Bridging Gaps: Study, Employability, and Innovation

Bridging Gaps: Study, Employability, and Innovation

In this session from the Melbourne EdTech Summit 2020, Claire Field, Principal of Claire Field and Associates, interviews Vivienne King of Box Hill Institute and Trevor Fairweather of ReadyTech on the future of education, credentialing, and the workforce-education relationship.

Moderated by Claire Field, Principal of Claire Field and Associates, this discussion from the Melbourne EdTech Summit 2020 explores the future of higher education, modes of delivery in education, and the world of education alongside the workforce.

Her guests today are:

  • Vivienne King, CEO and Managing Director of Box Hill Institute
  • Trevor Fairweather, Managing Director at ReadyTech

This wide-ranging conversation draws on Vivienne’s and Trevor’s extensive experience in the EdTech space, with examples, data, and predictions about the steady transition into more flexible modes of education, such as micro-credentialing and blended learning.

Highlights of their conversation and the full transcript follow below:

Beyond degree programs

During 2020, in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, Australia has seen a decline in enrolments in full courses and professional qualifications. Registered Training Organisations (RTOs) have begun to explore other avenues by which to offer education, especially flexible and non-accredited courses. Trevor explains that:

  • 18% more RTOs have offered non-accredited training in 2019 compared to 2018.
  • 14% more RTOs have signaled an intention to begin offering more non-accredited training from 2020 onward.

Vivienne offers two cases studies from her own experience on the expansion of education beyond the traditional degree program:

  • Box Hill and OzCyber collaborated in 2018 to produce Australia’s National Cyber Security Course.
  • Trainees who enroll in this course can use it as credits toward a number of traditional degrees such as an Advanced Diploma in Cyber Security or a Bachelor of Computer Systems

Her second case study is at the Moroccan Soup Kitchen in Melbourne:

  • In what has become known as the Sprout Program, women working at the Moroccan Soup Kitchen were given credentials based on the work that they accomplished at the kitchen.
  • These “lego block” credentials were built together into a qualification that is appreciated and accepted in the world outside of the kitchen, opening the workforce to many women who worked there.

These institutional changes and case studies, brought together, signal an evolving landscape for higher education and workforce education. Informed by these changes, educational institutions are beginning to transition into more flexible and broadly-available credentialing programs.

“That’s what VET is about. It is that we can be agile, and we can work with any industry to bring together something that is certified and recognised.”
Vivienne King, Box Hill Institute
EduGrowth Cross Border Partnerships to Drive Outcomes - Warwick Freeland featured image

Credentialing for the workforce

For years the university degree has been the most widely and easily accepted qualification. With the rapid changes occurring in this area, organisations need to be able to discern which people have the proper training that prepares them for work among the many micro-credentials and VET programs that they may have completed. Trevor explains that:

  • Particular organisations, such as General Assembly, acquire a reputation by which employers know that job-hunters credentialed in those institutions should truly be ready for the rigors of the workforce.
  • It will be incumbent upon organisations to not only expand their course and credential offerings, but also to build a brand of quality within the workforce.
  • Partnering with industry also means that the educational institution and the workplace are both working with the latest technology in that area and on the same platforms. This makes transition from one to the other much easier.

With the growth of micro-credentialing and “lego block” courses, the traditional frame of higher education is blurring. Workforce and education are coming closer together, and the result is more practical education that leads directly into jobs.

“We used to have a career for life, and now we have a life of careers.”
Vivienne King, Box Hill Institute

Various modes of education

Vivienne expands on this line of thought by clarifying the distinctions between a university and a vocational education:

  • The future will see fewer two- and four-year degree programs, and more micro-credential or “lego block” programs that can be built into a qualification over time.
  • When VET programs are partnered with the workforce, both parties work with the same state-of-the-art equipment and are therefore equipped to move seamlessly between education and vocation.
  • Although a university degree is still undoubtedly useful, micro-credentialing and VET programs will have a very wide applicability to those who cannot carve-out two to four years of their life for education.
  • The expansion into remote and blended learning will increase the availability of these vocational programs well beyond their current reach in the years to come.
“You go to university to gain knowledge, and you then take that knowledge out and you apply it as you get experience in the workplace. […] You go to a vocational institution to get a skill base to hit the ground and apply it immediately.”
Vivienne King, Box Hill Institute
EduGrowth Cross Border Partnerships to Drive Outcomes - Ravneet Pawha speaking

Certifying Credentials

It will be necessary to establish a central platform for micro-credentials as they become more widespread. Employers will be lost if they are forced to wade through thousands of micro-credentials without a frame of reference or a central authority.

