Wednesday 20 June 2007 - Estimates Committee B (Bartlett) Part 2
Output group 2
This section contains Kerry Finch’s questions on:
Skills Tasmania Board
Training and Vocational Education
Training for the Tourism Sector
Polytechnic Model and webCT
Subsidies for Apprentices and Trainees
CHAIR - We now move on to output group 2, skills development, 2.1 and 2.2. Mr Finch.
SKILLS TASMANIA BOARD
Mr FINCH - Minister, first of all, could you give us a brief picture of how the new Skills Tasmania Board is going to work?
Mr BARTLETT - Certainly. The legislation, which has now passed both Houses, as I understand it, to establish the Skills Tasmania Board is our policy approach to genuinely hand to Tasmanian industry far more scope and ability for them to influence where we spend our training and skills dollar, essentially. We have a skills shortage and in Tasmania, largely demographic based, but also due to, you could call them mistakes, but the way we structured things 20 years ago and so on. So we have a shortage of carpenters at the moment. It is probably because we didn't have enough apprentices going through 20 years ago or whatever the case may be.
The Skills Tasmania Board has replaced the TLSA, which was a body that, together with the Office of Post Compulsory Education and Training essentially provided advice to me on how we spent our $93 million on skills and training. What the Skills Tasmania Board will be is a statutory authority effectively, similar to the Tasmanian Development Board - that would be a good example of a similar structure. It will provide direct to me through the leading industry players who will be appointed to that board, and a secretariat, if you like, who works with it, through excellent data, analysis of that data, analysis of the Tasmanian economy and where we have both skills shortage. But it will analyse where we might want to develop skills for future industries. Their key role will be to develop the Tasmanian training plan and make recommendations on how we spend our money.
I am all not for the education community and the business community standing 10 paces apart, daggers drawn, pointing the finger at each other, saying 'Skills crisis, your fault. Lack of skilled people we want, your fault'. To me, we need more industry investment in skills, but we also need more industry ownership of some of the policy decisions we make around what we are going to invest in. The Skills Tasmania Board will do that. It will be an independent statutory authority. It will comprise seven members drawn from industry. It will have substantial executive powers in policy development and planning and entering into purchasing and performance agreements with training organisations, such as TAFE and the other 120-odd RTOs we have across Tasmania to deliver the skills that we think that we as the Tasmanian community need. It will be supported by staff comprising some of the staff out of the current Office of Post Compulsory Education and Training, led by a general manager, but it will be directly responsible to the Minister for Education. So it will have a direct industry advice line, if you like, to how we spend our training dollars, of which there is $93 million, made up of some Commonwealth some State money.
Mr FINCH - Is that board in place now?
Mr BARTLETT - No, it is not. The bill receives assent on 1 July. Sorry, it is meant to commence today.
Mr FINCH - You can announce who the new board is then?
Mr BARTLETT - I can't, but we will be moving rapidly now to put the board in place, but the board is not in place yet. But I expect to see on there a representative group of industry leaders and players who on the scene in Tasmania, but I wouldn't shy away from having people external to Tasmania bringing their knowledge and skills about how we can effect skills uptake in Tasmania as well.
TRAINING AND VOCATIONAL EDUCATION
Mr FINCH - You mention those other private providers of training and vocational education. Have any been chosen yet? Have any been spoken to in respect of working alongside TAFE to provide that training?
Mr BARTLETT - No, they wouldn't have been, but the RTOs in Tasmania, it is a very competitive market out there. There are RTOs providing training opportunities for many, many Tasmanians in many, many ways, some of them big, some of them small. I know at the moment we have things like competitive bids, so there is a chunk of money we want to spend on skills. RTOs respond, including TAFE, and ensure that the policy objectives are met but they are met by the marketplace out there. Competitive bids is only one way we get money out to training organisations. There is also money that is effectively quarantined for TAFE and those sorts of things.
Mr FINCH - So is there a percentage to go to TAFE already? Has that been categorised?
Mr BARTLETT - At the moment there are four ways we effectively purchase skills or purchase vocational training: through the TAFE purchase agreement, through user-choice for apprentice and trainees, or employers might choose an RTO, through competitive tendering and through VET in Schools. About 53 per cent of all training delivered is purchased from TAFE Tasmania under the purchasing agreement. The user-choice policy is a policy framework that facilitates purchase of training for apprentices and trainees and accounts for 30 per cent of training purchased, and that includes some of the TAFE Tasmania as well, of course. The competitive tendering program comprises about 5 per cent of delivery, and it has two discrete programs, the Tasmanian Skills Investment Program, which addresses specific, targeted skills development needs for Tasmanian enterprises, communities and individuals, and Skills Equip, which addresses specific skills development needs for nominated equity groups. VET in Schools accounts for 1 per cent of all VET delivery, with delivery funded through school funding arrangements.
