Transcript of Best of 2020: highlights from Seasons 4 & 5

16 December 2020

Vocational Voices: Season 5, Episode 5

Best of 2020: highlights from Seasons 4 & 5

Steve Davis (00:04)
Hello, I'm Steve Davis. And in 2020, we invited expert vocational voices from the VET sector to share their views, stories, experiences, and insights, and we're grateful they found time in their busy schedules to join us. With each episode kicking off with an interesting short snippet from a guest speaker, we thought that it would be a good idea to go back through the episodes and pull out some more of the research findings for you and pull them together into a best of 2020 episode for some summer listening. So that's what we've created for you. And we've done it across eight episodes full of short and sharp insights from each of our guest speakers. In this final episode for 2020, we will cover off the best bits of seasons four and five, enjoy.

Dr Tabatha Griffin (00:58)
I spoke to teachers and trainers about what sort of professional development they were getting to be able to effectively teach online. And there was a real mixed bag there. Some spoke about the training that they'd done which was very specific to online delivery. And then some mentioned that they were getting training on maybe more the technical side, how to upload their stuff to the system but not necessarily how to create good delivery.

Steve Davis (01:26)
Hello and welcome to Vocational Voices. The official podcast of the National Centre for... In series four, episode one, we stated that online learning can be just as effective as face-to-face instruction if it's done well. But then we posed the question, what makes for good quality and good practice? While subject withdrawal rates are higher and course completion rates lower for VET courses delivered entirely online, new research has shown that the outcomes for those students who do complete online courses are similar to those of other delivery modes. So in this episode I spoke with NCVER Managing Director, Simon Walker, and NCVER Senior Researcher, Dr Tabatha Griffin, about how online VET courses are being delivered, the outcomes for those who complete them and why students may withdraw or not complete.

Dr Tabatha Griffin (02:22)
Well, we looked at a number of different outcomes for students who are doing their VET qualifications entirely online. So, for example, we looked at completion rates and we found that they tended to be lower for students who were doing their courses online. We also found that student satisfaction was a little bit lower although it was still at about 80%, so it wasn't terrible. But employment outcomes, they looked quite good for students who had graduated from online courses. They were either similar to, or in some cases better than students who had graduated from courses from other delivery modes. So it was quite mixed.

Dr Tabatha Griffin (03:13)
So when we interviewed teachers and trainers, we asked them what they thought were important factors for good practice in online delivery and some strong themes came out of that, that could potentially improve completion rates. So these included things like, a positive and supportive attitude and ethos in the training provider. Ensuring that students have realistic expectations of the course and the delivery mode when they enrol. Having well-structured current engaging resources that cater to a range of learning styles. Making sure there's an effective and accessible student support system in place. And lastly, having highly skilled and knowledgeable teachers who display empathy and are creative problem solvers.

Dr Tabatha Griffin (04:06)
We found, when talking to teachers and trainers that students faced a myriad of problems when trying to complete their online training particularly in terms of assessment. And the number of creative things that these teachers described to me to enable their students to be able to submit assessment was really surprising and quite a positive thing.

Simon Walker (04:35)
Yeah. And I think one of the really important points to come out of the study was, good quality is good quality whether you're doing something online or not. Good teachers has always been known to be the single biggest difference in the outcome for a student and good teachers whether it's online or otherwise they are still a vital part of that process.

Suzi Kuti (04:56)
And I'm going to be quite controversial here and suggest that the whole architecture needs to be flipped. At the moment it's very educator-led. The experience I've had in the past is when we've gone out and tried to partner with an RTO and deliver accredited training, we've being dictated to into how it would be delivered. We had very little say in input into the program.

Steve Davis (05:24)
Hello, and welcome to Vocational Voices, the official podcast of the National Centre for... Digital skills are now essential for almost all occupations and workers in Australia. In series four, episode two, we asked, how do we best incorporate digital skills into VET courses? And how do we make sure our VET educators have the digital skills they need? We spoke with Suzi Kuti, Head of Organisation Development and Learning at Metro Trains Sydney and NCVER researchers, Michelle Circelli and Bridget Wibrow, about what teaching digital skills means for VET educators. They also discussed the integration of digital skills into VET delivery and why digital skills should become a key component of foundation skills. This discussion referred to two good practice guides, Incorporating digital skills into VET delivery and Teaching digital skills implications for VET educators, published by NCVER on the 10th of June 2020, both of which are available to download from the NCVER website.

