In addition to the 2019-20 budget April 2 also saw the release of the independent review of Australia’s vocational education and training (VET) sector led by the Honourable Steven Joyce.

Its aim was to examine ways to deliver skilled workers for a stronger economy, and its findings have helped advise what has been proposed for VET in the federal budget.

The review

The review, announced in late November 2018, “set out to conduct a health check of the Australian VET sector to determine how ready it is to step up to the challenge of training more Australians, now and in the future.” It called for submissions and 192 valid ones were received. Consultations were held in every State and Territory capital city, and both Ballarat and Cairns over a 23-day period. Those consulted included:

“Commonwealth, State and Territory Ministers; Commonwealth and State and Territory departments; the Shadow Minister for Skills, Technical and Further Education (TAFE) and Apprenticeships; peak bodies; industry; VET providers; small businesses; unions; key position holders in the VET sector; and others with experience in the VET field.”

Student views were also captured through a survey, especially those aged 17 to 22.

The findings and recommendations

What the review found was “slow qualification development, complex and confusing funding models, and ongoing quality issues with some providers were cited as issues that needed addressing.” In addition, the review found that careers education, VET in schools and access for disadvantaged learners also needed attention.

The review made 71 recommendations centred around a six-point plan for change. The six focus points for the review are (1) strengthening quality assurance, (2) speeding up qualification development, (3) simplifying funding and skills matching, (4) better careers information, (5) clearer secondary school pathways, and (6) greater access for disadvantaged Australians.

What’s proposed?

Joyce proposes strengthening ASQA and quality assurance in the sector, piloting a new business-led model of Skills Organisations for qualification development, extending work-based VET further into less traditional areas and “establishing a new National Skills Commission to start working with the States and Territories to develop a new nationally-consistent funding model based on a shared understanding of skills needs.”

These messages are reflected in the 2019-20 budget papers which are summarized in another article in this issue of VDC News.

Other messages for the new budget are clearly there too, including establishing a new National Careers Institute, creating new vocational pathways for introduction into senior secondary schools, providing new support for second chance learners needing foundation language, literacy, numeracy and digital skills and “revamping and simplifying apprenticeship incentives to increase their attractiveness to employers and trainees.”

The review envisions a series of early and medium-term actions as part of its roadmap to develop a “trusted, dynamic and adaptive sector delivering Australia’s skill needs.” Thus, it recommends:

“the Commonwealth, States and Territories meet early to develop an agreed vision and a strategic plan which addresses all the recommendations over the next five to six years.”

But we have an election in May and a promised review of VET by the present Labor opposition also outlined in their national Platform: A Fair Go for all Australians.