How to fix Voc. Ed. & Training comprehensively – Issue Seven

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Establish Institutes of TAFE as the core framework for the VET System


Repair the damage and rebuild Institutes of TAFE to ensure people in rural and and more remote areas have equal opportunity for VET training and qualifications. This,  together with a recognition of the important role they take with respect to community engagement and community development – rarely a role taken up by private providers accept some not-for-profit private RTOs.

Private RTOs are not well placed to fill holes in provision created by the withdrawal of TAFE from both certain activities and localities. In many cases, Private Providers lack the relevant capacity and the vagaries of the funding system, as governments struggle to contain costs, are not conducive to long term planning and investment.

Under current settings, many TAFEs risk (and are) becoming residualised, needing “special assistance” to cover declining revenues. This runs counter to the logic of “marketisation” and it runs counter to Australia’s economic and social interests.

The capability and reach of the VET system is being rundown and what is now a diverse and polychromatic system will be reduced to a disturbingly homogeneous and monochromatic system.

Redevelop institutes of TAFE into Polytechnics


The TAFE and VET “brand” has been so badly tarnished by the well documented and prior known free market outcomes of privatised, marketised, commodified education and training.

For the benefit of students and employers,there needs to be a radical revision of the whole Australian Voc. Ed. and Training System  based on contemporary vocational educational principles, not corporate rhetoric.

A primary area of attention is a polytechnic model for the State’s TAFE colleges to jointly offer higher education in under-serviced regional and outer metropolitan areas, to address gaps between areas of population growth and higher education provision in Melbourne and around the state. [McKenzie, 2015]

Establish and fund Centres of Vocational Excellence (CoVE)


CoVEs must offer specialist higher vocational education based on skills needs set up to address the need to compete in a global economy and tackle social inclusion.

The aim is to replace competition between training providers with strategic planning based on partnerships between public and private providers and between colleges and schools, guided by a collaborative vocational education and training stakeholder/beneficiary voice – not just ‘industry’ – whatever that is.


How to fix Voc. Ed. & Training comprehensively – Issue Six

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Design and implement a Collaborative– led VET System


Agree on a definition of“industry”

Determine and apply an agreed System-wide definition/conception of“industry”, however, consider all of the beneficiaries and stakeholders not just “industry” in development of the VET System.

Agree on a definition of VET consistent with international views

Determine and apply an agreed System-wide definition/conception of“vocational education and training” based on education principles, not industry spin-doctoring, to ensure Australian Voc. Ed. Training is well placed internationally.

Encourage and support better and all-encompassing System- wide engagement and thinking

Lift the standard of opinion, comment and debate in the Voc. Ed. and Training System by engaging with all stakeholders and beneficiaries (e.g., trainees, trainers, educationists)– not just “industry” and employers.

Decouple the business, institutional and programmatic constructions of the Voc. Ed. and Training identity. This gives Voc. Ed. and Training institutions a broader role and it would greatly improve access to higher education for people distant from a comprehensive higher education campus. It also it has the potential to improve access to senior higher education institutions.

Design and implement a Collaborative– led VET System

Change the name of the VET System. It has been damaged and associated with too many negative connotations. Drop the VET brand, it sounds like it is referring to “animal doctors” and “war veterans”). For example, change it to VTE or something else to avoid a misleading and confusing acronym.

Establish a Collaboratively-led Vocational Training and Education System (i.e., not an “industry-led system)

This should include ways to determine and predict as best as possible, what employment opportunities exist post training, not just market-demand spin and propaganda to increase enrolments in courses that lead nowhere. Unfortunately, such cherry picking is associated with many Private RTOs that enrol for their own profitability not successful student outcomes.

Expose and deconstruct online and offline vocational educational education and training echo chambers. Some of the most common traits of existing closed ideology echo chambers include lack of plurality, lack of debate, tribalism (“us and them” mentalities),censorship and the punishment of what are incorrectly labelled heretical thoughts or actions.

