VET building pathways to a bright future

Whether it comes from parents, peers, school guidance counsellors or society-at-large, students are taught to aspire to a university-based profession.

To obtain a Bachelor-of-something or a Master-of-anything.

University can be a great pathway for many students, but depending on the course chosen, it can leave many graduates without the practical skills to get meaningful employment, leaving some with debt that may be difficult to repay and others with broken ambition.

Vocational education and training offers young Australians, and those wanting to retrain, strong employment opportunities, and often a better salary in the long term.

The Grattan Institute’s latest report found that vocational education in construction, engineering and commerce “typically lead to higher incomes than many low-ATAR university graduates are likely to earn”.

This was found to be especially true for men.

“For the most common Certificate III qualifications, nearly 80 per cent of the men aged 20-24 who completed in 2018 have full-time work, and nearly 90 per cent have received job-related benefits: they got a job, promotion or pay rise.”

Often a graduate of an engineering or construction apprenticeship goes on to run their own business, employing people and reaping the rewards of self-employment.

Yet the report found in the past 20 years, and particularly since student places at universities became uncapped, more Australians are shunning vocational education for a university degree.

The Australian Chamber recognises that in order to recalibrate the way our country views further education, our governments need to address the VET delivery model.

This month our parliamentary leaders across the country agreed to do just that.

A “shared vision” for VET reform was reached at the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) meeting, including the establishment of a new skills council to advance the reform.

It’s a vision which ensures VET and university education are given equal standing.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said he wanted “mums and dads to be confident about the choice of their kids for a trade, for a technical or skills-based education. It is not second prize”.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said he wanted ‘mums and dads to be confident about the choice of their kids for a trade, for a technical or skills-based education. It is not second prize’.

The Australian Chamber has long championed this, working with the prime minister and advisers, along with our member chambers and industry associations to aid in reforming VET.

The federal government made inroads in November 2018, appointing former New Zealand skills minister Steven Joyce to spearhead a “once-in-a-generation” review of VET.

That review proposed a new vision for VET, including simpler funding, clearer pathways and better skills matching.

Successful reform would include real funding increases for vocational training in all jurisdictions and a return to growth in the number of government-funded VET students.

Industry will be more strongly embedded in the advisory and governance arrangements at all levels of the VET system, and increased support for apprenticeships and traineeships would also be key to reform.

We need to promote the career options that require VET so we can meet the skills needs of the labour market .

Just last week Infrastructure Australia released an audit of our country’s infrastructure pipeline, warning a new wave of investment and reform “is needed to ensure Australia’s infrastructure continues to support our quality of life and economic productivity over the next 15 years”.

This infrastructure boom will create many jobs in the construction sector and VET is a key pathway to those jobs.

Business and government need to work together with schools, career advisers and training providers to encourage students to choose VET as a career pathway.

It’s up to governments, educators and businesses to help deliver a better vocational system which reflects our rapidly evolving industries, but it’s up to Australians to engage with it, and see VET for what it is – the pathway to a bright future with skills our country so badly needs.

As a community, we owe our young people, as well as those retraining later in life for new jobs, the best chances and choices for the best careers.

Jenny Lambert, Director, Employment, Education and Training, Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry


‘Skills crisis’: VET and TAFE undone by rampant neoliberalism

Ian Learmonth, Ai Group boss Innes Willox and Luke Menzel. Willox is calling for an improvement to our skills systems (image via Twitter).

Late last week Innes Willox – head of Australian Industry Group – sent a letter to Scott Morrison, alerting him to the dire skills crisis in Australia.

Our Vocational Education and Training (VET) system was a complete “debacle” he remarked: ’75 per cent of employers experiencing difficulty in recruiting suitably qualified or skilled people into vacancies’.

But Willox stopped short of citing the real cause of our broken national training system: namely the ideology of extreme neoliberalism ⁠— the unwavering belief that unregulated markets will produce superior results even when the evidence suggests otherwise.

It all started back in the early 1990s, when Australian politicians and policymakers became infatuated with Thatcherism. From their perspective, TAFEs were an affront to the credo of free market capitalism. Too unresponsive to industry. A drain of public resources. Yet another case of “big government” getting in the way market forces. Welfare by stealth.