Bridget Wibrow (06:32)
Also, as part of our research, we did some exploratory data analysis, looking at digital skills related units of competency. And through this we can see that there are indeed many digital skills related units in VET qualifications. A lot of them are only elective rather than core. So this means a person can complete a qualification without doing any of the digital skills related units. So it's not that these skills aren't available in the VET sector but more that they aren't necessarily incorporated in the best way yet. There's currently a Digital transformation expert panel, which is developing a digital transformation skills strategy. And they're looking into this issue as part of that. So I guess you could say it is more widening of the gap.

Michelle Circelli (07:19)
But simply being able to use technology does not necessarily mean that you know how to teach that technology. So there's a need to, for VET educators to know and use the most appropriate teaching methods to teach with technology and to teach their students digital skills or how to use the technology. And it came up in our forum, there were a number of participants who emphasised that it's important to make this distinction between teaching technology or digital skills and using technology for teaching or for online learning. The skills that are needed are actually quite different.

Suzi Kuti (08:03)
The group that we were training was about 450 workers. And they really sort of came from the labour force area so they weren't, they were quite low skilled labourers. So there were already some challenges that we had to face in terms of upskilling them and giving them the necessary competencies to be able to perform their jobs on site. So we had to really account for their language, literacy and numeracy. And something that we actually didn't factor in at the time but we worked out later, was around their digital literacy. So the catalyst for us investing in the development of an augmented reality app, was to overcome some of the challenges with accessing large plant and equipment after training. So predominantly the skill set was around safety, and manual handling, and the maintenance of the operating of machinery.

Suzi Kuti (08:59)
So when we developed the app and rolled it out, what we actually found was whilst it was a very interactive instructional mode of delivery, it wasn't actually well-integrated into the actual training program itself. So I don't feel that the learning outcomes were optimised and the actual use of the device and the use of the technology was not optimised. So it really, I guess, highlighted for us that there was a need to have a digital integrator role involved with this process because when it came to the actual delivery piece, we found we spent a lot of time, the trainers spent a lot of time in onsite support, and a lot of time was spent troubleshooting and supporting the students to accessing the actual technology themselves. So, it actually took a little bit away from the learning component of the program.

Ian Curry (09:59)
I think the priorities of politics, the election cycles that we go through have heightened people's sensitivity to announcements, and we're competing for who can announce the most support for whatever the issue is. Whether it's let's rebuild manufacturing, renewable energy, whatever it happens to be. I think the sooner that we can get a sense of purpose back to why we do training contract related employment, the better. And it should be about the production of the skilled workforce that we will need to meet the challenges of a rapidly changing economy.

Steve Davis (10:32)
Hello, and welcome to Vocational Voices, the official podcast of the National... In series five, episode two, we asked, do we value tertiary and vocational education equally? And have apprenticeships lost their sense of purpose? In light of budget announcements that had just been made at the time of recording, apprenticeships were back in the spotlight. Along with Simon Walker, I also spoke with Ian Curry, Australian Manufacturing Workers Union, AMWU National Coordinator - Skills, Training and Apprenticeships, about the future of traditional trades and how the perception of apprenticeships has changed over the years. Discussion focused on regulation, flexibility, completion rates, as well as the complexity around the status of VET.

Simon Walker (11:21)
The issue of status is a complex one, but one starting point is to see how the issue of status plays out when young people are making choices at school. And in particular, whether they're choosing a vocational education or a university pathway. And I'm going to refer to a recent report based on the Shergold Review into senior secondary school pathways, which made some interesting observations.

Simon Walker (11:45)
One of them was that there's an undue focus on the ATAR and it has a distortionary impact on educational expectations in which a preference for vocational education and training is perceived as second class. I'm now talking about the educational pathway. And I also observed that there was a recent survey that found about 50% of students had a very strong understanding of the pathway to university. But in fact only about 16% of students had a good to strong understanding of other pathways, including vocational education, apprentices and trainees. And what I found probably most fascinating when you bring that together to your question is, they also observed that while fewer school students hold aspirations for vocational education and university as an educational pathway, there is actually a high interest in VET related jobs than in the pathways themselves.