  • LinkedIn or a government website may be able to fill this role.
  • Australia’s National Careers Institute may also play a leading role in establishing, certifying, and centralising people’s micro-credentials.
  • Alongside official recognition, branding may be important. Some institutions’ credits may be valued over others’.

From a macro perspective, the landscape of education is evolving rapidly. Since requirements in the workforce are rising, modes and methods of earning an education are growing as well. The future will retain a semblance of the current educational landscape, but it will likely involve many more options to include a larger and more diverse population.

“There needs to be a mechanism for the person that is earning that digital credential to be able to say, ‘This is where I house all of my digital credentials’”
Trevor Fairweather, ReadyTech

Full Transcript

Claire:

If you were just on that earlier session, we’re going to switch away from regulation but we are going to keep our focus on innovation, and I’m very pleased to be joined this morning by Vivienne King who is the CEO of Box Hill Institute of TAFE. Vivienne, good morning. Lovely to have you here. Also, Trevor Fairweather, who leads the Student Management Systems division of ReadyTech. Hi, Trevor.

Now I’ll briefly introduce you and then I’m gonna we’re gonna start with a couple of powerpoints with a little bit of data as context for our our discussion so Vivienne is a senior executive with extensive experience across all elements of business, from design, business development and business transformation, through to service delivery and as the CEO for Box Hill Institute. Vivienne leads an education organisation delivering under TAFE Victoria and CAE structures. Vivienne, and I didn’t realie you’ve also got a background in transport, so there’s a lot in your experience that you bring to your current role.

And, as I mentioned, Trevor leads the student management systems division of ReadyTech, which is an ASX-listed tech business, home to Australia’s most used training and student management systems, VET Track and Job Ready Plus. Trevor, great to have you with us.

If I could just start with the last slide of my previous presentation for anybody who’s new to this. That’s it. Perfect. When we’re thinking about innovation in delivery, blended learning, strong employability, and the current times that we’re in with COVID, where has the sector been in the last five years?

I won’t belabour the point for those who were in the last half-hour session. We’ve had a decline in enrollments in full courses, and qualifications, and in some key subject-only enrolment areas, and I’m particularly focused on IT and Management and Commerce short courses, where I think VET is susceptible to the non-accredited or the industry accredited providers out there: Google and Microsoft, just to name a couple. So that’s been the situation. There are some differences. Overall, government-funded enrollments are down, albeit in Victoria in the last couple of years, they’ve been up, but this is the national picture. So that’s a snapshot of data from the NCBR, and, Trevor, one of the things that ReadyTech does is in the last couple of years is an annual RTO survey, and you’ve got a little bit of data to share with us pre-COVID, where was the sector up to from your experience and your survey responses.

Trevor:

One of the things that we’re really privileged to do at ReadyTech, supporting close to 1,400 organised training organisations in university, TAFE, private RTOs, and we’re really passionate about the sector. We like to advocate for our clients in the sector. So we commissioned the Voice of VET report through an independent research piece. As you mentioned, we’ve been doing that for a couple of years now, and the real goal around it is to get a broad sense of the feelings across the sector. We look at things like business performance, revenue performance projections, challenges, opportunities, thoughts on regulation, feelings around government support.

And that last survey that we did as you mentioned was pre-COVID, and we did survey close to 400 senior managers. As you can see here, some of the really interesting insights that I think are quite relevant for the discussion today are around this shift to more non-accredited training. Here you can see a snippet of the report where we asked RTOs what types of qualifications and courses they currently offer, and you can see here that there is a significant shift where 18 percent more RTOs started off offering non-accredited training in 2019 compared to what they offered in 2018. If we go to the next slide we can then have a look at what qualifications RTOs intend to offer that they currently don’t, and it shows that 14 percent more RTOs will start to offer more non-accredited courses with many considering micro-credentials as part of that mix.

