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Date:     23-25 August 2016

Venue:  Grand Pacific Hotel and Fiji National University, Suva, Fiji

Theme:  Quality, innovation and skill mobilisation in TVET – an internationalisation process


The International Vocational Education and Training Association (IVETA) describes itself as a global network of vocational educators. The network includes VET providers and industry as well as IVETA members. Membership is open to all comers – visit the membership page on the IVETA website for further information. If you do join you can elect to have your details shown on the new members page – quite a few Aussies on the list as this post was being written.

IVETA has held conferences in all manner of places: 2012 in Atlanta, USA; 2013 in Nevada, USA; 2014, across two locations in Helsinki, Finland, and St Petersburg, Russia; 2015 in Kuching, Malaysia. And this year in Suva, Fiji.

Conference program details are still a little sparse – the call for papers only closed on 15 June. However, if you’re going to this conference then you’ll need some planning time, so this is an early heads up. Two keynote speakers are confirmed:

  • Santosh Mehrotra, Centre for Informal Sector and Labour Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi
  • Wendy Perry, VET Head Workforce Planner, Workforce Blue Print, South Australia.

More details on the conference will be available here, and you can download a lengthy promotional brochure here.

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Skillset and match is the inventive title of the online magazine produced by the wonderfully named CEDEFOP, which stands for the European Centre for the Development of Vocational Training.

Skillset and match comes out three times a year – January, May and September. You can download the May 2016 edition (24 pages) and catch up on topical VET matters in Europe and beyond. Articles in the current edition include:

  • ‘14 ways to tackle skills mismatch’
  • ‘Making people’s skills visible’
  • ‘Global trends and their impact on VET’.

There’s also an interview with Denise Amyot, CEO of Colleges and Institutes, Canada, who discusses the role of VET in applied research and why Canada has replaced the acronyms VET and TVET with ‘professional and technical education and training’.

Earlier editions of Skillset and match are available from this webpage.

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The VET sector has long played an important role in assisting workers into new jobs and occupations when the industries or enterprises they have worked in hit the wall. The estimable NCVER has been looking into that space recently. In early June NCVER published an overview of research findings titled When one door closes: VET's role in helping displaced workers find jobs (10 pages).

The paper notes how varied, and perhaps surprising, is the experience of decline and growth across occupations. The steepest decline between 2006 and 2011 was reported to be among secretaries, and to a less marked extent jobs in agriculture, forestry and manufacturing. Where was the growth? Registered nurses, aged and disabled carers, child carers, chefs, checkout operators and office cashiers, general sales assistants and fast food cooks.

Losing your job is stressful. Harder still when your occupation is no longer sought after, leaving you with what seem like redundant, or unmarketable, skills. The VET sector can play a very valuable role in these circumstances by focusing on a displaced worker’s skills transferability. The NCVER paper proposes the wider use of an occupational cluster framework to map skills. An occupational cluster map is shown on page 7 of the report. In explaining the benefits of this kind of mapping the NCVER paper has it that:

… many skills, even those that are meant to be more generic, such as the employability skills embedded into training packages, were developed in an occupation-specific way that limits their transferability. One way to overcome this is to use an occupational cluster framework (see figure 1) to allow better mapping of skills across occupations. If occupations sharing similar skills, knowledge, tasks and attributes are classified into ‘families’ or ‘clusters’, such as in this framework, workers may find it easier to move between occupations within this skill cluster. It will also help to identify roles where a retrenched worker’s skills will be of use. Another key benefit of an occupational cluster framework is that it will also improve sharing of unit of competencies across qualifications contributing to increased transition possibilities in the labour market.

To make this kind of strategy available to displaced workers involves a bit of renovation in the VET sector. What we’d need to do includes the following items extracted from page 8 of the NCVER paper:

  • Reconfiguring training packages – enable greater sharing of units of competencies across qualifications, which will encourage more transferability in the labour market.
  • Increasing awareness of transferable skills – many workers did not realise or appreciate the wider application of the array of ‘soft’ and generic technical skills they had acquired during their current employment, and instead focused on their specific technical skills when applying for new jobs. Support workers could play a greater role in educating workers about their transferable skills.
  • Improving knowledge of local labour markets – improve local labour market analyses as part of worker transition programs. With greater knowledge of the local labour market conditions, career counsellors and support services staff can more accurately identify potential job opportunities or encourage retraining in growth areas for displaced workers.

These strategies rely on VET system change as well as revisiting the skills base of VET professionals. As the paper observes, there are some parallels with RPL when considering what’s needed at an individual level. But it isn’t quite RPL as we know it so some adaption of skills and new systems are necessary.

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The frequent lament is that manufacturing in Australia is marginalised and dropping out of sight. No question that the departure of big auto manufacturers is a disappointment, but that’s not the whole story by any means.

Deloitte has just published the 2016 Global Manufacturing Competitiveness Index (GMCI) report (92 pages). The GCMI ranks 40 countries in terms of overall manufacturing competitiveness now and in five years time.

