Quality in VET: more complicated than you’d think

The definition of ‘quality’ when describing the national vocational education and training (VET) system can vary widely according to stakeholder group and expected training outcomes, according to new research released today by the National Centre for Vocational Education Research (NCVER).

The report Are we all speaking the same language? Understanding ‘quality’ in the VET sector examines how five key stakeholder groups – learners, employers, providers, government and regulators – define quality in the VET system by exploring what is important to each of these groups and what the barriers and enablers are for a system that meets their expectations.

“The concept of ‘quality’ is often raised in discussions about the Australian VET system so it’s important to understand that it means different things depending on who you speak to,” said Dr Craig Fowler, Managing Director, NCVER.

“Quality is context and purpose-specific; it’s as much subjectively in the ‘eye of the beholder’ as it is objectively assessed through data, measures and surveys”.

The research found that for students, quality means obtaining the right skills to get a job, while for employers it means staff with the correct workplace skills. For training providers it’s about optimal outcomes for all their clients coupled with their reputation and viability, while for regulators it’s about those providers meeting national standards.

“VET has multiple purposes, and can be considered at the system, provider and qualification levels. This makes measuring and explaining quality in the sector deceptively difficult,” Dr Fowler said.

“If there is common ground in defining quality in VET it is that its learner-centric – learners experiencing training where they fully achieve and have confidence in the skills they have trained for and are expected to hold.”

The report Are we all speaking the same language? Understanding ‘quality’ in the VET sector and a companion piece, Factors that drive RTO performance: an overview, are now available from www.ncver.edu.au/publications.

This work has been produced by NCVER on behalf of the Australian Government and state and territory governments, with funding provided through the Australian Government Department of Education and Training.

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