Always on-message Universities Australia was quick to respond to the latest skills-shortage warning, in this case for a net-zero economy, “Our transition to clean energy future cannot be completed without a highly skilled workforce and substantial research and development, which means it cannot be achieved without our universities working hand in glove with TAFE and vocational education providers” UA’s Catriona Jackson responded to Jobs and Skills Australia’s new report.
Good-o, except that JSA’s The Clean Energy Generation makes no mention of research and “finds we have enough workers overall and most likely enough university graduates but outlines the risk of a shortfall of VET qualified workers, especially amongst electricians and other trades.”
Quite a few electricians, 26 000 to 42 000 in the next seven years. Plus 2m more workers in building and engineering trades by 2050.
Note “trades.” And when HE gets a mention it is in the context of a, “harmonised education, training and migration system with a step change in how we train trades and technical workers is a priority. As skills needs continue to transcend VET and higher education sectors, the value and potential for greater collaboration is high. The clean energy sector is primed to be a test case for new approaches to collaboration.”
This is not new it builds on the Universities Accord Interim Report warning that “Australia’s skills needs will only be met if the higher education system and an expanded VET system, with TAFE at its core, work together within a more integrated system to deliver the flexible, transferable skills people want and need.”
And It adds to the Employment White Paper’s suggestion for “more collaboration and seamless transitions between VET and higher education.” As to the suggestion of “higher apprenticeships,” leading to degree-level qualifications, UA said it was “seeking clarification” which is undoubtedly not another way of saying “having conniptions.”
UA got it in the text of Skills Minister Brendan O’Connor’s Tuesday speech at the National Press Club,
“the shift in employment has not been from manual to cognitive work. It has been from routine to non-routine work.
High-skilled, non-routine work, both manual and cognitive is growing. While repetitive, routine work, both manual and cognitive is declining.
Thinking and doing are not in tension with each other, together they are far more powerful, and more of what the economy needs.”
This is serious stuff for HE- especially for everybody who assumed a Labor Accord would mean money and respect for universities as keepers of culture and drivers of the economy.
Because the Government is consistent in its clarity that it values, really values, TAFE, which is Labor-speak for training. And in universities the degrees Labor talks up are vocational, teaching, nursing and childcare.
There are three reasons for this -one is that skills shortages can’t be ignored and voced should be valued as HE is. Another is that talking up diminishes demands for university funding – it is a truth universally acknowledged that too much money is never enough for vice chancellors and the research lobbies. And the third is that focusing on vocational education starves the Greens, who have strong campus support of political oxygen. Whenever they complain on behalf of universities the government can point to what it is doing for jobs and skills via VET.
The first is policy, the second is budgetary and the third is political – it’s a winning trifecta.