Adult Learning Australia (ALA) is the national peak body for Adult and Community Education fields. We are a not-for-profit entity with both organisational and individual members in all States and Territories who reflect the extraordinary diversity of adult and community education.
Social procurement is a rapidly emerging opportunity for social enterprises to start, grow and scale their businesses and their social impact.
In 2017, Social Traders worked with 15 corporate and government buyers to support their procurement teams to sign $20 million in contract deals with over 40 social enterprises operating in fields as diverse as catering, waste, construction, digitisation, packaging and labor hire. This created 300 jobs for people facing disadvantage. By 2021, Social Traders goal is to generate 1,500 jobs for disadvantaged Australians.
What you will learn:
How Social Traders is working with social enterprise, the government and corporates to integrate social enterprises into their supply chain
How you can become involved
About the facilitator
Mark Daniels is the Head of Market and Sector Development at Social Traders.
2018 International VET Practitioner Fellowships – now open
The Victorian Department of Education and Training (DET) in partnership with the International Specialised Skills Institute (ISS Institute) are offering ten (10) International Fellowships of $13,000 each.
The Department of Education and Training works in partnership with the International Specialised Skills Institute by funding the International VET Practitioner Fellowships. The Fellowship program focuses on developing opportunities within the VET sector to assist in building an Education State in Victoria that produces excellence and reducing the impact of disadvantage. In addition, the program is funded to support the priorities of Skills First, including developing capacity and capability, innovative training practices and increasing teacher quality within the VET sector as well as building industry capability and developing Victoria’s current and future workforce.
Ten (10) Fellowships are available to VET practitioners who are employed within Victorian Government contracted Registered Training Organisations (RTOs), including TAFEs, private RTOs and Adult, Community and Further Education (ACFE) Board registered Learn Local Organisations (LLOs).
Applications close at 4:00pm on Friday 20th July, 2018.
More information and application forms are available here.
Sally Thompson – Deputy Director, Sector Engagement and Capability Development
Future Social Service Institute, RMIT
Before we decide “where to?” for lifelong learning. It is perhaps useful to reflect on, “where from?”. The dominant philosophy that has underpinned public policy in relation to lifelong learning in Australia, since at least the early 1990s is Human Capital Theory. Human Capital Theory views learning as a rational investment in the self, resulting in a “return on investment” in the form of higher wages for individuals and productivity increases for the economy. It finds its philosophical home in neo-liberal economics and its products are outcomes-based funding and competency-based assessment.
The limitations of Human Capital Theory are obvious to all who work in adult education and its adjacent fields. It relies on levels of measurability that are imprecise at best, “othering” at worst. It reduces the complexity of working people’s knowledge, judgements and artistry to the most narrow, obvious and observable skills. It privileges work in the formal labour market and ignores the many other human experiences that require us to keep learning.
By ignoring the “life” part of “lifelong learning” it renders invisible the contributions of those (predominantly women) who labour outside the formal labour market – raising kids, caring for our frail aged, running sporting clubs and attending to neighbours. As my colleague Barry Golding would often say: “it is a sick, sad and sorry society that only cares about what we do for and with our money”.
Yet government interest in Human Capital Theory since the early 1990s has resulted in significant investment in adult education, and therein lies the rub. Those of us old enough to remember a kinder, gentler period of adult education, before the era of competency-based assessment and outcomes-based funding, often forget how much of it was funded through bake sales and unpaid feminised labour. The not for profit Learn Local sector in my home state of Victoria, for example, has attracted record funding during a recent period of radical neo-liberal policy experimentation. In neighbourhood houses, libraries and learning centres, adult education continues to transform lives, despite the attendant challenges.
Little wonder that governments sometimes look at the sector, scratch their heads and ask: what on earth are you people complaining about?
Lifelong Learning in neo-liberal times is an exhausting dance. Practitioners complain in private about Kafkaesque compliance, dehumanising measurement and ever-increasing workloads, while publicly thanking government for the funding that allows people to learn and achieve nonetheless. Those who manage to carve out spaces for innovation at the margins, urge the rest to keep quiet about the narrowness of funding frameworks. Teachers struggle every day to turn a system in which learning is often a reward or sanction in increasingly cruel “mutual obligation” regimes into a meaningful learning experience for the most marginalised people.
ALA’s members have long advocated for a Northern European style Lifelong Learning Policy, in which investment from cradle to grave in lifelong and lifewide learning allows all of us to pursue meaningful work and contribute outside the workplace, including into old age. I don’t believe such a thing is possible within the current neo-liberal policy frameworks of both major political parties – which doesn’t mean I don’t think such a thing is possible at all!
