Monthly Archives: May 2018

VET is key to new Australia

Last week I saw the future. Two days at the Myriad Conference in Brisbane showed me how we shall live, bank and travel. Whole industries are being transformed at lightspeed. The missing link is a skilled workforce to power the new Australia.

I went to a keynote on mobility, thinking it was about mobile technology. Apparently not. The automotive industry has re-branded to the mobility sector, and the mobility ecosystem is upon us. The Tesla is a gorgeous and comfortable vehicle – I want one! However, it is probable that transport will become a service, especially in cities. There is even an acronym for it – TaaS.

And then there is ‘out-of-this-world’ travel. Elon Musk intends to re-purpose his BFR rocket so that globetrotting takes on a whole new meaning. He announced at a conference in Adelaide last year that travellers will be able to get from one part of the world to another in under an hour for the price of today’s economy airline ticket. Timeframe? Under 10 years.

I wandered in to a workshop on 3D printers. After all, they are quirky new toys, are they not? Not so. My head hurt by the time I had processed the fact that this technology is already contributing to the transformation of manufacturing as we know it. The new term is ‘advanced manufacturing’. It is not just about the technology, which is exploring robotics, 3D printing and IoT-centric design, but also about the business models, new designs, adaptive processes and responsive service delivery that will be part of advanced manufacturing.  Visit the Advanced Manufacturing Growth Centre, if you want to know more.

Finally, there is blockchain and open banking. Originally invented to underpin bitcoin, blockchain technology is being incorporated into the payment models of a whole range of digital products and services. Power Ledger is a good example. This Perth firm is establishing a marketplace so that us peasants can sell excess solar energy directly to buyers – such as other peasants. No need for energy companies between the buyer and the seller.

Open (source) banking is even more transformational. Do I hear cynicism? Australian Treasury has released its review into what open banking should look like in Australia. Also, APRA has just granted two new banking licences for the first time in decades. Both are ‘Restricted ADI licences’ and both are neobanks – digital only. The financial requirement for starting a bank in Australia is now $3 million in capital. Maybe we should have a VETBank to enable RTOs to collect more than $1,500 at any one time!

This editorial only touches on some industries. Health and artificial intelligence are dating seriously, cities are re-inventing themselves, and there’s a space start-up industry emerging in Adelaide – seriously!

The really scary thing at the conference was not any of the above. It was the number of speakers who issued pleas to the audience for skilled staff. Did anyone know a product manager, a marketing strategist, a business analyst, a logistics specialist, anyone who had any experience, or even some understanding, of the digital business world? It is crystal clear that the current workforce must rise to this challenge. Yes, STEM in schools is essential, but the need is NOW. It is time to re-imagine the VET sector.

Privacy notice causes student angst

Some RTOs that have provided students with the new Privacy Notice have shared reactions to the document.

I’m not signing this. I don’t understand anything it says, really.
Why does the government want to know everything about me just because I’m doing this course?
I don’t get this. What am I saying is ‘true and correct’? 
What are the legal consequences if it turns out that something I said isn’t ‘true and correct’?
Does this say anything I write down can be sent to the government?
Am I still allowed to do the course if I don’t sign this?
My employer doesn’t know I’m doing this course. Will you tell them?
What’s my training activity data? Is it all the assessments that I do?
Is NCVER going to give my personal information to an overseas call centre?

Read: Privacy Notice and Declaration

Some students are refusing to sign the Notice/Declaration. This is their right, of course. However, it presents the RTO with some logistical challenges.

Challenge 1
Department of Education and Training have the following paragraph on their website:

RTO’s may provide training to a student, even if a student does not provide their consent to the collection, use and disclosure of their personal information (via the acknowledgement to the Privacy Notice and Student Declaration). RTOs must submit the data for that student to the National VET Provider Collection and advise at the time of reporting that student consent was not provided.

https://www.education.gov.au/national-vet-data-frequently-asked-questions

Fair enough. The challenge is how does an RTO ‘advise at the time of reporting that student consent was not provided’?  All reporting must be AVETMISS compliant, so if there is no field to record this, then the student’s refusal to provide consent cannot be reported. There is an AVETMISS field in the NAT00080 file to exclude a student from being contacted by NCVER as part of the Student Outcomes Survey (linked below), but this is one small part of what is covered by a student’s refusal to provide consent.

So the current situation is that an RTO can still enrol a student who refuses to consent to the release of their personal information, but the RTO is obligated to report the student’s data to NCVER anyway. There is a privacy challenge here.

Challenge 2
If a student refuses to provide consent, then it appears as though they are also refusing permission for their results to be added to their VET transcript. This needs attention.

Challenge 3
Some RTO personnel have found that they spend considerable time deciphering the Notice so that it makes sense to students, and re-assuring them about the intention, so that they will sign it. Some of the issues are listed below.

Inaccuracies
‘RTO may disclose your personal information for these purposes to third parties’
There is not ‘may’ about it. The RTO is ‘required’ to collect and disclose some personal information to NCVER, to a VET regulator on request, and a government department if they have a funding contract with that department.

At no point does an RTO have to disclose directly to ‘organisations conducting student surveys’ or ‘researchers’.

The use of personal information or training activity data by an RTO for ‘statistical, regulatory and research purposes’ is an in-house matter. Most RTOs analyse their data to inform operations: 68% of students completed this course; 90% of students attend the night class. These findings are not published and do not breach any privacy laws.

There is no requirement to disclose all personal information that may be collected by an RTO, yet this inference is implicit in the language. RTOs may also collect personal information to assist them to deliver quality programs to their target audience. Shirt size? Type of industry? Work location? Internet literacy level? Name of emergency contact?

‘I declare that the information I have provided to the best of my knowledge is true and correct’. The student has not provided any information as part of this Notice.

Personal information disclosed to NCVER may be used or disclosed for the following purposes: Issuing a VET Statement of Attainment or VET Qualification. Really? NCVER issues testamurs?

The lack of any information about protection of a student’s personal information makes this a Release Notice, rather than a Privacy Notice.

‘One-size-fits-all’ Notice
RTOs are identifying clauses that are never relevant to their operational context. Thousands of RTOs never have anything to do with a school. Thousands of RTOs operate business to consumer, so they enrol individuals and have no contact with employers. Thousands of RTOs work with unemployed people who are not at school and have no employer. The blanket approach makes it unnecessarily long and adds significantly to student confusion.

No sense of audience
The Notice is not yet fit-for-purpose. The first paragraph is incomprehensible to many students. Several students read ‘collect personal information about you and to disclose [it]’ and then they refused to read any further.  Thousands of adult learners have no experience with legalese as a literary genre. Thousands of adult learners have English as a second language. Thousands of adult learners are top guns in their trade but are not advanced readers.

Unclear who is issuing this Notice
It is not clear if this is an RTO-issued Notice or an NCVER-issued Notice. If it is the former, then where is the RTO’s authority to issue a Notice about what NCVER will do with personal information? What is the legal repercussion for the RTO if there is a data breach at NCVER?

Options if you have questions

Department of Education and Training – Read FAQs at this page and if you do not find the answer to your question here, further questions may be directed through the Skilling Australia information line on 13 38 73 or via email at VET-DataPolicy@education.gov.au.

 NCVER – If you have a query, their client support team can be contacted in a number of ways, which are listed on their website: click here

Reference:  VET Data Policy

Reference:  AVETMISS-Survey-contact-status