Transcript of VET’s role in transforming the future

8 August 2022

Vocational Voices: Season 7 Episode 3

VET's role in transforming the future

Megan Lilly (00:04)

Where we asked our CEOs what they were expecting in terms of finding and retaining skilled labor in 2022. And it's very clear that from that slide in front of you, that 73% of them expected to have difficulty. And I think it'd be interesting if we surveyed them now, it's quite possible that this has in fact intensified, but what was really interesting is that when we asked them what they planned to do to address this challenge, CEOs recognise that there are actually no quick fixes, instead they showed a strong commitment to investing in training and development, and even where the gains would be on the short term.

Steve Davis (00:42)

Hello, I'm Steve Davis and welcome to Vocational Voices. The official podcast of the National Centre for Vocational Education Research, or NCVER for short. In July, 2022, The 31st Annual No Frills Conference was held, but for the third year running, it was delivered as a virtual online event due to COVID-19 restrictions, along with a series of stand-alone presentations, three live Q and A sessions were held. And in this episode, we'll share a sampling of these three events.

Now the VET sector has responded well to the COVID-19 pandemic, but how can it continue to support Australia's economic recovery and respond to Australia's shifting future skill demands? Well, the conference's theme was VET's role in transforming the future. We explore issues relating to the ways VET is adapting, anticipating and activating change in response to shifting future skill demands. The voice you heard at the beginning of this episode was that of Megan Lilly from the AI Group, who was one of two panelists for the Q and A session on day one. The Q and A followed Megan's presentation, which was entitled "In 2022, Australian business leaders are turning to education and training for solutions." Let's listen to a small excerpt.

Megan Lilly (02:11)

Unsurprisingly though, education and training really is back in the spotlight for managers. I'm not sure that it ever left, but really the intensity around it is quite sharp at the moment. And it's a really important moment, but great responsibility for all of us. So we wanted to look into this too, and it's clear that businesses are embracing upskilling and reskilling activities in order to respond to short term labor and skilled shortages. As these pressures ease over the medium term, and indeed the longer term, particularly with the return of skilled migration, digital transformation will remain a persistent driver for job ready, skilled workers.

The education and training system will be the linchpin that supports Australia's growing digital economy. It will be important that workers have high quality training pathways that provide timely upskilling and reskilling. This will be essential to support displaced workers looking to get a foothold back into the economy in new occupations, different occupations, or indeed emerging occupations, and also important to give young people the opportunity to gain skills in areas of growing demand.

These results will require jobs and the training system to be flexible at every level. It will also challenge some of the traditional learning pathways that we've relied upon for so long. Many of them will remain good, but they will no longer be fit for purpose as the only pathway. And that not only will learning be continuous throughout the working journey, but the entry into new occupations will actually occur at multiple stages through life. And that we really do need to reconsider what those learning pathways in fact are.

Steve Davis (03:53)

Our other panelists for the day one Q and A session was Sylvia Munoz from SkillsIQ. Sylvia's presentation was entitled, "The future skills needs of service based industries and VET's role in delivering the skills." Here's a short excerpt before we then play some snippets of questions and answers from day one.

Silvia Munoz (04:15)

So we've identified the skills needs for these particular industries. What we wanted to touch base, I guess finally is just understand what are some of the priorities that industry feel the VET sector should focus on? So you'll see there, the question in black, "In the short to medium future, which of the following issues should be a top three priority for the VET sector?" And we presented them with a list of options. And it really covered a range in terms of industry engagement, increasing government funding, employment pathways, et cetera.

So firstly looking at healthcare, social assistance, community services industry, where you'll see there are some of the priorities voiced industry engagement. Continuing to liaise, consult with industry is really important for the VET sector to be able to ensure that what it's delivering, its training packages, its training programs are delivering the right skills for the workforce.

The second one of most prominent is increasing government funding for VET. And when I share the others, you'll see, for example here in retail, increasing government funding for VET and another prominent priorities selected by respondents in that regard and also apprenticeship training models of learning, which are really important. And what employers and organisations feel are important pathways in regards to getting entrance into the industry and also providing the hands on training that many occupations require.