So I think this is really quite quite interesting, and I think it supports some of the data that’s coming out of the NCBR, and I think that one of the key questions that I think it poses is whether the current training package system is responsive enough for the needs of what industry and what employers are looking for.

Claire:

Yes, and I won’t get started again on that. I will leave a conversation, because I do think that’s an important question. But, Vivienne, I wonder if I can go to you and ask you to put some flesh on the bones, as it were. Some innovative partnerships that you’ve been progressing at Box Hill, particularly around employability and working with employers, and this is pre-COVID. We’re going to come into COVID, and how we shift and adapt, but let’s do that.

Vivienne:

I’m going to use two very short case studies even though there’s an enormous amount of work that’s been behind them, and to get the success that we’re doing, but I wanted to truly demonstrate how you can work with big industry in partnership, but also the small industries or the small business owners that want to make a difference.

The first case study that I want to talk about is: the institute took a lead in creating a cyber security course, and that was done in collaboration with OzCyber, who gave some funding to develop a very specialised course. It’s a national course, and it’s implemented across Australia now. So the product that we produced is the same product that is taught right around Australia. We launched it in May, 2018, and why this was really special is that we were actually given funding to create the Cyber Security Operational Center, which they called the Sea Sock, which I never knew what they were talking about for the first three months of my tenure. It’s really the dedicated home for cyber security training, and it provides our students with a real hands-on experience to practice and reinforce their learning.

Now in the environment we’re in today, you can only imagine what cyber security resources are out there, and how many more we require. But we’ll talk about that later. So it offers pathways to an Advanced Diploma in Cyber Security. It also gives pathways in articulation to other VET courses, along with higher education that we run. So things like the Bachelor of Computer Systems, majoring in Cyber Security, and we’re working with other universities to articulate our courses into university level.

But why is this a great case study? It’s because we at Box Hill actually run the Cisco Networking Academy and have a 20-year relationship with Cisco. From that we were able to leverage access to other industries that needed these skill bases. But one of the things they kept telling us is that it needs to be agile. It needs to be responsive. And it needs to be real. I’ve got to preface this clearly with I have many degrees from universities, so I do value my degrees. However you go to university to gain knowledge, and you then take that knowledge out and you apply it as you get experience in the workplace. What I’ve learned about vocational education is that you go to their vocational institution or do a vocational course to get a skill base to hit the ground and apply it immediately. So if you can move those things together and work with it, you can get both benefits.

There are particular partnerships that we have worked through with cyber security, for example with the banks. And our students go there. We have their people come in and do teaching, and so we’ve really blended the industry, and there are many partners involved in this to the point where we’ve just been successful in getting further funding to take this training and development to the next level nationally. For a need in the industry, no one delivering that need at a certified level, OzCyber coming to us, talking to us about what we could do based on the relationships we already have.

We now have a national program that is incredibly successful and our students actually will almost walk into jobs because of the hands-on experience. So that’s the big, chunky one, and it’s national, and the commonwealth is involved, and the state is involved, and lots of industry.

But the other one is a really interesting one, where we talk about the Moroccan soup kitchen. If anyone in Melbourne knows the Moroccan soup kitchen run by Hana Assafiri, and she came to us and said, “Look, I’ve got a whole bunch of people, and they are particularly women that are trying to get a skill base, and I’m doing my best to teach them. I bring them into my restaurant. I give them front of house and back of house experiences in catering, but they need a qualification, Vivienne. They need to be recognised.” Now working with Hana we were able to bring five different support work programs together, which provided a unique learning pathway. 

So what that does is it then allows these people to come in, register, and do what I call “lego blocks”, before we even get into micro-credentialing, to build a qualification that they can then apply in the real world. That’s now developed into what we call the Sprout Program, and why we call it the Sprout Program is what Hana has a real belief in. If it’s like a pay-it-forward, if you gain a skill, and you get to run a small business, and even as simple as making jam and selling them in cottage industry, we want you to bring someone else in, and we want you to help them gain skills and be able to sprout their own living.

