4 ways to drive better collaboration between industry and VET

4 ways to drive better collaboration between industry and VET

Australian business owners shared their views about the vocational and education training (VET) sector during the DSO Business Innovators Forum. Those discussions identified four ways to improve collaboration between educators and employers.

<key takeaways>

  • Develop a clear roadmap for employers to engage with the VET sector and work collaboratively to develop talent
  • Identify the digital skills needs of employers and create courses using a skills-based approach
  • Work with industry groups and associations to reach more employers in different sectors.
  • Use the insights of digital leaders to develop skills-based learning approaches to emerging technologies

Make it simpler to engage with the VET sector

Employers discussed the difficulty in engaging with the VET sector. Some don’t know where to start or who to engage and have found the process complex and time consuming.

Sebastian Robertson, CEO and co-founder of drone company BIRDI, has a formal partnership with TAFE NSW. Specifically, BIRDI helps those qualified through TAFE find work.

“You just don't know who you're meant to be speaking to within those organisations,” Mr Robertson said. “The relationship with TAFE NSW was beneficial for their students but really didn’t provide any value to us as an employer. We provide work to them but they haven’t provided us with any staff.”

The BIRDI co-founder, who employs eight staff and manages a network of more than 2000 drone pilots, has also been co-designing an entire training program with the University of New South Wales (UNSW).

Mr Robertson’s remarks reflect the core issue that the DSO is working to remedy through a skills-based approach in collaboration with the VET sector and Australian employers. A skills-based approach focuses on understanding and evaluating the capabilities of individuals based on the skills they’ve developed through experience, formal and informal training. This outcome-focused approach better aligns with the needs of employers who are seeking to hire talent that can produce the outputs that they need, regardless of their educational journey.

In an effort to drive greater collaboration between employers and training providers, the DSO recently launched a collaborative pilot project that aims to address the digital skills shortage in Melbourne’s Cremorne, one of Australia’s burgeoning tech precincts.

Key players include major Australian employers Carsales, MYOB and Live Tiles and innovative training provider Bendigo Kangan Institute. This project aims to develop sustainable, skills-based approaches to creating more digital workers through an employer-led model. It will bring together employers, training providers and the DSO to create an innovative approach to hiring, workforce planning and lifelong learning.

Ask employers which skills they actually need

Abraham Robertson, an investor in digital start-ups and co-founder of fintech Stropro, said the VET sector is misaligned to the digital skills required in his business. He would happily work with organisations like TAFE if they engaged him to identify what his needs were.

“TAFEs and universities need to spend a bit more time thinking about the demands of digital businesses like ours,” he said. “Beyond two years, I wouldn't even be able to tell what code base we’ll be using. But I know that in 12 months’ time there is going to be a massive demand from the Australian start-ups and scale-ups in Dart and Flutter coming out of a shift to using Google's frameworks. So, we know that's coming, but who is providing those courses? I don't think anyone is.

“If the training providers spoke to businesses like ours who are looking to employ, we'd go, ‘We'll have six coders. We'll take six straight off the shelf.’ Put that product on the shelf and we'll take it.”

Collaboration between employers and the VET sector is critical to meeting the digital demand of businesses and to keep up with the pace of change. The DSO will soon be welcoming stakeholders to actively participate in co-designed pilots that bring together employers and training providers in local areas to build training courses that deliver the skills that employers need.

In addition to its Train 100 Data Analysts pilot, the DSO recently launched the Cremorne Project,  co-designed initiative that will be the first in a series of DSO Innovation Hubs. The project unites local employers and training providers to build training courses that deliver the necessary digital skills that local employers so desperately require.

Engage with industry bodies and associations

The VET sector should work with industry associations to create a dialogue with employers and roll out employer-led digital skills training, according to Australian SMEs.

Mhairi MacLeod is an award-winning mortgage broker and the owner of Astute Ability Group. In addition to running a successful SME she also works with the Mortgage & Finance Association of Australia (MFAA) developing training courses for finance brokers.

“We're looking at putting these courses through RTOs to educate people from a ground level up. Not everyone wants to be a broker. Not everyone wants to be a banker. But we need skill sets in this digital world that supports those people. As a small business owner, I need guidance from our industry bodies. It needs to come from the top to say, "Okay, as an industry, we have a big skills shortage here, here and here. How are we filling that hole?” said Ms MacLeod.

Small business accounting adviser and SME owner Lielette Calleja echoes these points, suggesting that professional associations and industry bodies are crying out for new ways to engage their members.

“Associations definitely have a role to play in helping business owners find adequate training.”

The DSO has taken significant steps in accelerating the need for change by establishing a number of advisory and working groups that provide employers with the opportunity to contribute their expertise and experiences to help shape programmes, pilots and initiatives.

Work collaboratively to identify new specialist skills

The delivery of a skills-based approach by the VET sector will require a sharp eye on the future, working with employers and digital leaders to uncover emerging technologies.

Speaking at the DSO Business Innovators Forum, Nic Fren, founder and CEO of Bespoke Media Group, noted the difficulty in keeping up with an accelerating digital landscape.

“Every week a platform changes or a new piece of tech is released,” he said. “We're constantly trying to keep up with it, so for people that are starting out, it can be very overwhelming.”

But emerging technologies also present a challenge for seasoned professionals and digital specialists.

Sanan Thamo is the founder and CEO of data analytics company INGRITY, a group that works with major Australian corporations to future-proof their business by leveraging data.

He explained that large employers like the big banks and insurers — his clients — are looking for help with their technology across three different horizons: legacy systems, new tech and emerging tech. Or, as Mr Thamo calls it, ‘next new’.

“They want us to have legacy system skills. They want us to have new tech skills. But they also want us to have ‘next new’ skills. As a service provider, I need to have people who are across all three horizons. For us, specialist pathways are key because we are not going to have one person who's going to be across all three,” he said.

“The challenge is to identify the right people to take our company forward and our service to our customers better.”

Specialist pathways are a core focus for the DSO as it endeavours to build a system that can produce skilled workers capable of operating advanced technologies.

Part of the DSO mission is encouraging members to actively participate in co-designed pilots that bring together employers and training providers in local areas to build training courses that deliver the skills employers need.

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