Of course, many of these things, while I do not expect radical change, the Skills Tasmania Board will have views about these things and views that industry want to impact on those policy areas. Of course, also with our post-compulsory reforms, there will be changes to the VET in Schools delivery as well, effectively.
Mr FINCH - Would you see that TAFE would retain its 53 per cent? Would it be done on a percentage basis that it has now, or is that still negotiable or up in the air?
Mr BARTLETT - It is a difficult one to answer without getting into some of the post-compulsory reforms. TAFE, effectively, from 1 January 2009 - post this implementation - won't exist in its current form. It will effectively gain a large chunk of the VET in Schools that is currently run in senior secondary colleges, but it will also have hived off from it much of the training it currently does for enterprise clients. So, I guess, much of the user-choice category will fall into that.
The three new institutes that we are creating as of 1 January 2009 - and we are going to go through consultation and implementation in the leadup to that - will be an academy-style organisation which is focused 100 per cent on academic learning and path ways effectively to university for those kids who learning best in an academic setting. There will be a polytechnic-style organisation, which will bring together the VET currently happening in the senior secondary colleges together with all the strengths of TAFE and create far more vocational education options for those young Tasmanians and adult Tasmanians who learn in a more applied and practical way and allow them to have flexible delivery of those things. I will get into some of that detail as we go along, if committee members want that.
The third one is a training enterprise, effectively, a government business enterprise that will be constructed so that we can, through that enterprise, be much more hand in hand with Tasmanian businesses, delivering training to them when they need it, how they need it, on their shop floor at a time they need it tailored for their specific employees. TAFE do a great job at that already, but they are constrained by a range of organisational issues, some of them industrial. For example, the bakery who wants their training done at 4 am, the training enterprise will be there to deliver it for them. For example, the building industry who want much of their training done during January when the building industry is slow, the training enterprise will be there to deliver it for them and have the sort of organisational structures, industrial conditions, in place that allow them to do that, a 24-7, 52-weeks-of-the-year organisation delivering for Tasmanian enterprises who are prepared and are investing in their employees.
They are the three organisations. There are a few variables going on here. There is the effect that Skills Tasmania will have and the added influence on industry on our decision-making process of purchasing and agreement with registered training organisations, and then there is our post-compulsory reforms that I have just described to you which will affect how those organisations are. So it is a very difficult question to answer to say what percentages will be where in two years time.
Mr FINCH - Yes. You might welcome this opportunity, I am curious about whether your learning, academic and through to polytechnic and the other area, whether that is transportable between the three and allows the opportunity for somebody to perhaps change their mind or perhaps to utilise areas of learning in another part of those three?
Mr BARTLETT - Absolutely. Let me give you a stark anecdote. When I had Andrew Robb down here visiting the Claremont TAFE campus we went through and talked to a few of the young lads who were doing the metal fabrication certificate - I think it was the qualification, I am not sure now - one of the lads said to me 'Look, I did a year and a half at Claremont College, a senior secondary college, and I realised that this is not the place for me. It then took me another half year to get into the course at TAFE'. He felt he'd wasted that time. Essentially what he was saying was that the constructs we have in place didn't suit him and his pathway of flexibility in terms of his practical sense of learning, which is where he wanted to be. He'd finished grade 10. He didn't want to be in school or in class anymore. He wanted to be a practical learner, on the job, learning his skill or his trade so that he could go out and get a job at the end of that qualification.
So, absolutely, a person that wants to learn in an applied way through the polytechnic, for example, will still be able to do TCE subjects. Also, we are very clear that the academy is absolutely a pathway to university, but the polytechnic is also a pathway to university. In the polytechnic, you might study to diploma level, and at diploma level that would represent the first year of a university course, in fact, saving you significant dollars on your HECS, allowing you to go into second-year university of an articulated course, say, if you'd done a diploma of tourism and then wanted to move on to a bachelor of tourism, the polytechnic would also provide you with a pathway to do that.
Mr FINCH - I am just having a look at a chart in 3.5, just about retention figures for 10 to 12-year-olds –
Mr BARTLETT - That is years 10 to 12.
Mr FINCH - That is more likely to come into post-compulsory and school education?
Mr BARTLETT - Technically probably, but we are talking about post-compulsory school education, not strictly speaking only TAFE.
Mr FINCH - Do you want me to touch on that now? I am just a bit confused by the figures in 3.5. The target for 10 to 12 last year was 82 per cent. The target for this financial year is 76.11 per cent. So why that drop in expectations for retention?