Ian Curry (12:45)
Apprenticeships are the most demand driven model that we have, the production of the skilled workers that the economy needs. It means that an employer has to put their hand in their pocket and fund a person to learn the trade. So they reflected the ups and downs of the economy, but they are still the best method of producing a skilled trades person. And I would posit that, that is the point of an apprenticeship. It's not an employment subsidy, it's not a temporary alternative to New Start or the Job Seeker or Job Keeper. The purpose of our VET system is the production of skilled and adaptable workers who go on to employment in the economy. And apprenticeships and traineeships done well are a very good way of achieving that goal.

Ian Curry (13:35)
We're now using language that further segments. We talk about higher apprenticeships and I get that it's a marketing term, my view is that it's another apprenticeship but the outcome of it is for a different qualification.

Dr Peter Hurley (13:48)
Even when using the word higher level, I don't think it's a fair term necessarily. Just those ones that require more kind of development and more structured development. They're the things that we think we should be targeting with this program.

Steve Davis (14:02)
Hello, and welcome to Vocational Voices. The official podcast of the National... In series five, episode three, Ian Curry returned along with Dr Peter Hurley, Education Policy Fellow at the Mitchell Institute, Victoria University, to discuss the challenges facing young people as they try to get a foothold into those highly skilled better paying jobs that will set them up for the future. The episode revolved around the question, how can we increase the number of jobs available and provide better pathways into jobs and industries that have been increasingly out of reach? In the course of the conversation we covered the concepts of cadetships, higher apprenticeships and work ready skills, the merits of a national cadet program for those jobs more often associated diploma or bachelor degree qualifications, whether or not employers expect too much of new recruits in terms of skillsets, and whether we focus too much on training for the skills employers want rather than creating more broadly skilled people.

Ian Curry (15:07)
So I think we need a much more structured way of allowing people into work without the expectation that they're going to be rocket scientists on day one. There are less jobs around than are suited to people who have perhaps lower levels of skills and knowledge on entry but we still have to provide a vehicle and traineeships, apprenticeships, and cadetships are probably a good place to start for that. So the expectation is you turn up on day one ready to go and I don't think we can sustain that as a population. And we constrain we'll end up with a gap in our capability as older workers retire. And we haven't provided the pathways through to those higher skilled jobs, and jobs increasingly now are higher skilled in some senses except for those that are being automated out whether it's less skills required. So we've got some quandaries but, I mean, what we need to do is have a national conversation about how you resolve those things.

Dr Peter Hurley (16:13)
I think what Ian was saying there is completely right. I mean things like education, they're intermediary spaces, temporary spaces that we set up for people to transition and gain the skills that they need to work in, particularly to work in occupations. So, I mean, a cadetship combines formal training with practical work experience and includes some form of paid employment. So like apprenticeships and traineeships, the cadetship program will mean young people, mostly young people but not exclusively, would train, study and earn an income.

Dr Peter Hurley (16:44)
But our proposed cadetships that we were talking about are aimed at those jobs that are more often associated with diploma or bachelor degree qualifications. And it focuses on areas of study such as business, IT and engineering, but just slightly different from traditional trades. Now we propose this model because there's a lot of evidence that says combining theory and training embedded in a real life work environment generally leads to better employment outcomes for young people.

Dr Peter Hurley (17:08)
So we propose two streams in our model. The first more closely resembles a traditional apprenticeship or traineeship and draws on the relevant training provisions in industrial rewards. So this is the more unskilled and non-tertiary qualified people. And the second stream, more for recent graduates or those who already have some work experience that may need some further support or training to enter the labour market. Now, I think there's considerable scope to adapt to this program or cadetship program, depending upon input from various stakeholders, unions, business, government, and so on, employers. But the important point is to combine education with a formal employment contract in jobs that require high levels of skills.

Simon Walker (17:49)
Having read Peter's report, and he's just mentioned there, the two streams in particular the stream one in his report which refers to a more traditional approach under a contract of training. We did publish a report on higher apprenticeships last year, which analysed some of these things and what came up, which I'm interested to hear Peter's views on this, is that in fact there are already 300 qualifications that are out in the system at a diploma level and above, and many in those industry areas, in fact, it's across 50 training packages but virtually no demand that side of two qualifications, one is the diploma of childcare and one is the diploma of leadership and management. They take up 85% of what is a very small number of enrolments in those contracts of training.

Simon Walker (18:38)
So if you like the pathway exists now, but there's virtually no take-up. So our observation was a lack of awareness on behalf of employers in particular, but you do have to remember that these things were established in the first place, primarily in jurisdictions, based on industry demand, or at least perceived industry demand. So there's a bit of a paradox here where we do have product or pathways but they're not being utilised and I'd be interested to hear Peter's views on that.

