The government keeps talking about revamping VET – but is it actually doing it?

The vocational education and training (VET) sector is integral to Australia’s economy and the businesses and workforce that underpin it. The sector provides skills to 4.2 million students at 4,200 registered training providers.

This is important because, as the World Economic Forum highlights, access to skilled workers is a key factor that distinguishes successful enterprises from unsuccessful ones. But many Australian employers are unhappy with the VET system – employer satisfaction is the lowest it’s been in the decade.

The rise of the digital economy and the fourth industrial revolution are predicted to cause major job disruptions. In essence, industry needs are changing rapidly and the VET sector isn’t keeping up. And there are ongoing concerns about the quality of the sector itself, after the rise of some dodgy private organisations offering questionable qualifications.

In November 2018, the federal government appointed former New Zealand skills minister Steven Joyce to lead a once-in-a-generation review of VET. The Coalition government based many of its pre-election announcements on some recommendations of this review (now known as the Joyce review), which were released in April 2019.

So, what did Joyce recommend and is the government actually heeding the advice?

What did Joyce recommend?

The Joyce review details 71 recommendations. These form the basis of a six-point plan to transform VET so it can provide students with skills that reflect the needs of employers.

The plan centres on:

  • strengthening quality assurance
  • speeding up qualification development
  • simplifying funding and skills matching
  • providing better careers information
  • providing clearer secondary school pathways into VET
  • providing greater access for disadvantaged Australians.

The Joyce review noted it might take five to six years to act on many of the recommendations. In the interim, the report advised moving early on recommendations that would address the declining confidence in the sector. These early steps are:

  1. bringing forward reforms to strengthen the Australian Skills Quality Authority – the national VET regulator
  2. piloting a new business-led model of organising skills for qualification development, and extending work-based VET further into less traditional areas, such as assistant professional jobs in health care or high-tech industries
  3. establishing a national skills commission, which would start working with the states and territories to develop a nationally consistent funding model based on shared needs
  4. revamping apprenticeship incentives to increase their attractiveness to employers and trainees
  5. establishing a national careers institute, which would provide better careers information to students
  6. introducing new vocational pathways into senior secondary schools to create a more seamless transition from Year 11 and 12 into VET courses
  7. providing new support for second-chance learners needing foundation language, literacy, numeracy and digital skills.
  8. Is the government doing it?

    The federal government agreed to implement most of the early action recommendations. It committed A$525 million to the Delivering Skills for Today and Tomorrow package. But it has a looser interpretation of how early these should be put in place.

    Only two of the six early actions identified by the Joyce review were budgeted for in 2019-2020: the establishment of a national skills commission and a national careers institute. Some actions, such as 40% of the funding for a new apprenticeship initiative, or A$108 million, are only planned to be resourced as late as the 2023-24 budget.

    The review’s recommendations mainly focused on the slow process of creating and updating qualifications. This is good, but it could be argued the review didn’t directly address the needs articulated by various industry groups.

    These included calls for more collaboration between the VET and university sectors. Then there was the Business Council of Australia’s appeal for a single market platform and funding model for the two sectors to enable workers to more easily retrain and reskill over their lives.

    However, the review agrees with industry that “change will take time”. It will require the federal government to “work with the states and territories” but also, as the Productivity Commission noted, the changes will need to be “piloted and evaluated by willing industries”.

    Some creative partnerships

    Some states and territories have already started experimenting with a small number of players in the VET sector to overcome industry concerns. There is Rio Tinto’s collaboration with Western Australia’s South Metropolitan TAFE to develop an autonomous vehicle qualification. And Blockchain Collective’s development of an Advanced Diploma of Applied Blockchain).

    Other significant experiments include the New South Wales government’s Sydney School of Entrepreneurship between TAFE NSW, universities and industry, and the Factory of the Future between the Victorian government, Swinburne University and Siemens.

    These green shoots point to a willingness in governments, industry and broader VET stakeholders to take the initiative to work together and experiment. We believe this will help overcome the inertia in making changes to the VET sector, and better meet the future needs of employers and students.

    SourceAAP:theconversation.com

Reform of vocational education needs cross-benches support

In late June the Government is expected to release its plans for polytechnics and industry training providers, a review which will only work if it has cross-party support says the Tertiary Education Union Te Hautu Kahurangi.