Mr BARTLETT - I might ask Michael to think about the answer to that, but I will say this at the outset: I am very clear that our retention rates are nowhere near good enough. As I said, 86 per cent of jobs in Australia at the moment require a post-year 10 qualification. While we are 10 to 15 per cent behind ever other State in terms of our retention - and I think every other State doesn't have good enough retention rates, only the ACT meets the 86 per cent - in Singapore more than 90 per cent of kids go on after year 10 to gain a post-year 10 qualification. Let's face it, they are our global competitors. We can find out why whatever target is set there, but I can tell you that the target that Tasmania Together benchmark has set is more in the vicinity of 80 per cent by 2020. The targets that we need to get to, I believe, as Tasmanians, are in that vicinity. We need to have far more of our young people, not only going on, because there is a number of figures here. There is the apparent retention rates, which effectively measure how many kids were in grade 10 in year X against how many kids are in grade 12 at year X plus 2. That's the apparent retention rate effectively. There are some funny swings and roundabouts with that with adult students and so on.
But what is more important to me is completion rates - that is, how many of those kids actually completed a meaningful qualification. They might be still there in year 12, but they might not have actually got anything out of that. That is entirely why we are going to invest in his polytechnic particularly, because not every kid is academically inclined. We need to invest far more in those kids who learn practically and give them an opportunity to also gain a qualification post-year 10. Michael may want to talk about the specific benchmarks.
Mr STEVENS - I think you have covered it very well, Minister. The only thing I would add is that the Tasmania Together target was set in a sense in isolation when it was first done. We revised those targets in conjunction with the board over the years. The other weakness with the retention rate is that it tends to measure only those kids that go on to years 11 and 12. It doesn't measure those who go on to training or, in fact, those who go on to employment. So there are successful outcomes other than just going on to years 11 and 12. We need to amalgamate those, which is probably the main reason why the Tasmania Together target has dropped. But, again, that was through discussions with the Tasmania Together Board.
Mr FINCH - It is probably the same issue with my next question, but in that same table there's a lowering of expectations for the number of apprentices you are training, 14 300 last year, the target for this year is 13 500. I note there is an explanation in footnote 4, but is that the whole story? It would be nice to see an increase projected?
Mr STEVENS - We did some work on the numbers, and basically what has happened is that there was a significant, if you like, training of existing workers for hospitality and call centres where there are huge numbers that came through those particular areas. So if you actually look at the breakdown regarding trainees, you'll see that apprentices and trainees in traditional trades have gone up significantly, but the numbers of existing workers, specifically in tourism, hospitality and call centres has come done. Again, we revised the targets that best suit the Tasmanian context. We basically trained the existing workers in those particular areas with those two-year incentives. There are also Federal Government incentives for those particular industries, which were phased out and the numbers dropped.
Mr FINCH - Probably on that same subject, it is disappointing to see that the 8.2 per cent target of 15 to 19-year-olds are both unemployed and not in education. That is also in table 3.5. I am just wondering what State programs are going to be in place to help them and, I suppose, our new program, but not coming up until 2009 will help with those figures. It is disappointing to see that there is an 8.2 per cent of 15 to 19-year-olds not in education and not employed.
Mr BARTLETT - Of course, the Guaranteeing Futures legislation comes in next year, which will legislatively require that you are either in work or training until you are 17 years old in Tasmania. Then we have our response, which is the reforms that I have just talked about, which will, I believe, provide much more opportunities and in a much more appealing way and much more pastoral care and college life, if you like, for those college kids to remain connected post-year 10 as well.
There are a range of other strategies under our pathway planning activities, which means that every kid in a State school through years 8 through 10 will have an individual pathway plan developed with them so that they will be very clear by the time they get to year 10. They are required by this law to lodge that pathway plan with the Tasmanian Qualifications Authority. That plan needs to be able to show that they are going on with their learning effectively after year 10. There is a comprehensive set of strategies in place here. But, as I have also said publicly, the reason why we are behind other States in this regard - my commitment to all committee members and all Tasmanians is that we need to do much better here and we are going to do much better here - is largely to do with cultural and historical reasons. Many cultural and historical reasons relate to the idea that you didn't go on in Tasmania after year 10 unless you were going to university. The world has changed, and we need to make sure our institutions change to reflect that.
TRAINING FOR THE TOURISM SECTOR
Mr FINCH - The pre-budget submission by the Tasmanian Tourism Industry Council says it continues to face problems, including a loss of hospitality staff, despite an increase of places in TAFE. It says that maintaining a strong focus on industry-oriented skills and training must remain a high priority for policy and funding. Could you tell us what specific ways you can address this problem that is highlighted by the tourism council?
