QLD Skills and Training Taskforce – TAFE recommendations

I promised a little while ago that I would make some comments on the recommendations made in the Queensland Skills and Training Task force in relation to TAFE in Queensland.

The recommendations that struck me most were those around the employment model for TAFE staff (Recommendation 3.5 in particular) and the ‘New TAFE Queensland recommendations (Recommendation 3.12 in particular).

Recommendation 3.5;

The Government pursue a revamped industrial relations arrangement which addresses at a minimum the following:
– the need for a wider spread of hours and contact time, including removal of the in-built systemic barriers to evening classes
– the current practice of non-attendance time becoming de facto additional annual leave
– implementation of industry competitive overtime arrangements
– the ability of management to have full discretion in engaging casual staff
– greater class size flexibility.

I was actually shocked when I saw the conditions of the TAFE Teachers’ award (and I know I am going to be criticised for these comments), while the remuneration rates are definitely on the high side particularly when you look at rates within organisations and commercial training providers, it is the conditions which strike me as way out of line with what I would consider to be reasonable and expected practice.

Teaching more that 21 hours (3 days) in a week incurring overtime payments as not more than 21 can be programmed in any one week for teaching is ridiculous.  Not that I am suggesting that you would want to have your trainers doing nothing but delivering every day of the week, for any extended period of time.  There have been plenty of occasions where I have done nothing but deliver training every day of the week for in some cases up to 4 weeks in a row.  (A major project roll out which also included substantial travel around regional areas and then assessment).

I am not even sure what ‘five weeks of non-attendance time’  even means, particularly when it is in addition to annual leave and when it ends up with the situation where ‘TAFE teachers only undertake scheduled work of 32 hours for 39 weeks a year, and less if overtime is worked’ some of the issues surrounding costs and availability to delivery become abundantly clear.  These conditions seem definitely not in line with what would be expected of a trainer/assessor with a commercial RTO or an organisational setting.

Recommendation 3.12;

The idea of rationalising TAFE campuses is also something that resonates with me, particularly within the Brisbane Metro area.  I have never understood (I know there are historical reasons) why there were some many TAFE’s and campuses in the Brisbane area all at least to some extent separately staffed and administered.  Surely a reduction in the number of campuses and a rationalisation of management structure, perhaps even administration at a regional level and regional pools of teachers available to work a multiple campus locations would have substantial effect on the level of base funding that was required to sustain the TAFE infrastructure.  The same can be said I think, but to lesser extents in other areas of the state as well.

These recommendations make sense to me, along with the other recommendations made in the report with respect to TAFE, they would allow Queensland’s TAFE system to be able to deliver, services that were more responsive to need, in a more competitive, cost-effective manner, that provided for the needs of both students, industry and Queensland.


Queensland’s VET Skills and Training Taskforce (Some More thoughts)

Some more thoughts on the recommendations of the QLD Skills and Training Taskforce

Today I want to continue on from yesterdays post and look more closely at some of the recently released recommendations of the Queensland Skills and Training Taskforce and I thought that I might start off with the second set of recommendations (Recommendation 1.0 really just reaffirms the importance of the VET sector and Training in general) around and Industry Engaged VET system.  There are three main areas the recommendations look at;

  1. An Industry led Skills Commission,
  2. Government VET investment, and
  3. VET in Schools and links to Higher Education

So lets look at each of them separately, starting with

An Industry Led Skills Commission (Recommendations 2.1-2.5)

Recommendation 2.1  The Queensland Government establish a truly industry-led Queensland VET sector characterised by the creation of an independent statutory Queensland Skills Commission directly accountable to the Minister for Education, Training and Employment.  I really think this is a great idea particularly when linked to 2.3 and 2.4 which would hopefully see the commission have control over the funding and contracting arrangements themselves.  This was and I think that I echo the thoughts of a lot of people here, one of the big issues that faced Skills Queensland they did not have any real power in relation to the funding etc which reduced their ability to be as effective as they could have been.  (This should not be seen as  criticism of Skills Queensland whom I think have done and do a fantastic job in terms of their connection with industry.

The only criticism I would level at this recommendation comes from 2.2 and is around the make up of the commission.  While I understand the Governments viewpoint on wanting the ‘4 pillars’ represented to suggest that the largest employment sector in the state (Health and Community Services) should only potentially have representation is ridiculous in the extreme.

The Health and Community Services Industry:

Injects more than $16.2 billion to the Queensland economy each year

  • Pays more than $13.5 billion in wages and salaries
  • Attracts volunteer and carer contributions, estimated to be worth $10.5 billion annually
  • Purchases around $2 billion worth of goods and services annually from other Queensland industries and businesses
  • Created 20,400 new jobs in Queensland in 2011 representing more than 80% of Queensland’s job growth of 25,400
  • Created 71,900 new jobs or 28 per cent of the state’s total employment growth over five years to 2011

There should without a doubt be at least one representative of the Health and Community Services Industry and I would suggest two (one from the Health Industry and one for the Community Services industry) as despite any assertions to the contrary it is the biggest employment area both currently and into the future and has and will continue to have incredibly high need for training of staff and unlike some other industries (mining in particular) does not have the wealth of self-generated funds to put towards training staff, relying heavily on Government subsidy.

