VET Please!

Dear VET Sector Stakeholders, Governments, Powers that be in Australia, and TVET friends globally

This is the year to please not just do better but to do amazing things.

And this is evidenced by an overwhelming amount of feedback coming from many different voices over recent times including the Rebuilding Employment Services, Final report on Workforce Australia Employment Services, House of Representatives, Select Committee on Workforce Australia Employment Services, November 2023, Canberra, which touches on the Australian VET sector.

For example, comments by Wendy Black, Head of Policy, Business Council of Australia (BCA) as captured on the Hansard (Friday 11 August 2023), “Our employment and training system is not supporting large cohorts of people to participate in the labour market, nor is it providing the requisite skills and tooling for people and, importantly, also the reskilling that is now needed. For those who are marginalised and face complex barriers, it is further entrenching disadvantage and locking them into long-term poverty. With a case load of more than three-quarters of a million people, Australia’s employment system is failing.”

Some of the things that the Australian Employment Services and VET system is pursuing are so late 90’s to early 2000s, it feels like we may be scared by Y2K again – on the global stage we need to be punching above our weight, especially when non-accredited training is so much more timely, relevant, and highly regarded.

From BCA, “We believe that there is a lot of support from our members. Many of them do their own training, but how do we do this more as a community to make sure that students are getting that career information, are linked into the information system and are getting the right skills so that they are being trained for the jobs that are available in their community? I think part of all of that is some of the other work that the government is doing in reforming the education system, in reforming Jobs and Skills Australia and making sure that skills system is much more aligned as well. All of those pieces or elements of reform that the government is undertaking at the moment, I think, also feed into the work and the issues that you are looking at here.”

Interestingly the strategy released by the Australian Workforce and Productivity Agency (AWPA) back in 2013 titled, Future focus – 2013 National Workforce Development Strategy (does anyone still have a physical copy?), had 25+ recommendations, and it really doesn’t seem like we may have moved that far in some areas.  Aspirational goals in relation to workforce participation, skills and qualifications achievement, helping specific cohorts, addressing LLN needs, regional development and funds that have a name change, are all in the mix, but this doesn’t address the #1 challenge.

Which is not VET regulation but VET products and vision for the workforce.  A submission by Workforce BluePrint to the VET Reform Taskforce by Workforce BluePrint in 2014 stated,

“The current VET system is addressing workforce needs of yesterday but not today and those of tomorrow.”

The current National Skills Agreement outlines a Vision and Principles has no mention of VET products, and what we really need is a chunked up statement that is a vision for the Australian workforce.  Plus what is the status of the National Workforce Strategy 2022-27 – it is still relevant and being used as a reference because it has been removed from the Department’s website.

It is astounding that developing countries such as Bangladesh and Bhutan are on their 4th and 5th 5-year plan (or more) in regard to VET/TVET, but Australia has nothing like this as it is driven by political cycles, often new governments dismantling previous structures, with reforms, reviews and recommendations that don’t make a lasting impact.  Review> Which countries are leading VET/TVET?

In previous blogs, Managing Director, Workforce BluePrint, Wendy Perry has consistently said that the number of RTOs (public, private, enterprise, ACE – whatever type) needs to be reduced by about 25% to get rid of the bottom players to save our worldclass reputation.  And 1 VET regulator, read more on> Fostering a collaborative, diverse and inclusive entrepreneurial community – understanding development needs of entrepreneurs with opportunities for TAFEs and VET.

The thick, hold in your hand AWPA report from 2013, recommended reforms in VET products for the 21st century to investigate how training packages can most effectively build individuals’ adaptive capability for the changing nature and context of work.

Coincidentally in the past few weeks, we’ve been building skills profiles for jobs, utilising an international skills database in seconds if not minutes applying AI tools.  Hooray, gone are the 3-5-7 year cycles for curriculum and Training Package development, with this process taking 100 times less than what it has in the past… but only if we are prepared to go there.

A flipped model which identifies the future jobs, then designs the skills profile (guaranteed this will include skills across multiple AQF levels, and from various Training Packages, plus gaps that are not filled by anything).  So, this will be a challenge for some who think 1 qualification = 1 job = no way!!!

And you’ve got to be more strategic and iterative about it.  For example, curriculum in the German VET/TVET system is chunked up, and this means that they don’t go down to the nth degree but they identify things like new discovery technologies, then whatever comes in over time can fit under this banner.  It means that their curriculum or Training Package equivalents lasts much long i.e. up to 5 years.  Or we specify everything and would need something like an annual update, which might be challenging for RTOs, schools, Higher Education providers, employers, employees and students.  But by applying Generative Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Leaning (ML) we could do it.