Mr BARTLETT - I would start by saying that my guess is if you went to the maritime industry training plan and pretty much any other industry you can come across in Tasmania at the moment, they would have a very similar set of issues they are dealing with in terms of skills shortages. Partly that is demographic. There are fewer people going to school and fewer people leaving school, fewer people going into the workplace. That is the nature of an ageing population.
My short answer to your question is that Skills Tasmania Board, would, I expect - I don't want to start naming members, because I don't know who they will be – have on that board a representative sample of the sorts of industries that are strong and need to be stronger in Tasmania, because that is how industry will clearly affect things. Like the tourism industry, they want to do things, the board will clearly affect government policy and government expenditure in the future of how we purchase skills and vocational education and training.
We will talk about the tourism industry, because it is very important in and of itself. The Drysdale Institute works with a whole range of programs and companies, including TT Line, the Hotel Grand Chancellor, Rydges, the Old Woolstore, Pure Tasmania, Country Club hospitality and accommodation schools, and the Wrest Point Hospitality and Stewarding School, so Drysdale really is there at that industry level working with significant industry players providing the training on site in their businesses and their enterprises. I might ask Malcolm to elaborate a little bit more on that as well, because tourism is a very important part.
Mr WHITE - Thank you, Minister. I would like to just highlight one great innovation in this industry where, as you have said, the industry has highlighted a shortage of skills and worked in partnership with the Drysdale Institute to overcome a shortage of people entering chef apprenticeships. That was the Federal Group. They worked with us to develop a program called Mise en Place, which I understand is some sort of French phrase for 'prepare to cook'. But under the program, we jointly recruited a cohort of young Tasmanians where they had a 12-week experience about what it takes to commit to this industry and the exciting opportunities as chefs. That was particularly successful. That was a partnership between a customer and a training institution to do something about that very big problem that you raised.
Mr BARTLETT - Can I also say, not specifically about the tourism industry but about industry in general, one of the things we need achieve out of these reforms is more industry investment in training, more investment by industry in their own employees to show productivity gains that have an impact on their bottom lines. But we need to be able to provide that training for them. The other flip side of skills shortages, of course, is that the labour market is a supply and demand market.
Skills shortages are caused by other factors other than not just having enough trainees, if you like. They are also caused by not offering the right competitive wages, not offering conditions that people want to work in, not offering the locations that people want to work in. We have a very mobile Generation Y, we have a very mobile population, and you see places like the mining industry boom at the moment that is literally sucking out of the rest of Australia much of the labour that might otherwise have been working in other industries.
POLYTECHNIC MODEL & webCT
Mr FINCH - Thank you. On page 322 there's a reference to learning resources, including WebCT and the establishment of further flexitrain centres. To ignorant layman, could you just explain those terms?
Mr BARTLETT - I will ask Malcolm to explain the terms. WebCT is effectively a product name. I will get him to talk a little bit more about what TAFE is doing, but I will just put one sentence at the beginning, and that is that the polytechnic model will be absolutely using technology to deliver. Because we want the polytechnic to deliver into regional, rural and remote Tasmania, through our online access centres, through Huon Link-style organisations, through the North East Learning Enterprise Training Centre, through a whole range of district highs, et cetera, technology will form part of that. I believe also that if we want to keep young people connected to learning for a meaningful qualification, we need to meet their flexible lifestyles. If they have part-time jobs but they have an iPod, why wouldn't they get their lectures on the iPod? As long as they get the competencies and the qualification at the end, that is what we care most about. TAFE is doing some really good work on this already.
Mr WHITE - Thank you, Minister. We have learnt a lot about the way people like to work with technology and their learning over the last few years. I think we have arrived at a really successful position of understanding that people choose a blend of learning styles. Very important in that is the option of being able to use e-learning and online learning and resources, as the minister just said. WebCT is an information technology platform where many of those resources sit. It is like a portal into the world to be able to interact with a teacher, to be able to download notes, to be able to do even question-answer type things. We are finding very strongly in Tasmania - I think it is typical of Australia - that people like that as an option, but they also like to have interaction with a teacher. They also like to have an interaction with their fellow learners.
So we use a blend often of seminars and meetings. Often in our organisation students will drop into a teacher's office. Instead of the concept of a classroom, there is a round table and a few chairs in the office, and so they'll come to check up on how they are progressing. That particularly suits, I think, a lot of people who are busy, a lot of people who like to control their own timetable, they don't want the concept of classrooms and those sorts of ideas. I think WebCT is going particularly well for us. The flexitrain centres are particularly for people who like to learn not in absolute isolation, like to use those sorts of resources, but also perhaps like to call upon an expert teacher to come over to where they are working and talk to them, and to share something with the people working nearby. I think it is this blend of learning options that is the way to succeed.
Mr FINCH - So there is the expansion in that area, but there was there an expansion of the budget to include that? Have you got extra financial resources to look after that?
