A submission to ASQA review

The current rapid review of ASQA will make recommendations to the government on how to ‘position ASQA as an effective modern regulator’. Modernisation is a big word. It implies change at a fundamental level across an entire organisation. Successful modernisation of ASQA could also drive positive change across the wider VET sector. The review provides an opportunity to remedy some of the major issues that sometimes make VET a work environment of murky waters. This submission offers some suggestions for the consideration of the reviewer.

The reform is intended to position ASQA as an effective modern regulator and to deliver on future reform directions agreed through the COAG reform road map.

1.Modernise ASQA’s world view

The COAG Vision for VET (9 August 2019) acknowledges that ‘economic change and transformation will continue to shape the way we work, and the skills needed to succeed as workers, as employers and as a nation.’
 
ASQA’s current modus operandi is underpinned by the assumption that the apprenticeship/traineeship form of delivery is the norm. 29.6% of students who enrolled in a VET subject last year did so to get employed (NCVER 2019). Many of these students are on apprenticeships or traineeships.
 
However, 70.4% of VET students were not looking for a job. They wanted a new career, or extra skills or they were required to do it as upskilling for their work role or for other personal reasons. 
 
The traditional craft-based apprenticeship/traineeship approach inherited from the early 20th Century does not have the flexibility to cope with adults who are turning to VET in droves to ensure that they stay skill-relevant in today’s work landscape or the raft of training options that cater for this majority of VET clients. 
 
This is a macro-issue that needs to be addressed if we want synergy between the work of the regulator and the work of registered training organisations.
 

2. Modernise ASQA’s interpretation of ‘compliance’
Modernisation began in 2017 with adoption of the student-centred audit approach. This was widely recognised as a successful innovation.

Perhaps it is time to examine the belief that compliance is binary and must be applied at a micro-level. It is a simplistic approach that causes a phenomenal amount of work for both RTOs and the regulator.

An example. Standard 1 has 27 clauses, most with numerous sub-sets of requirements. An RTO must be compliant with every item in a very long list linked to this standard. One non-compliance in the list and the standard is ‘non-compliant’. The chances of being ‘compliant with Standard 1’ are minimal.

Educators know that when the level of ‘fail’ is continuously high statistically, then there is most likely a problem with the design of the assessment instrument. The same principle applies here.

3. Modernise ASQA’s assessment audit methodology
ASQA has stayed with the granular approach to auditing an RTO’s assessment instruments that it inherited at its inception. The format of units of competency changed about five years ago, but the method of auditing assessment instruments has not.

It is not hard to find a small phrase in one of the many performance criteria in a unit that has not been covered sufficiently, as far as the auditor is concerned. BAM! Non-compliance.

An example. A theoretical unit of competency has four elements. Each element has five performance criteria. If an assessment does not sufficiently cover one of these twenty performance criteria, then the assessment instrument is non-compliant, even though it addressed 95% of performance criteria successfully.

The modern units of competency include ‘Performance Evidence’ and ‘Knowledge Evidence’. Clearly the designers of the units consider the items in these sections of utmost importance for proving competency. Surely this evidence should be the focus of the auditor’s attention. Performance criteria still feature, but if the fifth word in the fifteenth line is not covered, is this really a reason to issue a non-compliance, assuming ‘Performance Evidence’ and ‘Knowledge Evidence’ are covered sufficiently?

The reform is intended to improve and expand ASQA’s engagement with the VET sector and educative role to ensure training providers are aware of, and supported to understand, expectations and requirements.

1. Re-model the audit tool
This exchange happened in 2019 after an RTO showed an auditor the evidence they had to cover a specific requirement and they were informed that it was not sufficient.

RTO representative: What else would you be expecting to see here?
Auditor: It is not my place to tell you what is required. I simply decide if what you present meets the standards. I’m marking it as a noncompliance. Let’s move on.

This example reveals one of the major flaws in the current regulatory process. There is no shared understanding of terminology or expectations across the sector. Most RTOs want to do the appropriate thing, if they just knew what that was. No wonder consultants of variable quality proliferate in the sector. The only hope is to find out what the individual auditor wants and put that into their ‘response to the audit report’. The subjectivity of it is scary.

