Four powerful trends that will impact TAFE in 2022 and beyond
The year 2021 was quite a year for TAFE.
With the ongoing challenge of on-again off-again lockdowns (rather than an end to our isolation in 2020 as some had hoped), the VET sector has needed to think more deeply and more long-term about how they are likely to deliver education and training into the future, while considering what permanent impact the last two years may leave.
Here are four trends that will continue to impact TAFE as we move into 2022.
1. Digital transformation
ReadyTech’s Voice of VET survey, conducted in late 2020 after the first pandemic wave, found online training was being offered by 72% of RTOs compared with 44% a year earlier. A total of 63% described digital transformation as a ‘high priority’ for 2021. There was an emphasis from these surveyed providers on enhancing student experiences with technology (74%), as well as digitising compliance, training management, learning management and student management. These are results that would have been absolutely unthinkable a year before.
The shift has continued in 2021. For example in the learning space, almost 20% of RTOs said online or blended learning was their main business opportunity in 2021. But many educators, including TAFEs, recognise there’s more to online learning that just putting content online. With an emerging challenge from platforms with advanced online learning experiences like LinkedIn or Udemy (as well as some of LinkedIn’s courses now being recognised as credit towards some higher ed degrees), competition will continue to drive greater emphasis on digital transformation.
2. VET modernisation
Where digital transformation is being driven by in large part by training providers in response to technology and the market, modernisation is coming largely from governments and regulators, who wish to ensure our VET system continues to meet its collective mission of skilling Australia into the future. For example, there will be ongoing centralised reforms through the VET Data Streamlining program (in which we’re involved as Student Management System providers) as well as to how we manage qualifications and skills through the Skills Organisations.
We have a first-hand look at that process and its potential impact on TAFE. As contributors to VET Data Streamlining program and being represented on the Board of the Digital Skills Organisation, we are witnessing experimentation around how we could manage future skilling. For example, there's been comparisons of TAFE, private and on-accredited providers by making assessment independent, while a Train 100 Data Analysts trial sourced and trained data analysts using highly employer-driven content using both accredited and non-accredited providers.
3 Industry skill demand
The future of work has arrived faster than expected (despite warnings, like one from the World Economic Forum in 2018 which predicted 42% of skills across all industries would change and 54% of all employees would require significant upskilling and reskilling between 2018 and 2022). Covid-19 only accelerated this. In the digital space, a high-level analysis conducted by the Australian Industry Skills Committee found ‘digital skills’ are now the fourth highest priority generic skill across all industries, while RMIT and Deloitte Access Economics’ found 87% of jobs now require digital skills and one in four employees say they do not have the skills needed for their day to day job.
This is leading to one of the bigger technology trends of relevance for TAFE - the AI-supported mapping of skills and jobs in the economy, to ensure education providers are meeting real industry skills demand. Today, we can know more about the jobs and skills that industry needs more than ever. By quantifying skills in real time – through literally scraping job postings and the skills embedded in those - our education system can reverse engineer that into the programs being developed and the graduates being turned out. If we are not using tools like Faethm AI or Burning Glass to inform the learning we deliver we risk a significant misalignment with industry need.
4. Spirit of collaboration
A positive trend that has come out of the pandemic is an encouraging emerging spirit of collaboration across Australia's tertiary education sector. At ReadyTech, what we have witnessed is a genuine pivot into a problem-solving mindset in the education and technology ecosystem. The by-product of this shift has been more fluid collaboration, with institutes like TAFEs, higher educators and the EdTech community ready to talk to each other in new ways.
This means collaborations is now less about the commercials and more about problem solving, in ways that could benefit TAFEs beyond the pandemic crisis. For example, we’ve seen organisations like EduGrowth bringing education and technology companies together in forums that encourage the exchange of ideas and help to solve problems in the international education sector, where we all want to ensure Australia remains competitive internationally.
Australia should be proud in of our high-quality TAFE and VET system. All the decisions that have been made in the past - and the tireless efforts of committed educators - have contributed to building that proposition. For example, our high levels of compliance have driven higher quality, even if they entail some constraints for providers.
The challenge TAFE will face is meeting future trends head on in ways that make them even more relevant.
For example at a recent Learning & Development conference featuring some of Australia’s largest employers talking about upskilling and reskilling, vocational education was rarely mentioned. Although TAFE and VET is an obvious channel for skilling employees, it wasn’t clear where vocational education was being considered as an option.
How can TAFEs and the wider VET market engage these employers and more students into the future?
One answer may be some compliance flexibility. We have so many great teachers and trainers in Australia – working with heavy compliance constraints might end up actually compromising the quality of delivery in some cases. Would introducing more learning design flexibility encourage better delivery and catalyse innovation in the sector?
Whatever trends the future may hold, being guided by relevance will help TAFEs and VET stay a step ahead.
Interested in learning more about how we help TAFE providers with next generation enterprise student management technology? Learn more here.