NCVER News-the impact of course durations, new podcast episode, and more

  • Vocational voices episode 2: Apprenticeships – should you believe the hype?
  • Apprentice and trainee completion rates decrease
  • Do course durations matter to training outcomes?
  • Government-funded training enrolments decline
  • New essays explain the development of the VET system
  • ‘No Frills’ presentations available
  • Coming soon
  • Upcoming events

EPISODE 2: Apprenticeships – should you believe the hype?

It’s hard to dispute that apprenticeships are an effective way for workers to develop skills while still earning a wage.

So why do apprenticeship numbers appear to be so dire?

Join host Steve Davis as he explores this issue in season 2, episode 2 of our brand new podcast series Vocational Voices.

Apprenticeship rates: should you believe the hype? features Ben Bardon, CEO, National Australian Apprenticeships Association, and Simon Walker, Managing Director, NCVER, who reveal that the situation is more nuanced than recent headlines might suggest.

Visit our Portal to listen to the episode and subscribe via your preferred platform.

Don’t forget: Season 1 is also available and includes a full back catalogue of our past podcast episodes.


Apprentice and trainee completion rates decrease

Completion rates for apprentices and trainees who commenced training in 2014 have decreased to 56.7% (down from 59.9% for those commencing in 2013).

Completion rates can vary considerably by occupation. For individuals who commenced in 2014, the completion rate for ICT professionals was 95%, and for food trades workers it was 41%.

Completion and attrition rates for apprentices and trainees 2018 tracks the outcomes of apprentices and trainees from when they commenced their training.

To learn more, download the report on our Portal.


Do course durations matter to training outcomes?

The relationship between course durations, training quality and outcomes is of great interest to the VET sector, including the students themselves.

Consultation with providers, regulators and industry peak bodies identified they consider course durations to be a key facilitating factor in a high-quality training program.

However, statistical analysis of the study’s qualifications of interest revealed that this issue is more complex.

To learn more, download the report on our Portal.


Government-funded training enrolments decline

There were 1.1 million students enrolled in the government-funded VET system in 2018, down 1.9% when compared with 2017.

Both hours of delivery and full-year training equivalents decreased by 6.4% when compared with 2017.

Demographically, 45.4% of government-funded VET students were aged 24 years and under in 2018, 49.0% were female, and 82.0% studied part-time.

The number of Indigenous students increased by 1.8% to 79 000, while the number of students with a disability remained similar to 2017 at 100 800.

Download the report on our Portal.


New essays explain the development of the VET system

In VOCEDplus, we assign the term ‘landmark’ to those key historical documents that have influenced VET’s development in Australia.

Last year, we created a timeline of these national landmark documents.

We’ve now released the first 2 of 10 historical overviews to explain the actual impact of these key documents:

Both essays and the timeline are available in the VOCEDplus VET Knowledge Bank.


‘No Frills’ presentations available

If you weren’t able to attend the 28th National VET Research Conference ‘No Frills’, held in Adelaide on 10-12 July 2019, copies of over 40 conference presentations are now available from NCVER’s international tertiary education research database, VOCEDplus.

Recordings of keynotes will be available on NCVER’s Portal shortly.


Coming soon

Stay tuned for the following new releases over the coming weeks:

  • LSAY infographic: Life at 24 – then and now
  • Statistics: Total VET students and courses 2018
  • Statistics: VET qualification completion rates 2017
  • Statistics: Government-funded students and courses Jan-Mar 2019

Keep an eye on Twitter and LinkedIn for more in-depth information on our latest releases, or subscribe to receive notifications on the day of release.


Upcoming events

Conference: National Apprentice Employment Network Conference 2019 
31 July – 2 August 2019, Gold Coast
Presenter: Lisel O’Dwyer will co-facilitate a masterclass on group training.

Conference: Independent Tertiary Education Conference
21-23 August 2019, Surfer’s Paradise
Presenters: Toni Cavallaro will speak on “Using NCVER data as a planning tool” and Genevieve Knight will speak on “VET and the return on investment“.

Symposium: Australian Travel Careers Council (ATCC) 2019 Symposium
3-4 September 2019, Sydney
Presenter: Phil Loveder will speak on “Understanding the future skills needs of the tourism, travel and hospitality services industry”.

