It’s traineeships which the public pays for not apprenticeships that are the problem in VET 


No slip in ship school schedule


Despite months without news the government’s shipbuilding skills centre is set to launch in 2018


Science coalition backs Labor position


Major research groups “heartened” by Bill Shorten’s support for basic research

and Cambridge UP opposes censorship but obeys Chinese censors

There’s more in the mail

CMM is growing. From tomorrow, the email and online editions will appear in an easier to read format. Plus there will be new content, launching an expanded CMM, including profiles and features, analysis and opinion.

What isn’t changing is independent coverage of higher education and training. And CMM will still arrive in your inbox and appear on the web, for free. It will keep delivering news you will not read anywhere else. Always has, always will.

 Milk of human kindness

The University of Western Australia has created the world’s first chair in human lactology. The chair, plus two post docs and a research assistant are funded by an $8.6m donation from the Swiss-based The Family Larsson-Rosenquist Foundation. Professor Valérie Verhasselt, now at the Université de Nice Sophia-Antipolis in France takes up the chair.

Funding came to UWA due to the reputation of Emeritus Professor Peter Hartmann, and his research on human lactation

What who is that?

Why the Dr of course, this time in the body of a bloke who looks remarkably like Chief Scientist Alan Finkel. The CS was photographed at a National Science Week event yesterday wearing the fourth doctor’s celebrated scarf and accompanied by an honour guard of Daleks. Critics of the Finkel energy plan are warned.


UNSW announces Lovelace award

Reserve Bank board member Kathryn Fagg has won UNSW Engineering’s Ada Lovelace Medal, awarded to a woman engineer for her contribution to the profession. Ms Fagg has a chemical engineering degree from the University of Queensland and commenced her career on the Bass Strait oil and gas fields.

The Faculty’s two other awards for women engineers have gone to NSW state surveyor-general Narelle Underwood (B Eng UNSW) and Monash U biotechnology engineer Cordelia Selomulya.

Ada, Countess of Lovelace was a 19th century mathematician credited with writing the first computer programme.

College on course

Chris Pyne’s shipbuilding training programme will launch next year

The government’s navy shipbuilding college will launch on schedule

Back in March Defence Industry Minister Christopher Pyne announced the government would create a new college to teach shipbuilding skills to ensure there were enough workers for the navy’s big construction programme, to start work in January 2018. And that was it – with nothing announced on which universities and colleges would participate in the process since. But CMM now hears that in fact there is lots of activity under the surface, that proposals are with Defence and a decision on which provider will manage the college will be made in time for a January 1 launch.

Non sequitur of the morning

“Nicole spent seven years as a competitive skydiver. Now she imports and distributes fair trade Qi Tea,” Swinburne U, via Twitter Friday

Boffins back Bill

The science establishment supports the Labor line on basic research

The National Research and Innovation Alliance “has welcomed Labor leader Bill Shorten’s vision” for the science system.

The Alliance consists of 15 research groups including, the Group of Eight, the Australian Technology Network, the Academy of Science, Professionals Australia and the Australian Academy of Technology & Engineering.

In a Thursday speech Mr Shorten was careful to mention the importance of applied research, but he spoke at length on the importance of scientific investigation independent of short-term objectives set by the state.

Basic research should not be a matter of some rigid cost-benefit-analysis. It goes way beyond innovation and agility, and efficiency and commercialisation. Science in this country must be recognised by policy-makers, as something that is more than just re-engineering or a 2.0 process upgrade.  …Government can’t lock-in discoveries over the forward estimates or fold breakthroughs into the budgetary forecasts. Nor can government treat science and research as short-order issues, temporary programs, instant policy gratification.”

Mr Shorten’s address was straight from Labor science and research spokesman Kim Carr’s playbook, which emphasises the importance of funding basic research without immediate economic objective but which can also generate jobs, particularly in manufacturing industry.

But the leader’s speech will also appeal to scientists uncomfortable with the government’s impact and engagement agenda who are nervous about the performance metrics the Australian Research Council is developing.

Peak body chiefs Kylie Walker (Science and Technology Australia) and Anna-Maria Arabia (Academy of Science) said “they were heartened by the value placed on basic research by Labor.” Ms Arabia is a former Labor Party policy director.

Closure on Open Day dispute

The James Cook University community was out in unity yesterday’s Cairns campus Open Day after the National Tertiary Education Union lifted its ban on the event, late Friday. The union had banned members participating in OD over stalled enterprise bargaining negotiations but talks resumed that morning and the NTEU now says the university is considering the union’s comprehensive settlement offer.

Trapped in the precariat

80 per cent of teaching-only university staff are on casual contracts 

“The academic profession is now amongst the most insecure places to work,” warns National Tertiary Education Union president Jeannie Rea, with 64 per cent of total university staffemployed insecurely”.

And among the 78 per cent of teaching-only academics who are casually employed it is women who wear the worry, accounting for 65 per cent of casual staff, Ms Rea has told an RMIT conference for early career researchers in the humanities.

Taxpayer carries the cost

The collapse in apprenticeship numbers is more apparent than real and should not be used as a reason to restructure the training system, the Mitchell Institute warns

Apprenticeships in traditional trades are steady-or so over 20 years with consistent outcomes obscured by big drops in trainee system numbers, according to new research from Peter Noonan and Sarah Pilcher from Victoria University’s Mitchell Institute.

While both systems combine employment and compulsory training, apprenticeships are over four years and involve formal certification in a craft’s skills while traineeships are much shorter and focus on generalist training for particular industries.

Traineeships, originally intended to address youth unemployment in the ‘80s, by covering occupations outside traditional trades, expanded in response to government subsidies but have dropped dramatically since 2012 due to declines in public funding, from 220 000 commencements in 2011 to 80 000 or so last year.

This, “suggests that rather than making a contribution to the cost of the traineeship, the system depended almost entirely on the availability of government incentives,” Noonan and Pilcher write.

However, they attribute a decline in apprentice starts from 2014 to Fair Work Australia directed pay increases, structural economic change, and a decline in applicant quality. While the authors do not attribute a cause to the last factor it occurred as student directed funding in higher education expanded university access.

Overall, the Mitchell Institute authors warn against conflating situations in the two systems and using the artificial outcome as a base for policy change.

“Recent experiences with the VET FEE HELP scheme and poorly designed training markets in some states show the risks of governments creating artificial and unsustainable VET markets.

“If we have learned anything about the VET system in recent years it is that government incentives should only be provided where there is a demonstrable public benefit, not to create a fully funded market in government subsidies,” they warn.

Peisah elected to IPA board

Carmelle Peisah is elected to the board of the International Psychogeriatrics AssociationProfessor Peisah is a conjoint professor at UNSW and a clinical associate professor at the University of Sydney.


Cambridge UP obeys Chinese Government

Censorship rejected but content pulled

Cambridge University Press has pulled a reported 300 articles and book review published in its China Quarterly scholarly journal. The publisher removed content from its website that appears in China on a demand from the government’s General Administration of Press and Publication.

In a weekend statement via Twitter, CUP confirmed it had acted, “to ensure that other academic and educational materials we publish remain available to researchers and educators in this market.”

However the publisher added it will “not change the nature of our publishing” and remains “committed to ensuring that access to a wide variety of publishing is possible for academics, researchers, students and teachers in this market.”

CUP says it is “troubled by the recent increase in requests of this nature” and “will discuss our position with the relevant agencies” at the Beijing Book Fair this week.

Tiananmen” and “Tibet” appear throughout the list of banned writing.