The union representing 10,000 people on the front-line of tertiary education has today begun a major campaign to seek the support of all parties in parliament for some key principles for vocational education.

TEU National President, Michael Gilchrist, says getting back to the basics is crucial in this reform. “We need to stop industry training organisations and polytechnics acting in their own interests and to focus on what is most important – the needs of students and apprentices, as well as their families and communities. Competing for students as if they were (marketable) commodities has to end.”

The union is looking for public support for three key principles:

1. We need a coordinated system that seeks to reduce wasteful competition where the public’s money goes into profits or marketing; ,

2. We need access to education no matter where you live or your starting point in your learning journey;

3. We need quality teaching and learning to be the central goal of the system and polytechnic teaching and support staff to be trusted as experts on how we achieve that goal.

“We’re asking for all political parties to jump on board and do the right thing by our communities. But they’ll only do that if students, staff, and communities themselves band together.”

NZUSA President, James Ranstead, has signed up to the open letter to Labour, Greens, NZ First, National, and ACT.

“We’re behind any moves that will make our political parties look at the accessibility of tertiary education and ensure everyone gets a first class experience, be that face-to-face on campuses or in industry, online, or a combination that works for the student.”

To sign up head to Vocational Education that Works

SourceAAP:http://www.scoop.co.nz

Education & Skills Ministerial Appointments Welcomed By Independent Providers

Education & Skills Ministerial Appointments Welcomed By Independent Providers

The continuation of the Hon. Dan Tehan MP as Education Minister and Sen. Hon. Michaelia Cash as Minister with responsibility for Employment, Skills, Small and Family Business has been welcomed by the Independent Tertiary Education Council Australia (ITECA). ITECA has also welcomed the appointment of the Hon. Steve Irons MP as Assistant Minister for Vocational Education, Training and Apprenticeships.

ITECA is the peak body representing the independent tertiary education system that encompasses the independent higher education, vocational education, training and skills sectors.

“The coming three years presents Australia with a real opportunity to restructure the tertiary education system so that there is greater integration between the higher education, vocational education, training and skills sectors. Students should be able to transition from one sector to the other relatively seamlessly without the challenges of different funding models,” said Troy Williams, ITECA Chief Executive.

During the coming fortnight ITECA will seek meetings with Ministers Tehan, Cash and Irons to start the conversation to put in place the reforms which will create an integrated tertiary education system in which the higher education and vocational education sectors retain their separate identities.

“ITECA will work with the new Ministerial team to ensure that students can chose the quality provider of their choice, whether this be an independent provider or a public provider in the higher education, vocational education and training sectors. At the heart of these reforms is the need to put student choice at the forefront,” Mr Williams said.

In the short-term, an immediate priority for ITECA will be to encourage the Australian Government to reduce the unnecessary red-tape that’s abundant in the tertiary education sector.

“ITECA has a track-record of working with government to lift an understanding of, and compliance with, the regulatory standards for independent tertiary education providers. Quality is very much front and centre of ITECA’s culture and that of our members; however, it’s clear that there is a significant degree of regulatory overreach that’s doing little to support quality student outcomes,” Mr Williams said.

With respect to addressing the red-tape in the vocational education and training system, ITECA sees the recently released report Strengthening Skills: Expert Review of Australia’s Vocational Education and Training System as providing the framework to reduce-red tape. ITECA looks forward to working with Minister Irons on progressing the reforms set out in the report.

The importance of the independent tertiary education system is highlighted by the fact that independent higher education providers supported 143,680 students in 2017. In that same year independent providers supported some 60% of the 4.2 million students enrolled in vocational education and training. ITECA’s purpose is to ensure that the independent tertiary education system is united, unformed and influential.

Until mid-May 2019 ITECA was known as the Australian Council for Private Education and Training (ACPET).

/Public Release.

Before Spending More on Vocational Training, Let’s Ensure it Meets Market Needs

As lawmakers and students grow weary of the rising cost of higher education, vocational training programs are drawing more attention and funding. But a new report finds that these programs are wildly out of step with the needs of today’s job market. To provide a real alternative to higher education, states and schools offering vocational programs should align vocational education with market needs.

Career and Technical Education programs offer options for students looking to avoid student loan debt. These programs equip high school and post-secondary students with the skills and credentials they need to secure jobs for tens of thousands of dollars less than the cost of a traditional 4-year college degree. However, most students are pursuing—and taxpayers are funding—credentials that offer little access to jobs, let alone well-paid ones.

