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providers in Australia

Time for the big conversation

Monday, October 9 2017

A few weeks ago the OECD released its Education at a Glance 2017 report that outlines the performance of member states across the broad education field. That includes primary, secondary and tertiary education. As I comment at the time, Australia has much to be proud of in terms of its performance and expenditure on tertiary education and training. Of course there is the debate in Australia about the merits of the relative contributions by students and governments given the higher proportionate contribution by students but, overall, a good position to be in.

This doesn’t mean we should sit back and relax. In a world ‘almost without borders’ the skills and talent of our workforce is increasingly the key difference to economic growth and prosperity. This is particularly the case as digital and other technologies continue to shape the skill needs of business and industry and of our young people and others seeking to pursue their career aspirations.

Not a week goes by when we don’t read about the impact of the 4th Industrial Revolution, the Internet of Things and the vulnerability of so many of our existing jobs to restructuring or replacement. This week saw the Australian Institute of Company Directors Deputy Chair Gene Tilbrook highlight the need for policy makers to address an emerging skills crisis that is being masked by low levels of unemployment. In an AICD forum a number of contributors highlighted the need for a national policy debate about how we respond to these challenges and particularly the workforce re-skilling need. I particularly noted the commentary on the social impact on existing workers and the need to find fulfilling roles for those displaced.

This call for a national debate or conversation around the nation’s future skills needs is well made and timely. With the federated governance model in the VET sector we really don’t have, and haven’t for a number of years, the vehicle to really work through these major challenges and explore the big policy options that need consideration from all governments and industry.

While the federal government’s Skilling Australians Fund is welcome, it has a very targeted agenda - boosting apprenticeships and traineeships. I know there is work underway to look at the utility of training packages but, once again, believe we need a more fundamental consideration of what the future of skills development looks like.

It’s also timely because we need to move on from the issues we’ve confronted as a consequence of some recent government program failures. By all mean lets ‘absorb the lessons’ but surely it’s time to consider how we develop a sector that has the flexibility, innovation and yes, quality, necessary to respond to the unprecedented skills changes (and opportunities) we face.

This future of the VET sector was a topic keenly discussed by the ACPET Board at its most recent recent meeting. The Board highlighted the importance of having a regulatory regime that can support innovation and flexibility and strongly endorsed the need for a regulatory partnership - one that not only identifies and removes poor performance - but also recognises, enables and rewards high-quality skills development that supports our students business and industry, both now and into the future.

But a future without Irina

The ACPET ‘family’ loses one of its longest serving and most highly regarded staff tomorrow when Irina Anstee leaves our Melbourne office after 14 years. Irina has been the administrative ‘glue’ that has held our organisation together; been the corporate memory bank as we’ve sought to support our members as they respond to the challenges and opportunities of our diverse sector.

She has served and supported all our Boards of Directors and CEOs over that time. I know also that many members and others who read National Monday Update have come into contact with Irina. I also know that she has done her very best to support each of you.

So while we wish Irina all the best, we at ACPET do so with a heavy heart.

Rod Camm
Chief Executive Officer


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