resort, Victoria
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National VET Conference 
Velg Training
14 – 16 September, 2016
Gold Coast Convention & Exhibition Centre
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TDA Convention
4 - 6 October, 2016
More information coming soon

Society of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry (SETAC) Conference
4-7 October, 2016
Hotel Grand Chancellor, Hobart  
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2016 WorldSkills Australia National Competition
6 - 8 October, 2016
Melbourne Showgrounds
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Royal Australian College of Medical Administrators (RACMA) Conference  
12-15 October, 2016
Brisbane Convention & Exhibition Centre
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Australasian Genomic Technologies Association (AGTA) Conference
9-12 October, 2016
Pullman Hotel Auckland, New Zealand
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ACER National Adult Training and Assessment Conference
13-14 October, 2016
William Angliss institute, Melbourne
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Australian Training Awards
17 November, 2016
Darwin, Northern Territory
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Corporate Affiliates