A respected, non-partisan Australian policy organisation calls for a comprehensive national review of vocational education and training.
For more than 50 years, the Committee for Economic Development of Australia (CEDA) has been a thoughtful and respected contributor to national economic and social policy debates. In the last year or so it has issued research papers on matters as diverse as the profile of Australia’s future workforce and addressing entrenched disadvantage in Australia.
CEDA is calling for a comprehensive national review of VET
Such matters are part and parcel of VET’s mission so it’s not surprising that CEDA has now issued a report on VET itself. The report, VET: Securing skills for growth (122 pages), makes an unequivocal case for the importance of VET in Australia’s economic and social prosperity. It also pulls no punches in asserting that the VET system is under pressure due to inconsistent policy and funding arrangements at national, state and territory levels. The time for action is tight as CEDA’s Chief Executive, Stephen Martin, makes clear in the report’s Foreword:
CEDA has undertaken this report because we recognise the importance of this sector and the need to get policy settings right to ensure it continues to support Australia’s economic sustainability. This report offers 10 recommendations to get the VET sector back on track.
The key recommendation is that a comprehensive national review of the sector needs to be undertaken to underpin COAG discussions to reach a new National Partnership on Skills Reform (NP), as the current NP will expire next year.
The current National Partnership was agreed by the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) in 2012. It concludes in June 2017 and, as Martin also notes, ‘there are currently no signs of how or if this will be extended’.
The report reminds us that a national review of VET was last conducted in 1974 when the Kangan Report was completed. By contrast, the Gonski review of the school sector was completed in 2011, and the Bradley review of the higher education sector was completed in 2008. CEDA likens VET to the middle child:
In Australia’s education landscape, VET is like a forgotten middle child, squeezed between schools (which tend to get a lot of policy attention, like the youngest child) and universities (which tend to get the prestige and status, like the oldest child). There is no doubt that the VET sector has a lower status in Australia.
The report’s recommendations have direct relevance for the work of teachers, trainers and assessors. They include:
- VET qualifications should shift from narrowly-defined qualifications to ‘vocational streams’ or occupational clusters that enable the teaching of a broader set of skills
- The VET sector should increasingly focus on the provision of Certificate IIIs and Diplomas to allow the sector to strengthen its labour market connections and work more effectively with students and industry
- Providing better training for those studying to become VET teachers, and/or ensuring that VET instructors are appropriately qualified and experienced (that is, have teaching and industry experience).
Other recommendations focus on regulation, funding arrangements, and providing better information so that prospective students can make informed decisions about courses, costs and providers.
CEDA’s inclusive approach
In keeping with CEDA’s non-partisan approach, the report includes six chapters from a diverse group of authors, all of whom are signed up to the need for a concerted national policy approach.
The chapters are:
- ‘Getting over middle child status’ by Dr Damian Oliver – Deputy Director, Centre for Management and Organisation Studies, University of Technology Sydney Business School;
- ‘Keeping TAFE the VET centrepiece’ by Linda Simon – casual academic Charles Sturt University; National Convenor, Women in Adult and Vocational Education (WAVE); member of Executive Committee, Australian Vocational Education and Training Research Association (AVETRA);
- ‘Quality and choice: securing Australia’s workforce skills’ by Rod Camm – Chief Executive Officer, Australian Council for Private Education and Training
- ‘Vocational learning in schools: an international comparison’ by Megan O’Connell, Policy Program Director, Mitchell Institute, and Kate Torii, Policy Analyst, Mitchell Institute;
- ‘The role of industry in VET’ by Martin Riordan – CEO, TAFE Directors Australia;
- ‘VET: finance and quality’ by Professor Gerald Burke – Monash University.
More about the report
Stephen Martin provides an idea of the report’s scope in his brief blog post of 1 September. He makes particular reference to: rethinking apprenticeship models; capitalising on the export opportunities of the VET sector; improving career advice for students; and better aligning VET with industry and job outcomes.
The report was launched at separate events in capital cities around Australia. CEDA has uploaded three videos from the Melbourne launch which you can access by scrolling down this page. The videos are:
- Speech by Victoria’s Minister for Training and Skills, Steve Herbert (27 minutes)
- A question and answer session with Minister Herbert following his speech (5 minutes)
- A panel session (45 minutes) chaired by Stephen Martin – panellists are Louis Dudley (Managing Director, BUPA Aged Care Australia), Nick Dickinson (General Manager, Human Resources, Metro Trains), Rod Camm (Chief Executive Officer, Australian Council for Private Education and Training), and Sara Caplan (Chief Executive Officer, Skills for Australia, PwC).