And lastly, just in tourism travel again, increasing government funding for VET. So I guess the theme is about funding and the relationship is, if government funding can be increased in courses subsidised, well then that should attract individuals into these qualifications and then flow into then the workforce and industries and support them in that way. So really there's some of the key feedback that we've had, but also importantly, you'll see that industry engagement is key.

Steve Davis (06:35)

Megan, with almost two thirds of CEOs reporting that they'll deal with skill shortages by upskilling their existing talent. I wonder if we could start the session with the brief recap of what the critical issues are, that they'll face with that strategy, especially when you note that traditional learning pathways are no longer fit for purpose.

Megan Lilly (06:58)

Steve, thanks for that question. And look, first of all, I think it was actually very encouraging to see that they're actually going to focus on upskilling their existing talent, investing in the people you've got. So a very, very healthy thing to do. And it's part of building up the skill base of the nation. And a lot of what we need to do is focus on existing workers, not new entrants. And that's really the comment that I'll get to later about the traditional pathways.

But just because they said they're going to upskill their existing workforce doesn't mean it's going to be easy. And I just think some of the challenges are really... I think we actually probably know what the challenges are, but it's actually being up to meet the demand in the way that the demand wants to be met. So it will involve a lot more shorter form credentials. Often we just use the term micro credentials, but it's really short courses, digital badges workshops, or manner things will fit in that mix and they'll need to be very targeted and very timely.

So that's going to be quite a challenge for provision, and clearly if they're not relevant, they won't fly. There's also going to be a cost and accessibility issues. And there's always a bit of an issue about who pays. But I think really I'm not really focusing on the cost issue and that so much because employers in the same survey actually said that they will increase their investments. So I think that there's some comfort in that, but we really need to remember that the work environments or companies at the moment are exceptionally time poor. So fitting in training of any form is going to be a challenge and to make it meaningful is really important.

So we aren't just suffering skill shortages or difficulty in recruiting people. We are suffering very significant labor shortages in the country at the moment. So it's in that context that we're trying to upscale existing workers and that's going to be a very significant challenge, but just a few quick things to add to that, is that we do have some poor skill mismatches in the workplace already. So we need to keep working through that and that's not going to resolve itself anytime soon.

We also have a need for an increased level of digital literacy or digital fluency as part of just about every job across the economy. So workers and indeed managers and others, everybody, will need to have increased digital capability and that will need to be developed, isn't automatic. It means some people are digital natives, but a lot aren't. And we have a perennial problem about language literacy and numeracy in our existing workforce, very significant challenges. So there's a lot of work to be done, but if you're not going to do it now, I don't know when we're ever going to do it.

Steve Davis (09:38)

Well, that's true. Look, I've just got one other follow up. In your slides, it captured the fact that 21% of CEOs will be turned into overseas recruiting and outsourcing to respond to these skill shortages. And as we emerge from the pandemic, that does become an option again. But do you think the lack of access we've had to overseas workers during COVID-19 exposed a weak underbelly of Australia's workforce training and development environment? I mean, has access to the overseas labor supply set the urgency of addressing some of these longstanding issues that we've known we've had to address?

Megan Lilly (10:18)

Oh well, sort of yes and no. So before the pandemic, we did have skill shortages. I mean, clearly they're much more heightened now than we can remember even before the GFC, but there's no doubt that we papered over some cracks. And it wasn't just school migration that did that. We didn't have the tightness of the labor market that we've got. So the number of things contributed to it. But I mean the labor market's exceptionally tied at the moment because there's 500,000 job vacancies in the country, and they're across the economy and across geography. So it's enormous. It's a very, very difficult problem.

We haven't had population inflows, whether it be skilled migration, international students or backpackers for two plus years, but we have had outflows people have repatriated home. So it's been a very, very... So we've got a really significant deficit there. So it has exposed the cracks, but we should be honest, those cracks existed before, and we knew about it. So, I think if nothing else that's put the imperative on facing into it, but mustn't fall into the trap of just addressing the short term problems. We actually also need a medium term view of these.

