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					Directions for national collaboration on ICT to support vocational training and workforce productivity

Flexible Learning Advisory Group February 2007

Directions for National Collaboration on ICT - DRAFT

Directions for National Collaboration on ICT to support Vocational Training and Workforce Productivity
Paper to National Senior Officials Committee

This paper outlines for NSOC FLAG’s focus for national collaboration on ICT in 2008-2011 to support vocational training that facilitates economic reform through workplace transformation and workforce productivity.

A healthy, skilled and motivated population is critical to workforce participation and productivity, and hence Australia’s future living standards. … Skills development helps realise the potential of citizens, and of the nation. Continuous and lifelong learning gives more people the tools to participate in work and underpins more 1 successful and rewarding careers when they do so.

Collaboration delivers innovation and flexibility
The Australian Government and the States and Territories have worked together to facilitate the transition of the national vocational education and training (VET) system into the information age. Through the Australian Flexible Learning Framework (the Framework) and the Flexible Learning Advisory Group (FLAG) the effective uptake of information and communications technology (ICT) by learners and training providers has been supported by strategic programs targeted at building capacity, fostering innovation and enabling flexibility. World-class quality flexible learning resources have been developed with Training Packages now supported by nearly 100 Flexible Learning Toolboxes. Twenty five thousand VET practitioners have engaged in professional development linked to learning innovation. Partnerships with industry have been fostered and knowledge networks have been created. There has been a 2 fourfold increase in the uptake of e-learning since 2003-04 , although the uptake of e-learning in public providers is significantly higher than that among private providers. In February 2006 the National Senior Officials Committee (NSOC) gave added impetus to the uptake of ICT through the development of infrastructure to ensure ready access to e-learning resources for training providers in all jurisdictions, by agreeing to:    the adoption of technical standards, with the E-standards Expert Group recognised as the body to review and ratify standards for accessing electronic learning resources facilitating access to and exchange of Australian e-learning resources among VET professionals through the availability of content repositories in-principle approval for a national backbone for shared content, delivering high capacity connectivity to the VET sector at a cost effective price and with a high service quality.

These and many other achievements are the fruits of collaboration. Experts and leading practitioners from across the nation working together to maximise the potential of the training system and multiply over and again the value of investment by the Australian and all State and Territory Governments.

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Communique, Council of Australian Governments’ Meeting, 10 February 2006. 2006 E-learning Benchmarking report, Australian Flexible Learning Framework, October 2006. February 2007 2

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Directions for National Collaboration on ICT - DRAFT

Australian workplaces demand new skills
Australian workplaces are changing, and are under pressure to change faster. Competition, demographic shifts and the impact of technology in all aspects of business operations are driving th st the need to transform Australian workplaces and turn a 20 century labour force into 21 century employees. Employees with flexible and portable skill sets. Employees with more sophisticated job skills. Employees that can be rapidly upskilled in the workplace as the demands on firms change. Employees that can build on their competencies to acquire necessary qualifications. Enhancing human capital is a key theme in the Council of Australian Governments’ (COAG) 3 national reform agenda. COAG believes that skills development and skills deepening are critical to underpin the nation’s economic health and prosperity. Yet Australia faces a shortage of skilled workers, and 85% of companies see the inability to secure skilled staff as the single largest barrier 4 to their success. Firms face national and international competition in the marketplace and increasing competition for skilled workers. There is critical undersupply of skilled labour in building and construction, traditional trades and manufacturing, and structural changes in the economy will further impact the labour market over coming decades. With an ageing population there are relatively fewer Australians of working age. More people need to realise their potential by entering or rejoining the workforce. Young people need to be engaged with work, and mature age workers need to be reengaged and upskilled. At the same time, changes in technology are creating occupations calling for higher level skills that are not readily available. With computer take-up and access to the Internet now established in 5 most businesses , the ability to use ICT has become a basic employability skill. It is estimated that in order to meet Australia’s economic growth targets for the next ten years, 2.5 million VET qualifications need to be delivered by 2016 which is 240,000 qualifications above current expected completions. Half of this will come from skilling new entrants into the labour 6 market and half from upskilling and upgrading the qualifications of existing workers.

Technology is essential to a responsive and flexible training system
It is clear that ICT should be and will be an integral part of primary, secondary, vocational, tertiary and community education, just as ICT is an integral part of a highly 7 productive industry and a connected society. COAG has stated that a more responsive and flexible national apprenticeship, vocational training, 8 and skills recognition system is vital to meeting current and future skills needs. Yet the VET system’s predominantly place-based bricks and mortar infrastructure does not have the capacity to support the predicted level of demand. Widespread and more sophisticated everyday use of ICT by the VET system will be critical in delivering the volume of vocational training required, being responsive to the demands of learners and firms, and achieving efficiencies. It will also enable learners to actively acquire skills and use the tools of the information economy as a natural part of their learning program. Major enterprises are already using ICT for induction and compliance training. Their need for immediate and continual upskilling of their workforce and an increasingly mobile population will see more training happen in workplaces and in homes. ICT has the power to transform the core VET business of teaching, learning and assessment. It can attract and engage learners and make it possible for both accredited and non-accredited training to be delivered in ways that more quickly and more efficiently meet workplace requirements.
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Council of Australian Governments’ Meeting, 10 February 2006. World Class Skills for World Class Industries, Australian Industry Group, May 2006. 5 ABS quoted on 6 Chandra Shah and Gerald Burke in The future labour market and qualifications in Australia, Monash University, ACER, Centre for the Economics of Education and Training (CEET), 2006. 7 Communique, Global Summit 2006: technology connected futures, Sydney 2006. 8 Council of Australian Governments’ Meeting, 3 June 2005. Flexible Learning Advisory Group February 2007 3