Appoint a Chief Voc. Training and Education Educationist (not an ombudsman) to start drawing the current VET System factions together from across all jurisdictions. Move from regulation to inspiration.

An educationist is a  specialist who is versed in the theories and practices of, or who advocates and promotes, education.

Most educationists can be called teachers too, or educators; but their job identification may be as supervisors or administrators or college professors. Yet not all who wear these titles are educationists. For there is something distinctive about the life-long student of learning and teaching – the scholar whose discipline is education. ….[I]t seems fairly obvious that much of the antagonism against [educationists] stems from a yearning for a return to privilege and from a  scarce-hidden contempt of the masses. Much that has been thrown at [educationists] is mere scapegoating, a refusal to face our country’s problems entire and a search for the cheap [narrow] panacea.

Frank T. Whilhems

For example, the role of the Chief Psychiatrist (Victoria) is explained under the Mental Health Act 2014. It exists to provide clinical leadership and promote continuous improvement in the quality and safety of mental health services. This includes promoting the rights of people receiving mental health treatment in public mental health services.

The Chief Psychiatrist provides clinical leadership through developing guidelines, undertaking clinical reviews, audits and investigations, and has statutory responsibility for monitoring restrictive practices, electroconvulsive therapy and reportable deaths.

Other examples of “Chief” roles are:

  • Chief Health Officer

The Victorian Government’s Chief Health Officer undertakes a variety of statutory functions under the Health and Food Acts, and is responsible for

  • developing and implementing strategies to promote and protect public health
  • providing advice to the Minister and the Secretary on matters relating to public health and wellbeing
  • publishing a comprehensive report on public health and wellbeing in Victoria on a biennial basis.
  • Chief Fire Officer

The Chief Fire Officer (Victoria) is responsible for fire planning, prevention, preparedness and fire operations on Victoria’s public land.

A proposal for Chief Vocational Training and Education Educationist 

The Ombudsman and ASQA consider consequences when problems have become evident and usually complicated.

The role of a Chief Vocational Training and Education (VTE) Educationist could be to ‘nip the problems in the bud’ before they develop and explained under the Education and Training Reform Act 2006

A Chief VTE Educationist might work to create a new era in communication among vocational educationists, For-Profit, Not-for-Profit and Public (Institutes of TAFE) RTO Managers, “industry” and regulators — including practitioners, researchers, and students in the field of vocational education and training ——–together with institutions, organisations, and companies actively engaged in development.

A Chief VTE Educationist could provide:

1. advocacy for education capabilities (not competencies) in VTE trainer training

2. centralised and themed online discussion forums across traditional communication boundaries – e.g., educationists and “industry”

3. leadership through developing educational and training guidelines

4. networking events across traditional boundaries, e.g., For-Profit, Not-for-Profit and Public (Institutes of TAFE) RTOS; industry, business and education.

5. fostering of partnerships, e.g.,

  • Consultative partnerships – for the purpose of receiving public input around change or to gather ideas for policies.
  • Contributory partnerships – formed to benefit an organisation or the community.
  • Operational partnerships – work-sharing arrangements in which the components of a given task are delegated to specific parties.
  • Collaborative partnerships – set up to share resources, risks and decision-making.

7. leadership in worldwide research and partnership on VTE education policy and learning methods, determining what works in VTE education, and how to demonstrate the effectiveness of different approaches, services and materials.

8. advise on and support the innovation and development of new products and services, and

9. lead strategies for VTE education including rural and remote areas

How to fix Voc. Ed. & Training comprehensively – Issue Five

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Encouraged (and enforced) responsible business community role for Registered Training Organisations

Responsible business behaviour in Australia is primarily only been regarded as a meeting legal obligations in compulsory areas, such as workplace health and safety provisions.

This perspective has narrowed Australia’s approach to responsible business practice and appears to have exacerbated a lack of interest in the role of business in community development. 