🌱💧Helen McAfee – Save the Darling!
Restore TAFE to full glory Neoliberal wreckers! …

Adam Curlis
Really!! A $5,000 shopping spree on top of an expensive marketting campaign? Can we just have our TAFE back, please? …

5:46 AM – Sep 10, 2016
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A new system was introduced that allowed private providers – Registered Training Organizations (or RTOs) – to compete for government funding. By 2015, 42 per cent of government spending on vocational training was awarded to non-TAFE providers, today numbering in their thousands as TAFEs wither on the vine.

The content of training changed too. Rather than building a standardised skillset that individuals might use in a variety of jobs, targeted “training packages” were proposed by employers instead, keying them in specific work settings.

This revamped approach to VET was no government handout either. Following the holy commandments of Thatcherism, students would require a loan to pay for the training via the FEE-HELP system. Skills were recast as a strictly private good, not a public one.

This setup follows a familiar neoliberal formula. Employers loved it because they didn’t have to invest in training. The government would do so for them, using private businesses and with the final bill shoulder by individual trainees in the form of personal debt.

AEU Victoria
The #MelbourneStorm ⚡️⛈ stopped us travelling to Parliament to see Daniel Andrews, so we brought the Premier to us.

The rain will stop, but the TAFE community will keep fighting until we get a fair deal! ✊ #TAFE4ALL

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Loans that many would never repay.

Direct government funding – especially to TAFEs – was then cut because it was assumed that a flexible and competitive marketplace would generate efficiency gains and push down overall costs.

So, did we see a tremendous increase in skilled tradies, sparkies and engineering designers as a result?

No, the opposite.

Shady RTOs learned how to rort the system early on. They were less hindered by national regulations and gleefully soaked up the flood of government cash. Unfortunately, their mind was on the money rather than skills, hell-bent on signing up as many students to useless programs as possible. Between 2011-2016, RTO compliance to national standards stood at a dismal 22 per cent.

RTOs have little pressure to invest in buildings and capital, or even hire properly trained teachers. Low entry and exit barriers diminish commitment to industry best-practice. And given the lack of government oversight, investigators discovered that corruption is a major problem in the private training market, as RTOs find ever more creative ways to make money.

Robert Reich

It is a travesty that the most profitable corporations avoid millions of dollars in taxes while ordinary Americans pay their fair share. We must stop this corporate welfare.

12:57 AM – May 27, 2019
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Neoliberal economists expected RTOs to compete with each other, allowing newly “empowered” trainees to choose providers with the best quality and reputation. In reality, most students – especially those from lower-economic groups – simply opted for the cheapest package. As a result, the training they received was inferior.

Sadly, this part of the industry has rapidly grown. As researcher Phillip Toner found, there has been a veritable boom in low-quality training, controlled by businesses that ultimately seek to maximise profits rather than enrich the national skills pool.

In the meantime, apprenticeships have fallen from 446,000 in 2012 to 259,000 today.

It is testimony to the power of ideology – in this case, extreme neoliberalism – that despite the patent failure of the private training market, successive governments and industry leaders have continued to prop it up for decades. Billions of dollars have disappeared down a black hole in the hope that the “god” of market forces might save the day.

Adam Curlis
No TAFE is costing Aust public dearly. Pity we can’t say the same of the privates RTOs who have rorted VET FEE HELP! …

Replying to @TAFEeducation
If we had TAFE would we still have so many unemployed unskilled workers.No TAFE is costing Aust public dearly. Do the numbers

8:28 PM – Jun 21, 2016
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No wonder global private equity firms are now circling Australian RTOs. This is too-easy cash and lots of it. And it’s us – the taxpayer – who is helping to pay for it

Clearly, Australia needs to follow the example of countries that actually do have a vibrant vocational training system, renationalise it and start again. That would allow its funding structure (as a semi-public good) and overarching purpose be thought afresh.

Most importantly, an end has to be put to the rampant “corporate welfare” that has blighted the system for years at the expense of our national skills base.