This is particularly interesting because it’s about partnering for students at the heart, and so we’ve got the big industry case study, but we also have that social license, that community involvement, and I think that’s what VET is about. It is that we can be agile and we can work with any industry to bring together something that is certified and recognised. So that’s my two little case studies that I thought I’d share with you.

Claire:

Terrific. Thank you very much, Trevor. I’m going to come back to you. We do have a couple of questions. I’m not going to ask you who drives the accreditation of training because, actually, it is the regulator, and will TAE continue?

I’m not going to pin you down to be an expert on TAE. We’ll come to that. So that was the world pre-COVID. Then we spent six months grappling to work dynamically and innovatively in a pandemic. Talk us through ReadyTech, and changes that you’ve made, and what you’ve seen amongst your clients as they’ve gone through the last six months. 

Trevor:

We’re really on a mission to try and help training organisations digitise their business and, kind of whilst pre-COVID, we feel like we’ve done some of that. Essentially as soon as COVID hit, it’s absolutely skyrocketed. I’m sure that won’t be a surprise to everyone.

I’ll reference our Voice of VET survey again. When we did the survey pre-COVID it showed that only 44 percent of RTOs offered some form of online training. I imagine now, if we ran that survey, it would show very different results. But I do think it’s important to know that we should be striving for more of a blended learning model because VET is very much about practical skills acquisition. So I think the learners being able to demonstrate the practical skills they’re requiring, it can be a bit more challenging in an online environment.

I don’t think it doesn’t mean it can’t be online. I think you referenced augmented reality, and virtual reality, and those sorts of things will help digitise that experience and move it more online. So I think, for us, what we’ve seen is many of our existing clients are really trying to digitise that student experience. In some cases that might be just starting to move some of their applications, admissions, enrollments online. In some cases it might be just provisioning some student portal where they can start to have communications online with their students. Then it goes all the way through to learning and assessment online. So certainly the curve is pushing up with a lot of organisations really trying to digitise their student experience.

Claire:

Terrific, and we’ve got a question on that with someone asking, “What are some first steps for those in the skills sector looking to optimise the online learning experience?” Vivienne, did you want to provide some thoughts on that?

Vivienne:

Yes. Well, I want to preface what I’m about to talk about. We used to have a career for life, and now we have a life of careers. So all the more reason to start looking at how we get those skills operating homed-in. I think from a perspective of being able to be agile, understanding the skills that are required by industry, and then what are the different modes that you can use to provide those skills in a student? But also, we’ve got to come back to the people that are helping students learn those skills. Do they have the capability? Are they the type of people that can build their experiences and their skill base to be able to do this in a different mode? We had a symposium yesterday, actually, where we talked about the flipped classroom. We had 17 speakers, which were our teachers, and they were showing how they’re doing things differently to enhance the skills of teachers, but also to make sure that we can build the skills of students. So I hope I’ve answered that question. It flipped away very quickly.

Claire:

We had a bit of a discussion earlier-on last week around blended learning, and what does that mean. When we’re allowed to go back to face-to-face, and flipped classrooms come to that.

But before we lose some of these questions, the person who typed in the first one about who’s in charge of the accreditation has come back with a second go at it, which now makes more sense to me. They’re asking, “Who cares about the accreditation?” So, in the data that I’ve put up, and Trevor, in your survey it certainly looks like there’s a shift away from some of that service short course activity in Vet, and your providers and clients are looking at moving into the accredited. There’s a big conversation around micro-credentials happening globally, so the question is, “Who cares about accreditation? Is it the learner, the regulator, or the employer?” Now, Trevor, you work in business, and ReadyTech has an HR-employer-focused part of the organisation as well as the student management side. Do you have a perspective on who cares?

Trevor:

I think ultimately it’s a combination of different people. Ultimately someone goes and undertakes some learning or some education to, more than likely, try and move into a new employment field, upskill in a different employment field, or even change careers. I think the person that ultimately cares about it is the employer because they need to be able to certify that this individual has the skills, the experience, whether it be the qualifications to undertake that role, that task, or that activity. Enabling the employer to be able to easily identify that this individual has got the skills to do a particular role is really relevant.

