GIER was delighted to welcome Professor Susan James Relly from Oxford University to present a seminar on her latest research project. Professor Relly’s engaging talk included a wealth of insight into the contested space between national education and skills policy, Further education colleges (TAFE equivalent in Australia), and local collaborative anchors, including employers, universities and hospitals (‘eds and med’s).   

Entitled “Unpacking the tensions between local and national skills policy: employers, Further education colleges and Local enterprise partnerships as collaborative anchors,” the presented study was structured around two key questions:  

How are national skills and education and training policies enacted in local tertiary skills eco- systems? 

How do relationships between key policy actors in local tertiary skills eco-systems shape the policy enactment process?  

Through sharing a series of excerpts from the research including anecdotes of local principals and vocational educators, Susan eloquently drew out the findings about how FE (TAFE) colleges work at the heart of policy cycle, translating and integrating national policy with local, community-oriented needs.  

Pictured: Mr Grant Stidiford, Regional Director of Education for Far North Queensland, Ms Vicky Meyer: Queensland’s State Industry Skills Advisor for Health, GIER Visiting Scholar Professor Susan James Relly from Oxford University meets with Professor Stephen Billet (GIER).

Such ideas presented for contemplation and enquiry included:   

“So much [policy] focus is on the higher-level skills. It’s very easy to forget that there’s a sort of continuum about how to get there. But really also, sometimes, it’s absolutely fine for someone to have level two and level three skills. That’s all they’re going to need for a fantastic career, a fantastic life. We need people that work at that level, as well as people who progress on to level six and seven doing that the higher-level work.”    Local Enterprise Partner

Another excerpt stated:

“We’re working with students who want skills for independent living, people who want to develop skills for fun and to improve their lives and work with their communities. I think we are in danger at the moment of narrowing the purpose and being all about providing skills for work. The education policy should be about that; that wider purpose, the social benefit of education, if you like, and actually, we’ve been driven away from education for education’s sake.” Further Education Principal  

Clear parallels between the messy realities of the local tertiary skills eco systems in Australia and England were evidenced as was the interest in ongoing discussions and ideas for change for those working in the vocational and skills training sectors.  

Susan’s talk attracted high-profile attendees including the Regional Director (Far North Queensland), Department of Employment, Small Business and Training and the CEO for TAFE Queensland. Key consultants and advisors from Queensland Health and Check UP Australia were also in attendance.