The trickle-down ravages of neoliberalism ~ Dr Evan Jones,12218#.XBncq6HgZXM.facebook …

The trickle-down ravages of neoliberalism
Dr Evan Jones examines the deep-rooted and devastating effects of neoliberal economic policies.
1:53 PM – Dec 19, 2018
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Peter Fleming is a Professor at the University of Technology Sydney.

The vision and legacy of Australian tertiary education,11857#.W49RS8pgP7I.twitter … @IndependentAus

The vision and legacy of Australian tertiary education
Dr Michael~John Shea examines how the Whitlam Government gave rise to the tertiary education system we have today


Skills shortage needs a ‘trades training rethink’

Incat Managing director Craig Clifford ... “tradesmen and tradeswomen are well sought after.” Picture: Richard Jupe
Incat Managing director Craig Clifford … “tradesmen and tradeswomen are well sought after.” Picture: Richard Jupe

One of Australia’s most successful boat builders and exporters is being hampered by a skills shortage and is urging government to “step in” to bolster trades training, including at school level.

Incat Australia, based in Hobart’s north, needs to expand its workforce of 650 by a further 150 to meet demand for its high-speed, aluminium super ferries, dubbed the jumbos of the seas.

Managing director Craig Clifford — who shares his company’s story with The Dealmagazine, in The Australian today — said ­finding the skilled labour required to meet demand was “proving ­difficult”.

“Tasmania at the moment is going through something of a building boom, so tradesmen and tradeswomen are well sought after,” Mr Clifford said.

“We’ve got around 70 apprentices and are really focusing on training and building up the skill level of the workforce. We could do with more skilled workers — particularly welders and fabricators — tomorrow. But you can’t just wave a wand and have them appear. So we are seeking them out through the marketplace and we are doing in-house training.”

The company, which exports ferries around the globe, is already one of Tasmania’s largest employers of apprentices, if not the largest. Mr Clifford said it hired locally whenever possible, minimising the use of foreign workers, but found a shortage of people with the necessary skills.

The company, which has orders on its books providing at least four years of work for its Prince of Wales Bay operations, was having to factor in the skills shortage.

He encouraged governments to “step in” and boost training schemes to ensure young people were more work-ready.

Mr Clifford’s father, company chairman Robert Clifford, urged policymakers to focus on developing trades skills early — in schools — and linked the issue to the global competitiveness of Australian manufacturing.

“It is difficult to remain competitive in Tasmania — the high cost of labour against the low cost of ­labour in most of the rest of the world,” said Mr Clifford Sr.

“We can only be competitive by building a better product and being as efficient as possible.”


Benefit of vocational education comes down to gender

With the Morrison government extolling the virtue of vocational education and training (VET), the benefit of diplomas over degrees differs based on gender, according to a new report.

Published by the Grattan Institute, the report found that for students with a lower Australian Tertiary Admissions Rank (ATAR), VET courses can get them employed faster and higher earnings over their career, but not if they are a woman.

The report compared VET courses to their university equivalent and demonstrated that if a male student with a low ATAR chooses a VET course similar to a university degree, for example engineering rather than science, their lifetime median earnings would be higher. Similarly, a Diploma in Commerce instead of a Bachelor of Commerce, would leave the students better off financially over the course of their lifetime.

For women, however, the data showed different results. Tertiary courses popular among women, such as education and nursing, have better career-long outcomes when women enrol in a Bachelor program.

In science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields, women who study the tertiary equivalent of a VET diploma will earn more. For men, a Bachelor of Engineering will lead to less earnings over the course of their career than a Diploma of Engineering. The amount earned also differed for the same degrees between women and men. Men who studied a Bachelor of Engineering will have a median earning of $2.07 million over their lifetime, while women who studied the same course would have a meaning earning of $1.42 million over their career.

The report authors note that for students with lower ATARs, they are less likely to complete university, leading to lower employment outcomes, and that students with higher ATARs will be more likely to attain higher paying jobs after graduating university.