The struggle for lifelong and lifewide learning for all must continue at the margins of Australian public policy for the time being. In the longer term, it needs to be one part of a bigger struggle for public policy that puts people and their needs first, and draws its information from the bottom of social hierarchies instead of the top.
We live in a world where neo-liberalism and its attendant theories are running out of puff. There are emerging signs that people, and the governments who respond to them are looking for new approaches to learning in a way that was unfathomable only a short time ago. The challenge for us is to make space for new ways of thinking about learning while respecting the work of those who struggle every day within the parameters afforded by government policy today.
There is a public library in most communities across Australia – more than 1600 in total – and each one demonstrates that there is not only a need for lifelong learning, there is also a keen appetite for it.
Libraries run more than 250,000 programs each year, ranging from rhyme-time for toddlers to Tech Savvy Seniors classes for older Australians, with lots in between. You can build your own computer, learn coding and robotics, find out about keeping chickens in your backyard or how to research your family history, use a 3D printer, build new worlds with Minecraft – and much more. There are bi-lingual story-times for families whose first language isn’t English; there are Deadly Digital sessions for Indigenous communities and there are English conversation classes for new arrivals. These courses are free at the point of delivery, putting them within the reach of everyone; unlike formal education, where increased costs have priced out of the market those who most need the support.
Library programs attract all ages and participation is driven by a number of factors. Literacy is at the core, whether it is introducing children to the joy of books, or helping adults pick up the reading ability they missed out on at school. For some, it’s about updating or developing new skills, which will help them find employment or improve their career prospects. For others, it’s about keeping their brain active post-retirement. Many turn to the library to help them stay on top of the new technologies, which are changing the world around them.
It’s this latter point, which is of greatest interest to the federal government and gives the lifelong learning lobby perhaps its strongest lever. There are undoubted merits to improved literacy and work-readiness, but people’s ability to operate effectively online goes to the heart of the Australian Government’s agenda.
It is cheaper to offer government services electronically and there are exciting opportunities from the data generated. We have seen the move to digital-by-default for the Australian Tax Office, the Census, the National Digital Health Strategy, and from the Digital Transformation Agency’s 8 May 2018-2019 Budget statement:
$92.4 million will be invested in the next phase of work to build Govpass, our digital identity system. Govpass will provide a simple, safe and secure choice for people to verify who they are and access government services online, reducing the need to visit a shopfront. Over the next financial year, up to 8 high-volume government services will be piloted using a digital identity, giving more than 500,000 people the opportunity to test the system.
Digital-by-default government services will only work if the overwhelming majority of the population is able to engage in online transactions. Connectivity and affordability are part of the story, but if people don’t have the confidence and the skills, they will simply not be able to participate.
When we talk to the federal government about the need to invest in lifelong learning, digital literacy may well be our Trojan horse. As well as illustrating the necessity for lifelong learning, it responds directly to a government imperative.
As digital literacy is where the lifelong learning lobby and government interests coincide, perhaps this is where we should focus our initial energies. Whether it’s in TAFE, through a Neighbourhood House, or at the library, we are supporting current and future generations to develop the skills they need to be confident digital citizens – and that’s good for everyone.
Sue McKerracher, CEO, Australian Library and Information Association (ALIA),
With technological changes across nearly all industries, regardless of current competencies, increasingly workers will need to reskill throughout their working lives. It has been estimated that some skills need refreshing every two years while others become redundant in a rapidly changing workplace under the influence of the expanding digital economy. In addition, technological change will demand higher levels of literacy and numeracy so there needs to be a significant focus on workplace literacy and numeracy within the framework of lifelong learning.
Lifelong learning applies to all forms of learning whether formal or informal, accredited or non-accredited. Companies need strategies that include a cycle of re-skilling for all categories of workers according to newly introduced technology and processes. This includes learning that applies existing capabilities in new contexts, including different ways to use higher-level soft skills.
Access to lifelong learning does not necessarily mean access to full qualifications, especially to the existing workforce. Rather, the acquisition of new skills and the refreshing of existing skills can be achieved through access to bite size training. The introduction of micro-credentials by education institutions to meet on-demand learning is increasing.
The growing emphasis by education and training sectors now on skills in enquiry, agility, adaptability, creativity and problem solving means we are better able to adapt to new situations and be lifelong learners.
A variety of learning experiences are required and not just those that are campus-based. Work Integrated Learning in the higher education sector and work-based learning in the vocational education and training sector are at the heart of these experiences.
