My Blogging year in review

The stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 14,000 times in 2014. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 5 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

Its Christmas Time

So the end of the year is fast approaching and as the working year winds down I thought I would share some thoughts on the year that was for me and it was a big one. I changed jobs, bought a new house and our youngest child finished year 12, my wife burnt her hand badly and got the flu for 6 weeks and we renovated our new house (not quite finished just the kitchen to go), so really it was one of those years.  It really doesn’t feel like 12 months have passed since this time last year it has been that busy, but I know I am definitely looking forward to steeping on to a cruise boat on Saturday to do tripping around the pacific islands.

This time of year is also a time for thanks to the many people I have encountered throughout the year who have added something to my life, be they old friends or new ones.  So to my LinkedIn friends, people like Jim, Kath, Brett, Phillip your willingness to share your views and opinions, to engage in thought-provoking conversation, and to share you depth of knowledge joy and more people in the VET sector listened to people like you we would be in  much better place.  To all the moderators of the groups including the Department of Industry, thank you for taking the time to provide us with forums where we could discuss things, learn thing, argue and generally chew the fat.

To my twitter and conference buddies, Ryan, Helen, Con and the rest of you, I know I haven’t seen you all as much this year (Sorry Elizabeth I know I missed the AITD conference this year) but I value your insight, opinion and knowledge and look forward to catching up more next year.  To the rest of my twitter friends particularly those on #lrnchat thanks for interesting topics and stimulating conversation.

To the readers of my blog, thank you so much for your interactions and comments. I know that those of you who have your own blogs will understand that sometimes it feels like you are talking to yourself and it is the people who interact with you  that make the difference.

So thank you all very much for being a part of my life and work, for listening to my rants, arguing with me when I was wrong and generally just being good people.

May you all have a wonderful Christmas and New Year and I look forward to catching up at least some of you at some conference next years (at this stage I am probably doing AITD, EduTech and VELG).

Be safe, have fun with your families and most of all enjoy yourselves.

Thanks for the year.


Reinventing the VET brand – Untarnishing VET in the eyes of the Australian Public

Learning is a Business and Brand is everything


The VET brand in this country is tarnished, you only have to look at the numerous newspaper articles and commentary associated with them and across social media, (and yes lets never forget that LinkedIn is the 3rd largest social media site in the world) to see that both in the eyes of practitioners and the general public that there is some rust on the gold standard that was VET in this country (Yes I know Gold doesn’t rust its a metaphor folks).  I, like so many others from both the public and private sector are passionate about this industry, passionate about the good that is created for both individuals and the country as a whole through vocational education.  I believe that both public and private providers deliver (for the most part) outstanding results for their stakeholders and that both are necessary for us to have a vibrant and agile and engaged VET system.  All of this passion though is meaningless, it is meaningless if in the public eye the VET brand is not as polished and sparking as it once was.  What has caused this is also unimportant, be it political point scoring and ideological differences, the rampant pursuit of profit by some private providers or the animosity for some public sector providers about having to be commercially viable and change the way they operate to meet the needs of a new world.

But what about quality you ask.  We need to ensure the quality of the system, we need regulation, we need research , we need data.  Yes yes we do and without a quality product you can never hope to develop a quality brand with good longevity, however quality is not enough.  Research papers on outcomes don’t interest the average person on the street looking to improve their educational or employment options, they are interested in the brand, the perception, they are interested in what John next door says his sons experience of doing an apprenticeship through TAFE was.  They are interested in the fact that Kelly loves the Diploma of Counselling course she is doing through a private RTO, that a friend recommended to her on Facebook.  It is the same at an organisational level, L&D and HR folk and managers and the like, all buy training on perceived value and more often than not that is brand related.  I know, as the CLO for a very large organisation I purchased millions of dollars worth of training every year and a lot of those decisions were based on reputation and brand perception, admittedly there was also a lot of personal knowledge and other factors as well, but here is an example of what I mean.  A business unit spent more than $250,000 to purchase a training program from the US (developed at a US university) plus probably the same amount of money again on training and delivery of the program for under 200 staff.  The content of the program amounted to about 1/3 of the content contained in the related Diploma Level course from the Community Services Training Package.  Why?  The answer is easy the US program has a strong brand and is perceived as begin a valuable certification to have even though in reality the certification is really nothing more than a certificate of attendance, while the VET program was perceived as being well ‘vocational’ so therefore less valuable and the VET brand was simply not as strongly perceived in value terms as the US program was.