Grattan: Young Aussie men should ditch university for VET

The Grattan Institute has released a new report, entitled Risks and rewards: when is vocational education a good alternative to higher education?, which recommends that male students with lower school results would be better off doing vocational education and training (VET) rather than going to university:

Vocational diplomas in construction, engineering, and commerce typically lead to higher lifetime incomes than many low-ATAR university graduates are likely to earn, especially those with degrees in popular fields such as science and humanities.


If you have a low ATAR, you could earn more doing a VET course than a uni degree – if you’re a ma

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said in recent days that “TAFE is as good as university”, and in many cases leads to better pay.

TAFE plays a vital role, but for most university students, a TAFE course is not going to increase their income. University graduates usually have higher rates of pay and employment than non-graduates.

But a new report from the Grattan Institute – Risks and rewards: when is vocational education a good alternative to higher education? – looked at the employment outcomes for students leaving school with a lower Australian Tertiary Admission Rank (ATAR) (their main entry criteria into most undergraduate university programs).

It found men with a lower ATAR have options among vocational educational and training (VET) courses that can get them a job faster, and often higher earnings, than if they do a university degree. But these VET options are less attractive for women. And women who choose them often have poor outcomes, such as being denied a job in a male dominated industry like engineering.

ATAR is not everything. It does not perfectly predict university results or outcomes after university. But compared to graduates with a high ATAR, graduates with a lower ATAR have, on average, worse academic results, lower rates of high-skill employment and less earnings.

The Grattan Institute report looked at VET courses offered as a potential alternative to university. Especially once the income effects of lower ATAR are taken into account, the report found some bachelor degrees led to lower earnings than some VET diplomas and Certificate III/IVcourses.

How ATAR can affect employment outcomes

Over the last decade, more school leavers have been starting university with an ATAR below 70. Before an enrolment boom that began in 2009, about 20,000 school leavers with ATARs between 30 and 70 started university each year. In more recent years, the reported number is around 34,000.

But the true figure is higher, as universities don’t always record an ATAR when it is not used to admit the student.

Read more: More students are going to university than before, but those at risk of dropping out need more help

Employment outcomes usually improve over time, but slow career starts can have long-term consequences. The Grattan Institute report used data from the Longitudinal Surveys of Australian Youth (LSAY), which tracks young graduates up to age 25.

Graduates with a lower ATAR are more likely than those with a higher ATAR to fail subjects during their degree. But fail rates differ between courses. In education and nursing, for instance, graduates with ATARs below 60 failed 5% of all the subjects they took. This was half the fail rate of disciplines such as science, engineering, IT and commerce.

With fails on their academic transcripts, graduates with a lower ATAR have more trouble finding full-time work within four months of finishing their studies, and the jobs they find are less likely to use their skills.

But when it comes to employment options, the course matters more than the ATAR. In the months after graduation, humanities, science and commerce graduates with higher ATARs struggle more than nursing or education graduates with lower ATARs to find a job.

ATAR and annual income are connected within each university course. For example, male science graduates with ATARs of 90 earn about 13% more than graduates with ATARs of 60.

Men’s VET options could make them better off

To be considered a potential better choice, a course must plausibly interest the student and have better employment outcomes. There is no point telling a potential performing arts student an accounting diploma would improve their job prospects.

Few people are interested in both these courses. University applications, which often include preferences for multiple courses, reveal what other fields students are interested in.

One in five of all men whose first preference university course was science had a lower preference for engineering. Science is a high-risk university course, as rapid enrolment growth has led to graduates significantly outnumbering jobs.

Young people with lower ATARs considering science would receive a university offer, but could potentially earn more enrolling in a VET diploma (as shown in the chart below).

Similarly, about one in five men whose first preference is arts (another high-risk field) have a lower preference for commerce.

For men, with a lower ATAR, a commerce-related VET diploma would give them better employment prospects than an arts degree. These and other possible alternatives can be seen in the chart. Often a diploma is acquired after first completing a Certificate III/IV course.

Read more: We need to change negative views of the jobs VET serves to make it a good post-school option

Women should stick with uni

Women make up the majority of students who enrol into university with a lower ATAR. For them, a commerce diploma can sometimes be a good alternative to university, too. But otherwise women’s realistic choices differ from men’s – for both positive and negative reasons – in ways that make VET less attractive.

