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News Service 42 – Productivity Commission Final VET Report, NSW UE ITAB Awarded Grant, UE Training Packages – feedback & concern, Smart & Skilled Update (127, 126, 125), Skills Reform Consultations, Supervisor Module – Safety

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  1. PRODUCTIVITY COMMISSION RELEASES FINAL SKILLS AND WORKFORCE DEVELOPMENT REPORT
  2. TRAINING SERVICES NSW AWARDS GRANT TO NSW UE ITAB FOR UTILITIES AND ELECTROTECHNOLOGY
  3. UE TRAINING PACKAGES – FEEDBACK SOUGHT AND MAJOR CONCERN
  4. SMART AND SKILLED UPDATE No. 127, 126, 125 – 8 FEB 2021
  5. SKILLS REFORM CONSULTATIONS
  6. CONSTRUCTION SITE SUPERVISORS WORKSHOP – MODULE 3

1.   PRODUCTIVITY COMMISSION RELEASES FINAL SKILLS AND WORKFORCE DEVELOPMENT REPORT

The Australian Government Productivity Commission has advised that it has released its final report into National Agreement for Skills and Workforce Development Review.  It states, the “report was sent to Government on 15 December 2020 and publicly released on 21 January 2021.

The report sets out the Commission’s Review of the National Agreement for Skills and Workforce Development (NASWD). Its key messages are that the NAWSD should be replaced with a new principles based agreement, and there is manifest capacity for governments to get a better return from their investment in vocational education and training (VET).”

Key points stated in the release of the report are:

  • “This review has not found evidence of a vocational education and training (VET) system in crisis. Our recommendations address some of the system’s acknowledged weaknesses and should build on its strengths to lift participation and improve the quality of training.
  • The National Agreement for Skills and Workforce Development is overdue for replacement.
    • Governments have stepped back from some of its policy aspirations. Targets have not been met and the performance framework has not held governments to account.
  • A new intergovernmental agreement should be principles‑based, modular (to retain flexibility and currency) and reviewed every five years.
  • Australian Government funding should remain largely untied for base funding but subject to much greater accountability and transparency.
  • Governments should continue to support the development of a more efficient and competitive VET market through informed user choice and a focus on quality.
    • Students need better curated information on career opportunities, the performance of training providers, course quality and prices.
    • Efforts to improve quality should be ramped up through faster changes to training packages, developing an evidence‑based VET workforce strategy, and a phased introduction of independent assessment.
  • There is a manifest capacity for governments to achieve a better return on the $6.4billion spent on VET by:
    • using the efficient costs and loadings currently being estimated by the National Skills Commission as a common basis for setting and simplifying course subsidies
    • introducing modest minimum student fees for Certificate III and above courses with exemptions for disadvantaged students
    • applying more contestability and transparency to public funding of TAFEs and enhancing the operational autonomy of public providers
    • enabling State and Territory funding to follow students enrolled with an interstate provider.
  • To scale up workforce skills, governments should expand VET Student Loans (VSL) to more Diploma and above courses and to most Certificate IV courses.
    • Loan caps should better reflect course costs, and loan fees should be paid by all students.
  • Reforms to the trade apprenticeship system are best focused on:
    • improving completion rates by better screening and matching of prospective apprentices
    • making pathways more flexible and providing the same subsidy for non‑apprenticeship pathways as for traditional pathways
    • adjusting the timing of employer incentives to provide more support when the risk of cancellation is greatest.
  • There should be a coordinated national strategy to improve school education, ‘second-chance’ learning in the VET sector and other adult education services to reduce the large number of Australians with low language, literacy, numeracy and digital literacy skills.
  • To address some of the key obstacles to lifelong learning, this report proposes improvements in foundation skills, better credit pathways, an expansion of VSL and a trial of a new financing instrument for mature‑age Australians reskilling and upskilling.”

The report (overview and full) can be downloaded from the following URL: https://www.pc.gov.au/inquiries/completed/skills-workforce-agreement/report.  A copy of the overview report is also attached.