A possible solution
• Design a criteria-based auditing instrument set out as a rubric.
• Make this audit instrument publicly available in the interests of transparency and fairness.
• Conduct an educative campaign to ensure understanding across the sector.

This will work if there is a modernised interpretation to ‘compliance’ as mentioned above. Educators in Queensland Secondary schools have been developing criteria-based assessment rubrics for decades, so they are not a mystery. 

Criteria based rubrics would also remove much of the subjectivity associated with the audit process and contribute significantly to consistency across auditors.

2. Build and focus on VET’s body of knowledge
Language matters. Considerable confusion at the operational level of the sector results from the vacuum associated with the lack of shared understanding about terminology, specifically the language of training and assessment. This was not always the case.

Whilst the modernisation of units of competency clarified what was required to be competent in a unit, the re-design omitted some of the information that RTOs and auditors relied on to understand terminology or expectations.

The Users’ Guide to the 2015 Standards is a comprehensive document. It uses terms that are not defined anywhere, anymore. When it was compiled, many of these terms were widely understood because they had been in VET vocabulary for decades. This is no longer the case. The years slip by and new players join the sector.

One example
‘Assessment tools’ and ‘assessment methods’ are both mentioned in the legislation. There is no definition of them anywhere. Not a big deal? Maybe not, until it comes to audit time and the auditor says ‘There is no difference between a tool, a task and a method. Unless there is a definition in the legislation, then it is just semantics.’

These explanations were included in the unit of competence TAEASS402B Assess competence and were accepted generally. However, this unit was superseded in 2016. They have not been published/explained anywhere else since.

Assessment tools include:
• the learning or competency unit(s) to be assessed
• the target group, context and conditions for the assessment
• the tasks to be administered to the candidate
• an outline of the evidence to be gathered from the candidate
• the evidence criteria used to judge the quality of performance
• (i.e. the assessment decision-making rules)
• the administration, recording and reporting requirements
• the evidence of how validity and reliability have been tested and built into the design and use of the tool.

Assessment methods include techniques used to gather different types of evidence, such as:
• direct observation
• structured activities
• oral or written questioning
• portfolios of evidence
• review of products
• third-party feedback.

Both RTOs and the regulator need some solid ground to stand on related to this issue. There is plenty of room for an educative approach to assessment. Here is one example of how another regulator educates their sector on the meaning of core terminology.

Aged Care Commission: Open disclosure

The reform is intended to improve ASQA’s collection and use of data to assist with identifying poor quality training providers, and better enable training providers to give feedback on ASQA (including directly to the Department of Employment, Skills, Small and Family Business).

Currently, a complaint against ASQA must use the form on the ASQA website and this must be submitted to ASQA. Seriously? What part of this process honours the principles of impartiality or privacy, or engenders confidence in a fair hearing or protects against possible negative attention? This is unacceptable.

Interested in adding your two-bob’s worth?
If you would like to support any of these suggestions, or have something else that you want to say, please let the reviewer know. It does not have to be a long response. RTOs are the main audience for ASQA activities and the review would be enriched by experiences from the frontline.

Simply email to ASQAreform@employment.gov.au

Feedback should be sent  by COB Friday 24 January 2020. Feedback will be provided directly to the regulatory expert engaged to undertake the review.

Government anouncement of review: click here

AQF – massive changes ahead

A re-structuring of the national qualifications framework is no small undertaking. However, that is the key recommendation of the Report that reviewed the current AQF. Peter Noonan’s panel concluded that a complete overhaul was necessary, because its ‘ten-level structure is not consistently expressed, too rigid and overly hierarchical, with artificial and arbitrary distinctions between levels.’ In simple language, it is old fashioned and no longer fit-for-purpose.

The twenty-one findings and recommendations are in this four-page extract from the Report. Click here.

These are some specific points of interest to registered training organisations.

Less bands
Reduce the number of levels in the AQF from ten to eight for knowledge and to six for skills and rename levels as ‘bands.’ 

New qualification types
Create new qualification types, such as a Higher Diploma that might be equivalent to a degree. Also, rename existing Certificates as per this table.

New short form credentials
Create shorter form credentials, particularly micro credentials, that are portable and acceptable for credit transfer.

Volume of learning
Retain volume of learning as a benchmark expressing the notional duration, for a new learner, of all teaching and learning activities required to achieve an AQF qualification type. Specify volume of learning in hours only.

