“Governments should step back a bit and allow and require industry and [education] providers to work more closely.”
Speaking on the same panel, the vice-chancellor of Monash University, Professor Margaret Gardner, also pointed out industry needed to potentially work better with vocational (or para professional) training providers, especially in the new economy.
Whatever skill gaps we see today are not the skill gaps we’ll see in three, five, or 10 years’ time.
— Steffen Faurby, TAFE NSW managing director
She said there hadn’t been enough innovation and drive out of industry in the training space but if we start to get it right, there’s a “real opportunity for Australia to innovate” on a global scale.
As for bringing universities and VET providers closer together, Faurby says the upshot of getting the mix right is “when graduates come out the other end, not only do they come out to the jobs that industry needs them for, but they also come out with a much more sound and solid platform on which to work, because we’ve given them both practical skill sets and more academic skill sets,” Faurby says.
In terms of executive education, Faurby says the new hub partnering with industry and universities does lend itself to the idea of lifelong learning, where employees and leaders will need to constantly upgrade their credentials to ensure they have the right skills for the ever-changing digital economy.
He says an individual’s career is more of a journey these days and skills gaps are emerging all the time and “whatever skill gaps we see today are not the skill gaps we’ll see in three, five, or 10 years’ time”.
Interestingly, that skills gap is particularly pronounced at present between generations because for the first time in history so many generations are working together which can be partly attributed to the fact improved healthcare means we are working and living longer.
Sometimes referred to as the “other 5G”, in reference to having five generations working closely together, it does represent a challenge for employers as digital natives, such as Millennials and Generation Z, rub shoulders with Gen Xers, Baby Boomers and sometimes people born in the early 1940s.
Bearing this in mind, Faurby says in the past executive education has been the universities’ “sweet spot”. But with the new centre, TAFE NSW will be able to better collaborate with universities and make sure people are upskilled in areas where there are jobs gaps and “we’ll be able to address them as quickly as we can” in a multi-generational workforce.
“We’re now past the point where we talk about university or VET. We talk about university and VET.”
“One of the benefits of the Digital Technology Hub is we’ll be bringing the teachers together with industry folks to define what the training materials and products look like. We’ll not only co-design but co-deliver the program as well.
“Students will have direct involvement with industry and get direct feedback,” Faurby says.
NSW Minister for Skills and Tertiary Education, Geoff Lee, says the Digital Technology Hub is “fundamentally changing the way TAFE delivers for the businesses and communities that it serves”.
“TAFE traditionally delivers lots of different courses but with this, we’re actually going out to industry and asking them, who wants to partner with TAFE in delivering cutting-edge state-of-the-art 21st century courses that will actually be based around industry need – not what TAFE has taught for the 125 years?”
“It will be really about what industry wants to develop,” Lee says.
While there will be a focus on ensuring young graduates will be job-ready, Lee also acknowledges the huge opportunity for TAFE in executive education.
“Everybody needs to continually update their skills but the challenge is doing this in a cost-effective and accessible manner. TAFE is ideally placed to do that especially with increased industry involvement.
“Why do you have to spend $2500 on a professional development course that lasts a day when you could do just as good a course at TAFE for $1000. Executive education is very expensive. TAFE compared to universities is not a high-cost competitor,” Lee says.
Faurby says the launch of Meadowbank Centre of Excellence is the beginning of a process in which TAFE, universities and industry can partner in a “sort of tri-party arrangement to create a flagship within education that ensures students are not only job-ready but they get the right jobs at the end”.
“We’re really doing what industry wants, but also importantly, what students want. I’ve had conversations with pretty much every university in New South Wales, and there’s a genuine interest in creating an integrated solution with vocational training providers, such as TAFE NSW.”
He says employers are a lot less focused on people who have a very linear pathway through education and “much more interested in people who have continually stacked up their education and their qualifications” throughout their career.