Steve Davis (11:27)

Silvia. I was actually quite surprised by the survey results across all sectors in your presentation. It seemed to show that digital literacy skills, automation of jobs and new technology were right at the bottom of the list of issues of workforce challenges during 2021. And in fact, your figures painted a picture of industry being on an emergency footing because apart from COVID's direct impact, the overwhelming issue is not having enough people. And it reminded me of those airplane messages, where there's a drop in cabin pressure. The rules say, put the mask on yourself before you help others. Now, in that context, it reads as if industries likely to be focused on just getting humans first before turning their attention to training and skills. Now, what do you think of this interpretation? And if it's got validity, what challenge do you think it poses the VET sector as it tries to respond?

Silvia Munoz (12:29)

Yeah. Well look, Steve, given the tight labor market, I agree with you at first to say, yes, it is about getting humans through the door, getting humans into jobs and getting them doing the occupations. But look in saying that I really did want to raise the point that, while supply is a critical issue for these industries, it can't be isolated from the conversation that industries are having regarding skills. So you need not only just humans, but they need to be able to have the skills to do the job that they've been employed to do. And if they don't have the skills, at least be able to learn the skills to be able to deliver that.

So I guess I've been thinking it through, and there's a triage of essence on the issue. There's supply, there's skills, but there's also sustainability, which is about retention of staff. So if you can get a worker in and you can keep that worker, well then that's a really important pathway and results in a way, some of the workforce supply issues that are happening because the industries of focus are really... They're very competitive, for example, the retail industry, tourism travel and hospitality, the employer landscape is incredibly diverse and competitive. Employers are competing just for workers themselves.

So for example, in retail, I think latest figures I saw a 145,000 retail businesses, and the majority is small to medium size within tourism travel hospitality, a big driver of the visitor economy, which is a key focus for Australia to continue driving its competitive and economic progress. Over 300,000 businesses, one in eight businesses across Australia are in two tourism travel and hospitality. So really the landscape of these industries, it's very competitive.

So I guess the issue is firstly getting the skills, but also retaining the workers and look saying that, last year we presented our longitudinal study that we followed two sectors, aged care and commercial cookery. And we followed individuals through their training journey, but also into the employment sector and understand their employment experiences because anecdotally, and I'm sure there's data out there showing that there is a leakage in age care, in healthcare, in hospitality, people are leaving the sectors and not returning.

And based on those figures that I showed early in the presentation, the forecasts of over 87,000 personal care workers, over 11,000 chefs, it's really important to be able to plug that issue of industry leakage. And one, I guess what we uncovered in that was really entering the employment, the sectors themselves, people are really driven by a passion to help others, especially in age care. Within cookery, they've got a real passion for cooking to be creative, but once they're in the industry, once they're in the work environment, there are issues that are causing some to leave.

And so what we found particular was lack of opportunity for growth and development for challenges. They really are I guess driving lower satisfaction levels through the years. So what we found were really, whilst it's about supply skill, I think the sustainability is an important factor in that. And can I just... I guess also mention the point about digital literacy automation of roles didn't play as high as you would expect as a challenge compared to skills training and staff recruitment. But I guess what's really imperative for the sectors that are presented is that they are people facing industries.

So if people, the person, the worker themselves are key in the industries. And so while technology and digital literacy are important, and they're very much shaping the sector, the industries that people are working in, it's all about the worker themselves. And I think that's something that we need to put a focus, because I'm not surprised that skills training, skills issues and staff recruitment were key in particular with health, retail and tourism, because these are workers that in a way technology is there, but they're enabling service delivery. But in the end, the individual, the person is at the center of all these industries.

Steve Davis (17:43)

On day two of No Frills, 2022, we had two more speakers joining us for a Q and A session. The first of these panelists was Ian White from NCVER. Just before the Q and A began, Ian delivered his presentation, entitled "Upskilling and reskilling: The impact of COVID-19 on employers and their training choices." Here's an excerpt.

Ian White (18:08)

Now, one of the biggest impacts generated by the COVID-19 pandemic has been the rapid digitalisation in the way that businesses deliver their products and services. In fact, Bowman and Callan found the key driving factors for workforce training across most industries is the digitalisation of work processes. Likewise, a report by The Australian issue group 2021 flags accelerating digitalisation's industries as creating urgent skilling demands for employers. And they asked employers to indicate the digital areas where their employees most needed the capabilities or needed their digital capabilities increased.

