So as some of you are aware I attended the NCVER NoFrills Conference in Melbourne last week. For those of you who aren’t aware of NoFrills, it is a more ‘research’ based conference than most other conference, no surprising really considering it is run by NCVER, the repository of VET data. This of course means that a lot of the presentations are more scholarly than would be found at a regular conference and have in a lot of cases substantially more rigour associated with their findings.
The Keynote by Steve Sargent on Thursday threw up some interesting points including the one that High wage, low skills jobs are at very high risk of being automated, digitized or outsourced. I don’t think it was necessarily a revelation as I think a lot of people understand that this is on the way and that the workforce is changing. It was interesting to see that the jobs least like to disappear were those where there was strong person to person interaction required as part of the job, two examples being dentist and personal trainer.
After the keynote it was off to the concurrent sessions, now given there is only one of me, I can only comment on the sessions that I attended, and also given my interests and the sector I inhabit you will notice a decided lean in particular directions.
I attended the two conjoined shall we say talks on students with mental illness and disabilities and approaches to improving their access to and interaction with the VET and Higher Ed systems. While the content was good, unfortunately the speakers themselves were not fantastic or terribly engaging, that being said, they are not the professional speaker types I am used to interacting with.
Two things came out of these sessions for me, one was the fact that the project team had only looked at how mental illness and disability was handled in a University and a TAFE, there was no data, because there had been no consultation with private and enterprise level VET providers at all. This was a significant disappointment because it leads to the second point that I got from the talk which was that private providers (both large and small) seem to do a much better job of interacting and catering for students with disabilities and mental illness, than at least the TAFE and University involved in the study seem to.
This fact, that private providers can and are doing things better, more flexibly and with more focus on the outcomes the students needs was also driven home in the afternoon session focusing on VET outcomes for homeless people, where all but one of the providers involved in the case studies look at where private providers. The reasons for this was that the private providers were more willing to be flexible in terms of their delivery and assessment, how things were packaged, even where they delivered, than the TAFE’s were. Now this shouldn’t be taken as a criticism of TAFE, there are systematic issues within TAFE with make it difficult for them to be as flexible as a private provider. However it does show that despite all of the criticism that is levelled at the private RTO market and the view that TAFE does it better, that that is simply not the case. Private providers can and do in some cases do things better and more effectively than TAFE does.
The other really interesting session for me was Kira Clarke’s research into VET in schools and the problems associated with it delivery currently, particularly in relation to how it is being presented by teacher against how it is viewed by students and employers.
So all in all day one was good and I enjoyed it, though as I tweeted just after lunch, at least in the sessions I was in one could have been forgiven for thinking that it was only TAFE that delivered VET and no one else, which is sad. There did seem to be a little more involvement for private providers later in the day and on Friday, but it is a real shame that there is not more involvement from the private sector in the research side of VET.
Then again as I thought later, are those of us on the non-TAFE side of the fence, to busy to engage in research projects, don’t see the value, or don’t have the staff to undertake them, whatever the reason it would be nice to see more input.