Conference: 2019 National VET Conference
12-13 September 2019, Brisbane
Keynote: Managing Director Simon Walker will speak on “Transforming our understanding of the Australian VET system”.

Regulator: International students “vulnerable” to dodgy agents

Yesterday, the Australian Skills Quality Authority (ASQA) released its strategic review into international education, entitled Protecting the quality of international VET and English language education, which documents the explosive growth in international student enrolments along with a number of shortcomings in the tertiary education system.

First, the report notes the explosive growth in international students numbers across the various tertiary sectors, which has been concentrated in Sydney and Melbourne:

In 2018, there were more than 875,000 enrolments generated by almost 700,000 full-fee paying overseas students in Australia, across all education sectors. This represents a 10 per cent increase on 2017 and compares with an average annual enrolment growth rate of almost 11 per cent annually over the preceding five years. The majority of overseas students were enrolled in higher education courses, with China and India the top two source countries.

Overseas student growth has been strongest in the higher education and VET sectors in recent years, as shown by Figure 5. The largest volume of enrolments and commencements in 2018 were in higher education (45 per cent and 34 per cent, respectively) followed by VET (30 per cent and 30 per cent), ELICOS (18 per cent and 24 per cent) and the non-award sector (six per cent and eight per cent)…

The distribution of overseas students, and resulting economic activity, is concentrated in New South Wales which recorded 38 per cent of enrolments, followed by Victoria with 32 per cent… In 2018, 97 per cent of overseas students studied in a major city with the majority of these students studying in Sydney and Melbourne…

The fastest growing market for VET in 2018 was Nepal, with a 108 per cent growth rate from 2017. Myanmar was the next fastest growing market with a 58 per cent growth rate, followed by Mongolia (52 per cent) and Sri Lanka (50 per cent). Figure 7 shows the fastest growing source countries for the VET sector in 2018…

As shown above, growth in the VET sector has been driven by Nepal, who are also Australia’s third biggest international student source and the fastest growing, according to the Department of Home Affairs:

Inside Story’s economics correspondent, Tim Colebatch, recently warned that the flood of lower quality Nepalese students into Australia is degrading education standards:

…one source stands out: the little Himalayan country of Nepal, just thirty million people, living in one of Asia’s poorest countries.

In 2017–18, one in every 1500 inhabitants of Nepal emigrated to Australia. In an era of strict immigration controls, that is an astonishing number for two countries so far apart, with no common language, heritage or ethnicity.

Over the five years to mid 2018, one in every 500 Nepalis emigrated to Australia — and that’s in net terms, after deducting those who returned. In 2017–18, little Nepal became Australia’s third largest source of migrants after India and China…

Deregulation has allowed universities to selectively lower their standards to bring in more fee-paying foreign students, even when they fail to meet the thresholds for English language skills or academic achievement…

This is not the first time immigration from Nepal has surged. A decade ago, we saw a scam with training visas, in which “students” from India and Nepal came for training courses in Australia, then quickly vanished into the workforce. The scam saw net immigration set record levels in 2008–09, before then immigration minister Chris Evans shut it down. But most of those who came stayed on here.

At the current pace of immigration, Australia will soon have more residents born in Nepal than in Greece.

Next, the ASQA report warns that international students are especially vulnerable to “being misinformed, misled and, in the worst circumstances, open to exploitation” by dodgy and unregulated education agents, who accounted for around three-quarters of international student enrolments in 2017:

Education agents are an integral part of Australia’s overseas education sector. They represent education providers to students and advise prospective students on courses of study available to them in all education sectors.

There is no legal requirement under Australian law for providers or overseas students to engage an agent, but most do—agents facilitated almost 74 per cent of the total overseas student enrolments in 2017..

ASQA does not regulate migration agents or education agents. Unlike migration agents (onshore), education agents are a non-regulated sector and there are no official registration processes for becoming an education agent…

The drivers of this student demand are complex and relate to a range of interrelated factors, including the ability to work in Australia while undertaking study and post-graduation. Australia’s post-study work rights, and its work-rights settings, remain competitive.