I look at organisations. One of the organisations that comes to mind for me is General Assembly. They’re a non-accredited training provider. They’re a global training business, and they specialise in digital skills around web development, digital marketing, data science, and that sort of thing. So it’s all non-accredited training. All of these students acquire these skills, and I know for us, as ReadyTech and as an employer, we really rate the training that comes out of that organisation, so their brand is so well regarded. So we’re not necessarily looking for a certificate that lines up to the AQF. We’re looking at the quality of training because they’re so connected to industry. We know that we’re going to get really strong skills on the basis of the training that happens there, so certainly weren’t well regarded. They would go up to the top of the pile in terms of shortlisting candidates from that training organisation. That’s some of the things that I think, personally, certainly from an employer perspective, they’re the ones that want to have confidence that this individual is going to be able to do the role that they’re going to undertake.

Claire:

When you’re looking for cyber security, though, you’ll look for a Box Hill graduate, absolutely. Non-accredited or industry accredited done well is a real competitor, and he’s delivering skills that an employer needs. Vivienne, we’ve got a couple of questions about TAFE. Do you think, is TAFE partnering enough with the EdTech sector to ensure that what you’re doing is agile, in terms of teaching students and particularly teaching them around the latest technology? Do you have a view on that?

Vivienne:

I do. Having the latest technology means investment, and so from a perspective of where we’re going to go and how quickly technology changes, we have to be very connected with industry to allow that investment to be balanced. When we work with Cisco, they, and I’m not promoting Cisco by the way. It’s just we have the academy. They provide resources for our students to use. So the students are always at the state of the art of what that group expects their students to come into the workforce with. I think there is an opportunity to do so much more with the industry in a partnership approach. This is the big issue for the VET sector in the sense that you come into the VET sector to learn a skill, take it out, and immediately use it. If you’re using outdated equipment, well then that’s going to be a disadvantage to the student. I think we’ve got to get that really strong relationship, the ability to invest in TAFEs in a way that allows our students to always be up to date.

Just to give you an example from a plumbing and refrigeration perspective, we have a center of excellence, and the industry updates the equipment that is in that center of excellence all the time so that our students walk out absolutely ready to do that. Now it may be that it’s not the state of the art. It’s probably the next level down, which is exactly what most people have, and so that’s been balancing really well, and that’s where we’ve got to get to with the tech side of things.

Claire:

Okay, and I’m going to start to look forward to the future, and bearing in mind that no one has the perfect crystal ball, but you’re both leaders who are thinking forward, and thinking about the future, and the change that the sector is going through. So in a post-COVID world, and can’t we wait for that to come along, thinking up to three or five years hence, what do you think the world looks like for providers and their EdTech partners and industry partners? And I particularly wanted to think about that conversation that we had last week around, “Does face-to-face teaching change even when we can all go back into the classroom again?” Vivienne, I might start with you, and then, Trevor, I’ll come to you for your thoughts and observations.

Vivienne:

My crystal ball is a bit smoky at the moment. However, look, I think the lessons that we’re learning through COVID should never, ever be lost. We flipped our situation very quickly to continue people’s learning journey, and I talk about three categories. We went to remote really quickly. This is remote. This is me talking to you using a platform, and our teachers just flip really quickly to be able to do that. Online is really about what the product is online, how people use it, how they interface with it, is it a self-paced product that they then have a remote session with an assessor or a teacher. And then you’ve got the blended learning. With the VET sector we are about hands-on skills, and so how do we blend that with the other two? I think you’re going to have a real mixture of how courses run, and it’s going to be the need. So a learner is going to look at a course, or a skill set, or a micro-credential in the future, and go, “Am I doing this for me? Is it a skill that I think will enhance me? Do I just want to do it? Therefore I might go to LinkedIn and do a video course.”

On the other hand, I want my employer to understand I actually have a skill base, and this is a recognised course for whatever reason. It could be a well-recognised course, or it could be a certified course, but again it’s a micro-credential with a badge that means something. I think that’s the future in a sense that not many people are going to want to sign up for two years worth of learning when they can build. There will be building blocks. So, to me, it’s can they be recognised appropriately by the people that think about it? Is it agile and valued by people? The AQF lego block side of things because, if someone wants to build up into a degree, we should be looking at that type of ability. I heard the end bit of the regulation you were talking about, Claire, and to me let’s get boxes into our system for all the administration tick boxes that people are enrolled at. It’s time they’re funded, the time they do that, and let’s move into experience and knowledge versus perfection.