Professor John Buchanan (19:13)
The problem that many people suffer from is this idea that there's a one-to-one correspondence between what qualification one has and the job you get. This is an extremely unhelpful way of thinking. And in fact, when you look at data on people's careers and how they move around , there's only a tiny group of people who get qualified in one area, build a career in it and stay there. And that's been the case forever. People talk about, in the past, everyone had these fixed careers. That's actually not right. If you look at the data on labour mobility, Australians are actually more mobile in the past than they are today.

Steve Davis (19:53)
Hello and welcome to Vocational Voices. The official podcast... In series five, episode four, we returned to the topic of qualifications in the Australian VET system asking whether too many are under utilised and how many have past their use by date? Our guests for this episode were Professor John Buchanan, Business School, University of Sydney, David Morgan, CEO, Artibus Innovation and Simon Walker, NCVER. And there were a number of concepts discussed. One was grouping of qualifications into vocational clusters, which would not only reduce qualifications but also facilitate individuals being able to train for several jobs at once. It was noted that this approach creates greater transferability of skills in the labour market. But the overarching question remained. Do we have the appetite for such transformative change? And is there a role for good quality training that may sit outside the formal national training system?

Simon Walker (20:54)
The research is titled, Rationalising VET Qualifications selected international approaches, and it was a literature review of mainly European countries but also New Zealand. And you're right, there were two main methods emerged. One of them was just looking at the utilisation of the existing qualifications in those countries and a fairly blunt instrument which said, "Well, if there are no enrolments, we don't need the qualification or low enrolments." And to give you a sense of scale, in New Zealand, they embarked upon this process using underutilisation as the lens by which they rationalise them. And in 2011, they had the best part of 5,000 qualifications. And by the time they've gone through a fairly considered and collaborative and consultative process, they're now down to about 900. By comparison, just for context in Australia, we have about 1600 what we call in use qualifications. But a bit of research we did a couple of years ago showed that 85% of them were concentrated in just 200 of them. And well over 300 had no enrolments and quite a few more had very few enrolments.

Simon Walker (22:03)
So that's one instrument it's just to look at the utilisation of those qualifications. And of course, if there's no one actually enrolling in them you'd have to debate whether they need to exist. The other one that's probably emerged is closer to what John was talking about, is the notion of clustering qualifications for a range of occupations. And because John and David will probably talk a bit more about that, probably the only thing to add to that is we looked at a couple of European countries, but the Netherlands gives some good insights. They reduced their number of VET qualifications by 30% and they now have 180 qualifications, but they cover what they call 490 profiles, which is effectively occupation. So you've got one qualification to many occupations. And in addition, they have these optional modules. They've got about 1,000 of those are very similar to our units of competence. And they're the ones that you can add on to those foundational qualifications to give you the specialisations they need in a particular occupation. And I must admit that one appealed, if nothing else, for its concise and structured approach to how you might rationalise qualifications.

David Morgan (23:18)
Perhaps I can quickly pick up on some of the other comments. So the contrast between construction and property services is something that both fascinates and frustrates us as an SSO. So John's comment about a one-to-one correlation being unhelpful, I completely agree with him but in an industry such as construction where industrial frameworks and regulatory frameworks have been in place for a long time, that one-to-one correlation is actually very helpful.

David Morgan (23:51)
The property services sector is entirely different to the construction industry and perhaps I'll just give a little bit of context. We use the term book-ending. So the property services industry bookends the construction industry and it covers a vast array of sectors from building design, surveying through the construction process to real estate, security, pest management, waste management. So all of the ancillary services around it. What is fascinating about it is, it's actually parody in terms of size to the construction industry and is growing three times faster than the construction industry, and its fundamental challenge in this entire debate around rationalisation is that it's data structures don't fit the traditional ABS type models. So we don't have occupation qualifications that are visible in the property services sector. So strata managers that manage the many millions of properties around Australia don't even exist.

David Morgan (25:07)
The ABS still talks about architectural drafts people, which are now called building designers and have been for 20 odd years. And so we have from a policy setting which we will lead to I'm sure in this conversation, not having the right data sitting to inform evidence is a significant challenge. We have for the last three years been pushing a clustered model or trying to get support for a clustered model. That's in a sense of, as Simon put it, a Dutch model of looking at a core set of skills in the property sector and then building lots of modules around it. There are two fundamental drivers in all... There's a core skillset that everybody in the property services sector have and that's around the auditing of a building against a framework. So we've coined this term, a built environment auditor.

