Representing quality private education
providers in Australia

Trying to see the forest for the trees at a time of crisis – our members leading the way

Monday, December 12 2016

I know that there is always change going on in our sector – but there does seem to be so much of it at the moment. Mostly it feels for the worst.  From my chair, the ACPET team seem to hear information or news or feedback or challenges with any level of reform that is going on, every day. The worst of it are the stories of how this is impacting the day to day business and lives of our sector, the stories of concern of employees, of students, of families...

And yet…How do we start to sense a potential future beyond this crazy reform - of imprecise information - of apparent inconsistent rules? The answers are coming from our members and our great sector.

One of the lights of recent months has been working with a great group of members who are providing incredible support and leadership on the reforms. ACPET runs a range of working groups who are vital to the work that we do. Our VSL advocacy has been supported by a range of our members including a working group, who have debated, networked, coordinated and brought real insight to our work. In the last week our members are turning their heads to the future of what the sector will look like beyond VSL. Yes, it may only be 7% of the market, but these changes are part of the unravelling thread of VET. We know that the range of VET regulations and rules that have been patched together over the years (combined with a range of industry specific workforce development policies) have resulted in a quilt, which, now is being unpicked.

Our members are thinking through a range of issues and questions. How will students fund the gap to get a quality learning experience? (The banks are seeing the opportunity; does ACPET take a role in quality assurance, ethical practice and support?) What is the capacity of the country to skill its current and future workforce? (How will we respond?) Perhaps more significantly in these conversations is a question about ACPET’s role in facilitating and supporting the sector through unplanned industrial change.

Let us just pause on this last point - unplanned industrial change.

We have seen it before across our country - shut down of mining sites, closure of manufacturing plants, systemic shifting in capacity sector wide. Keenly understanding the real impact of the reforms, a wise group of education leaders across our sector are talking about a way through this knowing that, unlike many of the examples mentioned, there is apparently no road map in place for our sector.

In the absence of anything else, the questions being raised by our members include:

  • What does the future structure of our sector look like? (More importantly can we think about what we want it to look like?)
  • What will the shape of providers and business models look like and what capacity is needed? (Will in fact there be enough support for the national training system?)
  • Is there more opportunity in the new industry structure to be innovative? (Possibly yes)
  • What can a road map for orderly transition say and do to support the change in our sector?

As leaders in our sector work through the issues, there is a palpable sense of melancholy about the negative impact of the changes but, also, a sense of potential resilience for the sector if these issues are worked through and a coordinated strategic approach taken. Perhaps most powerfully for me is bearing witness to these significant leaders asking fundamental questions about how to “get off the hamster wheel” and deliver to a mission of empowering learners with top notch quality education.

The “bigger picture” conversations are not isolated to these experienced leaders. Younger leaders are doing this as well.

On the 30th of November, it was an honour to support the ACPET team at our inaugural Women in Leadership Symposium. This symposium sought to commence answering two key questions - is there an agenda on gender equality for private education and training? (If so what would it look like?) b) Does ACPET have a role in supporting it? It was fantastic to have so many younger women from a diverse range of backgrounds involved in this event. All debated and contributed to a fantastic day and we look forward to sharing the draft outcomes of this symposium shortly. (Just a hint, the answer from those involved in the symposium to those two questions, is yes.)

I do appreciate that at times of great change it can be a real challenge to go to the bigger picture and beyond the crisis of the moment. I am certainly struggling with my myopic view of the world. But, across the age and experience spectrum our members are looking directly at the problems that the current context of Australian Education and Training and asking “What is this teaching me?” “What can I learn to help adapt?” They are reaching out to experienced colleagues and quality thinking. They are engaging with each other and ACPET to talk the challenges through and discover a potential hint of a future.  We are not sure where the road will lead us (or what the road looks like) but surely, this is the very definition of resilience and a key component of great leadership.

And a note of welcome and congratulations

ACPET welcomes the announcement from the Hon. Karen Andrews, Assistant Minister for Vocational Education and Skills that Mr Mark Patterson AO has been appointed Chief Commissioner of the Australian Skills Quality Authority (ASQA) from January 1, 2017. ACPET congratulates Mr Patterson on his appointment to this significant role for Australia’s VET Sector and recognises his considerable experience and contribution to date in public policy, industry and skills. 

In welcoming the announcement and congratulating Mr Patterson, we also recognise and thank Mr Chris Robinson on his service and contribution to Australia’s VET sector and public policy over many years.

ACPET looks forward to continuing its close working relationship with the national regulator and supporting the new Chief Commissioner in his role.

Kit McMahon
Chief Operating Officer


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