Here's the skinny on the issues right now, and the real skills you'll need in the future. 

National Skills Week (NSWk) is the focal point for the promotion of Australia’s Vocational Education and Training sector (VET). Each year the week continues to celebrate and inform students and the wider public of the diversity and career pathways available through VET. This year NSWk was held from 27 August to 2 September 2018, with the theme ‘Real Skills for Real Careers’. The Hon. Shannon Fentiman, Minister for Employment and Small Business and Minister for Training and Skills Development launched the event.

As part of the event TAFE Queensland brought together some great minds in VET to discuss the topical issues of today, and the skills needs of the future. The workforce of the future/post-2020 will need flexible qualifications that can rapidly be adapted to changing industry, employer, and student needs. This has significant ramifications for the VET sector, and as a training provider we need to consider how we meet these needs.

The panel discussion included: Rachael Turner, classical pianist turned licensed builder and business owner; Danielle Duncan, small business mentor and owner You & Bamboo; Dr Claire Mason, Social Scientist from the CSIRO Data 61 research centre; and Mr John Tucker, General Manager of TAFE Queensland SkillsTech.

The panel tackled some interesting topics and the discussion was led by the evening’s MC, Mr Brian Wexham Chief Executive Officer of SkillsOne and founder of NSWk.

Here’s what they had to say:

Brian Wexham

on collaboration and working together to meet the needs of industry and the economy

We need to raise the profile and celebrate the diversity of opportunities available for training. We all have a responsibility — industry, government, and training providers — to collaborate to promote these opportunities to young people.

Rachael Turner

on women in a male-dominated industry

I think it was hard initially I definitely copped a bit from the blokes when I first started. But I’ve done the hard yards and now five years later I’m a licensed builder. I’ve got a fantastic team of carefully selected carpenters and sub-contractors on my team now and that definitely makes things a lot easier for me.

There’s almost a necessary dynamic by bringing both sexes together in the workplace, and I really believe the construction industry is an industry where women can excel. Women are typically good organisers and multitaskers and have an understanding of a greater vision. We can also bring a motherly, nurturing quality to a building site. This isn’t to say that men can’t do these things. I’d like to see more women in these roles, and I think that will happen eventually.

Danielle Duncan

on running a small business… successfully

Initially I studied a Bachelor of Communications at university — I started to study journalism but to be honest, that didn’t agree with my values. I went on to major in public relations, but I think I’ve use about two per cent of my degree. Where I’ve really learned what to do and how to do it is through a Certificate IV in Management. I use this qualification every day, not just in mentoring other small businesses owners, but in running my own small business, U and Bamboo.

The idea behind U and Bamboo is a focus on sustainable products and clothing. It’s a retail store and I wholesale to shops all around the world. I use the business as a model and a tool to showcase to other small business owners. You need to find something that the market wants, but the real secret is throwing yourself behind something that you’re passionate about.

Rachael Turner

on vocational education and training vs university

I found a home at TAFE Queensland, and I’ve done a four year degree at university, so I really feel that I can speak for both pathways. I liked university, but I loved TAFE Queensland. TAFE Queensland has given me the skills I need to do exactly what I want to do, and I think that my story relieves an old fashioned thought that you need to go to university in order to be successful — you don’t.

Claire Mason

on what kinds of skills are becoming more important

Predicting the future is really hard. What I like to say is that we have social choices rather than technological destinies. The decisions we make around the technology we create will have profound impacts on our lives into the future. We need to look at confluences that will create long term change.

Automation is happening and there’s no escaping that. Machines can write their own code. But at the moment, it’s impossible to have a robot that is human. What we need is entrepreneurial people who can take this technology and to use to add value in new ways. Vocational education and training teaches people these applied, real world skills.

John Tucker

on the perception of vocational education and training

Vocational education and training has and continues to get a bad rap. But this is undeserved. The benefits of VET are immense. We need to continue to support programs like WorldSkills that take the value of VET to new audiences — it’s a program that does this in spades. We see the effect that the competition has on the students, but also, on those people that watch the competition. They all walk away impressed by what our industry has to offer.

Claire Mason

on the need for nimble skills

More and more people are working independently because of platform economics. Years ago, it was never feasible to run a whole organisation by yourself. But now it is completely possible for niche providers to deliver exceptional products and services all by themselves. Why? Because of better technology and more automated processes.

Because the way we do things is changing faster and faster, we have to keep upskilling. Education is a growth industry and it too needs to change. We can no longer afford to lock ourselves away in a university lecture room for five years. What we need is models that will help us shift our skills sideways, and to develop the skillsets that are required right now, and we need to do that quickly.

Want to find out more about our panellists? Check them out online:

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