But we do a great job with out own marketing.  Yes a lot of providers both public and private do exceptional jobs building their own brands and reputations and if you want to see the effect a holistic branding exercise can have you need look no further the rebranding of TAFE QLD, gone are the boring websites, media, brochures etc and in their place something that seems more vibrant, alive, agile and able to meet the needs of the future.  These are all however individual marketing designed to present a sub-brand if you will in the best possible light to enable it to compete with other sub-brands in the same market.  The overall brand here is VET, the industry relies on that brand being strong.  If the VET brand itself is tarnished or perceived as not as valuable as other offerings either from within Australia or internationally the job of marketing for the sub-brands, us, is so much more difficult.

As I have said on numerous other occasions learning is a business, someone always has to pay for it, be that the government, organisations or individuals the money has to come from somewhere and people talk with their wallets, be that through individual choice of service provider, organisational return on investment calculations or the quantifiable outcomes of government funding it all comes down to perceived value in the end and the strength of the brand people are purchasing.  If we want a strong, successful, well-respected VET industry in this country not only do we need to make sure the quality is right, we need to ensure that the message that the VET system, however it is accessed, should be the first choice that people make and the choice that they continue to make for their educational and employment options and the only way to that is


Industry Engagement in Training Package Development Discussion Paper – Some early thoughts

As most of us know the Department has released its consultation paper on the development of training packages and how packages may be developed going forward now that the ISC’s are being disbanded in the middle of next year.  I don’t intend to discuss a lot of the background and supporting discussion here suffice to say that I definitely endorse the position that ‘one of the aims of the review is to ensure more direct industry involvement in the development and review of training packages.  I want to focus on the three options put up for discussion and I guess point in direction that I am tending to lean towards.

Option 1 – Purchase training package development as the need arises: Training Development Panel

While I like the what appears to be the high level of flexibility of this approach I am concerned about a number of things, most importantly the perception that large or well-funded sectors may have much better ability to have their training packages reviewed at the expense of small or less well resourced sectors.  I am generally in favour of the technical writers being independent and without vested interest, I am not sure however about how much industry engagement is actually going to happen, how it will be handled and how it will flow through to the technical writers.

Option 2 – Industry Assigns responsibilities to preferred organisations

I like this option, it is currently the one I am leaning towards it tends in my view to represent a solid mid-point between the very open first option and the third option or what is currently the case.  In this option Industry would be given the opportunity to form committees to represent their skill needs and to develop and maintain the packages.  These committees would manage and coordinate the operation of the approach.  The committees would be the engagement point with the industries they represent and would identify the skills and needs.  They would then utilise the training development panel to take these needs and skills and codify them into training packages.  This seems to me to be the approach which best marries the needs of industry, (this model should I  think provide a high level of engagement) with development needs.  It is also less like to be effected by sector size or resources in terms of recognition of sectoral need.  In addition, without a standing edifice that we currently have with the ISC’s costs associated with development may be reduced.

Option 3 – Government contracts for Designated VET sector bodies

Isn’t this what we already have albeit with talk of reducing the number of bodies.  There would need to be substantive change in the way industry engagement is done and managed in these new bodies to make me feel comfortable with this as a preferred option.  The system is currently cumbersome and slow to react to the needs of industry and reducing the number of sector bodies would I think only increase the difficulties we currently see with the system.

So there we go.  For my mind at least and from a purely pragmatic point of view I guess Option 2 is the best option.  It seems to me to be the one that has the best ability to provide robust industry engagement, which should therefore provide us with the skills and knowledge needed for workers in the industry sector in question, both current and future requirements.  These skills and knowledge can then be developed, by the training development panel into packages with meet the standards, which can then be verified by the committee as meeting industry requirements.  It strikes me as an approach which could be very agile (in the project management sense) which should therefore return solid results for everyone.


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