David Morgan (26:09)
And by that, I mean people in the property service sector design buildings to national codes of construction, design codes, they assess buildings for fire safety against codes. They assess sustainability, thermal performance, etcetera, against codes. So there's a common skill set around, a clustered skillset around the function of auditing and reading standards and codes. The second bit that's massively changing the industry is a concept term from Singapore called Integrated Digital Delivery. So this is where the entire value chain of a building has a digital sort of backbone and all of the service providers in that industry through the construction process, design construction, commissioning process, access the same digital framework.

David Morgan (27:06)
It has other terms more commonly known in Australia as Building Information Modelling, but it's effectively the delivery of information in a digital framework. So we have been putting a clustered model and we want to do in the property services sector, we have completely redeveloped their training package. Thankfully we don't have the issues of low enrolments or no enrolments in construction and property they're numbers four and nine out of the training packages so they sit each with property as 128,000 enrolments a year, construction double that.

David Morgan (27:46)
So we have a lot of people doing these qualifications, but the core structure of all of those jobs is morphing into a skill set around auditing massive digital delivery, but then some very specialist skill sets. So we've been trying to create a new qualification model like the Dutch model that will replace a lot of the other 50 or so other qualifications in the property sector in time, as that one-to-one relationship of real estate become a real estate agent as that model disappears over time. That's what we've been trying to do. I can go on, but let's let the conversation run.

Professor John Buchanan (28:41)
I think a real problem with so called vocational VET reform in the English speaking world is this idea that you can just pull a lever and get a change. Ewart Keeper, the English researcher, uses the expression that the English VET system is the biggest policy train fit in the world. And the assumption is you can just pick the tracks apart and reassemble them any way you like. This has been incredibly damaging to the standing and the quality of the VET system in the UK, in Australia, and in South Africa. And I think if we're interested in improving quality education and getting quality qualifications, we've got to position ourselves for the long term. And that's not just long-term, time in itself, time's not a healer on its own and equally time is not a solution on it's own. It's time for what? And I think the other big thing we've got to do is build trust back in the system. If you don't have trust in the system, qualifications are worthless.

Professor John Buchanan (29:46)
The Australian system is a massively low trust system. It has high degrees regulations and standards specification because there's no trust in the parties. And there's no trust for good reason because if you look at the scandals around VET-FEE HELP, the system has fundamental design flaws and people have tried to over-engineer the regulatory structure to do it. So, the answer to your question is, yes, it will take time but time alone is not enough. We've got to put in place a new regime which is built around trust. And in the work Leesa Wheelahan and Serena Yu and I did earlier this decade for and funded by the NCVER, it's that we said if you're looking at qualifications reform there are two dimensions, you've got to look at what the domains of expertise are. And that was a beautiful example we heard from the property services sector, an underlying auditing capability in an integrated digital capability.

Professor John Buchanan (30:42)
Identifying those things is hard, that's both a research act, but it's also, this is our second point, it's a cultural and small political act. You've got to get all the people in the room who are concerned about this stuff. And they've got to through a process of negotiation reach an agreement on what those core domains are. So yes, New Zealand offers an idea about the timescale, but I think we've also got to learn to have a new way of thinking about who we get in the room, how we involve them and how do we build trust in the quals. And if you do that then I think you're getting on a different path to getting a higher state of vocational education system.

Jenny Lambert (31:24)
The number one priority for Australia including its training system will be to get the economy back on its feet and get people skilled and ready to perform work as quickly as the movement restrictions are lifted.

Steve Davis (31:40)
Hello and welcome to Vocational Voices. The official podcast of the National Centre for Vocational... Back in series four, episode two, Simon Walker and I were joined by Jenny Lambert, Director, Employment, Education and Training at the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, to discuss whether or not skill sets are likely to take on extra significance as Australia responds to the shifting workforce demands and challenges, particularly in the health sector during the COVID-19 pandemic. Our conversation not only defined what skill sets and micro-credentials actually are but also explored what role they might play in getting vital competencies into the workplace so the economy can rebuild.