So they ranked basic digital skills as number one. So they were looking for their employees to have just the basic digital skills to operate in an increasing digitalised environment. Number two was cyber security skills. So we're looking for skills to keep company or business information or custom information safe. Number three, with data analysis skills. So due to increase digitalisation, they were collecting more data, and they were looking for skills to leverage on this, maybe to investigate customer trends or improve on business processes.

Steve Davis (19:18)

Our other panelist for the day two Q and A was Kira Clark from The Brotherhood of St. Laurence. Before we play some of the highlights of the panel discussion, let's hear an excerpt from Kira's presentation, which was entitled "Key lessons from a systemic change approach to strengthening skills pathways to work for disadvantaged young people."

Kira Clarke (19:41)

And over the last 20 years, we've seen a common core set of policy levers used to drive improvement in our training system, more incentives and subsidies to promote training participation and commencements, more regulation and quality control, the diversification of qualification types and modes of training. As we look to transform for the future and enhance the role the training system is playing for young people in particular, we need new ways of reforming the system. And that means we need new ways of evidence making, that cut through entrenched policy and system rhetoric, because understanding the ways in which people, training products, pathways, practices, and policies of our VET system interact and behave requires a diverse set of inquiry modes, and ways of doing research.

Steve Davis (20:30)

Kira, I'd like to start with a question to you. Firstly, in this realm of vocational education and training policy, wheels tend to move slowly. So while it'll be heartening to see more sectors start to embrace the models of training and support that you were talking about. Do you think there's a risk that as time lapses existing vulnerabilities for disadvantaged youth might become so significant that they could become a barrier to young people achieving skilled full-time work?

Kira Clarke (21:03)

Yeah. Thanks for the question Steve. You sort of say, is there a point in the future? I think the time is now, I think we already have substantial evidence that points to significant vulnerabilities that are limiting young people's access to training and to meaningful, decent, secure work. And I think addressing these effectively, really requires a little bit of a mindset shift. So we often talk about young people themselves being vulnerable. And I think we need to shift to really focusing on the structural conditions of the training system and the labor market that can hold these vulnerabilities in place.

So shifting from a deficit way of thinking that it's young people are the problem, to what are the structural barriers, the structural conditions, the way the training system operates, that can reinforce or hold some of these vulnerabilities in place. I'm thinking about particularly the opening address that Minister O'Connor gave yesterday. And he used this language as "Future-proof livelihoods."

So how do we get a training system that doesn't sort of reinforce vulnerabilities, but creates the conditions that remove barriers? Because young people need to have a sense of trust and faith that the training system is going to live up to its promise of providing a pathway to decent secure work. And I think at the moment, it probably sounds a bit harsh to say, but in some ways the training system is failing on that promise. So I think there's still a lot of work to be done.

Steve Davis (22:29)

How can we build adaptability into a training and career development system, that's going to be able to respond to the triple threats that are upon us now? Inflation, production, chain disruption, and higher costs for investment.

Kira Clarke (22:45)

Yeah. And I like the way you framed that around adaptability to the training system, because again, it's often the adaptability of young people that we talk about. Young people needing to be agile and response to these things. So I think there's probably three things that I think are really key to moving towards that adaptability. I think the first is around a shared understanding of the problem. Again, recognising that we have low completion rates, that we have problematic conversion of training into secure work, and that we need to recognise collectively assist the system, the policy makers, practitioners, those working within the system to make it better. That there are things that aren't working tried and true mechanisms are no longer fit for purpose to this changed environment.

From that shared understanding of the problem we need to embrace the need for system redesign. A lot of the movement that comes out of training reviews, like the Joyce review, tend to tinker around the edges, and the training system is this massive beast. It can feel really overwhelming to embark on whole system reform, but we've done it before in the late eighties and the mid nineties, it's certainly time to do it again. And so we need to do that intentional redesign work. And I think the third part is about building the capability from the bottom to the top of the training system to collectively embark on that system, redesign ambition.

Steve Davis (24:08)

Ian, do training organisations appear to be able to move fast enough to meet employers' needs for upskilling and reskilling? This first part of my question. And how do employers find the training they need for their people when the implications of change aren't necessarily clear?

Ian White (24:26)

Well, thanks for the double barrel question to start with there Steve. So starting with the first part where to do training, because organisations appear to be able to move fast enough. So this requires a little bit of unpacking. So there's no doubt that employers would like to see faster and more flexible qualification development within the accredited of VET sector to respond to their needs. However, this not necessarily under the control of training organisations themselves, as they're constrained by the speed at which accredited courses and programs can be developed and updated.