Implementation
The report recommends a two year+ timeframe for implementation and there is a roadmap for implementation in the report.

Full report here

VET sector to be ‘reformed’ again.

New-ish vision
Apparently the policy makers have had a vision and it involves VET. The recent meeting of COAG (Premiers of all states) agreed to a one-page high level statement that states ‘VET and higher education are equal and integral parts of a joined up and accessible post-secondary education system..’ The document abounds in conventional 20th Century wisdom and it is devoid of any of the inspirational rhetoric usually contained in a ‘vision’ statement. However, a COAG statement of any kind is like a starting gun. We can expect change in the sector.

COAG Vision for VET. Click here

The COAG Communique (9th August 2019) says ‘Skills ministers will work together through a new COAG Skills Council, in consultation with education ministers, to advise leaders on future reform priorities by the end of 2019 and provide a reform roadmap to COAG in early 2020.

Yep! Another high level body is to be created AND the sector is to be ‘reformed’ again.

Craig Robertson, CEO of TAFE Directors Australia, wrote a comment piece in The Australian about it. It comes from his professional perspective but does make a couple of points worth a ponder. Click here.

New VET Stakeholder Committee
This is a new advisory body (not the same body that is mentioned above – another one) that met together for the first time this month. Their mandate is to advise the Minister for Skills so that ‘stakeholder views are understood, considered and included during the implementation’ of reforms.

The full list of members can be found in the Minister’s media release. Click here

New approach for ASQA?
The departure of the Chief Commissioner heralds a possible change of direction for the regulator. The Deputy Commissioner, Saxon Rice, will act in the role of Interim Chief Commissioner. Legislative changes are also in the wind, so changes that directly impact RTOs can be expected in near future. 

Claire Field has also written an opinion piece for The Australian that comments on the opaque nature of current regulatory practice. Click here.

New VET research institute
The Mackenzie Research Institute is a new kid on the block, which has the goal of providing an evidence-based rationale for the reform of tertiary education in Australia. It is an independent body, although it has a strong TAFE focus, and intends to ‘actively produce policy-based research that challenges the existing tertiary framework in Australia’.  Watch this space. More information and initial research papers can be found on its website. Click here.

RTO privacy notice must change – again

The verbose, convoluted and confusing VET Data Use Statement that was part of the original National VET Data Policy has been quietly amended and is now available as ‘Version 2’. (See previous editorial about Version 1).

RTO’s have until 30 June 2019 to update their enrolment processes to include the amended Privacy Notice. RTOs are no longer required to collect a student declaration and consent. This is the minimum mandatory content:

Privacy Notice

Under the Data Provision Requirements 2012, [insert RTO name] is required to collect personal information about you and to disclose that personal information to the National Centre for Vocational Education Research Ltd (NCVER).

Your personal information (including the personal information contained on this enrolment form), may be used or disclosed by [insert RTO name] for statistical, administrative, regulatory and research purposes. [insert RTO name] may disclose your personal information for these purposes to:

  • Commonwealth and State or Territory government departments and authorised agencies; and
  • NCVER.

Personal information that has been disclosed to NCVER may be used or disclosed by NCVER for the following purposes:

– populate authenticated VET transcripts;
– facilitate statistics and research relating to education, including surveys and data linkage;
– pre-populate RTO student enrolment forms;
– understand how the VET market operates, for policy, workforce planning and consumer information; and
– administer VET, including program administration, regulation, monitoring and evaluation.

You may receive a student survey which may be administered by a government department or NCVER employee, agent or third party contractor or other authorised agencies. Please note you may opt out of the survey at the time of being contacted.

NCVER will collect, hold, use and disclose your personal information in accordance with the Privacy Act 1988 (Cth), the National VET Data Policy and all NCVER policies and protocols (including those published on NCVER’s website at www.ncver.edu.au).

The text above comes from the Federal Department of Education and Training website. There is still a lot of reference to the old policy, so the site is a bit confusing. Click here.

Extension of time for TAE upgrade requirements

The Federal Department of Education and Training website has another little gem that is important to RTOs. There was a requirement that trainers and assessors update their qualification by 1st April 2019.