The linkage of lifelong learning to workforce productivity is now essential. A 2014 UNESCO statement makes the direct link between lifelong learning and economic growth and prosperity. Without efforts by government, education and training sectors and companies to normalise cultures of continuous learning in the workplace the Australian economy will not prosper to the extent that is necessary for our future.
Michael Taylor, National Policy and Projects Manager, Education and Training, Australian Industry Group, 2018
By Mark Brophy, CEO, Williamstown Community and Education Centre Inc.
I often get the question.
‘If your community centre is a not-for-profit charity, why does it need to keep making profits? And you have all this money in bank and investment accounts! What will you spend this on?’
Firstly, ‘profits’ and ‘losses’ are for private businesses. ‘Surplus’ and ‘deficits’ are for not-for profits. And YES, all not-for-profits should absolutely aim to make a ‘surplus’, every year, and have healthy reserves of money.
Let me provide 10 good reasons why. And the kicker is in the tail …
1. Assessing viability
As a Learn Local and Registered Training Organisation our financial viability is assessed regularly by independent auditors. Based upon a ‘points’ system we are assessed as to whether we are a viable organisation, funded by the Victorian Government to deliver services to the public.
Analysing our audited financial statements, sometimes up to three years in the past, we are assessed on items like working capital ratio, debt to equity ratio, dependency on government funding, timely submissions of Business Activity Statements (GST) to the Tax Office, whether we have an Australian Securities and Investments Commission Registered Auditor and our operating surpluses.
We lose points if we have run at a deficit any time in the past, so it’s very important we always maintain a surplus. It shows we are financially viable and responsible.
2. Avoiding risks
When we apply for project funding, through for example philanthropic organisations or the government, we are often asked for previous years audited financial statements, and are asked to explain the reasons for any deficits.
Often, regular surpluses, plus a good level of reserves is not only considered favourable, but is an actual requirement in a proposal. Any deficit severely reduces our chances of receiving funding as we are seen as a potential risk.
3. Reassuring funders
Having constant surpluses creates a ‘reserve’ of funds. Often in philanthropic and government project applications and submissions, the question is asked ‘If you run out of the funding we give you, how can you ensure the project will be completed?’ With healthy reserves, the answer to this question is easy. Think about it, if you were deciding who to give project funds to, how would you feel about giving the money to a person or an organisation that constantly loses money, year after year?
Good reserves also ensures our funders that we can always complete projects, even those that run over budget.
4. Meeting unexpected costs
Reserves help us to continue to undertake work and deliver services, even when unexpected events or costs arise.
There are a range of situations where reserves may be needed, for example:
unexpected cuts to funding
significant unexpected costs (e.g., moving premises due to an unexpected termination of a lease)
unexpected staff costs (e.g., redundancies in the event that a major contract is lost)
unexpected expenditure (e.g. an increase in the cost of goods / services)
unexpected events calling on the charity’s service (e.g. a natural disaster requiring extra services with little warning)
downturns in funding.
unexpected legal costs.
5. Ensuring sustainability
Continuing surpluses and good reserves also helps us provide goods and services to our community. For example, donations to worthy causes, scholarships, professional development and conference attendance for staff, to hold events for staff, the community, students, volunteers, etc. and helps us purchase new equipment, resources, furniture, etc. for everyone in our community who uses our venues.
6. Adapting to change
In an ever changing environment, we are exposed to local, state and federal government policy and funding changes, as well as increased costs everywhere, and stagnant income. Placing some reserves into a term deposit provides a much needed further funding stream on the interest earned.
7. Building good morale
Surpluses and good reserves improves staff morale, as staff know their employment is secure, they can plan for the future and know that their entitlements are secure. It provides the opportunity to place casuals and contract staff into ongoing employment. Staff are less likely to leave, and stay longer. This creates excellent organisational ‘knowledge capital’ where skilled and experienced staff grow the organisation. Also for committee, members, centre users, students, parents, venue renters, etc. all know that programs and services will continue into the future.
Ideally, a Centre wants to invokes public trust and confidence in its financial efficiency and capability, as well as long-term stability.
8. Futureproofing your organisation
If ever the Centre needed to borrow funds or take out a loan, for example to expand, purchase a new venue or upgrade, a history of surpluses and good reserves provides assurances to any banks or lenders that it is financially stable and able to pay debts.
9. Reducing stress and tension
Ongoing surpluses and good reserves provides organisational ‘peace of mind’, assurances, reduces stress and tension if something unfortunate happens. It is not unlike a family domestic situation. Often we are ‘caught out’ financially when things break down, like your washing machine, fridge or car. Or items become redundant, and new technology takes us by surprise; NBN, new smart device, band width, new software, etc. Even those with good budget nous get caught out. It’s very reassuring to know that you have the funds to respond to any upgrade, repair or replacement that might surprise you.