The news for Australia is that it ranks 21 on the GMCI now and is reckoned to hold steady in the rankings five years from now – it’s predicted ranking in 2020 is down one spot to 22. The glum predictions for manufacturing tend to focus on jobs moving offshore where it’s cheaper to do the work involved. It’s more complicated than that. Ahead of Australia on the GMCI are countries like the USA, Netherlands, Sweden, Canada and Switzerland, along with nations like Mexico, Thailand and Indonesia. China is number 1 in 2016, but expected to be number 2, behind the USA, in 2020.

Manufacturing isn’t in decline. It’s at the cutting edge. Consider these manufacturing technologies listed on page 7 of the GMCI report:

  • Smart, connected products – the Internet of Things (IoT)
  • Smart factories (IoT)
  • High performance computing
  • Advanced robotics
  • Additive manufacturing (3D printing)
  • Augmented reality (to improve quality, training, expert knowledge).

Each of these areas relies on manufacturing and there is ample opportunity for Australia to be a global producer of advanced manufacturing products.

The training implications are significant and VET will need to hone its manufacturing expertise to support development of the manufacturing industry. It’s no accident that Germany is ranked at 3 on the GMCI in 2016 and is expected to be in the same position in 2020. The report notes that:

Germany’s historical strength in key industries as well as its focus in ‘dual system’ of vocational training are likely key factors that resulted in its top ranking on talent capabilities. With a focus on ‘mechatronics,’ its dual system of vocational training in which approximately 60 percent of the country’s youth participates, combines classroom instruction with work experience in one of 344 available trades. In fact, this integrated educational system is a model several countries are trying to emulate.

The GMCI website has engaging infographics that make the data easy to grasp.

There’s another report on manufacturing in Australia that is worth dipping into. The report’s title says it all really: Manufacturing (Still) Matters: Why the decline of Australian manufacturing is NOT inevitable, and what government can do about it (18 pages). Written by Jim Stanford from the Centre for Future Work at the Australia Institute, the report offers a perspective on why manufacturing can and must have a big future Down Under:

  • Australians are buying more manufactured goods over time, not less. And manufacturing output is growing around the world, not shrinking.
  • Manufacturing is not an “old” industry. It is in fact the most innovation-intensive sector in the whole economy — and no country can be an innovation leader without the ability to apply innovation in manufacturing.
  • Manufactured goods account for over two-thirds of world merchandise trade. A country that cannot successfully export manufactures will be shut out of most trade.

The report identifies a range of actions Australia needs to take to stay in the manufacturing game. Those actions include:

… infrastructure investment should include facilities and services which support manufacturing: ranging from transportation infrastructure (like rail links, ports, and roads to accelerate supply logistics and exports), to utility connections (and other measures to ensure the supply of stably-priced, sustainable energy), to modern training facilities (to help better integrate TAFE and university training with industry).

Staying with the training perspective, Stanford writes:

Merely training workers does not in itself create the jobs to use those skills. In some specialized manufacturing sectors, however, enhancing the future skills and capacities of workers must be a vital component of future sector strategies. Consistent funding for skills training at all levels (including STEM and technical skills in schools, stable and accessible TAFE and VET programs, and support for lifelong learning by adult workers) is essential, as are efforts to more closely link training programs with future workforce needs in strategic sectors. Germany’s vaunted apprenticeship system is perhaps the most outstanding international role model in this area. But many other industrial countries manage the challenge of matching eager, well-prepared workers with future jobs much better than Australia does.

So there are good reasons to see upside in Australian manufacturing. We just need to tackle the challenge proactively, and entails a smart VET strategy for the sector.

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The Australian Industry Skills Committee (AISC) was established around 12 months ago with a brief to integrate the many functions that contribute to scoping and developing training packages and other national training products.

The AISC’s new website is worth browsing. It offers a good overview of the current process for developing training packages and prioritising the work that needs to be done.

In addition to describing its own role, the AISC website also:

Once the national schedule for review of training packages is decided on it will be published on the website.

SSOs are effectively the replacement bodies for Industry Skills Councils. There are five SSOs at present with several more planned to cover the mining, manufacturing and automotive industries. The five in place are:

  • SkillsIQ which focuses on the services, community services and health sectors
  • Artibus Innovation which focuses on the property and construction industry
  • Skills Impact which has a broad remit that includes rural and related industries, and the food and forestry sectors
  • PwC’s Skills for Australia which picks up the suite of industry sectors served by the former Innovation and Business Skills Australia – business services, financial services, culture, ICT, printing and graphic arts, and education (including the TAE)
  • Australian Industry Standards which will focus on a range of sectors, including public services and utilities like rail, corrections and water, along with areas like electrotech and transport and logistics.

(You can also find the links to the new SSOs on the AISC website.)

The AISC is still working through the optimum structure for Industry Reference Committees (IRCs) which are the heartbeat of the new arrangements because gather and synthesise industry input into training product development. An IRC Review got underway in April to sort out those structures. You can read about the Review process here. The following IRCs will be reviewed:

  • Electrotechnology
  • Food, Beverage and Pharmaceutical
  • Electricity Supply Industry Transmission Distribution & Rail
  • Public Sector
  • Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health Workers
  • Financial Services
  • Construction
  • Property Services
  • Furnishing
  • Rural and Related.

The Review has made some headway with a proposed structure for the forest and wood products industry now out for consultation.

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