Mr WHITE - Within our own budget, we allocate resources as people's learning needs change. So we are constantly adjusting the money that we allocate.
Mr BARTLETT - There is an initiative in this year's Budget for extra capital in information technology for TAFE. It is on one of the posters, it is $550 000 extra.
Mr FINCH - $550 000 extra?
Mr WHITE - That is for IT infrastructure upgrades.
Mr FINCH - Thank you. Also on that particular page, it is acknowledged that parents have a unique role to play in the education of their children, which you have alluded to before. My experience is, of course, that some parents fulfil that role and others don't. So do you have programs in place to get parents more involved in the education, particularly in the skills development area where the children are older?
Mr BARTLETT - I totally agree with you, particularly in the K to 10 years, but also here. These people are young adults in a way that we are talking about, they are 16, 17, 18 years old. I still think parental involvement is extremely important at that point. One of the things I am doing at the moment is writing to every single parent in Tasmania who has a kid in years 11 or 10 or 9 who will be impacted by these changes to try and explain those changes. I think parents at this level have a real role to play in some of the pathway choices or options choices, analysis of the pathway choices that young Tasmanians are making post-year 10, that is the role parents really have a significant part of at 16 and 17 years old. That is why a lot of our implementation - I know it is high in the minds of the implementation team for our Tasmania Tomorrow strategy, post-compulsory work - will be about informing parents and making sure that they are part of that decision making. Also through the pathway planning focus that we have up to year 10, parents have a sign-off role and an encouragement role to be involved in that pathway planning for young Tasmanians as well. I don't know whether there is anything you can do in TAFE with parental involvement, but that is where I think we need to focus our energies post-year 10.
I would say not only to all committee members but to all Tasmanians, we have a role here. If we accept much of the reason for our lack of a post-year 10 culture here, we need to be out there saying how important this is to young Tasmanians to gain a post-year 10 qualification. We must stress that getting the qualification is not just because we have good economic times at the moment and they might be able to get a job out of grade 10, but also because that sort of job might not be there in five years without the post-10 qualification. It might have been different in years gone by, but in this globalised economy 86 per cent of the jobs need a post-year 10 qualification. So parents have a role to play here, and we all have a role to play here in changing the Tasmanian culture. That is why I am talking about this all the time out in the media because I want people to understand how important it is.
DROP OUT STUDENTS
Mr FINCH - There are two initiatives on page 3.27, better alignment of courses currently delivered by colleges and TAFE, and expansion of vocational learning opportunities in high schools. Both, of course, are to be welcomed, but it is something that you were just touching on there, Minister. Some students who have had vocational learning in high schools, they somehow disappear over the long summer holiday period and they don't turn up again.
Mr BARTLETT - It is a lot shorter, that summer holiday period now.
Mr FINCH - They haven't been turning up at TAFE. Have you ever considered a program, perhaps something like organised paid employment, perhaps something like relevant paid work experience, between high school and TAFE to perhaps keep those students on board? Many of those would-be TAFE students drop out because they want to earn money?
Mr BARTLETT - You have hit the nail on the head so far as I am concerned about why we are investing in polytechnic-style organisations, because we need those kids who are learning practically at high school not to just say 'That's the end of learning for me' but to have a meaningful set of options, an appealing set of options, options that are offered in their home town, at their local centre or whatever, to go on with. That is why we are doing it. Then what we need is that polytechnic to provide on its campuses the sort of pastoral care and college life and access to social and cultural activities, the school band, the school play or whatever that will encourage kids to keep connected with their learning.
Yes, in answer to your question, there are a whole range of projects and programs going on. The one that springs to mind, for example, is Youth Build. It is a partnership between my department and the Housing Industry of Tasmania. It provides a practical building and construction program for 16 students out of five local high schools. It has come to Claremont College. This is just one example, but I know there is a myriad of them across the State. They bring the high school kids into Claremont College to do work on real building-style projects with the HIA et cetera, and then try to connect them to a course. In fact, I have just been handed a list of other similar-style projects. There are many of them around. I know TAFE also has programs like Start at TAFE and others that Malcolm might talk about in a minute, but I think your question is extremely valid because what we have provided for in the past, perhaps, are those kids who are academically inclined to go on after year 10 to then go on to university. What we need to provide far more for - and TAFE does but it is constrained by its organisational arrangements at the moment - those kids who are more practical and vocati onal. I know TAFE already is doing things in this area as well to connect to the schools.