Simon Walker (32:25)
Well, I might start with what we understand a definition of a micro-credential to be, and the short answer to that is we actually don't have a formal definition. Nonetheless, consistent with the data that we collect and as put into Peter Noonan's report on the AQF, he used two types of skill sets. One is the training package skill set and the other is an accredited short course, and they are formerly recognised in the national training system. And in the absence of anything else, he would regard those as micro-credentials, and it's a good place to start.

Simon Walker (33:05)
With both of those programs as we call them, they've actually been very under-reported we've discovered. And we now know by looking at the full range of participation in the training system, that there are in fact a lot more skill set activity going on but they're not being reported as such. I'll give you an example. There are some skill sets which are just one subject, a good one. A good example of that is the Responsible Service of Alcohol. We have a certain amount reported to us formally but we know by looking at the data that in fact a great deal more is going on out there as well. So to give you a sense of the numbers, the responsible service of alcohol is about 26,000 that has formally reported to us as enrolments but by digging a bit deeper into the data which doesn't formally recognise some of those programs, we find out there's at least 100,000 or 200,000 more enrolments going on at there.

Simon Walker (34:07)
So I know it's a little confusing, but the reality is that what is formally reported to us are fairly small numbers of skill sets of around about 80,000 a year. But if we scratch the surface a bit deeper we find that there are in fact millions of enrolments in skill sets of one form or another.

Simon Walker (34:30)
One of the things that will come out of this and the crisis itself is perhaps a catalyst, is perhaps changing the mindset away from a compliance need for skill sets in particular and which is quite clear in the data to something that's not just compliance. It's actually around some preliminary skills for any job not necessarily a safety and compliance requirement. And that is I think where skill sets want to go and micro-credentials want to go. We don't want to just stuck on licensing. We actually want them to be more broadly used right across the training sector for any one of a number of skills. And there is potentially an opportunity here for as long as people are made aware and I think Jenny makes a good point, is most people don't know that they need a skill set and a lot of employers can often find it difficult to articulate just exactly what those skills are.

Jenny Lambert (35:34)
I think there is some benefit of that, but I think it will be individual driven. It won't be systemic. If individuals want to get recognition now, if they want to get credit now, they've got some mechanisms in place, but they're by no means perfect. I think there is a long way to go and certainly not in the next 12 months will these things be the priority. The number one priority for Australia including its training system will be to get the economy back on its feet and get people skilled and ready to perform work as quickly as the movement restrictions are lifted, so that we can get ourselves going again. That will be the number one priority. So issues about sub issues of the VET system and its micro-credentials and issues of individual skills will be nowhere near as important as the core issues of getting the VET system well-funded and able to meet the skilled workforce needed to get the economy back to where it was.

Robin Shreeve (36:42)
Government should recognise that training is a public good. It benefits the individual and the industry as much as the individual enterprise. So therefore may be it should be overtly government funded, which means that TAFE's don't have to waste so much time on chasing contracts which are notionally paid for by industry, but are really paid for by government.

Steve Davis (37:06)
Hello and welcome to Vocational Voices. The official podcast of the National Centre for... 30 years ago, the Australian VET system was on tenterhooks as two major reports were released into the management and costs of training for enterprises against a backdrop of award restructuring that was being championed at the time by the government. So in series four, episode three, we asked how do the projections and goals in these reports compare to the reality facing TAFE today? Robin Shreeve, Adjunct Professor at Federation University and president of AVETRA and Craig Robinson, CEO, TAFE Directors Australia joined me along with NCVER's Simon Walker to reflect upon the way TAFE has embraced fee-for-service and then explore whether there are myths and assumptions surrounding the size and efficacy of the fee-for-service market.

Robin Shreeve (38:03)
Look, I think that we need to reinforce what the core business of TAFE is. And to me the core business of TAFE is being a trade apprentice trainer of both female and male trade occupations whether it's a plumber or a hairdresser, and that's critical. I also think we've got in the public sector, a huge role to play in workforce participation preparing people to enter the workforce. And that could be both foundation studies, whether it's reading and writing for adults, or it can be initial foundation training in a technical area. And by that I mean, maybe individual support so people can get a job in an aged care or a childcare facility. So it's the initial training really, whether for apprentices or for people especially those not in the workforce. And work I've done in other organisations is if we increased workforce participation by preparing people for work it would have a huge benefit on the economy. I think they're the core roles.

