This latest paper from the SA Government comes at a time of significant skill shortages in the state. Indeed, and as the paper notes, “VET has a central role to play in enabling more South Australians to gain qualifications and take up well paid and valued jobs.” Thus,

“It outlines a reform agenda to achieve this vision and underscores the importance of partnerships and shared responsibilities for outcomes.”

These key reforms are outlined in the Premier’s press release about the policy and include:

  • “A stronger focus on learner wellbeing and completions – rather than focusing solely on commencements.
  • Moving to a managed training system with greater government direction on where investment goes – better aligned to skills need and state priorities …
  • Placing TAFE SA at the centre of the skills system to deliver on government priorities, ensure regional communities have access to training, and drive collaboration with other training providers – with a strong role for not-for-profit, industry and other non-government training providers to complement TAFE SA’s public provider role.
  • Having a greater emphasis on ensuring the quality and integrity of training providers and employers.
  • Requiring employers, unions, and industry to actively engage.”

The important agencies in driving all of this are seen to be Skills SA and TAFE SA.

Key foci are skilled people who “drive productivity and competitiveness in established and emerging industry sectors such as construction, defence, renewable energy, information technology, advanced manufacturing, and space.” And, of course, apprentices and trainees are an important part in all of this. However, there are issues. These include improving completion rates, and this requires:

“Clear reforms to learner support to nurture learners prior to their commencement, and throughout their journey. It is important that we expand on what is currently being done to support learners at all stages of their journey, so that more learners can achieve their goals and transition into work or further study.”

Thus, “Skilled. Thriving. Connected. will trial, evaluate and scale innovative and best practice approaches to help more learners successfully complete their training and transition to employment and further education. This includes a focus on learners who are facing barriers and those historically underrepresented in the workforce, informed by the recommendations in the National VET Completions report.”

It’s about supporting learner journeys. This includes include the assessment of:

  • “the suitability of the course, considering the learner’s pathway and current capabilities, including a clear understanding of the learner’s purpose for study,
  • the learner’s foundation skills capabilities, and
  • any vocational and non-vocational support needs.”

Foundation skills are also an issue, and, according to the paper, an enhanced focus on them will contribute to the improvement of:

  • “retention in training and completion,
  • workforce productivity, including employability skills, and
  • social participation.”

It’s also about closing the gap. Thus “Skills SA will work with Aboriginal communities and peak bodies to support training pathways for Aboriginal learners seeking to build, deepen or broaden their skills.”

A thriving South Australia

Support a thriving South Australia, Skilled will focus on:

  • planning for economic and social priorities, including taking advantage of emerging economic opportunities and through digital transformation
  • adopting a partnership approach, which includes building the capability and capacity of training providers to deliver high quality training in areas of need
  • supporting employers and industry to engage in skills development, including through the development of training products and programs to support skill development, improved training delivery and by providing safe and high-quality apprenticeships and traineeships. This process will also involve the provision of work placements, and engagement with training providers to inform quality training delivery and learner outcomes.
  • using place-based approaches, and with a regional focus in particular, and finally
  • making effective use of VET data and evidence, noting that it’s recognized that “timely access to better-quality VET data and regular engagement with stakeholders and customers supports decision making and will lead to more effective responses to industry skill needs.”

Access to subsidized training will also be a focus, noting that it’s not just full entry and higher level qualifications that will be supported but also short courses (including skill sets and clusters) or pre-vocational qualifications, fee free foundation skills training and micro-credentials “to support upskilling, re-skilling and skills broadening that are recognised by industry.” Overall, the aim is to have flexible and responsive training and training products.

Finally, the policy highlights the need for quality training providers of all types – public, private, community and industry based who, in turn, need to have a quality workforce. This means a look at purchasing arrangements for training to ensure effective provision and as well as making SA’s contribution to the national VET workforce blueprint. Flexible and responsive training is needed, the policy suggests.