There are four stand out issues for the Utilities and Electrotechnology industry are:

  1. reforms to the trade apprenticeship system are best focused on making pathways more flexible and providing the same subsidy for non‑apprenticeship pathways as for traditional pathways
  2. quality should be ramped up through faster changes to training packages
  3. a phased introduction of independent assessment
  4. review has not found evidence of a vocational education and training (VET) system in crisis

The Report asserts that there has been, “persistent skill shortages in many occupations that rely on apprenticeships as the main training pathway. Apprenticeship commencements have declined significantly over the past decade — commencements of trade apprentices peaked at about 100 000 in 2012 but fell almost 30 per cent by 2019. And apprenticeship completion rates remain low in many occupations — only 57 per cent of apprentices commencing in 2015 completed their apprenticeship. There are significant costs to non completion, including time, resources and wasted government funding.”  Whilst the point of non completions may have merit at a broad apprenticeship level that is not the case for Utilities and Electrotechnology which have high rates of completion.  The report recognises this fact at page 331, where it evinces, “apprenticeships in many other trades (such as construction, electrotechnology and telecommunications) have risen or remained stable”.  If this is so, and other classes of apprenticeship are in decline, why not look to design a solution that replicates the successes these industry sectors have, and have had, in maintaining or increasing numbers, rather than suggest a totally naïve solution such as institutional training (to mirror or compare to the university model) as a possible pathway.  In the end it will be no less successful than the old electronic apprenticeship that was destroyed by such an approach. 

The path to increased numbers is not greater flexibility through more pathways such as an institutional program.  This simply fragments a well-established brand and a universally well-known model of learning.  It’s not what employers need in the long run.  The true apprenticeship system of a learner and mentor learning model is over 2,000 years old and cannot readily be replicated in an institutional setting.  The costs of replication (mirroring experiences and activities of a workplace) are enormous and uneconomic.  There is not short-cut solution where there is a requirement for theory and practice to be learnt and applied concurrently in a tactile environment often comprised of a combination of institutional learning and workplace learning, as a worker. 

This is not the case for abstract learning that is often the domain of universities and little correlation is needed of concurrent learning and practice in the form of combined employment and institutional learning.  Learning for this class of learners can indeed be undertaking in full, in an institutional setting.  Take for example a graduate with a Bachelor of Arts degree, they could be employed in a range of work settings, whereas an electrician is only likely to be engaged in the narrow field of electrical work as the abstract component of the learning is not as portable as is the Bachelor of Arts breadth of learning.  Hence, comparing higher education learning processes with apprenticeship learning is like comparing apples and oranges.  They may reside in the same fruit family, but they are not the same.  The Productivity Commission’s deliberations and recommendations in this regard, if implemented, are at best naïve and opined by those with only higher educational experiences, and at worst destructive to the future of traditional trade apprenticeship programs in this country.  Industry must speak as one voice in this regard and raise concern with the suggestion. 

With respect to speeding up the process of Training Package changes, this could be achieved with little additional structural changes to the VET system via differing levels of responsibility which could be assigned to different modifications categories.  If there was the will and consensus to find elegant solutions, they would be found instantaneously.  These where there in the past.  However, there is a critical mass of incumbents in the VET system that frown upon Training Packages and perpetuate the myth that the problems are caused by Training Packages rather than the administrative systems of endorsement that hamper their currency and credibility on the VET market.  AISC must take full responsibility for the lack of leadership and promotion of the benefits and advantages of Training Packages to the community, employers, career aspirants and RTOs.  This failure retards progress in assuring Australia’s workforce is appropriately skilled to meet the needs of the current and future economy in order to remain globally competitive.

The Utilities and Electrotechnology industry supports the notion of industry-led independent assessment model, albeit it would like to retain and gain quality RTOs in the process.  Interesting that the PC would recommend a concept having identified very little experiential evidence of a quality model or system in operation in Australia or overseas.  It does though, highlight one well-recognised overseas model.  There are many others internationally in operation if one cared to look.  Further research into suitable models and options are needed in this regard in order to identify a robust and trustworthy working model.  Provided the independent assessment had checks and balances and it was overseen by relevant participatory industry stakeholders, this arrangement could open up an array of new and innovative training delivery arrangements that could develop quality outcomes and be verified via the independent assessment.  The assessment would need to use transparently agreed or approved nationally set criteria or standards.  No doubt, Training Packages – units of competency have the very criteria that would be needed for quality of assessment outcomes.

