The ACTU, formed in 1927, is the peak body for Australian unions and is the only national union confederation in Australia. For more than 90 years, the ACTU has played the leading role in advocating for the rights and conditions of working people and their families. The ACTU is made up of 39 affiliated unions and trades and labour councils, and we represent almost 2 million working people across all industries. As the peak body for working people, we welcome the opportunity to provide a response to the COAG micro-credentials discussion paper.

Australian unions have long held a negative view of the introduction of micro-credentials into the VET system – which has been a perennial discussion for the last several decades. This negative view has been based on the typical definition of micro-credentials – that they could include single units or groups of units from existing qualifications. It is disappointing to see this definition of micro-credentials represented in the consultation paper, particularly in the NCVER, ASQA and Business Council of Australia definitions. The first section of this submission will cover the ACTU’s objections to these definitions of micro-credentials, focussing particularly on issues with safety, workers’ pay and the design of micro-credentials.

Australian unions do believe however that there is a role for, properly constituted, micro-credentials in a future VET system. Section two of the submission will outline the conditions under which we believe micro-credentials could be used effectively to allow workers to up-skill and to gain recognition for their skills.

This consultation process is critical in ensuring that micro-credentials, if they are to be implemented, are implemented in a manner which maximises their possible benefits while avoiding the significant pitfalls. With careful design, micro-credentials can serve a valuable role in the training system, but they also have a potential to significantly disrupt the current system of qualifications, with significant impacts on safety and the award system. It is our hope that this submission will ensure a positive outcome from this consultation process.