Transforming VET Investment (Recommendations 2.6-2.8)

There is really nothing out of the ball park here, the only thing I would say echo’s my statements above, about the need to ensure that the Health and Community Services Sector is not left out of the ‘selected Certificate IV and above qualifications, skill sets and other specific priorities.’  There is a significant need for the Health and Community Services to be able to access funding for training at levels above a Certificate III level.  I would however like to add here that there needs to be some focus on how funding is handled.  I have made the point before that a model focussing on Units of Competency rather than full qualifications may in some areas by incredibly useful from both an employee and employer perspective.   In order to obtain the best results in terms of completion rates and employment outcomes, more of the funding needs to be funnelled to organisations (employers) and less to individuals.  This gives employers the ability to recruit, train and retain staff, at levels that will be achieved without tight employer involvement.  I say this because when you consider completion rates from Enterprise RTO’s (that is employers who have their own internal RTO to train primarily their own staff) they are in the area of 90+%, because it is in the interest of the employer to ensure that they recruit  the right people and give them all of the assistance necessary in order to complete.  This is simply not the case with external providers who are training individuals who are hoping that on completion they will be able to gain employment.

VET in Schools and Links with Higher Education (recommendations 2.9-2.12)

I think recommendation 2.9 definately sets the scene here “There is a clear role for VETiS into the future, within a strictly applied framework that supports achievement of the Government’s economic goals, however, Government’s VRG investment in VETiS needs to be focused on employment outcomes and aligned to the skill needs of industry,” and is on the money.  The need for stronger links between the vocational course offered to and taken by high school students become abundantly clear when you see that the biggest increases (between 300 & 800+%) in course has been in entertainment and fitness qualifications.  However again (and I know I am banging on about this a little) just going back to offering trade qualifications without reference to other industries with equal or more demand for workers would be a definite mistake.

The need for better dialogue between the VET and Higher Education Sectors (recommendation 2.12) is something that almost self-evident and needs to be improved.

So there you have my thoughts on specifics of the recommendations in section 2 of the report.  Tomorrow I am going to have a closer look at the recommendations around TAFE.

As always happy to hear what you have to think on any of these subjects.

Final Report Queensland Skills and Training Taskforce

Queensland Skills and Training Taskforce Final Report

So it is out; the final report of the Queensland Skills and Training Taskforce.  If you are involved in VET in QLD or anywhere in Australia for that matter this report is definitely worth looking over, and in some cases reading quite closely.  While we have yet to see exactly what the QLD Government will do with the results of the report it is clear that particularly around the restructuring of TAFE campuses in QLD to reduce their overall number, that some of the recommendations put them at odds with the Federal Government (though this is not surprising really).

What does the report say and is there anything in it that we did not really expect it to say.  At first reading I don’t think there is.  There is certainly nothing unexpected about a contestable industry demand driven model, nor the need to restructure TAFE and make it more commercially viable and the criticisms of Skills Queensland simply represent the fact that they were not given the power they need to have in order to be effective, by the previous government.

Let’s then have a look at some of the recommendations of the report;

Recommendation 2.1 –  The establishment of a truly industry led Skills Commission for Queensland.  I think  this is a good thing particularly given recommendation 2.3 which would see the Commission take over all of QLD’s funding functions.  My only concern here is the make up of the Commission, and the potential under representation of the Health and Community Services Sector.  Why; well it is simple we can talk about the wealth generated by the mining, construction and tourism industry, but even when you look at the figures in the report itself (on Page 27) the Health and Social Assistance Sector in the year to August 2012 had employment growth more than double that of the Mining industry.  Regardless of the amount of money the mining sector makes, it is the Health and Community Services Sector then is and will continue to be the biggest growing employer in both the State and the Country and any approach to funding of qualifications, skill sets (Recommedation 2.7) and like should be representative of that fact. The other point to be made about 2.7 is that if more of the funding is targeted at organisations rather than at individuals there will I think be an overall better result in terms of completions and employment outcomes.

Stronger links with VET in Schools (Recommendation 2.9) and a better link to employment outcomes for High School Students by alignment of qualification outcomes with industry need is something I have been advocating for a while now.  Again particularly when you look at the figures that show massive increases in some areas (800+% for arts and entertainment and 300+ for fitness related qualifications) and again Health and Community Services not even being in the top ten.  And I get it being a fitness instructor or a game designer is a much sexier career at 17-18 than being a counsellor or a support worker, but again that is where the jobs are going to be and if we are going to invest and encourage school students to look at career options and qualifications lets link them seriously to employment outcomes.

So what about TAFE, Recommendation 3.4 really stands out; the need to address the award agreements for TAFE workers is long overdue, both in the direct training area and in the administration areas.  Better management of assets (Recommendation 3.7) and a rationalisation of Campuses is also something that is badly needed in a number of areas as is the move to a more commercialised viewpoint the establishment of a new parent entity (Recommendations 3.8 and 3.9)

While the recommendations around the streamlining and the ability to transfer training contracts between employers and others (Recommendations 4.2 and 4.8 in particular) will assist in a number of areas, providing more funding to organisations to be able to recruit, train and retain, their staff would see much better outcomes I think.  This is evidenced by the Enterprise RTO experience where completion rates in the high 90% are the norm due to the fact that it is in the interests of the ERTO and the Organisation itself to hire the right staff in the first place, train them correctly and retain them.  Again the Government needs to look carefully at the Traineeship and Apprenticeship model and understand that it is no longer simply trade qualifications that are necessary components of this system but things like Aged Care, Community Services, Disability and Nursing Qaulifications that underpin and continue to underpin the Governments Four Pillars.

So if you haven’t managed to read the report it is definitely worth a look over, and I would really like to hear other people’s thoughts on the recommendations.

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