It is interesting to note that the Productivity Commission found no evidence of a vocational education and training (VET) system in crisis, whilst recognising issues exist.  One can only question this conclusion, when there are a plethora of other related reports and anecdotal evidence suggesting otherwise.  A close review of the Joyce Report (Strengthening Skills: Expert Review of Australia’s VET system) would clearly affirm serious problems with the system.  For example, it states at page 35, 1st paragraph, of Chapter 3, “… Past problems with provider quality have caused some of the most serious reputational and confidence issues in vocational education.”  Or another,  at page 72, “Time for a fresh approach – There is a clear need to implement a new set of consistent funding arrangements to support VET across Australia. The level of stakeholder frustration with the complexity and inconsistency of the current pricing and subsidy models is high. Beyond the specific problems caused by variable and varying funding, the funding system as a whole is contributing to issues with confidence in the overall VET system.”  To cap it off, at page 27, Main Issues in the VET Sector, “… Vocational education has been steadily losing the battle for hearts and minds with the university sector. Fewer young people aspire to undertake vocational education courses.  Many consider VET as less prestigious and only for students who are of low academic ability.  The Review’s own student survey confirmed that a lower number of students aspire to VET careers.”  It is unfortunate the Commission was reluctant to take on the challenge to truly reflect the serious and structural problems of the VET sector.  Instead, it seems to have focused its attention on a range of downstream VET issues such as students and related matters without tacking the hardcore central structural issues that are pivotal and the cause of much of the real problems besetting the VET system.  That is, linking and interrelating VET systems goals and objectives with the skills and workforce development and employment goals and objectives. 

The Utilities and Electrotechnology industry will watch with much patience the manner in which the government considers and progresses the list of recommendations submitted by the Commission.  Hopefully, the Government will ponder the issues and consequences inherent in the recommendations and look to implement common sense options and discard those that are problematic, impractical and have little industry appetite or support.


2.   TRAINING SERVICES NSW AWARDS GRANT TO NSW UE ITAB FOR UTILITIES AND ELECTROTECHNOLOGY

Readers many recall that Training Services NSW had opened a Grant Opportunity to potential grantees interested in undertaking ITAB work in 11 industry sector areas in late 2020.  The NSW UE ITAB submitted a grant proposal to continue in its recognised role as an ITAB with coverage of the Utilities and Electrotechnology industry sectors.  The Grant process ensued during the months of November and December 2020, with Training Services NSW announcing the Grant successors late December 2020.

The NSW UE ITAB was notified that it had been successful in its submission and was awarded a Grant for the Utilities and Electrotechnology industry sectors for the period February 2021 to June 2022.  Accordingly, the ITAB has now executed the contractual arrangements with Training Services NSW and will continue in its mission to work with Training Services NSW and the industry sectors under coverage to provide related services.

One of the primary communication mechanisms is the News Service, commenced way back when COVID-19 impacted on our lives and work arrangements.  To this end, this is the first issue of the News Service in 2021.  It will continue for the foreseeable future, and be distributed via the email network and promoted via our social media links.

The Board of Directors of the NSW UE ITAB would like to thank the industry stakeholders and representatives that aided in the Grant submission by providing letters/emails of support and/or other means of support for the continuation of the NSW UE ITAB in its role.  They would also like to sincerely thank Training Services NSW and the relevant staff that facilitated the Grant process and resolved to recognise and award a Grant to the NSW UE ITAB for its declared industry sector coverage, and allow it to continue to serve the industry and its stakeholders.  Thank you to all for your efforts.


