Insights into Australia’s Technical and Further Education (TAFE) system – FE News
As UK skills policy takes center stage, what lessons can we learn from jurisdictions around the world? After successful virtual study tours to explore VET in places like South Africa and Singapore, Edge recently traveled to Australia to learn more about the country’s Technical and Further Education (TAFE) system. country. Here’s a taste of what we learned.
What is the TAFE system and how does it work?
Broadly analogous to the FE Colleges in the UK, Australia’s 29 Technical and Further Education (TAFE) colleges are well-established public vocational training providers. While more than 3,000 additional registered private training organizations also receive public funding to deliver national qualifications, Australia’s TAFEs account for the lion’s share of vocational training provision in full qualifications, especially the high entry fees such as the training of plumbers, electricians and registered nurses. The largest institution – TAFE New South Wales (NSW) – hosts half a million students. As established institutions, TAFE is respected by the industry and trusted by learners nationwide.
The TAFE funding model is quite complex, varying between states and territories. The majority of funding comes from the Commonwealth (or Federal) government, but through a National Partnership Agreement which allocates tax revenues to individual states. States and territories then distribute funds to registered training organizations in accordance with their regional frameworks. The complexity of this system in part led to the founding of TAFE Directors Australia in 1998. Edge spoke to the cutting edge body’s current CEO, Jenny Dodd.
As a representative body, TAFE Directors Australia supports TAFE Directors nationwide. As state or territory employees, administrators need a forum through which they can communicate with the federal government on pressing matters. Jenny advocates for these vendors at the federal level, coordinates their networks, and provides professional development opportunities for all TAFE staff (including dual universities with TAFE divisions).
Some familiar challenges
Hearing about many of the challenges facing the TAFE system, one, in particular, was painfully familiar. Similar to FE colleges, recruiting suitably qualified trainers poses a significant challenge. Teaching cannot compete with industry salaries, and due to Australia’s high employment rate, booming industries like construction – which need the most trainers – are ironically harder to recruit. Additionally, all industry trainers must obtain a high-level training and assessment qualification, which discourages many potential recruits. Jenny explained that one approach is to promote the benefits of permanent employment with a state service workforce. Although the salaries cannot compete with the industry, teaching roles generally offer more stability than casual work. For many coaches, the flexible lifestyle is more appealing.
Another familiar aspect of the Australian system that Jenny pointed out was the financial incentives to encourage employers to take on apprentices. Although these have been useful in improving apprenticeship completion rates, employers have come to expect subsidies. She suggested the need for direct incentives for employers, ie through recruitment incentives, and finding alternatives to encourage participation, rather than subsidies alone.
TAFE and HE: an applied approach to work preparation
TAFEs have a long history of offering VET programs and have almost 20 years of experience in offering higher education programmes. As degree apprenticeships grow in popularity in England, what can we learn from their experiences?
Moving away from the traditional course/tutorial model, TAFE Higher Education has an applied approach. Courses rely heavily on problem-solving, teamwork and project-based learning, all led by academics who are also industry experts. Even the assessment includes a series of applied measures, presentations to online discussion networks, quizzes, projects, short essays and the occasional research report. The applied nature of the programs does not stop there either. It also shapes staffing and curriculum approaches.
In addition to academic qualifications, all teaching staff must actively engage with industry to ensure the continuous updating of their skills. TAFEs also regularly review each subject through course advisory committees. Comprised of external academic and industry partners, these committees ensure that courses remain relevant to industry needs. For example, when the accounting degree advisory committee recently recommended new financial software training, which can then be immediately added to the curriculum.
Competency-based and inclusive
Unlike traditional universities, TAFE’s higher education offering is firmly skills-based, relying on small student-to-facilitator ratios to ensure maximum impact. It’s also very inclusive – while course leaders recognize formal qualifications as proof of prior learning, they also accept applicants who have not graduated from high school, if they can demonstrate work experience. relevant.
TAFE attracts a very different cohort from traditional universities. As a result, graduates of their courses regularly gain direct access to employment. Meanwhile, many students are picking up these new skills to support the economy of their local communities – a true measure of success.
Although the TAFE system is situated in a very different policy and funding landscape, the UK could learn a lot from these approaches as we seek to diversify VET provision into further and higher education.
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