Robin Shreeve (39:15)
And there's other things that TAFE do which I think maybe they need to make a decision about. Do we need to chase all this fee-for-service training because it's just a funding mechanism and recognise that training is more of a public responsibility? I accept Craig's point entirely. That doesn't mean to say it can't be tailored and customised. It doesn't necessarily have to be forced to be actually paid from a notionally and sometimes usury private sector.

Robin Shreeve (39:45)
There's the whole question of whether TAFE should be in higher level vocational qualifications or not? And then it's interesting because Simon's organisation has put out that there's 4.5 million individual students in VET but I think over 2 million are doing single subjects which might be a first aid or something like that rather than a whole course. And one of the things that absolutely surprised me, the private sector does more of that than the TAFE sector. So maybe that's something that TAFE could play a greater role in. But I do think it's a question about priorities for TAFE. TAFE is a public provider, it's a social good organisation and I think that it needs to be properly funded to do that rather than, as I said, sometimes people coming in from outside and thinking that they can get lots of money by charging fees for commercial training.

Craig Robertson (40:45)
Well, I'd certainly go to the point around workforce participation that Robin has just made, I think we've gone too far down the pathway that we think if we train people in specific skills for an occupation, they've set that person up for life. And if there's anything that we're experiencing now in the midst of this COVID-19 is that that's actually a bit of a false economy. So what we really need to work towards is you got to make sure that public provision, publicly funded provision builds those deep capabilities as Robin was mentioning literacy, numeracy, even digital skills and the like.

Craig Robertson (41:25)
Then there's an interesting question about who holds responsibility for what you would consider to be industry based or industry translatable skills such as business sort of related skills. Now, I think it does make sense that the VET sector does look at providing industry standard skills. But I think it's gone a little bit too far to say that this is what a particular business wants and therefore the public purse should pay for it.

Craig Robertson (41:57)
So I think going forward is we should have a better investment into the deep capabilities of an individual. Certainly we should teach them to, and train them to industry standards but I then think there is a new compact that's required with business to say, some of this stuff we do and used to do once a graduate has entered into the workforce. And I think that will give Australia a stronger base of adaptable citizens, really. And I do liken it to the point that Robin was making, we're probably in a new sort of stage of the Australian economy similar to when award restructuring was around, because at that point Australia decided to bring down trade barriers and it knew that people were going to be dislodged, and that risk from the labour market, and the risk of not being able to get back into work. So we've really got to rethink what that training offer is.

Craig Robertson (43:02)
Then the last point I'd make on TAFEs is this notion of them being a comprehensive provider. In other words, they've got a range of industries that they cover. A range of technically competent, highly competent trainers. And they've also got people who understand where industry is heading because they've come from that industry themselves and they're an observer of that industry. So there is a deep capability within those TAFEs to be able to say, "Let us work at the local level with industry" to be able to help those industries and their business members to really develop new productivity and capability.

Professor John Buchanan (43:49)
Our strand of research was to also improve the government's capacity to think about future labour demand. And over the course of the three years we worked up an analysis which said, the challenge is not so much to predict the future but rather we've got to deepen the capacity to adapt to change.

Steve Davis (44:08)
Hello, I'm Steve Davis. And welcome to Vocational Voices, the official podcast of the National Centre for... And to draw this summer listening collection to a close we have what Shakespeare would have dubbed a play within a play because series five, episode one, was itself a podcast made up of highlights. Those highlights were drawn from a collection of presenters from two panel discussions at the 29th National VET Research Conference, 'No Frills', held on the 7th to the 10th of July 2020. Topics covered in the lively discussions included, new directions in skills planning, digital technology and the role it plays in aged and community care, insights from the Longitudinal Surveys of Australian Youth (LSAY) and the role of parental influence in taking on an apprenticeship.

Steve Davis (45:01)
Speakers you're about to hear are Professor John Buchanan, The University of Sydney, Mr David Redway, Australian Government Department of Education, Skills and Employment, and Professor Erica Smith, Federation University. Other speakers you can hear in the original episode include Ms Anne Livingstone and Dr George Margelis, Australian Aged Care Industry Information Technology Council. And just before we play the final clips, please note the transcripts and recordings of this podcast and all eight podcast episodes we've drawn from, can be found on the NCVER Portal at, just look under News and Events podcast tab. We look forward to bringing you more topics and more informed discussion in 2021. Thanks for listening.

