National review needed into the ‘forgotten middle child of education’

by L&D31 Aug 2016
VET results in vital grassroots skills, however scandals and a disconnect with industry have undermined it, according to the Committee for Economic Development of Australia  (CEDA) Chief Executive, Stephen Martin.

“That is why CEDA’s report is calling for a comprehensive national review of the sector to underpin COAG discussions to reach a new National Partnership on Skills Reform,” Professor Martin said.

He said that the conclusion of the Commonwealth-State funding agreement for VET in 2017, and the lack of signs of how or if this will be extended, is a major issue for the sector.

The report called the sector the ‘forgotten middle child of education’ and made the following recommendations:

• Improving data and transparency of data to help stakeholders make more
informed decisions;
• Shifting from narrowly defined qualifications to broader sets of skills transferable across occupational clusters;
• An increased focus on delivering Certificate III and Diploma qualifications to
better align with industry needs;
• Strengthening regulatory oversight and ensuring regulators have the power to
act if standards are not being met; and
• Providing national information around providers, pricing, qualifications, audit
findings and satisfaction survey results to the public.

Professor Martin added that the Federal government is on the right track in cutting off dodgy private operators with poor outcomes from utilising VET FEE-HELP.

“The skyrocketing VET FEE-HELP costs have been concentrated to a relatively small number of private operators and must be fixed. However, what is equally concerning is the drastically plummeting enrolments in government supported providers," he said.

He also argued that there needs to more work with industry to ensure courses are aligned with the labour market so students have real employment outcomes on completion of a course.

“There also needs to be more focus on teaching broad-based skills competency that are transferable across occupational clusters, rather than narrowly focused courses that are too restrictive in a rapidly evolving labour market,” he said.

Professor Martin said there are also many positives about VET.

“It has already shown that it can be responsive to Australia’s skill requirements by increasing the delivery of courses providing qualifications in childcare, aged care and disability care as demand has rapidly increased in the services sector of the economy,” he said.

“With the right policy settings, this sector is well positioned to meet the workforce challenges posed by digital disruption and automation and continue delivering skills needed by industry.

“As Australia faces coming decades of rapid technological change, which will require reskilling and new skills, our education sector needs to be strong at every level.

“The scandals in recent years in the VET sector, despite only relating to a small number of operators, have done significant reputational damage and it is now vital that the sector is supported to rebuild.”

Meanwhile, it was recently announced that about one-third of subsidised training courses in Victoria will lose public funding. This will result in the number of courses falling from about 1500 to 1000.
The idea was to eliminate training courses which don’t lead to meaningful job prospects.
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‘Dead end’ training courses in Victoria to be ditched