On 2 November 2021, the National Centre for Vocational Education Research (NCVER) turned 40!

It started life in 1981 as the TAFE National Centre for Research and Development, with an initial staff of around 11 and a focus on research and development, including the development of national core curricula.

The Centre has put out a 40th anniversary publication, but this is not the first one of its type. Another was published for the 20th anniversary celebrations and you can access that one here.

The early days were interesting as there was not really much research capacity in the sector, although there were research branches in a number of the state jurisdictions. It also wasn’t an area of research that the higher education institutions were interested in, but there were some notable exceptions especially amongst those institutions that provided TAFE teacher training. (In reality, VET was pretty much TAFE back then!)

NCVER has been important in conducting and reporting VET research. Indeed, as the wonderful Kaye Schofield, a former NCVER Board member and TAFE CEO noted in the 20th anniversary publication:

“When I think about the VET sector I entered in 1980, the phrase ‘evidence-free’ springs immediately to mind. The very idea that policy and practice should draw on research was alien. Concepts such as knowledge management and the information society were not yet invented. We have all travelled a long road since then and NCVER has been a wonderful companion on our journey. The high regard in which Australia’s VET sector is held nationally and internationally is due in no small measure to NCVER’s determination to build research capability within the sector.”

NCVER’s role has expanded over the years to embrace the national VET statistical collection, running surveys to gather information about the sector’s performance from students and employers and finally administering the national VET research program. Later initiatives have included running the Longitudinal Survey of Australian Youth – or LSAY.

As the 40th birthday publication notes:

“NCVER has grown to 110 highly skilled staff spread across our core functions of research and data analytics, statistics and system support and global information management at our Adelaide central business district headquarters. Today, NCVER conducts and manages research under a set of national research priorities determined through the Skills Senior Officials Network (SSON), a group comprising of senior Commonwealth, and state and territory officials.”

An enduring aspect of the Centre’s work from its earliest days has been the VOCED database which expanded over the years to cover international research and is now a repository for so much useful VET research and other documentation. It has got better and better at doing this too, and VOCEDplus, its latest manifestation, is a rich mine of useful information and insights about all things VET. As one admirer notes:

“Thank you for VOCEDplus, which must be the most comprehensive resource of vocational education related research on the planet!”

NCVER looks forward to the future and will be releasing “new surveys and reports which feature a larger range of innovative products suited to different users and explores new data linkage opportunities to examine employment outcomes for students selecting a VET pathway, and uses advanced data analytics to better understand VET student outcomes for vulnerable groups in our society.”

Hugh Guthrie, consultant writer for VDC, worked at NCVER from 1987 until 2011, so he was around for the 10th, 20th and 30th birthdays! Hugh told VDC News, “It’s a wonderful asset for the sector, and as regular readers of VDC News will know, a rich source for the articles that VDC publishes.”

Congratulations NCVER! Happy birthday and VDC hopes you have many more of them.