The Foundation for Excellence in Education, a national education research organization, partnered with Burning Glass Technologies, a job market research firm to study U.S. vocational education. They found that in the 24 states they studied, the credentials students earn through career and technical education do not align with job markets.

In total, the study found that for 10 of the top 15 most popular credentials, students are earning more credentials than there are jobs available. In some cases, these credentials lead to no job opportunities at all. “General Career Readiness” credentials, such as financial literacy and basic first aid, for example, account for 28% of credentials earned, yet the study reported zero market demand for them.

Even when students do find jobs with low-demand credentials, they are often low-paying. According to data from the study and the Bureau of Labor statistics, only four of the top nine licenses earned by K-12 students lead to jobs with annual median salaries of approximately $35,000 or more. By contrast, median U.S. household income in 2017 totaled $60,336, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

Worse yet, taxpayers are footing the bill for these programs. A recent oversight reportfound that in the last few years, the U.S. Department of Education spent hundreds of millions of dollars on vocational education programs including hair and beauty schools, gaming and bartending classes, refrigeration school, and a Professional Golfers Career College. Last year, Congress agreed to channel and additional $1.2 billion to career and technical education over the next six years, and states augment this funding with hundreds of millions of dollars of their own resources.

Instead of funding credentials that translate to few or no jobs, these resources could be helping students obtain credentials that position them for available jobs with significant salaries. For example, the Foundation for Excellence in Education study found that employers are looking to fill tens of thousands of jobs with employees who have EEG/EKG/ECG Certifications, CompTIA A+ Security+ certifications, and with Cisco Certified Network Associates—positions that come with median annual salaries between $50,132 to $82,296 per year.

If the states and nation are earnest about making career and technical programs a viable path to gainful employment, they must do more than fund these programs, they should align the credentials they offer with market demands.

Finland’s vocational education program, for example, is shaped by just such analysis. According to the National Center on Education and the Economy, The Finnish National Board of Education determines what vocational education will be offered throughout the country based on regularly updated analysis of projections for what the the nation’s industry needs will be in 15 years.

This program has proved both popular and successful at helping Finnish students secure jobs. At age 16, Finnish students choose whether to focus on preparing for university or to pursue vocational education. According to the Organization for Economic Development, Finland has one the highest enrollment rates in upper secondary vocational education, with 71% of upper secondary students enrolled in vocational education programs. And overall, Finnish vocational graduates (age 20-64) experience a 73.4% employment rate, several percentage points higher than average vocational graduate employment rate in the European Union.

The United States could do similarly. Industry needs vary from state to state, so states and schools could optimize career and technical education resources by auditing which credentials are in demand in the labor market, and then directing students and funding to those credentials. These adjustments would benefit employers seeking qualified employees in high-demand fields, students seeking cost-effective paths to employment, and schools whose increased graduate employment rates attract more potential students.

Vocational education programs offer students tremendous education opportunities, but with some intentional adjustments, we can make them even more practical.

SourceAAP:catalyst.independent.org

Employer incentives may not be the most cost-effective or fair way of boosting apprenticeship number

The Coalition has promised to create 80,000 new apprenticeships in areas of skills shortages if it wins the election. Most skilled trades (such as motor mechanics, panel beaters, carpenters, automotive electricians, plumbers, hairdressers) have recently been in shortage.

The Coalition aims to reduce the shortages through doubling employer incentive payments, making cash payments to apprentices and creating training hubs in regional areas and other areas of need.

Labor said it would pay upfront fees for 100,000 TAFE places. Labor has also said it would provide incentives for employers and apprentices for an additional 150,000 apprentices.

It’s clear trade apprentices and associated skills shortages are a central concern of both parties. But it’s not clear providing incentives is the best way to handle the issue, as history shows government incentives to employers have made little difference to the (mostly male) trade apprenticeship numbers.

Difference between apprentice and trainee

In considering the policies of both parties, it’s important to understand the differences between longer-term trade apprenticeships and shorter-term traineeships.

An apprentice, in the narrow use of the word, is contracted in a tradesuch as that of an electrician, carpenter, chef or hairdresser. An apprenticeship can take up to four years to complete. Trade apprentices make up a small proportion of the vocational education and training sector – around 14% of all government funded vocational students.