The desire to pursue paid employment opportunities, even in breach of their visa conditions, is likely to motivate some students and introduces the risk that some providers and agents will seek to exploit this demand and recruit these overseas students using misleading and unethical practices.

Overseas students rely heavily on the assistance of education agents when making decisions and can lack reliable information to hold their providers and education agents to account. This dependence makes overseas students vulnerable to being misinformed, misled and, in the worst circumstances, open to exploitation by their providers, education agents and other third parties, such as employers.

… there are ongoing concerns expressed by some stakeholders and commentators about the quality and integrity of VET and ELICOS courses, especially where students are not properly engaged and participating in their study.

Many of these concerns centre on the potential for collusive activity between some providers, education agents and those students who seek to enter Australia for paid employment, rather than to engage in study. These practices can be difficult for regulators to detect, given that the parties involved are unlikely to make complaints to the Australian Skills Quality Authority (ASQA) or other government agencies…

Many education agents operate from foreign countries. There is no government regulatory oversight of education agents, and the quality of the services provided by agents is reliant on individual providers systematically monitoring the practices of their agents. This lack of oversight can make overseas students vulnerable to poor practices, including misleading marketing and advertising, by providers and agents that deliberately evade their obligations.

Some overseas students may also come under financial pressure once they are in Australia and find themselves in situations where they work more hours than they are entitled to under their student visa conditions. All overseas students who breach their student visa conditions, regardless of their intentions or motivations, can find themselves open to exploitation by unscrupulous providers, agents and employers…

It is these persistent concerns that led ASQA to identify delivery of VET and ELICOS courses to international students as a systemic risk…

There are risk factors specific to the overseas student sector, particularly in the VET sector, that can lead to poor provider behaviour. While many providers may display these risk factors and still operate effectively and reputably, ASQA did find that some providers deliberately avoid compliance and adopt poor practices…

ASQA also singled-out “ghost colleges” that enrol overseas students but do not ­require class attendance:

Regulatory activities conducted on some providers as part of the strategic review, and in ASQA’s wider regulatory work, identified one particular concern relating to overseas student class attendance. Investigation of this issue has found several instances of providers who are not requiring overseas students to attend scheduled classes, but who are still determining that these students are progressing in their course.

Overseas students are required to be enrolled in a full-time registered course to meet the study requirements of the student visa program…

Finally, ASQA indentified instances of institutions recruiting students with poor English proficiency in order to boost student numbers and revenue:

In conducting its regulatory activities, ASQA found instances of students who were enrolled in VET courses where their English language capabilities were limited.

In one example, the student, who was interviewed during a site visit of a provider, had to use non-verbal gestures to articulate basic statements and requested others to translate so the student could respond to questions. In this example, the student had been enrolled in a business qualification for more than 12 months, having been accepted with an English test type of ‘other form of testing which satisfies the institution’. It is clear this student did not have an appropriate level of English language capability either on enrolment or developed during study…

While the obligations are on the provider to ensure students have a sufficient level of English to complete the course they seek to enrol in, there is an opportunity for poor-quality providers to overlook limited English capability when enrolling a student to maximise their student enrolments inappropriately.

While ASQA claims the international student industry is operating reasonably well overall, these are definite holes in the system in dire need of improvement.

SOURCEAAP:https://www.macrobusiness.com.au/2019/08/regulator-international-students-vulnerable-dodgy-education-agents/

Marshall Govt’s VET plan will privatise TAFE by stealth

The Marshall Government’s new VET plan shows it is determined to sell South Australia’s TAFE system to the highest bidder and allow private training providers to line their own pockets at the expense of TAFE students.

The plan will give profit-seeking private training providers access to TAFE SA sites at the same time that TAFE budgets in South Australia are being slashed.

AEU Federal President Correna Haythorpe warned other states and territories not to follow suit, saying it would severely impact the ability of Australians to access affordable, high-quality vocational education. She said it would leave hundreds of thousands of trainees and apprentices across Australia at the mercy of profit-seeking private training providers.

“The Marshall Government’s agenda on vocational education is clear. It plans to wash its hands of responsibility for VET by privatising TAFE SA and allowing private training providers to line their pockets at the expense of students,” Ms Haythorpe said.

“It’s clear that big business is aligning with Liberal governments at both a state and federal level in a push to squeeze TAFE out completely and hand responsibility for vocational education to private providers.”