I’m not saying it’s not important. It is, because of the investment we make. But I think there are things that, in the future, we’ll be looking at the student experience, we’ll be looking at their value within the workplace, and what employers say about that course because of the people that they employ. So really that’s where I think the future is going, and that university will have its place, certified diplomas will have its place. But coming into many careers over your lifetime, people are not going to want to do a degree for every time they want to change the way they’re going, and they won’t want to lock in a year or two for every time they want to change.

Claire:

And may not need to, hopefully. So, Trevor, your reflections if you’re looking three to five years, reflecting on what Vivienne’s talked about, how she sees what happens in providers, they’re changing. What’s your sense of things in terms of the ReadyTech perspective, and those providers that you work with?

Trevor:

Probably echo a lot of Vivienne’s thoughts there. I think certainly there’ll be a real push to more real blended learning. I think that the theory and the practical piece coming together are more closely linked. I think even some providers are starting to use augmented reality, virtual reality. I mean, in their training, I think we’re going to see more and more of that, and it’ll really support more distance and online learning. I also think things like that, the concept of VET and higher ed, when you look in that crystal ball, five years down the track, are they going to come more closely together and be stronger pathways, and all of that sort of thing happening there? I think, absolutely. I also think when you look at it from a cradle to grave perspective in that concept of lifelong learning, the pathway from secondary education into tertiary education I think will shift significantly. I think we’re starting to see some of that through the New South Wales government, in terms of some of the support they’re putting into secondary schools, particularly in making VET more accessible in secondary, and I think that’s fantastic and would love to see more of that because I think it gives the younger generation and the students more choice and more options around their pathways and their learning.

I think things around certification will absolutely change. I think it’ll obviously move more digital, and I think now surround the paper certificate. Whilst it’s great, and you can have that hanging on the wall, I think that the digital certification will absolutely be something that is wanted from students, and I think it will aid in that connection between education and employment. I certainly think things around the brand and the quality of the training provider will start to make more and more of a difference as students start to seek out where they want to go and get a lot of their learning.

As Vivienne touched on, I think the length of learning will certainly be different. It’ll be more micro, it’ll be more bite-sized chunks, and it’ll be you’re really strongly certified on skills acquisition. If I look at some of the things that are potentially happening in the US, I think some training providers are moving to more membership-based training systems. So you as a learner can ensure that you’ve got your training almost guaranteed, that you’ve got the currency, because you’re signing up to a membership program, and you’re dipping into the learning when you need it to keep yourself upskilled. I think that there’ll be a lot of change, and I think it’s really exciting, and I think if I put my VET hat on. I think there’s a tremendous opportunity for VET providers to be working really closely with employers and industry, and really starting to take a look at what the shape of learning will look like over the next five years.

Claire:

Thank you. One of the points featured, Trevor, was potentially VET and higher education providers working more closely together, and Vivienne you touched on this briefly as well in some of when you were talking about some of your partnerships and the Cisco academy. But what I’m going to ask you to tease out of it is, you’re not just looking at articulating your students up into higher ed. There’s a reverse process. I’m not sure it’s entirely articulated, where you’re working with some of the universities to have their students come and do that practical skills in TAFE, did you want to talk us through that a little bit?

Vivienne:

I’m quite happy to name the university that we’re moving forward with. We are talking to others, Deakin University, which is in our precinct as well. We’ve been talking about how to nest different courses into the degrees, and we’ve been able to work through one with cyber security. We’re not offering it yet, but we’re very close to it in the sense that there’s a semester that the university student comes in and actually does that part of the course in the TAFE environment, and it is then nested into their degrees. So that way we’re talking about dual branding. I don’t know if we’ll get there, but we might try for that reputation.