Directions for National Collaboration on ICT - DRAFT

The use of ICT in teaching and learning:       delivers workplace and blended training at a time and place that suits learners and firms ensures students have the competence in ICT that is now essential to employability and social inclusion improves quality and reliability of assessment by enabling new workplace-based models enables skills recognition and portability of qualifications provides access to a network of learning resources that can be customised to meet specific training needs creates opportunities for export of training programs and expertise.

The 2006 Review of Infrastructure funding is aware that the quality and accessibility of the stock of buildings, equipment, ICT networks and online learning materials is a critical pre-condition to the delivery of quality training services across Australia. There must be continued investment in online learning resources to build the capacity of the VET system to work with industry to deliver effective 9 training outcomes.

National collaboration on ICT for 2008-2011 supports workforce productivity
As the training system continues to evolve, working with industry to create new workplaces and new skill sets, it is opportune for NSOC to build on past successes and agree on future directions for national collaboration on ICT. The priority for national collaboration on ICT for 2008-2011 is to support the development of a productive workforce by embedding ICT in learning. FLAG will strengthen, model and build connections to and across the national training system by:    facilitating partnerships between firms and training providers increasing access to training supporting the development of essential employability skills.

Facilitating training partnerships – Workforce productivity is driven by strategic alignment of firms and training providers. A smart workplace has continuous access to relevant on-the-job training through use of ICT as part of everyday work practices. A smart workplace has its training infrastructure seamlessly connected to that of its chosen training provider. Yet the economic benefits of ICT-enabled training partnerships are not widely understood. In the past two years the Framework has worked with industry and training providers to model industry-led partnerships based on innovation. The benefits must be demonstrated and the VET system must adopt this approach as a normal way of delivering a more skilled and productive workforce. Increasing access to training – The use of ICT has the capacity to significantly increase training participation and engage learners. Anyone anywhere should be able to access training and acquire or upgrade the skills they need for work. When learners move through the workforce they want consistent and portable qualifications. ICT provides the flexibility for individual learners and training providers to capture skills and develop and mobilise learning pathways. Embedding ICT in teaching, learning and assessment and in VET infrastructure will allow all learners to connect to learning materials and support by any method that gives them the best outcome, whether at home, in the workplace or at their training provider. Supporting the development of essential employability skills – The information age requires workers and citizens to be proficient users of technology. Embedding ICT in vocational training will ensure that all learners – young, mature-aged, marginalised and disadvantaged – have the opportunity to acquire, as a consequence of their training, the essential ICT skills needed to fill the st higher level skills occupations of a 21 century workforce.


Review of Infrastructure Funding, 2006. February 2007 4

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Directions for National Collaboration on ICT - DRAFT

FLAG will achieve these priorities by adopting and adapting strategies that support a more responsive and flexible training system:    fostering exchange of effective teaching practices, learning resources and knowledge enabling ICT infrastructure connections integrating ICT-related initiatives across the training reform agenda.

Sharing knowledge and resources – A continuing national approach to developing, sharing and embedding knowledge, resources and innovative practices is essential. The Framework develops high quality learning resources, establishes repositories for sharing resources, and creates expert and practitioner networks. Research shows that 80% of VET teachers and trainers now use ICT in 10 some aspects of their teaching, assessment and communication activities. A widespread capacity to effectively design, develop and implement ICT-enabled learning programs is needed to provide universal training access for learners. The commitment to capability building and costeffective development of infrastructure to allow sharing of knowledge and resources must be continued. It must be linked directly to increasing the uptake of e-learning and embedding sustainable ICT-enabled teaching and learning practices in training providers. Connecting ICT infrastructure – National technical standards contribute to creation of a seamless VET training infrastructure. Without this, the efficient sharing of learning resources, the speedy adoption of innovative practices and the widespread access of learners to flexible training cannot occur. The VET system’s national agreement on standards adoption and a high capacity national backbone for shared content now enables it to take advantage of the many opportunities that ICT provides. This is critical in a world where the pace of change in technology will not slow down, and the flexible learning market and policy environment is dynamic. The VET system must continue to build on its experience, as only through a national approach can it best realise the opportunities for transforming teaching, learning and organisational practice through ICT. Integrating ICT initiatives – The VET system must work to align and leverage ICT-related programs across the education and other sectors. This is not only efficient, it ensures that the VET system can keep pace with the changes in the labour market and ICT environment. The COAG human capital agenda will see reforms in the education and training system, and also in workplace relations, industry development, welfare and community services. The ability to customise and present a rapid response that supports flexible training and learning pathways and reflects the VET and ICT interests of the Australian Government and all States and Territories is crucial.