Many of the main trades frequently appear on the skills shortage list. Shortages are seen to inhibit productivity in industries and the broader economy.

Traineeships were established in the late 1980s to provide apprentice-type training for young people in non-trade occupations such as sales and clerical, and many of the care occupations including disability and aged care.

The aim was to provide options, particularly for early school leavers, which combine work experience and learning on the job. It was hoped this would enhance early school leavers’ job prospects and add to the stock of skills in the economy.

Traineeships usually take one to two years to complete, much shorter than trade apprenticeships.

History of incentives

From the 1970s, the federal government had been providing financial incentives to employers of trade apprentices. The states also provided assistance. From the mid-1990s the federal government extended incentives to trainees, existing workers and to part-time and older workers.

Together with the introduction of a low training wage for trainees, the incentives led to a rapid expansion in the numbers of trainees in the late 1990s and to new training modes including fully on-the-job training. There was a sharp increase in the number of training organisations as employers were allowed to choose a private or public provider for off-the-job training (often one day a week).

Traineeships are different from apprenticeships, and are usually in non-trades such as clerical occupations. from shutterstock.com

1999 review into the system found some firms were using traineeships as a source of wage subsidies and, in many instances, provided little training to the trainees. For some, the skills acquired were not valued by employers over general work experience obtained during the traineeship. And the issue continued into the next decade.

In 2011, an expert panel noted Australia was the only country that paid government incentives, on a large scale, to employers of apprentices and trainees. The panel reported research that showed incentives paid to employers for the shorter traineeships represented a significant part of the wage costs (in some cases about 20%) and contributed to the large increase in trainee numbers.

For the longer, and more costly, training of trade apprentices, government payments to employers represented a much smaller proportion of the wage and training costs. And so, the incentives had only a marginal effect on the numbers of trade apprentices employed.

The expert panel suggested the government would be better to confine its payments to programs that added value to the economy, such as those in community services, health and information technology.

The panel also recommended the government not give funds directly as incentives to employers. Instead, both employers and government would pay into an employer contribution scheme. Employers who met benchmarks such as a strong induction process and effective mentoring would have their contribution rebated, either in part or in full.

These recommendations were particularly aimed at the non-completion rates of apprentices – on average less than half complete their apprenticeships with their first employer. The most common reason given is dissatisfaction with the employment experience including difficulties with employers or colleagues.

Drop in trainee numbers

The government at the time didn’t take up the recommendation of an employer contribution scheme. It retained incentives for apprenticeships in trades on the national skills needs list such as construction and telecommunications, and for traineeships in priority occupations in aged care, childcare, disability care and nursing.

It abolished incentives for existing workers in other traineeships. Together with cuts in state subsidies to the providers of off-the-job training in some courses, these changes led to a large fall in traineeship numbers.

For example, by 2018, traineeships in clerical and sales had fallen by more than 70% from 2012. Older and female workers were most affected.

But the numbers of starting apprenticeships in trades in the last ten years in the largest three groups – construction trades, automotive and engineering, and electrotechnology and telecommunications – is virtually unchanged. And a fall in automotive was offset by increases in the others.

These results were largely in keeping with intentions of the expert panel in 2011.

A male dominated industry

Trade apprenticeships are male dominated. In 2018, 65,000 males started trade apprenticeships compared to 9,000 females. And females bore the larger share of the reduction in traineeships since 2012. It seems unlikely many of the women who missed out on traineeships are among the entrants to higher education where women form the majority of undergraduates.

The available research shows electrotechnology and telecommunications trades and construction trades graduates are relatively well paid, while hairdressers are the worst paid.

Trade apprentices are already the best-supported VET students during training. They can access trade support loans of up to $20,000 over four years – with a 20% discount of the debt on completion. Apprentices can receive allowances for living away from home, and the government provides support for adult apprentices as well as rural and regional skills shortage incentives.

Employment of apprentices and their mentoring is assisted by the Australian Apprenticeship Support Network, at an annual cost of nearly A$200 million.

State governments also provide additional support for employers and apprentices. For instance, Queensland has a program including schemesaimed at the unemployed. Western Australia has announced the provision of employer incentives in its 2019 budget. NSW has abolished tuition fees for apprenticeships.