And there are some enlightening examples to highlight as to where we want to whole sector to go such as:

  • TAFE Queensland Robina Campus who become the first vocational institution in Australia to achieve a SILVER rating under the prestigious Sustainability Tracking, Assessment & Rating System (STARS), integrating UNSDG’s into their teaching, learning, assessment, physical space and values – this approach should be across all VET products/online and physical sites for the future.
  • Quality College of Australia, who are 30 years old, wining Large Training Provider of the Year for South Australia (not to mention finishing 3rd Nationally), with a leader who highlights issues for RTOs and students from an informed and positive position.
  • The Australia Pacific Training Coalition (APTC)”a centre for training excellence and collaboration. It was announced as an Australian Government initiative at the Pacific Islands Forum in 2006 and welcomed by the Pacific Island leaders. As Australia’s flagship Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) investment in the region, APTC works collaboratively with national governments, development partners, private sector, organisations for people with disabilities, civil society organisations and Pacific TVET institutions across ten countries: Fiji, Kiribati, Nauru, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Timor-Leste, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu.”
  • Cedefop is a European Union agency which provides expertise for vocational education and training and skills. Particularly their work on skills intelligence, collaboration, and addressing skill mismatches is noteworthy.
  • Future Skills Organisation, and their report titled, The impact of generative AI on skills in the workplace, coming to grips with the specific impactions for financial services, business services and ICT. This report is an interesting base particularly with the introduction of the GPT Store, where prompt engineering is a core skill and you can now buy some of what you might need that others have developed.  And the next step would be to link their methodology with global skills databases and taxonomies.
  • Jobs for the Future based in Boston, MA, driving transformation of the American workforce and education systems – explore content with Horizons on demand.
  • Lightcast“The language of #skills is bridging the gap between what employers seek and what educators teach. By understanding the skills in demand, we can foster better collaboration and ensure our workforce remains equipped for the challenges of the future. Discover how our Lightcast taxonomy can facilitate this process.” Take a look at the Open Skills Taxonomy.

Wendy Perry started teaching adults through the VET system when she was about 21 years of age and she was in a VET Leader role at 25 years where everyone else was 20-30+ years older with many retiring by now.  There were many things she found frustrating but equally life transforming for students, employers, industry sectors and regions.  Hitting 50 years old, and 21 years as a business, Wendy can appreciate that many people are no longer in the VET system and much corporate knowledge has been lost.

Working in 32+ countries here are some suggestions for the Australian PM, Ministers at National as well as State/Territory levels, VET Leaders and Influencers because we want Australia to be in the top 5 (at least top 10) countries in the world again:

  1. A Generative AI enabled and ML leading VET sector, especially for the development of VET products, with subject matter experts, educator, industry, employer and learner validation. All skills, Training Packages, qualifications, and occupations will be impacted by generative AI.  The disruption and modernising of ANZSCO levels and codes means a correlating impact on the Australian Qualifications Framework.
  2. 21st century literacies that cover financial, economic, business, social, sustainable, digital/tech, peace building and entrepreneurial capabilities.
  3. 4 tiers (like a 4 layered cake) to competency and capability development including qualification structure as outlined in this blog post.
  4. Job role (future) first approach to curriculum/Training Package development applying gen AI tools and ML.
  5. TAFE places (free) that report not only enrolments but completions and successful outcomes, with funding that is shared with all sorts of providers based upon industry expertise, student focus, employer demand, regional needs and strengths. This is a KRudd (Kevin 07) strategy repurposed that came after the GFC.  Wendy Perry believes, “Public investment and decision making should be based upon evidence of workforce demand and underpinned by an Australian Workforce Plan, implemented by industry sectors, employers and providers of every type.” 
  6. Talent match between job roles (current to future), employer / industry / regional needs, competencies and Training Packages / curriculum, and workforce supply, needs to apply a rapid development approach that is fast and efficient. Identification of technically endangered skills that are highly specialist, are still in demand or have a historical, cultural or value in being passed on, need to be factored in the mix.
  7. Vision for the Australian workforce and a clear purpose statement for the VET sector covered in a 5 year plan that encourages ecosystem building. Back in 2015 we suggested, “21st Century Workforce and a World-class VET system unlocking Australia’s talent.  Underpinned by a 21st Century Skills Framework – a talent match between workers’ qualifications and the specific skills required and combination of skills that employers want, including industry clusters and priorities, regional drivers and priorities, critical job roles and capabilities.”
  8. Well balanced, effective regulation (1 Australian regulator) supported by policy that is globally benchmarked with the likes of Canada, EU, Finland, Germany, Malaysia, NZ, Singapore, UK, USA and Vietnam.
  9. World-class VET/TVET system and global taxonomy/ontology of skills with sound assessment approaches and innovative VET sector workforce development.

These 9 build upon Recommendations for Australian VET System Reform and VET Workforce Blueprint published on 12 June 2023.

In 2017-18, Workforce BluePrint identified 8 key themes that a VET Sector Capability Development program could be built around covering Apprenticeship and workplace programs for young people and those who are disengaged; Industry currency and VET workforce utilisation in industry; Innovation, disruption, entrepreneurship, 21st Century Capabilities and world-class practices; Digital learning and assessment practices and future capabilities; International export, capacity and capability development; New VET practitioner development through to VET Leaders; Teaching, learning and assessment practice; VET products (accredited and non-accredited) and programs matched with employer, industry and workforce demand.

As we are applying AI to several workforce plans, programs, and projects that we are working on, the next step is to look at all the reports over the years, and submissions, pulling out the themes and aligning to a 2024 context with a preferred future scenario.  Ultimately, where people will say yes please to the Australian VET sector as a standout global example of world-class innovation.

  1. If you find this content of interest you might like to read blogs on:

Future of Employment Services in Australia – Responding to the Rebuilding Employment Services Report

5 Predictions for the VET Sector in Australia: A Forward-Looking Perspective

It’s been a long time brewing – spilling the tea on jobs, skills & VET in Australia + AI chatbot results

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