And there's a lot of work coming under way to streamline this process. We do ask in the employers to use some views of the VET system survey. We ask employers about how satisfied they are with the flexibility with the provider in meeting their needs. And that sort of runs around about 80% to 90% of employers say they are satisfied with that. So they're satisfied that the employer's being flexible in attending to their needs. And in terms of the skills taught, that's a similar proportion of employers, so about 80% to 90%.

So training providers, they're scoring pretty highly in that area. Now I must also note that training or organisations and employers did prove themselves be remarkably adaptable when responding to the challenges of COVID-19, for example, many of them have been able to adapt the training to an online mode of delivery when the lockdown were in place. So moving on to the second part of your question, which talks about employers needing to react to the implications of change that are not necessarily clear.

This is tricky, because there are a lot of structural changes taking place in many industries, making future skill needs uncertain for many workplaces. So this is where industry bodies, associations, employers themselves can play a key role in identifying the future knowledge and skills needed. The National Skills Commission also published a lot of information research and data in this area. In terms of finding the training, we do know that for some employers that perceive complexity of their accredited VET system is a barrier to them using it.

This might mean that training organisations need to extend on the role of a delivery of training and act as a navigator, the VET system because they're the ones that specialise knowledge of training products. So this would entail training providers, closely collaborated employers in industry, to map out future skilling needs, and then recommending and developing training products to fulfill these. This might include a blend of accredited and unaccredited training.

Steve Davis (26:53)

Because in your talk, you mentioned the warehouse manager who said "Most staff were unskilled, had little appetite for training, but as systems became more automated, they expected staff will need to change that mindset." So from that anecdote and from your recollection of the various studies you've seen, how differently do employees understand the need for change in comparison to their employers?

Ian White (27:20)

Certainly in some industries, especially those within aging workforce, there can be some resistance to changes in ways of working, particularly as a result of digitalisation and new technologies. Now I went to Denise Cox's presentation yesterday. She talked about strategies to increase online student engagement with content and asked Denise, what tips she could recommend to employers who are delivering training online to their employees to keep them engaged. So Denise said they need to grab their self-interests. So why is it useful to them? Why is it important and why is it relevant to them?

So if it feels like a checkbox exercise, they like to treat it as such. If it feels authentic, genuine, and necessary, they're much more likely to understand the need for the training and engage in much more meaningful way. So I think those strategies can be applied more poorly to employer training in general, not just online. So if employees can see what's in it for them, then they are likely to be on the same page as the employer. And they like to be more engaged and motivated into upskilling and undertaking training.

Steve Davis (28:17)

All right. Let's turn to a question from Ben in relation to VET delivered to secondary schools. "What's your take on the nationwide impetus for improvements to VDSS? For example, reports from Firth, Shergold, Joyce, et cetera. What's the most significant change you'd like to see?”

Kira Clarke (28:34)

Yeah. Vet in schools. My first love when it comes to VET research, I was fortunate enough to have some NCVER funding a number of years ago to do a large piece of work in this space. I think we're still a long way off from where ideally VET delivered in secondary schools should be as part of a really robust youth training offer. I think there's some really interesting reforms in place happening within the different states and territories, watching very closely what's happening out of the first review where I am in Victoria, which is removing a Victorian's Certificate of Applied Learning or VCAL, which has been around for many decades and bringing a specialist vocational major back into senior secondary.

I think the most significant change I would like to see is a focus on the pathway out of VET delivered to secondary schools. One of the weaknesses of it is that it is still used as a retention mechanism by schools to keep young people in using pathways and subjects that aren't aligned with job opportunities and aren't setting them up for success post school. And I think there are other ways of building the generalist transferable common vocational skills outside formal accredited vocational education and training. So I think there's still some work to do to differentiate technical development, setting young people up for post school pathways, as opposed to vocational learning that builds broad base for employability.

Steve Davis (30:07)

Chris has sent in a question re: accredited versus nonaccredited training. Do learners and employers value micro credentials/digital badges for certain capabilities or as evidence of potential capability?