3.   UE TRAINING PACKAGES – FEEDBACK SOUGHT AND MAJOR CONCERN

Australian Industry Standards (AIS) advises of the latest information on the array of Utilities and Electrotechnology Training Packages:

  1. Gas Training Package:

A – ENDORSED:

The Gas Industry Training Package (Release 2.0) has been endorsed by Skills Ministers for implementation.  The endorsed Gas Industry Training Package, Release 2.0 materials are now available on www.training.gov.au.

Developed and updated where a new qualification and new and updated Units of Competency to address the following priority skills needs of the gas industry:

B – VALIDATION AND FEEDBACK PHASE:

The Gas Industry Reference Committee, the Technical Advisory Committee (TAC) considered all stakeholder feedback and revised draft Training Package materials for the Data Loggers and Storage and Reinjection of Gas projects.  Feedback sought on each of the projects.  Projects are:

Data Loggers – five new Units of Competency (View DLS project page for more materials and submit feedback)

Storage and Reinjection of Gas – five new Units of Competency (View SRG project page for more materials and submit feedback)

The Gas IRC is seeking your feedback to validate these draft materials to ensure the proposed products meet industry needs.  Detailed mapping information, tracking changes to the existing Training Package, is also available to view.  Please submit your feedback by close of business Friday, 19 February 2021.  For more information on these projects, please contact the Industry Skills Specialist: Raja Ginting, Industry Skills Specialist – M: 0447 055 160 | E: raja.ginting@aistnds.org.au

  1. Electrotechnology Training Package:

The Electrotechnology Industry Reference Committee, its Technical Advisory Committees have drafted Training Package materials for the following projects and is seeking your feedback.

Variable Refrigerant Flow AC Systems – new variable refrigerant flow AC systems Unit of Competency(View VRF project page for more materials and submit feedback)

Emergency Lighting and Alarm Systems/Fire and Smoke Control Systems – 1) new Unit of Competency for air conditioning technicians for fire and smoke control features of mechanical services systems; 2) new Unit of Competency for electricians for emergency alarm systems and equipment; and existing unit UEEEL0048 Install and maintain emergency lighting systems has been renamed and updated to cover the needs of electricians for emergency lighting systems (View ELS project page for more materials and submit feedback)

Detailed mapping information, tracking changes to the existing Training Package, is also available to view.  Please submit your feedback by close of business Monday, 8 March 2021.  For more information on these projects, please contact the Industry Skills Specialist: Paul Humphreys, Industry Skills Specialist – M: 0429 670 588 | E: paul.humphreys@aistnds.org.au

  1. Generation Training Package

The ESI Generation Industry Reference Committee (IRC), its Technical Advisory Committees have considered all stakeholder feedback and revised draft Training Package materials for the Remote Area Essential Services, Operations Personnel and Wind Power Generation projects.  The IRC and TAC seeks your feedback.

Remote Area Essential Service – Certificate II in Remote Area Essential Service qualification updated (View REA project page for more materials and submit feedback)

Operations Personnel – Six existing qualifications amalgamated into a Certificate III, IV and Diploma in ESI Generation, with streams (View OPQ project page for more materials and submit feedback)

Wind Power Generation – Certificate IV in Large Scale Wind Generation – Electrical qualification and 13 associated units reviewed and updated (View WPG project page for more materials and submit feedback)

The ESI Generation IRC is seeking your feedback to validate these draft materials to ensure the proposed products meet industry needs.  Detailed mapping information, tracking changes to the existing Training Package, is also available to view.  Please submit your feedback by close of business Tuesday, 23 February 2021.  For more information on these projects, please contact the Industry Skills Manager: Andrew Fitisemanu, Industry Skills Manager – M: 0419 658 587 | E: andrew.fitisemanu@aistnds.org.au

  1. Electrotechnology Training Package – issues of concern:

The NSW UE ITAB has received a string of enquiries and concerns from RTOs and employers regarding the newly endorsed Release 2.0 UEE Electrotechnology Training Package.  Specifically, in relation to the removal of access to a full Certificate IV qualification – in the form of an apprenticeship or career path.  Previously the Training Package qualifications had Certificate III qualification embedded in them (nested).  This permitted, for instance, an apprentice in their last year to enrol in a comparable Certificate IV qualification to commence their off-the-job learning process in post trade subjects.  However, the new Certificate IVs in the revised Training Package have removed the nested qualification arrangement and only permit entry once the candidate has obtained the full Certificate III.