However, ‘the Skills Ministers has agreed to delay the introduction of these requirements to 1 July 2019, so that trainers and assessors can continue to train while undertaking gap training for a further three months.’ The reason given for the extension is in the FAQ section. Essentially, RTOs who are accredited to train and assess in TAE qualifications cannot keep up with demand.

Please note that the upgrade requirements are not an optional extra. Trainer and assessors who do not meet the requirements by 1st July must not train or assess after that time unless they are supervised as per standard 1.18.

Federal DET FAQS: click here

VET is being reviewed – again

It has been ‘All quiet on the Review Front’ for a few years but there is an election in the wind. So VET is being reviewed again. Steve Joyce has been appointed as the reviewer and he must provide his report in March. There is an opportunity to provide input via an online form on the website of Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet. There are four questions to guide a response. Murphy’s Law is in play. Theoretically submissions close at midnight tonight. However, maybe they’ll turn it off on Tuesday morning.

My response is below. Feel free to re-use/add to it/ignore it if you would like to contribute to the review. Announcement of the Review: click here

Submission to 2019 Vocational Education and Training Review –  by Marilyn Harvey

What is working well in the VET sector? 

1. Clients are happy
NCVER surveys students and employers about their satisfaction with VET training on a regular basis and year after year the results are very positive. The evidence:

  •  2018 survey shows 90.4% of learners who completed a VET subject were satisfied with the overall quality of the training, whether it was government-subsidised training and or training on a fee-for-service basis.
  •  2017 survey shows 82.2% of employers were satisfied that nationally recognised training provided employees with the skills they require for the job.

2. ASQA 
The Australian Skills Quality Authority now uses a risk based supervisory framework with an auditing model that makes sense to RTOs. Regulation is necessary. It’s a bit like medicine. Most RTOs acknowledge it keeps the sector healthy. The evidence:

  • ASQA’s 2017 survey drew a response from 2353 training providers and 77% of them rated ASQA’s overall performance as a regulator as excellent or good.

3. Resilience of the VET sector
There are approximately 4,500 training providers operating in the VET sector. All but a handful of them qualify as ‘small businesses’ by both the ATO’s definition (annual revenue under $2 million) and the ABS’s definition (fewer than 20 employees). This a reflection of the economy generally, as over nine in ten Australian businesses are small businesses.
 
They operate in a competitive environment where responsiveness to the market and flexibility in provision of services are not just desirable – they are core survival skills.

What are the key challenges in the VET sector? 

1. Continual propagation of negative image
The VET sector could be described as a ‘soft target’ in that it is relatively unprotected or vulnerable to attack from several sources, including political parties, the media and lobby groups with vested interests. It is not unusual to read that VET needs to be ‘fixed’ or ‘reformed’, ‘re-modelled’, ‘re-directed’ or ‘return’ to what it was somewhere in the past. Over-generalisations are the order of the day.
 
2. Criminal operators
Criminal operators gravitate to any industry where it is possible to access government monies. This includes the VET sector. They damage the VET brand and most training providers support ASQA’s focus on closing them down.

3. RTOs not regarded as stakeholders
Training providers are rarely consulted as part of any decision-making process that is integral to their reason for existence. In the past, I have seen several diagrams of all the stakeholders in the VET sector that did not even include training providers. It is odd. It is like saying that schools are not part of the secondary education sector.

TAFE Directors Australia (TDA) and Australian Council for Private Education and Training (ACPET) both work towards making sure the voice of the sector is heard in the corridors of power. There are many VET professional networks and associations. Were they invited to participate in this review? Is there even a list of these anywhere? Were training providers generally informed that this review was taking place and directed to the website if they wished to make a comment?

What changes would you make to the VET sector? 

1. Acknowledge that VET is now about more than getting people into jobs.
29.6% of students who enrolled in a VET subject last year did so to get employed (NCVER data). Excellent. This reason feeds into current political narratives very well.

However, 70.4% of VET students were not looking for a job. They wanted a new career, or extra skills or they were required to do it as upskilling for their work role or for other personal reasons. Adults are turning to VET in droves to ensure that they stay skill-relevant in today’s work landscape.
 
2. Acknowledge that training providers are part of VET
VET is the frontline when it comes to skilling Australia’s workforce. Training providers are a source of solid market intelligence as they are inside industries on a routine basis and have a grass roots perspective. Acknowledge that training providers are an integral part of the VET sector and have a vested interest in its’ ongoing wellbeing.
 