Many companies and businesses that have big impacts on communities and their quality of life recognise that there is both an ethical imperative and a sound business case for focusing on sustainable community development.

1. There is a need to develop and implement policy that Voc. Ed. and Training businesses must embrace concerning social responsibilities and not be solely focused on maximizing profits from public or private funds. 

2. There is a need to develop and implement policy introducing a formal “Social Licence” to operate a Voc. Ed. and Training related business, including  Private Registered Training Organisations. Note that TAFEs already have Legislated social licence responsibilities.

Continued: Issue Six

How to fix Voc. Ed. & Training comprehensively – Issue Four

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Rebuild the public service and stop unnecessary outsourcing to “Yes” Consultants


There has been a practice for government, in particular, to outsource to consultants what should be the legitimate work of the public service.

Do more to ensure that public servants can do their job better. And one of the ways to do that is to make sure they do the work that is their core responsibility, as opposed to outsourcing everything.

Banks, for example, bemoan the decline in the number of public servants with the necessary quantitative and analytical skills. There is also varied quality and motives of consultants involved in developing policy. While there are highly professional consultancies and consultants, there are also consultants who cut corners, provided superficial reports and second-guess what ministers wanted to hear, not what they should be hearing.

It is of huge concern that a person with only a Certificate IV in Assessment and Training is deemed sufficiently capable of managing a private business offering vocational education and training, particularly when they have access to public funding. This belies the type of capabilities and skills that are necessary for successful management of educational services, and support to training staff and students. In addition, it is important not to overlook the ethics and morals that are part and parcel of being a member of a publicly funded Nation-wide System such as Voc. Ed. and Training.

Gina Abudi says, “In working with clients over the years to develop programs for new supervisors/managers – there are some skills, knowledge and competencies that rise to the top of “must haves” for someone in a management role. These are in no particular order, but all are of equal importance to be successful in a management role:

  1. Finance 101: Understand the basics of finance; know how to read a balance sheet, understand how to create a budget.
  2. Feedback: Learn how to give constructive feedback; provide those who report to you with feedback on a regular basis about how they are doing.
  3. Influence: Effective managers can persuade others to accomplish the organisational goals; just telling someone what to do doesn’t work – even if they report to you. The most successful managers are able to influence others to move in the direction they need them to go.
  4. Interpersonal understanding: Managers must understand those around them; not just their staff, but their managers and the other department heads/employees. The ability to understand how others think and what’s important to them helps to ensure success in accomplishing your goals.
  5. Motivate: Learn how to motivate those around you – what’s important to your staff? Not everyone is motivated by the same things and a good manager understands their staff and what motivates them to come to work each day and do a good job.
  6. Team leadership: Team leadership requires ensuring the team – whether your own staff or others – understand the mission, goals and objectives before them. A strong team leader builds effective teams that can accomplish the goals of the organisation and enables the team to move toward a common goal.
  7. Planning: The ability to effectively plan projects is important for any manager. This requires sharing the vision with others, getting them on board, creating plans to implement the vision, and ensuring timelines are met and budgets are managed.
  8. Problem solving: Effective managers know how to understand a situation completely – they plan, they don’t react. Understanding the root cause of a situation is necessary in order to effective problem solve the issue.
  9. Communication – written and verbal: Strong communication skills is required of everyone, and especially of managers. The ability to effective and efficiently communicate changes, plans, next steps, the direction of the organisation, etc. is required to ensure that staff understands where they need to head and how to get there. Effective communication builds trust.
  10. Organisational awareness: It’s important to understand how things happen within the organisation and how things get done. What are the informal paths involved in meeting goals. What is the culture of the organisation? How do departments work with each other? This “insider knowledge” about the organisation is key to the effectiveness of the manager and ensures the ability to get things accomplished.