A positive reason is that two popular courses for women with lower ATARs – education and nursing – have good outcomes. Rates of professional employment for graduates of both courses are high across the ATAR range.

Nurses and teachers with higher ATARs who went to university tend to earn more than those with lower ATARs but the differences aren’t large enough to not recommend a bachelor degree over a VET course (as the chart shows).

A negative reason why vocational education is less attractive for women is that they show little interest in engineering-related fields that are popular for men. Once qualified, these men often work in construction, manufacturing, electrical and maintenance related fields.

But even when women have the relevant qualifications they often work in other occupations that pay less but offer more flexible working conditions.

VET fields popular with women, such as child care, nursing, aged care and hospitality have a large number of job vacancies, but don’t pay as well as most graduate occupations.

Vocational education does get overlooked in careers advice. But VET is less attractive for women than for men, if pay is a significant factor in course choice. Women have been a majority of university students since 1987. Given the nature of the labour market, it is not hard to see why.


COAG Call to action on skills

The Australian Chamber is calling on the country’s political leaders to agree to reform our vital Vocation Education and Training (VET) system, to deliver the skills that Australian jobseekers and businesses need, at tomorrow’s meeting of the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) in Cairns.

Prime Minister Morrison has put vocational training back on the agenda following the recent Joyce review of VET that he announced to ACCI’s members late last year.

It comes amid evidence that, despite significant funding growth in all other sectors within education, the amount of funding nationally for VET and the number of government funded VET students has declined over recent years.

Australian Chamber CEO James Pearson said it was important to improve confidence in the system.

“We know how fraught discussions about VET reform have been, and recognise that COAG has attempted on a number of occasions to consider changes that will make a real difference to the support provided to students and industry Now is the time for decisions to be made.”

“Industry stands ready to work with all governments, and we know that the Prime Minister is committed to positive change.

“We have worked closely with Ministers and advisers, and government officials, in the lead up to, and after, the Prime Minister’s announcement of the VET review to our members last November. Our network of state and territory chambers of commerce – the peak business bodies in each COAG jurisdiction – and industry associations is well placed to work with all governments on reforming VET.”

“Given the urgent need to make long lasting positive improvements in VET, we urge COAG to focus first on the end goal. This is likely to be a more fruitful discussion than the more difficult one about who pays for what and what changes are needed to get there.”

The Joyce Review has repeated our call for governments, education and training providers and industry to agree on a shared vision for VET. Successful reform of VET would include:

  • Meeting the labour market skill needs in occupations that rely on vocational training
  • A return to growth in the number of government funded VET students
  • Real funding increases for vocational training in all jurisdictions
  • Improved student employment outcomes
  • Industry more strongly embedded in the advisory and governance arrangements at all levels of the VET system
  • Valuing equally VET and Higher Education and promoting jobs that require VET qualifications to students and parents as good career options
  • Increased support for apprenticeships and traineeships to address skill needs and youth unemployment

“The path to achieving these objectives is challenging; we call on COAG to take the lead from the Prime Minister and move beyond the cost and blame shifting to restore certainty and growth to VET,” Mr Pearson said.

“VET not only prepares young people for work, but also ensures Australia has the skilled workers required to build the infrastructure so badly needed in our regions and cities.

“With more than a year before the next State Election, political leaders have the clear air needed to be decisive. Australia cannot afford to let this opportunity pass us by to make meaningful change to vocational training.”

The Australian Chamber is Australia’s largest network of employers, speaking for over 300,000 businesses employing millions of Australians in every sector of the economy, in every corner of Australia. Our Small Business is a Big Deal campaign gives voice to what small businesses need from the federal government, and our Getting on with Business recommends ways to make Australia the best place in the world to do business, so that Australians have the jobs, living standards and opportunities to which they aspire.

/Public Release. View in full here.

Palaszczuk Government gets a head start with skills strategy

An independent Queensland Audit Office report has come out in support of the Palaszczuk Government’s Skills for Queensland strategy launched by Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk and Minister for Training and Skills Development Shannon Fentiman this week.

