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Edition 585, 22 December 2014

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Another year - another reform, A message from the Chair!

Monday, December 22 2014

Well, who can believe 2015 is almost upon us.

2014 has been a very diverse and challenging year - one must say no surprises there!

I, like all of you, am deeply troubled and saddened by the incident at the Lindt Cafe in Sydney this week. It is not what we hope and expect in our Country. My deepest sympathies go out to all of the hostages, and especially to the family and friends of the two true heroes, Tori Johnson and Katrina Dawson.

While everything else really dims in comparison to this awful event, I would like to comment on where our industry finds itself at the end of another year.

This wonderfully diverse sector that we work in continues to perform, making real differences to the lives of Australians and our international guests.

Despite this, the year has also produced many challenges. Media scrutiny of apparent unscrupulous operators has been a feature. We all know this is but a minor element of the sectors, not that some commentators have reported that.  A tremendous advantage about an education marketplace, or any market for that matter, is that they produce innovation and diversity. That is a true positive. Workplace training, on-line programs and even MOOCs themselves all have their origins in competition. Yes markets also can produce what could be perceived as perverse outcomes, which must be dealt with strongly by regulators. By way of example, the private sector is often damned for using IPads and the like as incentives to enrol. I read with interest this week an advertisement from TAFE encouraging me to enrol before Christmas for a chance to win an IPad or $5000! Interestingly I don’t recall reading any damning editorial about this.

The Australian Government is obviously very active in resetting the base of both higher education and VET. The Higher Education reforms, Free Trade Agreements are at the fore, together with proposed changes to Streamlined Visa Processing, Apprenticeships Support, Training Packages, Industry Skills Councils and the list goes on. No wonder we all feel a little fatigued.

This week I met with now former Minister for Industry, Ian McFarlane. The Minister was very open about the reform agenda and the meeting was a great opportunity to share information and issues on developments in the sector.

I wish the Minister well in his new portfolio because yes, there are more changes afoot. Minister McFarlane will now be the Minister for Industry and Science. I wish the Minister well in the agenda ahead.

I would like to congratulate the new Minister of Education and Training, The Honourable Chris Pyne. We already work closely with the Minister but look forward to even further engagement in ensuring the sectors both meet the needs of the growing economy.

As Chair of the NSW committee, I must comment that the NSW Smart and Skilled Reforms have produced significant challenges for our membership. While there are both winners and losers, our concern has been the process. To this day members are very frustrated at the complete lack of transparency in the evaluation of submissions. I along with ACPET CEO Rod Camm and NSW state EO Peter McDonald have spent a considerable amount of time on behalf of our members discussing this issue with the Minister and his department. Minister Piccolli's recent announcement of an additional $57M is welcome and helpful and may go some way to easing some of the pressure some NSW members are under. However, I call on the Minister to ensure the Department does provide meaningful information, namely the criteria and evidence of evaluations. We are also looking for a commitment to review the program in early 2015.

For ACPET, I must say the last few months have been one of consolidation.  We are rebuilding a strong base, upon which 2015 will see considerable changes to our approach to membership, membership support and of course to the delivery of services. I look forward to the year ahead as there are tremendous opportunities for our sector and it is our job to help you realise those opportunities.

On a final note, I wish you all a Merry Christmas and a great New Year. Have a great break, I am sure you all need it.

Kind regards,

Martin Cass


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