Extra government incentives to improve apprenticeship numbers do not seem to be the most effective, or equitable, policy. The next government must undertake a comprehensive review of incentives and all other forms of apprenticeship assistance.

The review should revisit the advice of the 2011 expert panel and ideally, should be conducted in the context of a review all tertiary funding (similar to what Labor is proposing).

SourceAAP:theconversation.com

This Saturday is chance to restore TAFE funding in Australia

Under the Abbott, Turnbull and Morrison government’s TAFE institution across the nation have been under attack.

Minister for Training and Skills Development Shannon Fentiman reminded Queenslanders of their chance to restore training opportunities in Australia as they head to the voting booth on Saturday.

“So far the LNP in Canberra have presided over more than $3 billion in cuts to TAFE and training,” Ms Fentiman said.

:They are no different to the Queensland LNP that cut $82.4 million from the training budget and sacked more than 2100 TAFE Queensland staff, discontinuing TAFE course and closing or selling campuses.”

The impact of these cuts have been highlighted today by the Queensland Audit Report intoEducation: 2017–18 results of audits.

The impact of Commonwealth unfair student loan system and cuts to training programs for 2017-18 alone was over $27 million and included:

  • $18.6 million reduction from students accessing Commonwealth Government VET Student Loans
  • $7.1 million cut from the Commonwealth Adult Migrant English Program; and
  • $1.7 million cut from the Commonwealth Skills for Education and Employment program.

“Saturday’s Federal Election is a chance for State’s like Queensland to gain an ally in the effort to repair and fix this damage,” she said.

“Only Bill Shorten and Labor are prepared to provide Queensland TAFE with its fair share of support.

“Only Federal Labour have promised to review all post school education and training funding and address the unfair student loan system operating for TAFE.

“In addition, only Federal Labor has committed $1 billion dollars in vocational education and training including 100,000 Free TAFE places and $330 million to deliver 150,000 apprenticeship subsidies in areas with skills shortages.”

“Federal Labor is also prepared to work with us on TAFE and has committed $200 million towards helping the states build TAFEs for the future.

“This has included investment in TAFEs at Cairns, Townsville, Logan, Mt Gravatt, Acacia Ridge, Whitsundays, Bowen, Redcliffe AND a new TAFE trades training centre at North Lakes.”

Despite federal funding cuts, with the support of the Palaszczuk Government TAFE Queensland has continued to achieving results

TAFE Queensland continues to be the largest provider of education and training in Queensland, delivering training to over 120,000 students in 2017–18 across more than 530 programs.

“Strengthened by its online and international delivery, no other provider can match TAFE Queensland for scale and location options,” Ms Fentiman said.

“TAFE QLD ensures high quality outcomes for students and employers – more than 85% of students are employed or in further study after completing their course.”

“With a Federal Labor Government partnering with us we can achieve much more.”

/Public Release. View in full here.
SourceAAP:www.miragenews.com

TAFE Queensland struggles with declining enrolments

AFE Queensland’s financial performance is at risk because of declining student numbers, the state’s auditor-general has warned.

According to a Queensland Audit Office report, TAFE Queensland is struggling due to decreasing student numbers and revenue, without an equivalent reduction in expenses.

Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk at Acacia Ridge's TAFE Skill Centre during the 2017 election campaign.

Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk at Acacia Ridge’s TAFE Skill Centre during the 2017 election campaign.CREDIT:TRACEY NEARMY/AAP

“There are risks to its sustainability,” Auditor-General Brendan Worrall’s report reads.

“TAFE Queensland requires ongoing support from the Queensland government to remain financially sustainable.”

TAFE Queensland’s attempts to reduce expenses were unsuccessful, largely due to employee costs and system implementation issues, the report said.

TAFE was expected to make an $11 million loss in the 2019 financial year, while its operating surplus plunged from $19.96 million in 2017 to $1.42 million in 2018.

The competitive market also heaped pressure on TAFE, with 69 per cent of students enrolled in courses in Queensland being delivered by private providers.

TAFE Queensland delivered training to more than 120,000 students in 2017-18 across 530 programs.

The Queensland government provided grants and subsidies of $762.1 million to public and private providers last year, of which $336.7 million was given to TAFE Queensland.

Training Minister Shannon Fentiman accused the federal Coalition government of cutting funding but said no other provider could match TAFE Queensland for scale and location options.