Kira Clarke (30:23)

Yeah. So looking at this one, particularly through the lens of skills for the green transition. So I think there's huge value from an employee perspective. If we think about some of those evolving and emerging occupations that are going to support decarbonisation and the move towards a circular economy, a lot of that's going to involve existing workers upskilling through micro credentials and digital badges to demonstrate adaptability, to sort of shifting ways in which the job roles work.

I think where learners or job seekers or existing employees can be at risk is if those micro credentials and badges aren't coming on top of an existing base of capability, competency, some sort of foundation, I'm sure we're all familiar with the language of stackable skills, but if anyone who's played with children's blocks, if you start stack them too high off the narrow base, some point it's going to topple over. You want that broad base to then support your stacking of micro credentials on top of.

Steve Davis (31:20)

Day three of the No Frills Q and A sessions focus in on the delivery of VET and on pathways beyond VET. One of our panelists on day three was Hugh Guthrie from Lucid Pty Limited. And I have an excerpt here from his presentation, which was entitled "Delivering on quality VET delivery."

Hugh Guthrie (31:44)

What the good RTOs really try to do is build a culture of quality assurance and continuous improvement. They're about providing a good quality student experience and outcomes rather than just being compliant in a regulatory sense. Collecting and using good information is really important, and that provides the basis on which they can decide how best to improve. And the important thing is that the data they gather is often deeper, richer, and more diverse than those measures that are important or judged externally.

So providers or really good providers very often have far richer data that is actually reported externally or is available to outside stakeholders. Other things that are important are things like collaborations and partnerships. And increasingly we are seeing that trend in a post-COVID world. Working with industry and employers is very, very important as well. And finally, the recruitment, the retention and professional development of their key staff is a particularly key issue.

Steve Davis (33:04)

Our other panelist on day three was Damian Oliver from The National Skills Commission. And before we hear some of the Q and A session, here's a taste of his presentation. Pathways from VET courses: Insights from the VET national data asset.

Damian Oliver (33:20)

So an outline of today's presentation, we return to a familiar topic for VET research, which is the match between VET qualifications and occupations in the labor market. Former NCVER colleagues, Karmel et al. published 12 or so 14 or so years ago, the publication, "Is VET vocational?" That questioned whether or not we were seeing really the effective utilisation of Australia's VET qualifications in the labor market. What we're hoping to do today is look at a familiar set of questions in particular. Do we see VET qualifications leading to employment in intended occupations, or in fact is what we see that VET skills are transferable across a range of occupations. And we'll be doing that with a novel data source.

Steve Davis (34:11)

Hugh I'll start with you. How much is the delivery of quality vocational education dependent upon how we teach instructors and students how to learn?

Hugh Guthrie (34:23)

Yeah. Great question. Thank you, Steve. Look a lot depends on the quality of the instructors themselves and in part that's about their personal attributes, like their enthusiasm, their empathy for students, their organisational skills, they're caring, their vocational currency. All of those are important, but it's really how they learn and develop throughout the beginning of their career, and throughout the rest of their career. We know they’re time poor, we know that they're often casual staff.

And so while we think about what sort of qualifications they should have, and there's been considerable debate over that over the period of time, presently it's set at the Cert IV level, the Cert IV TAE, and a lot of people will actually find it quite hard to find the time or a bit reluctant to do that qualification. They don't see it as a priority. But there are arguments for higher level qualifications as well.

The important thing though, is to have access to a wide range of professional development, which is informal can be short courses. And I see somebody is there from the VET Development Center. Hi Carol. And also, these longer and more formal programs, but what you really need is a supportive environment. Encouragement from right across the organisation. So that gets back to the quality of leadership and management, so about the quality of the students, they have different needs, which teachers have to be mindful of. So it's about providing a quality experience for them, it's about empowering learners, and it's about the features that teachers have to assist people to learn as effectively as they can.

Steve Davis (36:35)

In your presentation. You mentioned that enablers of high quality vocational education are those that pay attention to student experience and outcomes rather than just being compliant. But if that's the case, should we actually be lifting the bar and enhancing our description of what compliance actually entails?

