Improving outcomes, regulation and oversight, providing certainty in funding and recognising its importance in skilling people for the jobs of the future are critical recommendations in CEDA’s latest research on the forgotten middle child of education – VET.
Releasing CEDA’s latest research report VET: securing skills for growth, CEDA Chief Executive, Professor the Hon. Stephen Martin said VET delivered vital grassroots skills that industry needed but scandals and a disconnect with industry had significantly weakened this important tier of the education sector.
“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.
“The imminent conclusion of the Commonwealth-State funding agreement for VET (National Partnership on Skills Reform) next year, and the fact that there are currently no signs of how or if this will be extended, is a significant issue for the sector.
“Comments from the Federal Minister for Education Senator Simon Birmingham last week suggest that the government is taking the right approach to cutting off dodgy private operators with poor outcomes from utilising VET FEE-HELP. However, much more needs to be done.
“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.”
Professor Martin said there needs to be a refocus on working with industry to ensure courses are being linked with the labour market to ensure 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 were many positives about VET and it had proven itself an adaptive and agile tier of the education sector.
“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.”
The CEDA report also recommends:
- Improving data and transparency of data to help stakeholders make more informed decisions;
- 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.