The Committee for Economic Development of Australia (CEDA) is calling for a national review of the VET sector, claiming the area has been “significantly weakened” by recent scandals and a lack of focus from the government.
CEDA has put forth a number of recommendations to strengthen the sector, hoping the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) will consider them when discussing a new National Partnership on Skills Reform (NP). The recommendations coincide with the start of National Skills Week, which will run from August 29 until September 4.
The current NP concludes at the end of the next financial year. CEDA chief executive Professor the Hon. Stephen Martin says there “are currently no signs of how or if this will be extended,” which is a “significant issue”.
“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,” Martin says.
CEDA’s recommendations include a new VET agreement to be decided on by COAG and a comprehensive review done of the sector, with CEDA stating “holistic VET policy has been sorely missing”.
This review would include a look at where VET sits in the broader education sector, and an improving of national data quality to allow stakeholders to make better decisions. CEDA hopes this review would form the basis of a new agreement to be made once the NP expires.
Another primary recommendation is to broaden the skills provided by VET courses to provide better skills that are “transferable across occupational clusters”, with CEDA criticising the current courses as being “restrictive.”
CEDA believes a shift away from VET’s current training packages is needed to broaden skills taught. Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman Kate Carnell agrees.
“VET has got to be about paying for the skills you come out of the course with, not the fact that people did the course,” Carnell told SmartCompany.
“The system needs to be performance-based, you’re training people for jobs so it should be based on people getting jobs”.
The final recommendations involve further oversight to prevent fraudulent behaviour from some operators, and better training opportunities for those who want to become VET teachers.
CEDA believes regulators should be given the power to act if standards around student cohorts, provider performance and student outcomes are not being met. Carnell agrees, saying there should be a “focus on outcome not input”.
Council of Small Business Australia chief executive Peter Strong told SmartCompany the current VET system was a “disgrace,” which needs to be fixed “ASAP.”
“It’s run by the trainers for the trainers, there is no consideration for the people they are training,” Strong says.
“The best way to fix this is to design a system in conjunction with the small business community. In a world of budget problems, we don’t need more money spent on it, just better allocate the millions already available.”
CEDA has said a focus on working with industries themselves should be a high priority when conducting a VET review, claiming a disconnect with industry was a reason for the sector’s recent weakening.
Carnell cites some “extraordinarily bad policy decisions from both sides” as a reason for the sector’s dwindling, and believes there is “no doubt” closer work with industries is needed.
“Part of the national review has got to be about working with the business sector, both nationally and regionally,” Carnell says.
“Each region is different and has different requirements, and the governments need to recognise that. Courses offered need to be appropriate for the region, and that’s not necessarily how the current system works.”
There’s still a huge amount of work to be done, and there needs to be a fundamental change in the sector.”
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