Professor John Buchanan (45:54)
At the moment there are people pursuing two dead end strategies. The first strategy is what I call the linear gap analysis and many of you will be familiar with this. People say we've got to get a handle on the skills that are going to be needed in the future, we map out what those are. We look at what a stock of skills are at the moment in those domains. And then we did say, "Well, this is what we need, this is what we've got. That gaps got to be filled by the education and training system." That approach to skills planning has been pursued for many, many decades and has been shown over many, many decades to be pretty unhelpful. Projections are usually wrong and often it's not just an order of magnitude, it's the direction of change that's got long.

Professor John Buchanan (46:44)
Sue Richardson squared off the problems with that way of thinking about schools planning about 15 years ago. And I strongly support her findings there. The other unhelpful way of thinking is the idea that we need 21st century skills supported by micro-credentials. This is something that's propagated very actively by groups like the World Economic Forum, but many people in this conference will have heard the debates about generic skills, employability skills, these have been around for decades now. And then give me these, we've got to give people problem solving skills. You've got to give people collaboration and communication skills. The fundamental problem with this idea is that you cannot have problem solving in the abstract, you cannot have collaboration in the abstract. As we argued in preparing for the best and worst of times, you can only develop problem solving capability if you are mastering it in a site of particular expertise.

David Redway (47:49)
When we look at labour force status at 25, most young people around 90% are in employment but the nature and quality of the employment depends on their educational experiences and attainment. Young people with a post-school qualification, particularly at a bachelor degree or apprenticeship level are more likely to be in full-time or ongoing employment by age 25. Those with lower levels of educational attainment on the other hand, have a greater likelihood of being in less stable forms of employment or of being unemployed or not in the labour force at age 25. Across all attainment levels, however, we've seen a decrease in employment rates and an increase in casualisation. Young people without a post-school qualification are particularly vulnerable and year 12 alone no longer seems to provide the advantage it might have in earlier cohorts. And all young people are vulnerable to changing economic circumstances. Longitudinal data allows us to look at the duration of states such as unemployment.

David Redway (48:56)
This slide shows the prevalence of periods of unemployment and looks at two measures. The proportion of young people who experienced a period of at least one month of unemployment in three or more years between ages 21 and 25 and the median duration in months of the longest unemployment spell. Generally, young people with lower levels of educational attainment, experience more frequent and longer periods of unemployment from those with higher education levels. But education doesn't entirely protect young people from extreme events such as the global financial crisis. What stands out in this slide is the increased prevalence and duration of unemployment across all attainment levels in the YO6 cohort. This cohort comprised a group of young people who were aged 15 in 2006 and who mainly left school and entered the labour market in the period following the global financial crisis.

Erica Smith (50:01)
I think all the research on young people's, so we're talking here mainly about young people obviously young people's transition from school to whatever they do after school, parents are normally found to be the greatest influences. And I'm just reflecting on a project I recently finished that was funded by the Victorian State Government where we certainly found that parents were supposedly, reportedly, I should say, because we didn't actually research with parents but according to the other stakeholders, parents were most likely to advise young people about what they knew about. So if they knew about going to university and doing a professional job, that's what they were good at advising at. Aunts and uncles might also help as well but if your dad was an apprentice, then that was a really good way to ensure that you ended up being an apprentice yourself.

Erica Smith (51:01)
Parents could also influence people negatively about work. So for example, reportedly parents were influencing young people against undertaking work like retail because of the low status of that occupation even though it could create a really good career for young people. So, parents I think can be good and bad influences but the main thing is that parents can't really advise very effectively on something they don't know about. So there's a lot of imaginary scenarios in parents' heads that they may communicate either consciously or unconsciously to their children. For example, in one of the companies that I researched for that project, I think it was project number three on my presentation, I haven't actually reported on that, but it was a landscaping company and they were finding difficulty retaining the young people in landscaping apprenticeships. So they actually had the parents in for a meeting beforehand and talked it all through with them and went through exactly what was involved in their apprenticeship and they found once they'd done that their retention rates started to improve.

Steve Davis (52:11)
All right.

Erica Smith (52:11)
I'll give you another example, which was from Mexico, from the G20 survey project where the Mexican trade union movement reported that they often spoke at union meetings about how their members could encourage their own children into apprenticeships. So, there was actually that influence from a third party on the parents to encourage young people into apprenticeships and I guess in all my research really there hasn't been a lot of work with parents and people often do make assumptions about parents without actually researching them. So, I think there's a ripe area for a research project there for somebody.

Steve Davis (52:56)
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