On 3 August, L H Martin launched a series of papers on VET issues. The topics covered were diverse, so probably there is something for everybody.
L H Martin’s Director, Professor Leo Goedegebuure introduced the papers and presented some overall findings from the series. Here is what was covered, and where you can find out more.
What are these papers about?
Authored by some of the VET sector’s best-known researchers these nine papers provide a range of perspectives from overviews to the more particular. The paper by Ruth Schubert, Leo Goedegebuure and Lynn Meek critically examines Australian post-secondary education and considers how it could be ‘revisioned’ and move forward. Another by Anne Jones focuses more on the VET system and asks whether the present model is fit for the future.
Others deal with marketisation, and particularly how this issue was dealt with in New South Wales over three decades and then, more generally, how those who advocated a training market “failed to apply economic analysis to VET in Australia to determine its suitability for contracting out and the incentives driving participation and behaviour of many training market members.” The first paper of these two papers was authored by Robin Shreeve & Joanna Palser; the second by Phil Toner. Shreeve and colleagues point out that “New South Wales was a comparatively resistant adopter of … reforms instigated through intergovernmental funding agreements.”
Francesca Saccaro & Robin Wright take a hard look at “what went wrong” with VET FEE-HELP. They conclude that:
“…the design was badly flawed, and it enabled an environment where VET fees increased, unscrupulous providers flourished, students were burdened with debt without commensurate outcomes and budgets of government were drained. This has not surprisingly has caused the public to be cynical and cautious about vocational education.”
VET’s funding and its levels have always been an issue, and Gerald Burke examines it in terms of the variety of funding sources, and their effects on enrolments, efficiency, effectiveness, equity and quality. Speaking of equity and disadvantage George Myconos, Eric Dommers & Kira Clarke argue that to overcome many of the sector’s shortcomings in this area, “policymakers and provider communities must first affirm equity and access as central to the sector’s core business.”
Competency-based Training has underpinned Australian VET since the late 1980s and early 90s. Steven Hodge examines its attractions but a range of criticisms and shortcomings have been highlighted by a number of VET researchers and other stakeholders.
The big messages
Ruth Schubert and her colleagues argue that what we don’t need is continued uncertainty about the sector. What is needed is a long term and stable vision, acknowledging the diversity of VET’s mission and supported by multi-year funding going well beyond election cycles. This will require significant culture change not only by VET but also a number of its key stakeholders. Australia’s current vocational education model is not delivering the broader set of capabilities needed in the twenty-first century workforce. So, this begs the question raised in several of the papers and elsewhere: Have Training Packages now reached their ‘use by’ date? Do we also need to revision of tertiary education in the light of both the Kangan and Bradley reviews?