Acting Minister for Training and Skills Development Mick de Brenni said the report Investing in VET endorses the government’s approach to targeted investment in training.

“Queensland’s investment in vocational education and training (VET) is not only effective, but also efficient,” Mr de Brenni said.

“This is great news and highlights why the Palaszczuk Government continues to invest in training for Queenslanders.

The report says our annual VET investment meets Queensland’s skilling needs in a most cost-effective way and recommends a skills strategy be finalised as the number one priority to ensure Queensland has a skilled workforce for the jobs of the future.

“Just this week the Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk and I launched our Skills for Queensland strategy, Great training for quality jobs and kicked off our free apprenticeships initiative for anyone under 21,” he said.

“The Skills for Queensland strategy is part of the government’s focus on growing a strong economy that can create jobs, increase private sector investment and engage more young Queenslanders in education, training and work.

“It sets out a clear plan to build on the existing strengths of the skills and training system.”

The Minister said the Skills for Queensland strategy will target critical skills needs, new skills needed for existing jobs, emerging opportunities brought about by technology advances, and regional and statewide priorities.

The initiatives include:

  • A $5.5 million Micro-Credentialing pilot will support employers and their workers to gain the skill sets needed to adapt to workplace changes including new technologies
  • A next generation Higher Level Apprenticeship pilot that will train apprentices in specialty and emerging technical and trade fields
  • Review and Expansion of the Gateway to Industry Schools program so that school students can train in emerging and innovative industries
  • A government-endorsed Skills Assure system for students and employers to have confidence in a quality training experience
  • A new Link and Launch pilot to target youth hot spots and provide seamless access to government programs like the successful Skilling Queenslanders for Work or Back to Work
  • A new Ministerial Roundtable to ensure government hears industry input to skills investment priorities first‑hand
  • New regional jobs committees to bring together local industry groups, training providers, local and major employers, and councils to help plan local training.

The Queensland Audit Office said Queensland has effectively managed the demand-driven VET market, providing students with greater choice whilst maintaining consistent student and employment outcomes.

The report highlights the government’s increased funding for disadvantaged cohorts through the successful Skilling Queenslanders for Work (SQW) initiative, which provides work-ready skills and training to Queenslanders who need it most.

The audit also recognises the important role played by public providers in the VET landscape.

“The report reinforces our continued strong support for public providers including TAFE Queensland and Central Queensland University, through the annual State Contribution Grant,” Mr de Brenni said.

Other Queensland Audit Office recommendations include performance measures and periodic reviews for the State Contribution Grant, improved transparency for the annual VET investment and subsidy lists, streamlined processes for SQW projects and improved efficiency and quality of the pre-qualified supplier contract renewal process.

/Public Release. View in full here.

PM asks states to back VET plan

The Prime Minister will push his VET reforms at the Council of Australian Governments meeting in Cairns on Friday. Picture: Jono Searle/AAP
The Prime Minister will push his VET reforms at the Council of Australian Governments meeting in Cairns on Friday. Picture: Jono Searle/AAP

Scott Morrison will try to win support from states and territories to back his overhaul of the troubled Vocational Education and Training sector, in a move to better equip Australian workers and stimulate the economy.

The Australian can reveal the Prime Minister will push his VET reforms at the Council of Australian Governments meeting in Cairns on Friday, aiming to sign up state and territory leaders to the $525 million skills package announced by the Coalition in the April budget. A key plank of the federal government’s reforms will be focused on the co-design of the Skills Organisations and National Careers Institute models, which would lay the foundations for a standardised approach to quality and regulatory issues in the sector.

With commonwealth and state investment in the sector declining by 12 and 28 per cent respectively since 2012, Employment Minister Michaelia Cash told The Aus­tralian it was time to “put aside political differences and end the blame-shifting”.

“There is no question that we need to continue our path of reform, but meaningful change cannot be achieved without the states and territories joining us on this journey,” Senator Cash said.

“Agreement has never been achieved through antagonism. We need the VET system to work for everyone, and we need it to work for them now.”

Senator Cash said industry was “crying out for a nationally consistent and flexible system”.

“We as governments need to match that with co-operation and delivery,” she said.