How can VET help Australians prepare for the future workforce?

This is the heart of the matter. VET must be a major part of the solution.

Whole industries are being transformed at lightspeed. The question is how does VET provide the upskilling required for people who already have degrees or years of experience?

At a futures-oriented conference recently, I was quite shocked by the number of speakers who issued pleas to the audience for skilled staff. No IT boffins needed, but did anyone know a product manager, a marketing strategist, a business analyst or a logistics specialist who had any experience, or even some understanding, of the digital business world? The link to my editorial is below.

There are systemic and practical issues that need to be addressed but there are no quick fixes for them. One example is the restricted nature of the training packages. Qualifications are important. However, they do not cater for the marketplace call for micro-skilling in specific areas.
 
Perhaps there is room for a series of Investigative papers to inform future decision-makers about realistic options in this space.

https://rtoupdate.com/2018/05/24/the-future-has-landed/

Are you a winner in the world’s greatest hack?

Have you stayed at a Sheraton, Westin, St. Regis, Element, Aloft, W Hotel, Luxury Collection, Le Meridien or Four Points anywhere in the world in the last four years? There is a strong chance you are a winner in the lucky dip that is now known as the Marriott Hack. This is extraordinary. The hackers were inside the database for two years before the group was bought by Marriott and for two years after the purchase.

Clever little creeps, too, as they encrypted the data and exported it at their leisure to avoid security procedures. Marriott released the news last week, estimating that personal information on about 500 million guests was taken, including various combinations of name, address, phone number, email address, date of birth, gender, trip and reservation information, passport number, and Starwood Preferred Guest account information. They are currently being coy about how many credit card numbers were stolen.
 
What will the hackers do with the information? Everything from credential stuffing to identity theft.  Also, they now have four years of data on the travel patterns of corporate executives, government officials and people having illicit affairs at upmarket venues. Expect thieves to find new ways to exploit this information.

Read more at WIRED: click here

Can you sell an RTO?

The answer is ‘No’ and ‘Yes’. You can sell the business and assets, but you cannot sell the registration. RTO and CRICOS registrations are not transferable from one legal entity to another. This means RTO Pty Ltd cannot be sold as a functioning registered training organisation to XYZ Pty Ltd who then continue to operate merrily without Regulator approval. XYZ Pty Ltd would have to go through the initial registration process.

It is possible to sell shares in an RTO. The person acquiring the shares will be required to demonstrate, either upon takeover or sometime thereafter, how they will continue to comply with all regulatory requirements.

In all instances, ASQA must be notified via ASQANet within 90 days of the change. Be aware that ASQA has access to the ASIC database where ownership changes are registered. Some State government departments that manage funding contracts also have an automatic feed from ASIC about change of ownership, so it is important to know the State’s contractual requirements around notification. Some States require that they be notified before the change of shareholding/ownership.

More on ASQA website: click here

AQF under the microscope

The Australian Qualifications Framework (AQF) is the national policy for regulated qualifications in Australian education and training. The current version has been in place since 2011 and it is currently ‘undergoing a review’, which is policyspeak for ‘change coming: watch this space’.

Changes are highly likely to impact all registered training organisations because, by definition, an RTO only registers so that they can deliver AQF regulated qualifications.

A potted version of process
1. AQF Review Panel of six experts has been appointed by Australian Government
2. Contextual research report will provide background and recommend terms of reference
3. Discussion paper and public consultation during latter half of 2018
4. Final report to be provided to government by June 2019.

Steps 1 and 2 have been completed. The contextual research is an interesting read if you are into ‘big picture’. It contains an Australian environmental scan and a thumbnail overview of qualifications frameworks in 22 other countries. Overall, the Principal Findings are politely saying Australia used to be a world leader in this field, but we are not anymore. The researchers’ have included implications for the review terms of reference. A quick scan of these will give readers some grasp of possible issues addressed by a revamped AQF.

1.3 IMPLICATIONS FOR REVIEW TERMS OF REFERENCE

1. Review the structure and description of the AQF components (levels, qualifications and relevant explanations) including the extent to which:
a) the relationships between levels and qualifications are clear, appropriate and unambiguous;
b) the levels as currently defined are appropriate and fit for purpose;
c) the descriptors are expressed in simple language that supports ready interpretation; and
d) the knowledge, skills and capabilities reflect and support the full range of learning outcomes required for adaptation and successful participation in work and life.

