There is an image of an echidna on the cover of the interim report. This, they say, is “to signify that there are ‘spikey’ ideas in the report.”
It also notes that:
“Australia’s skills needs are growing and changing fast, with industry needs evolving and requiring skills and knowledge that cross the boundaries of our education sectors. Higher education is not currently well aligned with the VET system. Places, pathways, credit for prior learning and articulation, funding and regulation are fragmented across different institutions, levels of government, industries and places.”
Naturally, the report is very higher education focused, and what is being proposed is worth a look even if readers don’t get beyond the Executive Summary! However, there are 94 times that VET is mentioned. TAFE gets over 20 mentions as well. Let’s see what ‘spikey things’ they have to say about VET!
What are the messages for VET?
The report notes that “jobs that previously required VET qualifications will also require higher order thinking and people to engage in lifelong learning; likewise, jobs that previously relied on higher education may increasingly value specific vocational skills.” Thus,
“Australia’s skills needs will only be met if the higher education system and an expanded VET system, with TAFE at its core, work together within a more integrated system to deliver the flexible, transferable skills people want and need.”
A national Skills Passport or similar may be one approach that could be used to document what people have studied and done, the report suggests. This would enable Australians “to have their full range of qualifications, micro credentials, prior learning, workplace experience and general capabilities recognised across the education and training system and in the employment market.”
In the Panel’s view other issues relevant to VET need further consideration, including:
- “the creation of a universal learning entitlement that helps all Australians access high-quality tertiary education and makes lifelong learning a reality
- examining new and effective mechanisms for rapid reskilling, including micro credentials
- improving the integration of higher education and VET to create new types of qualifications – starting in areas of national priority – like clean energy, the care economy, and defence
- improving skills pathways by creating qualifications that are more modular, stackable and transferable between institutions and institution types
- increasing access to preparatory and enabling programs to provide more pathways into higher education
- addressing barriers that prevent VET and higher education working together, especially in courses and institutions that involve both sectors, and
- continually working towards an aligned tertiary education system, including encouraging parity of esteem between the VET and higher education sectors.”
Implementing the proposed new AQF arising from the Noonan Report is therefore a priority, the Panel believes so that “higher education and vocational education will be connected through pathways, partnership and an up to date qualifications framework.” This would also enable re-skilling and lifelong learning “to be provided through more modular, stackable qualifications, including micro credentials, with full scaffolding and pathways.”
Commentary on the interim report to date
This commentary is emerging, of course, as the report is only newly published. An article authored by Gwilym Croucher in The Conversation entitled “Many Australians will need to study at both TAFE and Uni: how do we get the two systems working together?” notes the importance of alignment and collaboration in tertiary education. It’s worth a read.
Another, by Craig Fowler (a former MD of NCVER) published in Future Campus notes that HE and VET “are differing, yet connected and complementary sectors that span the post schooling tertiary education system. But it’s their connection; why and how the ‘twain might better meet’; that matters.” Areas in which they should meet better than at present, he suggests, are funding and financing, regulation, policy leadership and authorities, better integrated data and reporting, institutional products and types and finally educational products and content.
Finally, there also seems to be some push back already given the extent of the changes proposed by the interim report. “What are the real priorities? How will it be funded?” seem to be amongst the questions being raised.
An earlier VDC News item looked at the discussion paper which preceded the interim report, and was the catalyst for a consultation and submissions process (You can access the submissions received here.)
Following the release of the Interim Report, the Panel is now inviting interested stakeholders to provide feedback and insights through a submissions process that readers can access here. A final report is due in December this year.