Mr Morrison, who has signalled VET reforms as a key reform agenda priority, is working to address the challenges outlined in the Joyce review, which declared confidence in the sector was declining, outcomes were inconsistent and not aligning with industry needs and that the system was too complex to navigate for students.

A key driver behind the fall in commonwealth investment traces back to 2012-13 reductions in incentives that weren’t improving skills, cleaning up the VET FEE-HELP scheme and decreases in payments to the states. Since 2012, funding from Victoria dropped by almost 40 per cent. NSW, Queensland and Western Australia have also reduced investment by between 12 and 30 per cent.

The Australian understands the long-held focus on TAFEs, with only 25 across the nation, would be broadened, with about 4200 Registered Training Organisations currently operating, including 3200 private RTOs.

According to department figures, 61 per cent of students are enrolled with private providers and only 16 per cent at TAFE.

The shift to VET reforms comes amid a national debate over raising the Newstart allowance, and pressures being faced by employers experiencing recruitment difficulty.

Taking aim at the government over what he described as an ­attempt to “publicly shame vulnerable Australians”, Labor employ­ment spokesman Brendan O’Connor said the Coalition was “deliberately making it difficult for Australians relying on Newstart” by incentivising people to get into work by “punishing them”.

“The problem is it is not working — people either aren’t getting jobs or if they are, it is taking a long time,” he told The Australian.

Mr O’Connor said Australian Bureau of Statistics data showed the typical jobseeker search time and long-term unemployed search times “have risen under this government”.

“The latest (ABS) labour force data shows the government’s abysmal track record of getting people off Newstart and into work,” he said.

“For every one job vacancy, there are three unemployed ­people. The typical job search time in Australia is nearly four months at 15.6 weeks. This length of time has been increasing to almost an extra month on average since the Liberals were elected in 2013.”

Mr O’Connor said the average search time for long-term unemployed — people unemployed greater than 52 weeks — was 112.8 weeks.

“The government hasn’t lived up to its rhetoric on getting people off Newstart and into work.

“Perhaps instead of publicly shaming people with new media stories week after week, the Morrison government should address the problems inherent in the ­labour market and the employment services system it oversees. Everyone other than this government knows the labour market system must work better, connecting unemployed Australians with decent, stable jobs,” he said.

“Labor believes in mutual obligation arrangements for jobseekers, but that means the government has an obligation to ensure that the job active service is value for money.”

On Monday, The Australian revealed new Department of Employment research showed almost one-in-two employers were finding it difficult to hire workers, with prospective employees expressing a “lack of interest”, not being interested in the “occupation or work conditions” and presenting with inadequate qualifications.


Call for unity to fix vocational education

Desperately-needed reform of Australia’s vocational education and training sector can only occur if state and territory governments put political differences aside, federal Employment Minister Michaelia Cash has declared.
Senator Cash is urging the states and territories to work with the federal government on changes, after a recent review identified a spate of challenges in the VET sector.
The inquiry by former New Zealand tertiary education minister Steven Joyce found confidence in the sector is declining and that outcomes are inconsistent and not aligned with industry needs.
It also found the system is too complex for students to navigate.
“There is no question that we need to continue our path of reform,” Senator Cash said on Wednesday.
“But meaningful change cannot be achieved without the states and territories joining us on this journey.
“Agreement has never been achieved through antagonism. It’s time to put aside political differences and end the blame-shifting and find common ground.”


The encouragement comes before premiers and chief ministers meet Prime Minister Scott Morrison in Cairns on Friday for the latest Council of Australian Governments meeting.
Government funding in the VET sector has also been declining, with the Commonwealth chipping in 12 per cent less between 2011/12 and 2017/18.
That drop can be largely attributed to reductions in incentives in 2012/13 which weren’t improving skills outcomes, a clean-up of the VET fee-help scheme from 2016/17, and decreases in payments to states under a series of skills agreements.
States and territories invested 22 per cent less between the 2011 and 2017 calendar years.
“We need the VET system to work for everyone and we need it to work for them now,” Senator Cash said.
“Industry is crying out for a nationally consistent and flexible system and we as governments need to match that with cooperation and delivery.”