Hugh Guthrie (36:56)

Yes. I mean, I'm on a mixed feeling. I would like to expunge the word compliance from the VET lexicon, to be honest, because I think it takes the debate in a particular direction about meeting particular areas, rather than this whole notion of we're trying to be as good as we can, we're trying to be better all the time. The lotion about compliance. That's sort of saying there is a point that you are trying to set those things out. So I think it's sort of opening things up to possibilities rather than being compliant. If that helps answer the question.

Steve Davis (37:36)

A couple of warmup questions for Damian though, that arose from my viewing of your presentation. How has data integration changed what you can investigate? So what you can investigate and what we can actually understand these days?

Damian Oliver (37:50)

The possibilities for data integration compared to the data sources that we've otherwise had available to us, particularly around surveys, they've done two things. One, they'll enable us to look at outcomes over a much longer time period. So, that's actually that longitudinal aspect. The data that we presented today only had a 12 month view, but as we get more confident using the Vander data set, for example, we'll be able to look at where students get to from their training 2, 5, 10 years out. And that will enable us to look at a much broader range of outcome.

The other thing that it does is, it makes it easier for us to look at the outcomes and the experiences of vulnerable groups, because survey responses overall diminish, especially with successive waves of longitudinal surveys. And that's usually especially the case for vulnerable groups, because they might have less permanent addresses. They might feel more reluctant to take part in a survey. So the other advantage of working with integrated data is around vulnerable groups. And there's a third one, which is it actually forces you, in a very positive way, to be more collaborative with other users and other producers of data.

So as part of Vander, we work very closely with the Australian Bureau of Statistics. And I just wanted to kind of give a shout out to ABS colleagues who I know have joined us for today's session, Michelle Duckett and Alto, and there might be even some others with us as well. And that really enriches our understanding of the data because to use the data, we need to get agreement amongst ourselves on what the appropriate research questions are. That brings in people with fresh perspectives and fresh experience with different questions. And the result overall is a really richer set of research questions.

Steve Davis (39:35)

What use can be made of a longitudinal analysis of unique student identifier data?

Damian Oliver (39:42)

Interestingly enough, with the VET national data asset, we don't rely on the unique student identifier (USI) to do our data linkage, the ABS with their great deal of experience in this are able to use other data sources, other fields to conduct the linkage, but where the unique student identify will really help with research is the type of research that we're all able to do outside of the secure ABS data lab environment, using the total bed activity collection itself.

So the USI will enable us to much more easily track students' movements through The Vocational Education and Training system. So we can see much more easily if someone did a Cert III 10 years ago. Are they popping back up and doing a diploma? Is it in the same field? Are they experiencing career progression or have they moved into a different area? What might we be able to learn from that in terms of people's career trajectories, as well as the efficiency and the effectiveness of the VET system in terms of particular qualifications?

Steve Davis (40:48)

Hugh there's a question to you from Erica, what is your view on improving the qualification levels of VET teachers?

Hugh Guthrie (40:57)

It's been a long running question actually, and a long history of people feeling that the Cert IV wasn't meeting the needs. And in fact, because I'm a very old person in TAFE or VET, it used to be called vomit. I was in the next office from the person who designed the floor. And what it was designed to do was saying, VET teachers aren't getting well enough training. We need some training for people who are training people within industry. That's what it started off to try to do. Then it became a bit of an all thing to all people. And so I guess the TAE hasn't been the ideal qualification for everything.

So you've had diploma level programs, you've had associate degree programs and you've had degree in postgraduate qualifications. All of those are important, but they're not the only qualification that's important, because what you're trying to do is balance between... A qualification might help an average teacher become a little bit better, but sometimes it's really the characteristics of those personally extent to which they have the personal capabilities and what have you to be a really good teacher.

So how do you make them better? Well, you make them better by enabling them to talk to their colleagues, to benchmark, to collaborate, to undertake various short term programs that they might need to do. I remember one time in Western Australia, we were talking to some people to say, well, how are you going to make your programs better? And they were saying, well, the trouble is we're working with displaced people and refugees. And the first thing we have to deal with is torture trauma.

Now that came out of left field for me, but there are this very wide range of needs and they have to be supported by the provider and offered through a range of agencies. And the VET Development Centre in Victoria is one of those that does that sort of thing. So my answer, I guess is yes and no. A higher level qualification will always help, but it's not the only solution to the problem.

Steve Davis (43:16)

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