We work smarter together
FLAG has demonstrated and modelled for the entire education sector the value and benefits of national collaboration – working smarter and working together. This approach has enabled complementary action to be taken at enterprise, industry, community, jurisdictional and national levels within a consistent framework for knowledge management, evaluation and diffusion. At the same time, FLAG acknowledges the State and Territory roles as system owners, regulators and resource managers. Through the Australian Flexible Learning Framework FLAG has combined and leveraged resources, pooled expert knowledge and developed single policy solutions that meet the needs of all States and Territories (see Appendix 1). The VET system is now seeing accelerated and more widespread uptake of ICT, which is timely for a national training system that can address national skills shortages in a global economy for a technology-driven world. It is also a model that offers the training system flexibility and efficiency in supporting future workforce transformation. Maximising the benefits of ICT for the training system and Australian workplaces cannot be meaningfully addressed on a State by State or provider basis. A collaborative integrated approach to technology adoption is critical. FLAG provides a clear vision and clear directions; a strong planning and accountability framework; targeted resource allocation and incentive systems; knowledge sharing in communities of practice; and informative measurement and evaluation loops.


2006 E-learning Benchmarking report, Australian Flexible Learning Framework, October 2006. February 2007 5

Flexible Learning Advisory Group

Directions for National Collaboration on ICT - DRAFT

The next generation of collaboration will assist the VET system to support increased workforce productivity and further smooth the transition of the VET system into the information age.

The activities that will be taken to respond to these challenges will be presented in FLAG’s strategy for national collaboration on ICT in VET for 2008-2011. The strategy will include targeted and connected action on both the demand and the supply side of the VET system to challenge current practice, drive cultural change and innovation, and contribute to development of the Australian workforce’s skills profile. It will draw on nationwide strategic consultations with VET stakeholders conducted in September 2006 and a targeted review of FLAG’s contribution to the increasing uptake of e-learning over the past eight years. FLAG will present its strategy to NSOC in August 2007.

It is recommended that the National Senior Officials Committee: (a) note that the Flexible Learning Advisory Group (FLAG) is developing an outcomesfocused strategy for national collaboration on information and communication technologies (ICT) in VET for 2008–11, and agree in-principle to the indicative directions outlined in the scoping paper.


Flexible Learning Advisory Group

February 2007


Directions for National Collaboration on ICT - DRAFT

APPENDIX 1 – The Australian Flexible Learning Framework
The Australian Flexible Learning Framework
Since 1993, the Australian Government and the States and Territories have worked together, in partnership with users of the VET system, to support more flexible learning. Over the past seven years they have invested in a national collaborative strategy for e-learning in the VET system known as the Australian Flexible Learning Framework (Framework). The Framework explicitly 11 12 supports the Australian Government’s Skilling Australia directions , the national VET strategy , 13 and the Ministerial priorities for mainstreaming ICT into all facets of education and training . In this time the Flexible Learning Advisory Group (FLAG), the body responsible for the strategic management of the Framework, has worked to improve industry and individual client learning outcomes and experiences. It has built flexibility into the VET workforce, VET systems and policies through a focus on enabling and supporting e-learning. The first iteration of the 2000–2004 Framework was largely focused on the supply side of elearning, with an emphasis on building system capacity. The second iteration of the 2005–2007 Framework retained these supply side strategies and balanced them by building up the demand side of e-learning through engagement with clients from key policy target groups: industry, Indigenous, community, learners with disabilities.

Creating a more flexible training system
In the last seven years the Framework has worked with the VET system to systematically develop the human, pedagogical and technological infrastructure needed to support more flexible training delivery. This has seen:         adoption of agreed national technical standards, information formats and business protocols by VET agencies that enable exchange of information and resources development of accessible flexible learning resources that support 46 Training Packages engagement of industry in initiatives that demonstrate what is possible when employers and training providers create effective partnerships fostering of national networks of e-learning experts and communities of practice that speed up the transfer of leading knowledge and experience development of a Learning Object Repository Network to facilitate sharing of resources delivery of professional learning to tens of thousands of VET practitioners across all States and Territories research into and embedding of innovative e-learning practices, business models and benchmarking information that enable training providers to better support VET clients establishment of benchmarks and rigorous evaluation processes that demonstrate the uptake, use and impact of ICT.

The value of national collaboration
FLAG, through the Framework, has demonstrated and modelled for the entire education sector the value of national collaboration. Through the formative stages of e-learning the VET system has been supported by FLAG to take a national collaborative approach to stimulating the uptake of elearning and managing strategic interventions that address national VET issues. Technical standards, online learning resources and research have been developed through a collaborative model aimed at knowledge and resource sharing, building expert networks, investment, speeding up innovation, enabling and not cutting off future technological developments, and multiplying the value of a focused investment in the VET system.
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Skilling Australia: New Directions for Vocational Education and Training. Shaping Our Future: The National Strategy for Vocational Education and Training 2004–2010. Joint Statement on Education and Training in the Information Economy and Action Plan for 2004–2006. February 2007 7

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