“The private sector’s idea of VET-sector competition is to drive down costs and standards and drive the ‘competition’-that means TAFE-out of business. Then it can jack up prices and force students to pay through the nose,” Ms Haythorpe said.

“TAFE is one of the crown jewels of the Australian education system. It has proudly provided vocational education for generations of Australians in everything from plumbing to nursing, childcare and IT.”

“The Marshall Government’s plan is a poorly-disguised bid by private training providers to line their own pockets at the expense of TAFE by hiding behind words like ‘choice’ and competition’,” Ms Haythorpe said.

Ms Haythorpe said that the Marshall Government’s new plan was the culmination of a years-long campaign to slash budgets and government support for TAFE SA:

  • SA government-funded VET student numbers have reduced from 150,000 in 2013 to just 63,000 in 2017
  • The SA Government’s total recurrent VET funding contribution has been cut by 40% since 2013, with recurrent VET expenditure per person now the second lowest in the country (after NSW)
  • Thirteen TAFE SA campuses have closed and more than 700 jobs have been lost, while moreTAFE campuses were earmarked for closure in the 2018 state budget

Ms Haythorpe said the moves by the Marshall Government to marginalise TAFE SA and favour private training providers were reflected nationally.

“Despite the clear and undisputed benefits that a robustly funded and administered public TAFE and vocational education sector provides our economy and our society, there has been a concerted and continual drive from successive Coalition governments to marginalise vocational education and deprioritise TAFE,” Ms Haythorpe said.

“This anti-TAFE push is gathering speed. In its first Federal Budget the Morrison Government included no additional specified funding for TAFE-amazingly, it failed to mention TAFE at all.”

“History has shown that private providers aren’t interested in quality education. ITECA represents profit-seeking private education providers and is focused on taking government TAFE funding and giving it to private providers,” Ms Haythorpe said.

Ms Haythorpe said that TAFE must remain a strong public provider of vocational education in Australia. She called upon the Morrison Government to:

  • Guarantee a minimum of 70% government funding to the public TAFE system. In addition, no public funding should go to private for-profit providers, consistent with other education sectors.
  • Restore funding and rebuild the TAFE system, to restore confidence in the quality of the courses and qualifications and the institution.
  • Abandon the failed student loans experiment, and cancel the debts of all students caught up in private for-profit provider scams.
  • Re-invest in the TAFE teaching workforce and develop a future-focused TAFE workforce development strategy in collaboration with the profession and unions.
  • Develop a capital investment strategy in consultation with state governments, to address the deplorable state of TAFE facilities around the country.
  • Support a comprehensive independent inquiry into TAFE.

“Any proposal which undermines the importance of the Commonwealth and state and territory governments working together to build a strong, vibrant, fully funded public TAFE will be fiercely opposed by the AEU,” Ms Haythorpe said.

/Public Release. View in full here.

Concerns for TAFE SA following MOU sell out

The Australian Education Union (SA Branch) has raised serious concerns over today’s announcement by Minister Gardner regarding the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding between TAFE SA and the Independent Tertiary Education Council of Australia (ITECA).

The agreement opens the door to private providers taking up residence at TAFE sites, directing policy and cherry picking the delivery of profitable courses.

ITECA is open about actively pursuing its reform agenda by increasing its private provider members’ share of the vocational education and training sector.

Australian Education Union South Australian President Howard Spreadbury is wary of how TAFE SA and ITECA will work together under this new agreement.

“The two organisations are in direct competition within the same market. Minister Gardner’s statement confirms he will allow private providers to further erode TAFE’s market share, compromise its independence and allow ITECA to push its own agenda,” said Mr Spreadbury.

Instead the AEU is calling for the Marshall Liberal Government to recognise the value of TAFE SA and to return appropriate investment levels, suggesting this would be a more effective way to make it more competitive and sustainable in the long term.

“TAFE SA is the largest provider of vocational education and training in the state and must be valued for its place within the community. TAFE SA provides quality education that is accessible to all, offering pathways for many who may otherwise miss out on opportunities.”

The AEU asserts that TAFE SA is already responsive to the needs of employers and works with industry groups to deliver quality training to build a skilled and sustainable workforce for South Australia.

