Tasmania's public vocational education provider has had its share of ups and downs in the past.
After experiencing issues such as long-term teacher recruitment problems, along with delays to student graduation and communication, TasTAFE has worked hard to rebuild itself.
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Among the highlights, Ms Dodd was able to secure the maximum seven years' registration with the Australian Skills Quality Authority for TasTAFE under her tenure.
However, there's a new kid on the block, with Victorian native Grant Dreher five weeks into his new role as head of the organisation.
Senior journalist CAITLIN JARVIS sat down with Mr Dreher to gauge his goals for TasTAFE and his plans for its future.
CJ: What role does TasTAFE play in Tasmania compared to vocational education delivery in other states?
GD: In my previous role I was at a dual sector university, and we had a TAFE division and I headed up that. That division was bout the same size as TasTAFE. The Victorian market is 10 times the size of the Tasmanian market, so that's one of the key differences.
There are 14 government TAFE providers that compete and cooperate at the same time and there's probably 3-400 private RTOs so it's very hard to compare.
Tasmania is a smaller market, but I think the role that has TasTAFE plays in that market is really critical. As the single public provider it has a role to really develop the workforce for Tasmania for not just into the future for now. In Victoria the load is shared a bit more, but in Tasmania it squarely falls on TasTAFE and that's something we're going to have to respond to as we try and service industries.
CJ: What industries do you think TasTAFE needs to focus on right now to meet growing demand?
GD: So we have this booming building and infrastructure industry that's happening at the moment which is good thing. A good problem for us to have is to try and service that. Another one is the health sector, I think has become the biggest employment sector in Tasmania and those people will require training, by us and buy UTAS.
I've also met with some representatives the hospitality and tourism industry recently and it's going to be a real challenge to rebuild that industry and the workforce will be part of that challenge.
CJ: How important is vocational education to Tasmania and Australia?
GD: Look like we can take it in a Tasmanian context but but nationally, workforce development is critical and workforce development at all levels is critical. It's not just about a university degree, we need all of those traditional trades we need people in the para-professional space. Where TAFE comes in is that we serve for the primary advanced deployment levels across all industries.
TAFE also quite often plays a role in getting people back into education who might have had a bad experience with education who may have poor literacy on numeracy skills and they need support to come back into education. So to do that, you need a really strong public provider and I think has TasTAFE is a strong public provider, you've just got a look the recent awards its won.
TasTAFE has the national student vocational student of the year and the national apprentice of the year; they are Australia-wide awards, so that's fantastic.
All our key indicators around quality and retention and satisfaction are above the national average, so I think TasTAFE is playing really well in in that space, but COVID kind of changed the world a little bit and it's going to change education and in this instance vocational education.
CJ: How will you handle long-term problems that TasTAFE has faced in the past, particularly in regards to teacher retention and attracting teachers to trades such as electrotechnology?
GD: Teacher recruitment is an interesting game, because when you need them it's often because an industry is booming. Well, they are getting paid a lot of money to work in that industry and trying to bring them across to teach is very difficult.
When industries plateau or decline then you can recruit into that area without a problem. So teacher improvement intake generally and certainly here it's is a real challenge because we're looking for someone who can be a teacher, but they also need to be a professional in their field.
We have got a teacher under supervision program at TasTAFE so we've put I think we've had about 25 teachers that we've bought on under this supervised program, which is working. We've focused that in areas of growth.
So you've got to hope that this people coming in in who want to give back to their industries who you know wanted to teach apprentices what they've learned in their industry and make the choice to come and teach.
It is a really difficult thing to recruit teachers into TAFE, especially in those booming professions when they're happening. I really do think that we have to appeal to people wanting to come and get back because we couldn't pay double the salary, which is probably what a lot of those people are getting paid in industry.
CJ: Do you think vocational education is adequately funded and would you advocate or lobby to help you to achieve your goals in this new role?
GD: Yes, in a word, but it's very early days, so I don't know the challenges that might exist when it comes to advocating for things that I believe vocational education should have.
I want to look at things that are working in other states and in other countries that might be able to be put in place with a Tasmanian overlay or context to them and and make the training more agile more contemporary and perhaps closer to industry than what it is
I think the question of whether VET is adequately funded is a really pertinent question because there is a new national skills agreement being negotiated with the states this year and that drives a lot of what can happen in states for how the money flows the federally.
As a long-term vocational education person I think that there's slowly some recognition that TAFE is being recognised as a good investment or vocational education as good investment for governments, whereas in the past it was probably looked at as cost only. That would probably be I think the thing that will change how TAFEs operate is that when it's seen as an investment like a university as seen as an investment by government.
It seems that TasTAFE seen is very important by both sides of politics here in Tasmania, they may not agree on what should happen with it, but both I think acknowledges it's a really important part of Tasmania's workforce development.