Mr WHITE - It is certainly not on the scale that will be possible under the new model. Late last year we ran a series of TV advertisements around September-October to particularly capture young people leaving year 10 who were considering the trades and we brought them into pre- apprenticeships in the construction and allied trades, which ran over Christmas and into the new year. Whilst small numbers compared to the total leaving year 10, they were particularly successful. In these times, I think about 85 to 90 per cent go into apprenticeships by the time they concluded their pre-apprenticeship. That was an initiative that we did late last year.
Mr BARTLETT - One of the clear briefs of the polytechnic campuses will be that they have a clear mission to be out there in their areas, if you like, extended areas, delivering programs at, say, district high schools or whatever the case may be, and then bringing those kids, connecting them with the courses available at the polytechnic itself.
TAFE FUNDING (Federal and State)
Mr FINCH - To conclude my section - it may have been a question that I could have opened with - State and Federal governments seem to be virtually in perpetual disagreement over TAFE funding. So the latest agreement between the two?
Mr BARTLETT - We always want more money.
Mr FINCH - Yes. Do we have a sign off on funding from the Federal Government and how long is that running for?
Mr BARTLETT - You can talk about funding with the Federal Government.
Mr STEVENS - The current agreement finishes at the end of 2008, but ministers, at their recent meeting, passed a resolution that discussions would start immediately on what the new quantums would be with the aim of wrapping it up early in 2008.
Mr BARTLETT - You prefaced your question about constant State-Federal fights, can I say that Andrew Robb, who is the new Federal minister for vocational education and training - on this side of my portfolio my Federal equivalent - and I had a one-on-one meeting. I have also opened a facility at Claremont TAFE with him and I have now been to a ministerial council with him. He strikes me as someone who is not about the politics but about trying to get things done for Australia and, in this case, Tasmania. I am very optimistic; he is a breath of fresh air after the last guy. I am very optimistic that my working relationship with him is really positive. He might not be there for much longer, you never know, but, in the short time we might have together, I think there are a lot of things that we are talking about and that we agree on.
I was very pleased to hear him on the radio a week or so ago after announcing our reforms endorsing them fully and saying that he supported what we were doing. He gave me a lot of time at the ministerial council to explain much of our reforms to all other State ministers, and there was a lot of interest as well. So, we are in the fortunate position that, I think, we have made a lot of progress to have an industry focus on TAFE. We have been able to shift our system more quickly. I think with these latest reforms we will leap frog many other States in terms of our ability to deliver to those kids who we need to invest in to get them productive within our economy.
Mr FINCH - From that feeling that you have got there with Andrew Robb and with perhaps another different Federal minister, do you have a positive –
Mr BARTLETT - I have been talking to Stephen Smith as well.
Mr FINCH - Do you have a positive feeling about the future of the education budget for Tasmania? Do you feel that there is going to be increased support federally coming to Tasmania?
Mr BARTLETT - I don't want to get into real Federal politics bashing here, but I have to say that when the Federal Budget came down, they tried to make out it was an education budget, and there wasn't one cent for Tasmanian schools, Tasmanian teachers or Tasmanian kids in it. You have to say, 'Well, it doesn't look like an education budget to me'. And the school side of education is a different kettle of fish, Julie Bishop is the minister. But I am saying that I think Andrew Robb understands what we are trying to do here. I think he does not want to play politics, he wants to look at interesting things we can do to work together to benefit Tasmania. If the models are good and work, then I think he wants to investigate how he can get those through the rest of Australia.
One of the things I am interested in talking to him about is we do want our polytechnic, particularly, but also the academy, to be delivering programs out into regional and remote Tasmania. One of the ways we are going to do that is through institutions like the Huon Link. I do not know if everyone knows the Huon Link. I talked about it a bit last year. It brings together library, online access centres, TAFE classrooms, adult classrooms, Centrelink offices, childcare, all under the one roof. It is those style facilities that I think we can use to deliver out into regional Tasmania much better. I would like to see the Federal Government investing in those style of facilities so that we can deliver through them. They can deliver things through them as well, of course, Centrelink and other things, but we can deliver through them in terms of education.
So those are the sorts of conversations I want to have with Andrew Robb and whoever else might be in the chair. But he strikes me as a person who is actually really willing to listen and wants to invest in innovative things.
SUBSIDISES FOR APPRENCTICES AND TRAINEES
Mr FINCH - There is a section here on page 3.23 talking about subsidies for apprentices and trainees. It says that this grant program subsidises the accommodation, living and travel costs of apprentices and trainees attending training courses provided by accredited trainers in Tasmania and interstate, and other sundry expenses directly associated with apprenticeships and traineeships generally.
Mr BARTLETT - You should be on this side of the table; you have just answered Mrs Rattray-Wagner's question.
Mrs RATTRAY-WAGNER - But it does not apply to the TAFE courses.
