Rethinking fundamental and familiar elements of VET infrastructure

When Australia’s skills ministers met in November 2017 they agreed to release Training product reform: What is the case for change? (21 pages). Released on 12 December, the discussion paper is a prompt for national consultation about training product design. Signs are the consultation will open up training packages to new content and new structures.

It’s useful to read the consultation guide as a companion piece to the discussion paper. The guide, Training product reform: Issues for discussion (10 pages), lists 39 questions grouped into nine sections focused on particular aspects of proposed reform. Of interest to VET professionals is number 12:

  • Does the current VET workforce have the skills to deliver these units? What, if any, upskilling would be required?

What units, you ask?

Technical skills, foundation skills and future work skills

The discussion paper suggests training packages be repackaged with three kinds of units of competency – technical skills units, foundation skills units, and future work skills units. Technical skills remain at the heart of the training enterprise. But every accredited qualification or skillset would also include related foundation skills and future work skills units.

The proposition is that on enrolment a learner ‘assessed as competent at the relevant level in future work or foundation skills would not be required to undertake these specific units.’ The units would vary according to industry requirements.

Foundation skills are familiar – language literacy and numeracy skills, digital literacy skills and employability skills like collaboration, problem solving, self-management and learning skills. Familiar though they are, the discussion paper suggests that under the new design ‘the expectation that foundation skills units form part of a qualification would be more explicit.’

And future work skills? They could include emotional intelligence, self-awareness and perseverance. We’re not sure yet. The discussion paper plays a wait and see card: ‘Further consultations will help determine the skills needed for future workplaces that are not currently being addressed within VET.’ Broadly, the notion is that work is becoming more contingent – more part time jobs, more casual arrangements, more self-employment, more short term contracts. As the nature of work is changing, and as we are working longer, workers need skills that assist them to manage their own labour market competitiveness, including managing their own training, retraining and upskilling.

Other reform proposals

The proposals cover many aspects of training packages as we now know them. Skillsets are up for reconsideration, given a perception their potential is undersold because they are not linked well enough to qualifications, particularly for upskilling purposes.

We’ve become used to industry boundaries for training packages. The discussion paper is not suggesting upsetting the applecart so much as varying the fruit on offer. Why not group qualifications in other ways as well, such as to address geographical/regional needs, specific labour market needs or national priorities? Fair question.

You have until 9 March to make a submission to the public consultation process. The submission response form is downloadable here.