There are concerns about how TAFE SA facilities may be used in the future. It may end up being more ‘competitive’ for TAFE SA under its new management to lease out its facilities rather than provide courses for students.

“It is like having a ‘fire sale’ after the place has been gutted. Instead of supporting and investing in TAFE SA, the Marshall Government is surrendering its responsibility and handing it over to private providers who are driven by profit,” said Mr Spreadbury.

“Letting private providers access taxpayer-funded facilities and set up in direct competition on TAFE SA’s own doorstep has the potential to undermine TAFE program delivery.”

/Public Release.

Australia’s VET system set to shape our future workforce

The Morrison Government’s renewed commitment to the Vocational Education and Training (VET) sector will make it central to shaping Australia’s workforce for the future.

Speaking at the 28th National Vocational Education and Training Research Conference today, Minister for Employment, Skills, Small and Family Business, Senator Michaelia Cash, said she would lift the profile of Australia’s VET sector and aim to make it the first choice in post-school learning for millions of Australians.

“It is a valuable career choice for many Australians and should not be seen as being something less important than a university degree,” Minister Cash said.

More than 4 million people undertook vocational education and training in 2017. At the end of last year, there were more than a quarter of a million apprentices and trainees.

“We know that people with VET qualifications are highly regarded and sought after by employers, but we need more people to choose VET as their path to success,” Minister Cash said.

“The Morrison Government already has in place a number of programs and tools designed to increase the profile of the sector and encourage more Australians to choose a VET qualification.

“These programs will be especially important because, as our economy evolves and our workforce changes, VET will be the way we train and re-train the workforce of the future.

Minister Cash also delivered a message to education providers of the VET sector that more cooperation with industry was required to create better outcomes for students.

“Employers look to vocationally trained workers because of their suitability in skills and experience. Australia’s VET system must better connect with industry, respond to community needs, and have clear, consistent funding.

And with the growth in the VET sector, Minister Cash said there was always room for improvements.

“The sector still bears some of the scars of Labor’s mismanagement of bad student loans, underfunded courses, quality issues and the diminishing of TAFE.

“It is this Government’s promise to continue the hard work of reforming the sector, providing better quality courses, and better outcomes for trainees and employers.”

The Australian Government’s $525 million Delivering Skills for Today and Tomorrow package announced in the April Budget will also ensure that the sector can help supply Australia’s future workforce.

The package provides every Australian with the opportunity to grow the skills needed to succeed in an evolving workforce and, concurrently offers employers a pipeline of qualified workers they need to grow and prosper.

Minister Cash said the package reflects the Morrison Government’s commitment to growing the number of new apprenticeships.

“Under our landmark skills package, up to 80,000 additional apprenticeships will be created over the next five years in priority skill shortage areas, assisted by new apprenticeship incentives. Youth unemployment will be targeted with an offering of 400 scholarships in regional Australia to the value of $8 million.

“The Government is committed to creating more than 1.25 million jobs over the next five years and I’m confident that more and more of the people filling these positions will be coming to employers through the VET system,” Minister Cash said.

/Public Release. View in full here.

Minister praises vocational study over uni

Michaelia Cash
Minister Michaelia Cash hopes to raise the profile of the vocational education and training sector. (AAP)

Skills and Employment Minister Michaelia Cash wants Australian students to choose vocational training over university study when they finish school.

The federal government hopes Australian students will put their hands up for vocational education over university study.

Skills Minister Michaelia Cash will on Thursday address the vocational education and training sector at a conference in Adelaide, outlining the Morrison government’s aims for the field.

Senator Cash hopes to raise the profile of the sector to ensure it’s the first pick for students choosing their next steps after high school.

“It is a valuable career choice for many Australians and should not be seen as being something less important than a university degree,” she will say.

“We know that people with VET qualifications are highly regarded and sought after by employers, but we need more people to choose VET as their path to success.”

Senator Cash will also urge education providers to work closer with industry to ensure students receive better training.

“Employers look to vocationally trained workers because of their suitability in skills and experience,” she will say.

“Australia’s VET system must better connect with industry, respond to community needs and have clear, consistent funding.”