In addition, no matter what your role – there are some core values that are of importance for everyone, including:

  • Honesty and integrity
  • Focus on the customer
  • Respect for others
  • Cultural awareness” …..[]

Why shouldn’t we expect formal evidence of the above from all RTO Managers, public and private? Completion of a Certificate IV in Assessment and Training does not achieve that. In fact, “a little bit of knowledge is considered dangerous”.

Video: To the managers and Leaders of Today and Tomorrow

Continued: Issue 5

How to fix Voc. Ed. & Training comprehensively – Issue Three

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WANTED – New and Updated Philosophy of VET


Evidence has accumulated  that we need to review the people involved and the practices of the Voc. Ed and Training System. The “industry-led” System of the last 20 years has been found to be more than wanting.

A collaborative approach which includes the purposeful involvement of knowledgeable people in Voc. Ed. and Training philosophy, policy and  practices would be a good start.

The primary necessity is to ensure that members, beneficiaries, stakeholders and professional associations  are all on the same track;  that limited resources are allocated to the right kinds of community-based projects and programs, and not just industry and government based “innovations” for political or profit gains.

Voc. Ed. and Training must be positioned within the broader context of urban, regional and rural community development, not corporate/business rhetoric, spin doctoring and profiteering. Voc. Ed. and Training is not a business.

The Australian pattern of innovation is, arguably, more dependent on Voc. Ed. and Training capabilities than other Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) nations. It has a low share of Research & Development (R & D) to Gross Domestic product (GDP) especially in business R & D. It has a much higher share of low-medium technology in the manufacturing industry.

Conversely, innovation expenditures are heavily weighted to investment in equipment and software. The dominant form of innovation is incremental and particularly oriented to the adoption and adaptation of products, processes and services sourced from overseas. That has to change.

Multi-sector collaboration is the method not only for solving such problems, but also for giving people opportunities to practice capabilities in democracy. In that way, we can develop promote and build our communities the way we really want them to be.

Thinkers who aim beyond business frameworks and business philosophies as the ultimate measure can make all of the difference in transforming our communities in to the kinds of communities we hope to live in. It is a culture in which we are learn how to include many people, and many groups, in making decisions about our lives and about our communities, not just based on corporatism, industry-speak and market spin-doctoring.

As multi-disciplines work together, they may develop a clearer, long-term vision of what we can and want to actually accomplish, together, with respect to Voc. Ed. and Training.

Continued: Issue Four.

How to fix Voc. Ed. & Training comprehensively – Issue Two

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Multi-level thinking required

In the next few years, Training Packages will be the least of Voc. Ed and Training practitioners’ and industry concerns. Training Packages, as they are currently constructed, will continue to become outdated and irrelevant as job roles change, work opportunities alter and technology advances. Many related Australian Voc. Ed. and Training products will be archived as meaningless articles of a bygone era when Voc. Ed. and Training was “industry-led”  i.e., product-based, not up-to-the-minute educationally-based.

The continuing “industry-led”; largely status quo, product approach and more band-aid fixes are not going to allow Australia even to aspire to being a world class Voc. Ed. and Training system, let alone actually being one.

Due to the acknowledged close relationship between Voc. Ed. and Training and society, economics and employment, the “interdisciplinary” and “multi-disciplinary” research fields relating to Voc. Ed.and Training should have been expanding day-by-day with Government and private sector assistance, well beyond the current restrictive “industry-led” conceptualisation.

There must be change at multiple levels. It is irresponsible to simply try and shift responsibility resting with RTOs to ASQA and allow RTOs to deny that there is no major, systemic problem that they have contributed to. Being part of the Voc. Ed. and Training System means all RTOS, public and private, share the responsibility. Standing back in a self-righteous way, “I do the right thing”, denies the interconnection of all of the components of a Voc. Ed. and Training System. The “component” most overlooked is the student.