Mr STEVENS - That is a subsidy for apprentices who come into TAFE to do block courses. It is also a subsidy for those apprentices who need to go interstate because there might be some specialised training, so we will pay for that. In fact we have just signed an agreement with the thoroughbred racing club that we will be paying the airfares for the trainee jockeys to go to Melbourne for training, and I think that is $1.4 million which is fully extended each year.
Mrs RATTRAY-WAGNER - I am talking about students who have no apprenticeship at this point in time.
DEPUTY CHAIR - Perhaps if we can expand on that, we have all talked about a new structure that will start in 2009 and it all sounds very promising, but we are all aware that from next year it will be compulsory for students to go to school until they are 17. If you look at the average age of a year 10 student they are 16, so from next year those who cannot get work over 25 hours a week will be required to start school or do a course or some such. Where would these students fit at the moment? If you suddenly have 10 potential year 11 or TAFE students in Circular Head or St Helens, there is one year of no academies, no polytechnics and no Skills Tasmania. Their choice will be year 11, 12 or TAFE. Are we ready next year for that element of year 11 students who will undoubtedly be across one of those streams? That was always a concern about the age going up - that there are students, particularly in rural areas, whose school may not cater for a year 11 concept or a VET course. Are we ready?
Mr BARTLETT - The short answer is that we will be endeavouring to meet their needs. There is some money in the budget to do so in anticipation of that scenario. The Guaranteed Futures legislation did not necessarily anticipate the post-compulsory reforms that we are now undertaking. I take the point that there is a year of transition, but all I can really say is that we will be working to meet that demand. I believe that our new institutes will much better meet that demand - there is no doubt about that - but it is not possible for us, in the next six months, to make all the transition arrangements directly to those new institutes.
DEPUTY CHAIR - The department next year will have to meet the demand if there are 12 16-year-old potential year 11s in Murray High on the west coast. Is the department ready, because we cannot not meet it, can we? It will be compulsory. They must front up to school. We need an assurance that they will be doing something worth while.
Mr BARTLETT - Our senior secondary colleges are nowhere near at capacity. I think your question is really what are we going to do about the kid in Winnaleah, as opposed to the kid who lives in Launceston.
Mr DEAN - A lot of those students will be learning online, won't they? On page 52 of your department's annual report, it talks about exploring ways to improving student transition et cetera for years 11 and12. You say that a rural engagement strategy was developed providing additional staff to support programs for rural students undertaking years 11 and 12 through online learning and visits to school campuses.
Mr BARTLETT - And certainly every district high I go to I see evidence of that working. There are investment programs like that. Over that one-year transition period we will meet that demand and there is money in the budget to do so. But I also accept that it is not the ideal place that we want to be. We want a transition, but we have to do it in a way that takes everyone with us, and I don't believe we can get there in six months time. That is why it is 18 months.
DEPUTY CHAIR - It is just unfortunate the legislation wasn't 2009.
Mrs JAMIESON - Where does that leave students who are on distance education? How many students would we have in Tasmania now who are on distance education?
Mr BARTLETT - About 550 are enrolled in distance education.
Mrs JAMIESON - Do we have an indication of how many students would be in the age group that we are talking about who need to have a funded gap year, shall we say?
Mr BARTLETT - You are only talking about the differential because at the moment there are 8 212 students in our senior secondary colleges and presumably there will be roughly the same number next year. What you are talking about is the differential between those who would not have gone on without the legislative requirement - and I don't know if we have a figure for that –
Mr STEVENS - No, we do not have an estimate here. We have one somewhere. The colleges run an open learning program, so the most obvious thing would be that people who are used to distance education could be translated into the open learning program. In fact that has been a reasonably significant program. I cannot remember what the enrolments are, but they about 1 200 at the moment around the State.
Mr BARTLETT - There are 120 enrolled in VET through the School of Distance Education. There is a capacity for us to deliver more of that next year.
2.6 Grants and financial assistance
Mr FINCH - Just a little about federal funding again, in table 3.4 there is a 37.3 per cent reduction in grants, which is explained in footnote 2 as 'due to a reduction in Australian Government project grant revenue'. It is aligned to a program that I am curious about, the MCEETYA ICT in Schools Taskforce Secretariat Project. The Minister might care to reiterate whether he is happy or unhappy with the diminution of the federal grant.
Mr BARTLETT – Well, the chair of that task force is sitting to my immediate right.
Mr FINCH - Can you give us some idea of that program and the 37.3 per cent reduction?
Mr SMYTH - The program is a task force that I chair on behalf of the Australian Senior Officers Education Committee. We have had support. Normally each State chairs an area of the task force on behalf of the other States. Some have been supported by the Commonwealth; some have not from time to time. When there is high load of work on with the task force, we tend to get that support. The work has gone down a bit. However, we have picked the workload up again and we will get future support from them. So it's a point in time rather than the end of an ongoing process.