Communication the ITAB received to date, corroborates the major concern many have with this new barrier to entry, created by the revised Electrotechnology Training Package. 

Following on from previous News Services this ITAB issued, that stakeholders concerned with the unintended consequences of AISC’s decision to endorse the Training Package knowing it had flaws would be directed to communicate directly with AISC.  In this regard it will be recalled that AISC proceeded to do so, and the ITAB advised that concerned stakeholders would be best to communicate directly with AISC, as the ITAB’s and other industry stakeholder’s concerns had fallen on deaf ears.

Interestingly, a key stakeholder recently wrote to AISC with this major concern and received a response.  In its response AISC stated,

“The Australian Industry and Skills Committee (AISC) approved changes to the Electrotechnology Training Package recommended by the Electrotechnology Industry Reference Committee (IRC) in August 2020. The approved changes included the removal of duplicate Certificate III ‘nested qualifications’ from the qualifications in question replaced by the creation of new entry requirements.

Both Skills Ministers and State and Territory Training Authorities have consistently requested nested qualifications be removed from Training Packages to remove duplicated content from the training system and to ensure all units of competency, skill sets and qualifications comply with the 2012 Standards for Training Packages. These Standards ensure training packages are of high quality and meet the workforce development needs of industry, enterprises and individuals.

As you may be aware, the IRC is responsible for developing changes to the Electrotechnology Training Package – the IRC designs the form and content of changes which are then submitted to the AISC for approval. IRCs engage widely with stakeholders to ensure the views put forward and proposed changes are representative of industry needs. The AISC was advised by the Quality Assurer engaged to review the case for endorsement that consultation was extensive, exhaustive and ongoing and included several rounds of public consultation which broadly supported the recommended changes.

I am sorry that you missed the opportunity to comment on the proposed changes on this occasion. Genuine and timely consultation is essential for the successful development of training packages, and the AISC is committed to ensuring that this occurs.  I have asked the AISC Secretariat to work with Australian Industry Standards (AIS), the Skills Service Organisation that supports the Electrotechnology IRC, to make sure you are specifically included in future consultation.”

Readers can draw their own conclusions as to who was responsible and accountable for creating a barrier to learning in these qualifications.  An entry arrangement that has existed for more than 30 years was taken away on the notion that consultation took place, and no one was concerned and won’t be because the Skills Ministers and State and Territory Training Authorities decided this type of arrangement could no longer be permitted.  The IRC and AISC saw fit to oblige!!

One must ask how this policy could have seen the light of day.  The shear decision to remove a nested qualification of this type, prevents future apprenticeships been gazetted at AQF level 4.  Why?  Because the Certificate IV is no longer a stand-alone qualification and requires the Certificate III to be gained first. 

With the need for higher level qualifications espoused by many for industry advancement in a globally competitive market, here we have a scenario where the system has decided to prohibit either naively or willy the creation of future apprenticeships in the Electrotechnology industry sector at AQF Level 4.  This error of judgment needs further attention and discussion to ascertain why Skills Ministers and State and Territory Training Authorities would proceed down this path and more so, why AISC and the IRC complied.  Future career aspirants are disadvantaged as is industry and the Australian economy to train and access higher level operatives.


4.   SMART AND SKILLED UPDATE No. 127, 126, 125 – 8 FEB 2021

  • Smart and Skilled Update No. 127 (attached) – 8 February 2021, covers the following:
  1. Skilling for Recovery – Part Qualifications – Expression of Interest
    The Department will shortly be sending an email to Smart and Skilled Providers with an invitation for them to express an interest in delivering part qualifications training under Skilling for Recovery (SfR) for students who are commencing training by 30 June 2021

Please note that the EOI must be completed by either they Chief Executive Officer or nominated Smart and Skilled Provider Representative (as recorded in STS Online) and must be submitted to marketdesign.implementation@det.nsw.edu.au by 5:00pm Monday 22 February 2021 (AEDT)