No need to go into ‘panic mode’ if something goes wrong.
10. Playing the long game
Not so much a reason, but a perception and common oversight.
You might hear:
‘Look at the Balance Sheet. Wow! Lots of ‘Cash at Bank’ and ‘Investments’! What are these funds being used for? Can we spend this money on … (Put ideas here)?’
Stop! Look further down the Balance Sheet.
Firstly, Non Current Assets. This is the equipment, furniture, computers, etc. that must be replaced someday. The organisation needs to replace items that wear out, break, become redundant, etc, and must have this money to replace these assets. Further, this is only the depreciated value, not the replacement value.
So the real cost to buy new ‘stuff’ – assets – is in your ‘Depreciation Schedule’, or ‘Fixed Asset Register’ (You should have one), where the true initial cost is noted. And then add inflation!
Secondly, look further down the Balance Sheet. Your Total Liabilities. These are debts that must be paid. As well there are provisions, including those for staff such as Long Service Leave, etc.
All of the above add up.
So don’t just look at the Current Assets on their own. Subtract the Non Current Assets (Plus a bit more, if you want new stuff!) and the Total Liabilities (Both Current and Non-current).
What’s the new number look like?
We sometimes just see the ‘Cash’, and overlook debts and the replacement of assets. For example, at our Centre we have over $400k in an Investment Account (Let’s Party!), but our provisions and cost to replace assets is over $308k.
A well governed and resilient centre will make it a priority to ensure this money is well protected.
Here is an idea, perhaps even put this in your policies.
To reduce risk and ensure that sufficient funds are available to pay debts and/or replace assets and/or cover unforeseen expenses.
To remind members, Committee, management and staff that a significant proportion of Current Assets such as Cash at Bank and Investments are required to pay for future known and unknown expenses.
Annually, after the Audited Financial Statements are received, the organisation needs to be reminded that a proportion of Current Assets are needed to meet Audited Financial Statement debt and provision requirements.
The amount needed to pay debts and provisions will be at least the total of Non Current Assets plus Liabilities noted in the Audited Financial Statements.
This amount should be subtracted from Current Assets to show the actual current assets available for any other activities.
The above to be discussed at the next Committee Meeting.”
The Andrews Government’s strong investment in neighbourhood houses and its commitment to rebuilding the public education system in Victoria is to be congratulated, says Adult Learning Australia, the national peak body for adult and community education.
With additional funding of over $21 million, neighbourhood houses in Victoria are now in a position to expand the services they provide for people and families in local communities.
“This Budget offers some recognition of the valuable work that goes on in neighbourhood houses throughout Victoria”, said Jenny Macaffer CEO of Adult Learning Australia.
Education opportunities delivered in adult and community education environments, like neighbourhood houses, address equity issues by providing points of access to pre-accredited and accredited education programs that target early school leavers or those who have disengaged from learning for a range of reasons.
The Andrews Government is also spending $172 million on free TAFE courses in priority areas, such as mental health, disability and education support, and targeted pre-apprenticeship programs.
“Severe government cuts to TAFE and open competition between public and private providers have failed both students and employers. It’s important to invest in a public system that builds skills and provides high quality educational outcomes wrapped in a lifelong learning framework for the many Victorians who, for a variety of reasons, are not ready or able to go to university,” says Ms Macaffer.
“People need access to learning opportunities throughout their lives to ensure they can adapt to changing social and economic circumstances, and to the ever-evolving job market.”
An Accidental Counsellor is anyone who is not necessarily employed as a counsellor, however finds themselves in a counselling role. You could be a frontline worker in an administrative role, a nurse, teacher, coach, support worker or complimentary health practitioner. In this workshop you will learn a practical counselling framework for effective client support with opportunities to practice your new skills in a safe, supportive environment.
What you will learn:
• How to listen effectively and help people clarify their problems
• How to direct questions so the person can identify possible solutions
• How to create healthy boundaries to avoid burnout
• The value of mindfulness and breathing techniques to reduce anxiety
• How to help people challenge their negative self-talk and create a more positive outlook
• Assist people to set goals and consider new possibilities; and
• When to refer clients on.
About the facilitator
Claire Leach is the Community Services Program Manager at ACE Community Colleges.
Claire’s career began as a Disability Support worker while at University studying nursing and this is where she discovered that working with people who were generally well but required some support to live independently was her calling. Since then she has loved roles in both government and not-for-profit organisations in the areas of mental health, disability, child protection and out of home care.