Mr FINCH - So the task force is still in place?
Mr SMYTH - Yes, it is.
Mr FINCH - And will go on into the future with work that it needs to do?
Mr SMYTH - It will at least do one more work plan, whether it continues beyond that is another question. There is an agreed work plan that the ministerial council have agreed on. There is now funding to complete that work plan, which we will do by November, and then I guess there will be a review to see whether there is more work to be done into the future or whether there are other priorities.
Mr FINCH - Thanks very much.
DEPUTY CHAIR – On page 3.23 it outlines these components under grants and financial assistance: senior secondary students living away from home allowance; student assistance, bursaries and allowances; sundry grants, fees and scholarships; subsidies for apprentices and trainees; group schemes for apprentices and trainees; and industry training advice.
Mr FINCH - Minister, you will notice there was one hobby horse that I did not get on this year, and that was about sport in schools.
Mr BARTLETT - I am disappointed.
Mr FINCH - I know you had a raft of answers there for me. However, one hobby horse I will probably jump on for the last time is oral history.
Mr BARTLETT - We had this wonderful conversation last year and I think I sent you some information on that fantastic project in the US that I had seen - StoryCorps.
Mr FINCH - Did you read my report?
Mr BARTLETT - I am sure I have scanned it, Mr Finch. I am not sure that I have read it cover to cover.
Mr FINCH - I will recite it for you.
Mr FINCH - My concern is that we have such a rich history in Tasmania, already-stored archives that we have diligently collected. Even if I just reflect on the people who have passed away in the past 12 months, there are stories of our history that will never be collected and those moments in history have passed us. I feel that an oral history collection in Tasmania is needed. There is a synergy between history and Tasmania.
Mr BARTLETT - I have asked through the Community Knowledge Network strategy that as we bring together the State Library, the heritage collection and Archives Office that they look at - and they will - the role of oral histories as part of documentary heritage. They know I am interested in it because of this StoryCorps stuff. It is fabulous. If I had a magic wand, that would be the sort of thing that I would like to see the community do. If you wanted to replace bookmobiles I would replace it with a StoryCorps infrastructure and get out there. I think we can use our online access centres.
Mrs RATTRAY-WAGNER - You are the minister; you can make it happen.
Mr BARTLETT - As I said, with this Community Knowledge Network strategy this is part of what we look at and part of what we are able to do. I talked about our branch libraries and online access centres as this great knowledge distribution network but it is also a great knowledge collection network. With digitisation these days, and particularly digital voice recording, the online access centres are perfect pieces of infrastructure for collection of oral histories. In terms of the management of that, the suitability and the way it is treated in terms of our collection and in the way it is collected and what i's needed to be dotted and t's need to be crossed, that is the work of the Community Knowledge Network strategy. I have asked them to look at it and they are looking at it because the briefing note tells me they are. I would really like to think that next year when we are sitting here that I can say we have made some progress on it.
Mr FINCH - It doesn't need to be a bureaucratic nightmare, because in New South Wales there is one woman who harnesses the volunteers throughout New South Wales to collect and then furnish her with the stories, which she then archives and saves.
DEPUTY CHAIR – If the member for Rosevears is offering his spare time.
Mrs JAMIESON – Post-parliamentary career?
Mr FINCH - It might be a better job after this year.
Mr BARTLETT - I agree that it is about finding capacity with all the constraints upon us. The reason why I have brought these parts of the organisation together is that I think we have this distribution network and we now also have a collection network that we can use. Previously the online access centres, who were working in their own silo, might have been able to record an oral history from a community group or individual, but their relationship with our collections and our management of those collections wasn't immediately obvious - it now is. So we have an organisational structure that could do it.
Mr FINCH - You made a good suggestion last year about the Tasmanian Community Fund. This could be that sort of community initiative that people will want to jump on board with, particularly when they use story boards as a perfect example of what can be achieved.
Mrs JAMIESON - The Claremont young mothers program had $1 million for four years, I gather?
Mr BARTLETT - Yes.
Mrs JAMIESON - How far into that are we; how successful has it been; and is there any thought of expanding it to fathers and grandparents?
Mr BARTLETT - The Claremont young mothers program is about keeping young girls who have had pregnancies –
Mrs JAMIESON - I am thinking of dads, too.
Mr BARTLETT - The research shows that may well be the case - I don't want to make generalisations, but generally it is true that young mothers in this situation are –
Mrs JAMIESON - In that age group.
Mr BARTLETT - In the age group are the ones that left carrying the can, as it were, and their children often suffer social and economic disadvantage. We have spent $300 000 on the capital works for this project. I have not gone and opened it yet but I will do that.