“TAFE Queensland ensures high-quality outcomes for students and employers – more than 85 per cent of students are employed or in further study after completing their course,” she said.

In a letter to the auditor-general, TAFE Queensland chief executive Mary Campbell said the body serviced rural and remote areas of the state and supported students affected by the closure of private providers.

“This responsiveness and high quality of TAFE Queensland’s education and training provisions is fundamental to the successful operation of (the) vocational education and training sector in Queensland, however it must be acknowledged that this comes at a cost,” she said.

LNP leader Deb Frecklington accused the state government of not having a plan to manage the body.

“Under (Premier) Annastacia Palaszczuk and her TAFE system, we’ve had senior execs being wined and dined and flown around the world at a cost of millions of dollars to the taxpayer of Queensland,” she said.

Last year’s estimates hearings revealed TAFE’s hospitality expenses doubled in three years and $687,525 was spent on international travel.

SourceAAP:www.brisbanetimes.com.au

 

Beyond the dollars: what are the major parties really promising on education?

As voters head to the polls, around one-quarter will decide who to vote for on the day. Analysis shows climate change and the economy are foremost in voters’ minds.

But education remains a key issue, as evidenced by a flurry of education-related announcements in the final stretch of the campaign.

Here’s what you need to know about the major parties’ education commitments, and what the millions and billions here and there really mean.

Early childhood education and care

Two years of high-quality, play-based learning at preschool can have a significant impact on children’s development. It can put them close to eight months ahead in literacy by the time they start school. The benefits are greatest for children from disadvantaged backgrounds, which makes preschool a valuable tool for reducing inequality.

Labor has promised to make childcare free for most low-income households and to provide up to an 85% subsidy for households under $175,000. It has committed to funding an extra year of preschool for three-year-olds. This is evidence-based and builds on commitments by several states to support two years of preschool.

Labor has also pledged to increase wages for some early childhood educators, to be rolled out over a decade, and to reinstate funding for the National Quality Agenda, which lapsed in 2018. This reflects the importance of quality in early childhood services, to improve outcomes for children.

Both the Coalition and Labor are taking early childhood education and care seriously this election. from shutterstock.com

The Coalition is taking a more cautious approach to spending on the early childhood sector. It has pledged funding for four-year-old preschool, but only for another year, and it has not renewed funding for the National Quality Agenda.

The Coalition will likely retain the means-tested subsidy introduced as part of its major childcare reforms in 2018. While these reforms benefited an estimated one million lower-income families, the means test also left around 280,000 families worse off, including families with neither parent in work.

Advocates argue preschool should be seen as an integral component of the education system and a fundamental right for all children, and all parties should take a cross-partisan approach and commit to long-term funding. The major parties are certainly not at that point yet, but there are indications they’re heading in the right direction.

Schools

Given states and territories are largely responsible for schools, federal investment should be targeted where it can make the most difference. Two key areas are needs-based funding, to ensure additional support is available to students who need it the most, and central investment in research and evidence-based practice.

Both major parties have promised a national evidence instituteLaborhas allocated funds for it, with the Coalition yet to do so. This initiative reflects the urgent need to ensure evidence helps to shape the education system. The Productivity Commission has recommended such an institute, to connect educators and policymakers with the latest research on teaching and learning.

On funding, the Coalition wants us to judge it on its reforms to the schools funding package, which is now mostly modelled on the needs-based funding approach outlined in the Gonski Review. But funding has still not reached the recommended levels. The Coalition has supported the National School Resourcing Board to review these funding arrangements and develop a fairer model for all schools.

View image on Twitter

View image on Twitter

Labor has promised to increase funding for schools. Labor’s offer would bring schools closer to meeting the levels of funding recommended by Gonski.

Funding isn’t a magic bullet, but it plays an important role in improving outcomes for all students..

Tertiary education

Vocational Education and Training (VET) has experienced a series of unsuccessful reforms over the past decade. VET plays an important role in the tertiary sector, so it’s good to see both major parties addressing this in their platforms.

The Coalition’s plan comes out of a major recent review of the VET sector and includes more money for apprentices and rural programs; the establishment of a National Skills Commission and a National Careers Institute; and simplifying systems for employers.