2. Consider the issue of volume of learning including:
a) whether the volume of learning should cease to be expressed in the AQF in terms of calendar years and be replaced by a credit point system;
b) whether the disparities in volume of learning between qualifications at the same level can be supported by additional information such as prerequisite learning to dispel confusion; and
c) whether the volume of learning can be aligned with other measures of learning volume employed in VET sector specifications and requirements.

3. Review the positioning of vocational education and training (VET) and higher education (HE) qualifications in the AQF and consider:
a) whether more explicit differentiation of VET and HE qualifications would be beneficial in general and specifically at levels 5, 6 and 8;
b) whether the variety of qualification titles used at the same levels for VET and HE continue to be relevant and meaningful in both the national and international context;
c) means by which any implication of a status hierarchy from VET to HE qualifications can be mitigated through changes to the structure or language of the AQF; and
d) means by which greater consistency in regulation of compliance with the AQF can be achieved between HE and VET sectors.

4. Review the desirability and feasibility of developing a system for the quality assurance and incorporation within the AQF of sub-qualification credentials such as skill sets, enabling and foundation courses, and in-service and advanced training provided by industry or professions.

5. Consider whether the AQF policies (issuance policy, pathways policy, register policy, addition or removal policy, and principles and processes for alignment with international qualifications frameworks and relevant explanations)
(a) are appropriate and fit for purpose and
(b) should remain within the AQF itself or be rationalised with TEQSA/ASQA registration and accreditation guidelines.

6. Review ways in which the AQF could more effectively facilitate learning pathways and mobility within and between levels, sectors and qualifications.

7. Consider what changes may be required to AQF governance arrangements, to the AQF itself or to regulation that references the AQF to ensure consistency of its application and ongoing monitoring and review.

8. Given the findings from issues 1 to 7, recommend any necessary changes to the AQF and devise an implementation plan for achieving the changes.

Extract from: Contextual Research for the Australian Qualifications Framework Review, Final Report. 25 April 2018.

Australian Government review announcement: click here

TGA set for a facelift

The National Register (training.gov.au) known as TGA, is getting a facelift. There is an opportunity to provide feedback. I am emailing these suggestions to the Department of Education and Training at the address for this upgrade project.
 
 
1. Remove email addresses
Currently TGA is a spammer’s best friend. Literally tens of thousands of email addresses are listed in the public domain. If you have ever wondered why you get so much spam to an email address that is listed on TGA, then it will be because spammers have scraped the site and sold your email address – many times. If your email address is visible (even in the back history) then it is scrapable. One list-selling company offers the email addresses ‘of all VET providers’ for $4,000 a year, updated regularly!
 
 
2. Consider privacy issue
This is the time to consider the information about executives that are published on TGA. Currently, whatever personal details that are collected by a VET Regulator automatically appear publicly on TGA. Surely it is one thing for the regulator to know how to reach the CEO of a registered organisation by telephone and quite another for that information to be automatically published and accessible globally. Telemarketers are also very pleased with TGA’s generosity.
The Australian Privacy Principles apply to the Department of Education and Training, which manages TGA, and VET Regulators, which collect the personal information. If an RTO were to publish the personal information of students on their company website, there would be an audit very quickly.
Even the names of people who own a 15% share in an RTO are now finding their names and email addresses on TGA. Seriously? ASIC has that information if anyone, outside of the regulator, wish to locate it.
 
 
3. Address audience confusion
TGA states that it has about 7 million visitors a year. It is highly likely that most of these visitors are RTO personnel. MySkills is the public face of the Australian training industry, not TGA.  A national register is all about the data, so it doesn’t need lots of bells and whistles – but compare TGA to the national register for early childhood education or the national register of higher education providers. There is much room for improvement.  A user-friendly interface that works more effectively for the visiting clientele and presents the sector in a more professional light would be an excellent step forward.
 
 
A targeted review of the website is underway and the federal government is keen to hear from the site’s users on improving the design and user experience of the website. If you would like to provide feedback (or also suggest any of these points), please send an email to this address.
 
 
 

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.