This communiqué is an overview of the Industry Reference Committee (IRC) Chairs’ Day digital event held via Zoom on 7 July 2020. IRC Chairs were joined by members from the Australian Industry and Skills Committee (AISC), Skills Service Organisations (SSOs) and the Department of Education, Skills and Employment to discuss AISC leadership, IRC membership criteria and cross-sector work. This was the first event using a digital format for an IRC Chairs Day and it was a highly collaborative and productive day. The AISC is working to implement outcomes from the day as soon as possible, with priority consideration given to those that will increase the responsiveness and collaboration of the system. The AISC Chair will include further information on outcomes in the next AISC Newsletter to IRC Chairs and SSOs.
Tracey Horton – Chair, Australian Industry and Skills Committee
Chair of the AISC, Emeritus Professor Tracey Horton, welcomed attendees and highlighted the value of feedback from the IRCs. In particular, how this feedback assists to inform and guide strategy, operational ideas and best practice.
Professor Horton mentioned that outcomes from previous meetings with IRC Chairs had led to improved identification of changing skills through improved labour market data and better prioritisation of efforts for national qualifications. In addition, the IRC’s have developed a procedure to inform and update the AISC on research that has been undertaken on new industry workforces, skill developments and trends that have been emerging over the past year to assist in forward planning.
Renae Houston – First Assistant Secretary, Department of Education, Skills and Employment
Renae Houston provided an update on VET sector reform, including highlighting the Prime Minister’s focus on making skills development a centrepiece of our economic recovery.
Rachel Livingston – Assistant Secretary, Department of Education, Skills and Employment
Rachel Livingston spoke about the department’s future plans for rapid upskilling of workers to meet the needs of the economy and how the department will continue to work with IRCs to do this.
Mark McKenzie – Digital Transformation Expert Panel
Mark McKenzie (Member, Digital Transformation Expert Panel) provided an update on the work of the panel to ensure the VET system can most effectively respond to digital change underway across industry and highlighted an upcoming consultation process.
The increased speed and flexibility of the AISC and the establishment of the Emergency Response Sub-Committee in response to COVID-19 was highlighted as a positive for the AISC, demonstrating the ability to undertake responsive adjustment to training packages. More streamlined and standardised processes supporting a clear strategic direction were identified as beneficial for the future engagement between the AISC, IRCs and SSOs. In discussions on the vision for engagement between the AISC and IRC Chairs, a key focus was on empowering the industry experts within the IRCs to have a greater role in the decision-making process. The need for clarity in the roles and decision making powers of all parts of the VET sector was also identified as critical for greater accountability and transparency.
IRC Membership Criteria
The need for IRCs to have a clear direction, purpose and clarity from the start was considered essential to a successful IRC and subsequently a well-balanced membership. The members of an IRC should ideally have a diverse balance of technical experience, industry understanding and expertise as well as a voice for various demographic groups, particularly for Indigenous Australians and a diversity of geographic locations. A strong Chair to manage relationships, contribute to discussions and provide coaching and support to IRC members was discussed as being critical to the success of an IRC. Effective promotion of the IRC and how it benefits industry will help to attract new members in addition to establishing strong networks.
Collaborating across sectors allows organisations and sectors to rapidly improve and leverage technology and learnings from other industries. It was acknowledged that the full value of cross-sector activities has not yet been realised and this will be critical moving forward. Increased visibility and maintenance of these cross-sector units was identified as essential for their effective use. The appropriate contextualisation of units was considered to be a challenge in implementing cross-sector units more broadly. The relationship between the IRCs, data providers and regulators was also discussed in the context of cross-sector units with the desire to increase collaboration to provide meaningful outcomes.