There were more than 250,000 apprentices and trainees at the end of last year, while more than four million Australians undertook vocational education and training in 2017.

Under the Morrison government’s $525 million plan, up to 80,000 extra apprenticeships will be created over the next five years in areas with skills shortages.

Youth unemployment in regional Australia will also be combated, with 400 scholarships on offer to the value of $8 million.

ASQA To Give More Provider Support

Summary —

The Independent Tertiary Education Council Australia (ITECA) has received advice that the Australian Skills Quality Authority (ASQA) to provide more information and guidance to Registered Training Organisations as to how it conducts its regulatory activities in order to improve ongoing understanding of and compliance.

Key Issues —

The Expert Review of Australia’s Vocational Education and Training System commissioned by the Australian Government reviewed the work of ASQA and made several recommendations concerning the regulator’s activities. ITECA has received advice from the Minister for Employment, Skills, Small and Family Business, Sen. Hon Michaelia Cash, that a key recommendation concerning ASQA’s engagement with industry has been accepted.

The decision means that ASQA will be required to provide greater information and guidance to RTOs as to how it conducts its regulatory activities in order to improve ongoing understanding of and compliance with the regulatory requirements. The intended outcome is to reduce the cost and compliance burden to RTOs, something welcomed by ITECA.

During consultations undertaken to support the review, ITECA and key stakeholders were supportive, in-principle of ASQA as the national regulator for the VET sector. Across the sector there was a view that a single consistent national regulator is important for improving the reputation of, and confidence in, the vocational education sector. This was driven by an understanding that students and employers should be able to expect all RTOs meet the same standards across Australia.

The Expert Review of Australia’s Vocational Education and Training System noted with concern the quite surprising high levels of disquiet in the provider community about the way ASQA currently conducts its regulatory activity. Although there was an expectation that there is always some tension to be expected between the regulator and the regulated, the review concluded that the issues expressed in this case go beyond that sort of healthy tension.

ITECA supports the observation in the review that many providers worry whether ASQA will treat them fairly and reasonably during the audit process. Similarly, ITECA shares the conclusion in the review that providers have little understanding of the approach ASQA will take when it comes time for their next audit.

The Expert Review of Australia’s Vocational Education and Training System received advice that there was limited proactive engagement and guidance by ASQA and this left RTOs confused and worried about meeting requirements. Although ASQA’s regulatory standards are publicly available and the regulatory engages with the sector through regular newsletters, there is a feeling that the standards are difficult to understand and difficult to act on. Of some interest is that the Expert Review of Australia’s Vocational Education and Training System found the lack of information unsurprising. ASQA made it clear to the Review that it does not see its role as providing additional guidance and education to RTOs on its auditing process and compliance. It sees itself as purely a regulator and doesn’t believe it is funded to perform guidance and education functions.

The Expert Review of Australia’s Vocational Education and Training System determined that it is crucially important that guidance is provided by regulators to the regulated. The report commented that a measure of a good regulator is not so much who it catches out as ensuring that the whole regulated community is operating confidently and effectively within the regulations set by the governing jurisdiction.

Recommendation 3.2 of the Expert Review of Australia’s Vocational Education and Training System was that ASQA “to provide more information and guidance to Registered Training Organisations as to how it conducts its regulatory activities in order to improve ongoing understanding of and compliance with the Australian Skills Quality Authority requirements, and to reduce the cost and compliance burden to Registered Training Organisations”. This recommendation has been accepted by the Australian Government, a decision backed without qualification by ITECA.

ITECA is actively working with Minister Cash and the leadership of the Department of Employment, Skills, Small and Family Business on the implementation of the review to ensure that the experience and views of the ITECA membership are taken into account as the recommendations are implemented.

Member Engagement:

ITECA’s ability to play a lead role in matters associated with this issue rests on the advice and guidance of individuals serving on the ITECA Vocational Education Reference Committee.

Further Information:

For more information on this issue please send an email to vocational.education@iteca.edu.au or telephone 1300 421 017. Stay up to date via Twitter @ITECAust or via Facebook at www.facebook.com/ITECAust.

SourceAAP:https://www.iteca.edu.au/ITECA/Content/News/News_Archive/20190626_ASQA_To_Give_More_Provider_Support.aspx

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