  • Smart and Skilled Update No. 126 (attached) – 4 February 2021, covers the following:
  1. NSW Skills List update – Version 11.3 released
    1. Updates to the NSW Skills List as result of Training Package updates
    1. VTO changes affecting the NSW Skills List
  1. Skilling for Recovery enrolments where training commences on or after 1 July 2021 not available until late April 2021
  2. Be recognised through the 2021 NSW Training Awards
    1. Smart and Skilled Update No. 125 (attached) – 27 January 2021, covers the following:
  1. Summer Skills Program – Extension of enrolment period for 2021
  2. 2021 Webinar series for Smart and Skilled providers
    1. First webinar for 2021: 10am Thursday 11 February 2021 – Registration required
  3. Amendments to NSW Apprenticeship/Traineeship proformas
    1. Amended Training Plan Proposal proforma
    1. Employer Endorsement addendum to Training Plan proforma now available separately.

For more information visit: https://www.training.nsw.gov.au/smartandskilled/index.html

Or, for technical support in relation to this update, contact Training Market Customer Support at Training.Market@det.nsw.edu.au.


5.   SKILLS REFORM CONSULTATIONS

The Department of Education, Skills and Employment (DESE) has embarked on a large scale consultation exercise covering an array of topics it is seeking feedback on.  To this end the DESE website states, “To support the future growth and prosperity of our nation, the Australian, state and territory governments are committed to improving the vocational education and training (VET) system through reform. A strong VET system is critical for Australia’s long-term economic recovery from COVID-19.

Skills Reform Agenda

The Heads of Agreement for Skills Reform outlines the required changes to the VET system so that Australians can access high quality and relevant training, to ensure they have the skills to take on the jobs that emerge through the next decade and beyond.

All governments are working towards a new National Skills Agreement by August 2021.

The skills reform priorities page, provides further information on the priorities for the new arrangements. You will also find the latest updates on actions and achievements to improve the VET system.”

Skills reform consultation

“Skills Ministers have agreed to progress the immediate reforms under the Heads of Agreement for Skills Reforms, including enhanced industry engagement, qualifications and quality reforms.

On the skills reform consultation page you can:

  • provide your thoughts on improving the VET sector
  • find the latest information on skills reform consultation.

Visit the Skills Reform Consultation page for more information and to provide feedback on the array of survey available:  https://www.dese.gov.au/skills-reform-consultation

Consultation areas include the following:

“Recognising the importance of a high quality VET system that works for everyone, Australian governments (both at the national and state and territory level) have agreed to immediately progress reforms in the following key areas:

These reforms are the next step in improving Australia’s VET system, building on previous consultations and feedback received from across the sector.

We are asking for your views on how to improve the VET system. There will be multiple opportunities for you to provide your feedback, views and thoughts on improving VET.  This will include discussion papers, workshops and online surveys. We will continue to update this page with opportunities to engage in the coming weeks and months.

To receive updates on these opportunities and skills reform more broadly, register:  REGISTER AND PROVIDE FEEDBACK

Links to the varies feedback processes: HAVE YOUR SAY


6.   CONSTRUCTION SITE SUPERVISORS WORKSHOP – MODULE 3

SafeWork NSW advises that it is “offering a FREE VIRTUAL workshop series designed for construction site supervisors to further develop their understanding of their obligations for managing work health and safety (WHS) at the worksite. The workshop also helps supervisors recognise and manage the major harms associated with the building and construction industry.

The virtual workshop is designed to further develop a construction site/trade supervisors skills, in:

  • understanding what the WHS legislation requires you to do with respect to hazard identification and risk controls.
  • understanding the steps to take in managing risks on site.
  • understanding when to review and update risk controls.

This virtual workshop is designed for anyone who:

  • is employed as a construction site supervisor, manger, foreman, etc
  • formally or informally supervises less experienced workers

Participation in these workshops may contribute to Continuing Professional Development (CPD) subject to criteria set by Fair Trading NSW.

If you’d like to register, please select your preferred date and time below.