We’ve got to build that to make sure that people know that it’s valued. So what we’ve been doing is we’re looking at other areas that they have courses in at the higher education that we don’t run, and looking at how we can take a certificate three, or even part of the diploma and build that in so that they might enroll in say, Deakin. They come, and they spend a year with us of that degree, and they actually get that certificate. But it’s part of the articulation for the whole of the degree. So instead of us just stepping up into them, they may step down to us, and it can be different parts of the education journey with them. We’re really excited about this because it is part of our micro-credentialing design, as well, and we’ve got a whole framework behind where we are actually linking it to the AQF framework.

Some people will want to do that, and they will need the recognition to get the credit for the next step, but they can be taken without that AQF because that’s all they want to do. So I think there is an opportunity for working much closer with universities and TAFE for the needs of the learner, and the industry, and the micro-credentialing doesn’t necessarily need to be aligned to an AQF, depending on how you’re going to use it.

Claire:

We’ve got a few questions coming in. I’m just going to quickly answer one that’s just a fact-based one someone’s asked. “What courses were mainly taken by the international service students?” So if you want to get into that data, you can find it at the NCBR website or the AusTrade website. Mostly they’re doing diplomas. Mostly in Business Commerce Management, IT type courses. So I’m going to now go back into the conversation that we’ve been having, and I guess we’ve talked a lot about changing the courses that are offered, stronger links to industry, innovation, and flexibility. And there have been a few different questions that have come up about, “Do you think this is going to change the skills that VET teachers need to teach? And will there be a role for micro-credentials in the credentialing of our VET workforce? Any thoughts on that, Vivienne?

Vivienne:

We’re doing it already. If you have a look at LinkedIn you will see a number of micro-credential badges that our trainers have already had to gain. Any of our teachers that are doing true online and remote learning, have had to do a short course with us to ensure they know how to use the technology. The difference in communicating how to use all of this, and what we’re doing. So that was the very first stage for us, and so a lot of the micro-credentials that we are developing have core elements that are going to be required in what we call the new world. Now, some of it is very practical, and that’s what I’m talking about with those credentials at the moment. But it means that if a teacher doesn’t have that then they can’t do the online work with us.

It was something we put them through immediately, and the other thing, too, is that this was a journey that Box Hill was on. We actually gave ourselves three years to get there, to be truthful.  COVID made us get into the rough and ready in three months. Hence why this credential was available so quickly. We just put all our effort into it. So there will be a requirement for teachers and instructors to have a different level of projecting their skill. If I can say. Now, we had a session yesterday about how to teach people to do pattern making. How do you do that remotely when they’re not standing over a great big table to actually watch? We saw how this teacher was doing it behind the scenes. She showed us all the equipment she was using, gave us hints about how she uses her voiceover, fast tracks versus slow instruction. So the answer is they will need to change in the way that they present their skills, depending on whether, like a plumber… I think we’re going to need plumbers for a very long time. Their equipment will change, but how do we help those instructors teach using this blended approach? I think that’s where it’s going to hit, more than turning them on a penny and saying, “Oh, sorry. Your whole skill base has changed.” I think it’s going to be a quick move towards how to deliver those skills, as well as new industries that will come in. Of course we want to hire those really great people that are in those industries

Claire:

To come and train for you, Absolutely. Trevor, I might ask you a slightly different question that’s come up in the in the chat box: “How are we going to keep an eye on all these micro-credentials and other full qualifications, and all Vivienne’s degrees and various VET qualifications that people have, and non-accredited and industry accredited? How are we going to keep track of who’s got what, and what it all means?”

Trevor:

I think probably not easily, to be honest. If I look at it just from a digital credentials platform, there are a number of different credentials platforms where you can be issued a badge on. I think it absolutely has to have a level of interoperability. So one institution might use one platform and they might issue a digital credential on that, then that student might go somewhere else and they might earn a digital credential, or a badge, or micro-credential somewhere else. So there needs to be a mechanism for the person that is earning that digital credential to be able to say, “This is where I house all of my digital credentials”, whether that is on on LinkedIn, potentially for some people there’s the licenses and certifications area within LinkedIn, where you can put your badges in there. It might be more of a marketplace, where it’s an open marketplace where employers can then come and look for talent, and can be looking for talent based on skills that they’ve acquired and the badges and they can verify that capability online. So whether the government steps in and looks at creating something for the Australian landscape, which houses all that information, is potentially something that could occur. Something like the unique student identifier could really be changed and support some of that. But I think there needs to be a place where it’s central and where someone as an employer or a student can go to one place, and they can see all of that information. The student gets the decision around whether they want to make that information public or private, and an employer, should they want to look for talent, can go somewhere and find that individual. I think it’s a really big question and one that I think we’ll need to try and solve fairly soon.