Members, beneficiaries, stakeholders and professional associations of the industry-led Vocational EDUCATION and TRAINING System need to take deep collective responsibility, and the Government policies need to be re-written to reflect that. The current fragmentation of “the System” is a recipe for disaster, as has already been demonstrated in recent times. A direct move away from the free market approach and towards  up-to-the minute Voc. Education and Training evidence-based, conceptual frameworks would be a good start.

It is not only about collective membership and ownership of the Voc. Ed. and Training “industry” that members, beneficiaries, stakeholders and professional associations  belong to. Policies to improve the Voc. Ed.and Training must focus on building a more comprehensive system that optimises the return to students, rather than RTO directors and Boards, through public and private investment, that then may be reflected in student, business and workforce confidence.

As will be seen in future Posts, it is and has been a huge mistake to think that the privatising of Voc. Ed. and Training and forcing a free trade market model will lead to such student, business and workforce confidence. The evidence was there in history, and history is now repeating.

Reject self-professed, subjective “VET experts”. Especially those with conflicts of interest such as their own profit making or input into the design of the current System. I strongly suggest the adoption of a multi-disciplinary, inter-disciplinary, appropriate, evidence-based approach. The free market, product driven corporatisation model  will not provide that appropriate evidence-based approach.

Students are not products as they must actively engage for education and training to be successful. What other “product” does that? Voc. Ed. and Training is not a business, it is a service and community good that might benefit from appropriate business practices in its implementation.

Many employers, lack effective strategies for acquiring and developing skilled workers. They think they do but they lack the educationist insights into capability needs (rather than work-based competency tasks), and often fail to invest in effective training. They do not view the Voc. Ed. and Training System as a continuing resource they could be contributing to for longer term benefits. Rather, it is viewed as a product to obtain in the cheapest way possible, preferably by Government funding.  Regrettably, that is a reflection of the current “industry-led” Voc. Ed. and Training System.

Continued: Issue Three

How to fix Voc. Ed. & Training comprehensively – Issue One

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For the last 20 years or so, Voc. Ed. & Training  policy has been driven by advice from commentators using flawed evidence bases. None have grasped the scale of need for educationist input to the process, nor understood the full effects of not doing that.The current VET policies assume that an evidence-base was established before implementation. That is not the case.

It was simply business rhetoric, with no good, vocational education evidence, that was the starting point for the current Voc. Ed. & Training System in Australia. If a new business started that way, the business and corporate sector would be aghast. Yet, the current Voc. Ed. & Training System is “industry-led”.

The current Voc. Ed. & Training  policies are based on flawed assumptions made at the very beginning of inception. A thought bubble supported by spin doctoring and free market speak.

The only way to retrieve what is left of an ailing and abused Voc. Ed. & Training System is to seek good evidence, rather than political and corporate/business spin-doctoring and individuals’ subjective opinions, particularly those who have a clear conflict of interest – such as making a profit from VET public funds – our taxes!

Issue One

Parliamentarians’ Professional Development: The Need for Reform,        Editors:Lewis, Colleen, Coghill, Ken (Eds.), © 2016

Most parliamentarians are not educationists. They presumably use their individual experiences of education and training, good or bad, and/or the advice of self promoting captains of industry who think they understand Voc. Ed. & Training because they have achieved being awarded a Certificate IV in Assessment and Training, the lowest level associated with education and training and not recognised as a teaching qualification by education unions.

The book referenced above addresses the education and training of Members of Parliament (MPs) – – It examines existing training programs offered in various countries around the world, evaluates their strengths and weaknesses and makes recommendations for a new approach, which aligns the professional development of MPs to 21st century requirements.

Contributors address the role of parliamentarians, how to prepare them for their multi-faceted functions, the importance of ethics in any program, the requirement for more sophisticated adult learning approaches, human resource implications and the need to reform existing education and training models. The book applies to the fields of political science, adult education and human resource management, as well as to parliamentarians interested in enhancing their skills so as to perform more efficiently and effectively.

To be continued: Issue Two