Labor has pledged to fund up to 100,000 TAFE places. It has also promised a major inquiry into tertiary education, looking at VET and universities side by side. This could potentially move us towards a fairer system that puts VET and universities on an even footing and better caters to the varied needs of students and employers.

Both Labor and the Coalition have committed to increased support for apprenticeships, through financial incentives for employers.

For universities, Labor says it will bring back demand-driven funding, which existed between 2012 and 2017, where universities are paid for every student studying and there is no limit on the number of students that can be admitted to courses. Evidence suggests this has been effective in boosting studies in areas where there are skills shortages, such as health, and also appears to have improved access to education for disadvantaged groups.

Due to costs, the Coalition has moved to a funding model based on population and university performance. It has also promised extra support for regional students and universities. This help address the large gaps in university participation between young people from major cities, and rural and regional Australia.

Making an informed choice

When casting our votes, we would do well to look past the dollar signs, and think about how each party is shaping an education system that will deliver quality learning for all Australians, from all kinds of backgrounds, from childhood through to adulthood.

The Coalition has delivered needs-based funding for schools and promises a greater focus on regional and rural students in all sectors. But there are some apparent gaps in early learning and tertiary policy and funding.

Labor has pledged more funding in all sectors. It has made a prominent commitment to early childhood education and care. However, Labor’s policies are expensive and would need to be implemented effectively to make sure they achieve the intended outcomes for students and deliver the financial benefit to the economy in the long-term.

SourceAAP:http://theconversation.com

Australia’s international student and tourism China boom is over

Over the past five years, Australia experienced a massive boom in international student numbers, whereby the number of student visas on issue ballooned by around 200,000 to half-a-million as at the end of 2018:

As shown in the next chart from The ABC, this international student growth has been driven by the Chinese, whose numbers have surged from around 95,000 in 2015 to 150,000 as at 2018. Chinese students also accounted for around $11 billion of Australia’s $32 billion in education export earnings in 2018:

tourism

Recently, we have received explicit warnings that Chinese students numbers have peaked and will likely fall into the future.

Last week, The Australian reported that “the highly lucrative six-year boom in Chinese students is over”:

Ahead of the release of official figures, a senior Department of Home Affairs official briefed universities last week telling them that visa applications from Chinese students were flat…

The flattening out in numbers of Chinese students starting courses is not yet visible in the monthly data issued by the federal Department of Education and Training.

The March figures, which will give the full picture of international student enrolments this year, are not yet available.

Whereas University of NSW Professor, Ian Jacobs, recently warned that Chinese student numbers will decline over the coming decade:

“They are getting more universities, and those are getting much better quality, very rapidly,” said Professor Jacobs. “The Chinese government understands education is everything if they are going to be the high tech country they aspire to be.”

“My assessment [is] over a 10-year period, [Chinese students] will gradually decrease. We are already starting to see a slight decrease in the number of undergraduate students from China as the opportunities increase.

March’s overseas arrivals and departures data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), released on Monday, supports these assessments. It showed that short-term arrivals from China declined for nine consecutive months, including both students and tourists. Moreover, arrivals in March 2019 were lower than August 2017:

There are a variety of possible reasons why the flow of Chinese students and tourists has stalled.

As noted by Ian Jacobs above, China is increasing investment in its own universities and lifting its standards. At the same time, Australian university standards have plummeted, as highlighted in last week’s Four Corners expose, which has no doubt eroded the prestige-value of an Australian degree.

Political tensions between Australia and China could also be reducing the flow of Chinese students and tourists. China may also want to keep more of both at home to prevent the outflow of capital and protect the value of its currency.

Increased competition for Chinese students from other Anglo nations could also be having an effect. Last month we learned that the Canadian Government plans to expand its presence overseas in order to significantly increase the volume of international students studying in Canada from 572,415 in 2018. The UK Government is also seeking to lift international students numbers by offering more generous work rights.

Unlike with commodities, Australia has no natural advantage in university education. Therefore, increasing competition from universities abroad (including from China) will make it increasingly difficult for Australia to maintain Chinese student numbers.

The policy response so far has been to pivot to lower quality students from Indian and Nepal, where instances of plagiarism, academic misconduct, and students failing their courses are more common. And with this pivot, Australian university standards will be lowered even further.

The response for tourism is anybody’s guess.

SourceAAP:www.macrobusiness.com.au