Claire:

I’m going to ask you both to reflect on: “How will students navigate and make choices in this widening selection?” and just before you answer, I do want to point out that, because I read all the reviews, this is something in the Australian VET sector where we are going to see more publicly available data on providers that will help student choices. Audit reports will be published, not the same content and format, so there will be some more publicly comparable information at the provider level that is coming. But, with that not here yet, and as a way of background, the future is going to get more complex. How are students going to make good choices? Trevor, I’ll start with you and then, Vivienne, you’ll have the last word. So Trevor, your thoughts?

Trevor:

As a parent when you’re reviewing secondary schools, you’ve got a ranking system which you can use as a determining factor around where you would send your child. I do wonder whether there will be something like that in VET or even in higher ed. There are rankings around universities and that sort of thing, so I do wonder whether there will be something like that. The choice is pretty significant when you think about it. 4,000 plus registered training organisations, some public, some private. How does a student determine which is the best place to go, and they need access to information to be able to do that. They need to be able to consume that information in a really simple way so that they can make it a choice.

I think things like student satisfaction, and reviews, and all of those sorts of things will start to come to the fore, and it becomes a real marketplace where individuals can self-select what they think is most appropriate. But they need easy information that they can consume to make that decision. So I think, again, things like the reputation of the training organisation will be pretty significant. We know word of mouth is such a significantly powerful marketing tool, so I think there’s so many elements to that. But I think some form of simple system where a student can go somewhere and have key information that’s consistent across a number of different providers to then make an informed decision, I think will be important.

Claire:

Terrific. Thank you, and, Vivienne, your final thoughts on this one?

Vivienne:

Oh, it’s a doozy. Maybe we’ll have Yelp for education. What do you think? Look, I echo what Trevor has been saying. The only thing I would add is the ability to be able to work out the relevance because not every course will be the same. Maybe the content will, but the delivery is going to be up to the individual institutions. So it’s about job placement. Did the students get what they were looking for? So if they were looking for knowledge, how do we get them to be able to share that information so that it can be looked at? If they’re looking for job placement, how many of the graduates within those areas actually got jobs? And then how well do the employees rate those students? I think that’s a difficult one, but that information is available. You can go to many sites. I think it is going to come down to that formal information that you’re talking about, Claire, that will be published, and will be rated in time. But on top of that, there needs to be something more that allows someone to understand why they want to go into the vocational education sector rather than, say, a rated university of the top four or five.

To close out, I know that one of the big four consulting groups for the last three years have been taking their university graduates and putting them back into vocational education for them to enhance their skills so that they get a well-rounded employee. I think that says it all, actually. It’s been happening. It’s going to continue to happen even more.

Claire:

Yes, you’re absolutely right. And I think the last thing that I would add to that is, for those who are starting out, so Trevor, you’re thinking about school students and how parents take those decisions. If we’re going into what should I do, and Vivienne, you touched on this, what should I do post-school? I think the establishment of the National Careers Institute is a good initiative which will help provide ready access to information on careers, and then start thinking about, “Okay. These are the courses that would take me into that first of my many careers.” Then, which providers have a good reputation in those particular course and careers areas? I think that’s a second order. You’ve got institutional reputation, but let’s face it, large complex institutions whether they’re universities, TAFEs, or some larger private providers. It’s not a uniform experience, and it might well be that provider x is fantastic in IT, and okay at Nursing, or vice versa, and if you want to do plumbing then there’s some that are really the best in that. So I think I’ll be looking with interest as to how that National Careers Institute continues to grow, and what information they’re putting out, and how that fits with the greater information that we have on providers.

Thank you very much. Very interesting information and discussion there from Claire, Vivienne, and Trevor. Thank you for giving us an insight on successful education and industry partnership models. I absolutely love the concept of authentic blended learning design experiences to effectively engage our learners.