An Australian Parliament Committee recognises VET as a key innovation player

VET is an innovation driver for Australia, and that’s as true in STEM fields (science, technology, engineering and maths) as it is in disability care and horticulture.

An article in the last VDC newsletter quoted a 2015 report from the Office of the Chief Scientist:

‘Of the STEM-qualified population, approximately two thirds held Vocational Education and Training (VET) qualifications, while one third were higher education graduates with bachelor degrees or higher.’

Given VET’s foundational innovation role in STEM and other fields, it was curious that VET was absent from one of the Commonwealth government’s main policy initiatives, the National Innovation and Science Agenda (NISA) released in December 2015. Support for VET in the innovation arena came via a report from the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Employment, Education and Training.

Innovation and creativity: Inquiry into innovation and creativity: Workforce for the new economy (166 pages) covers a lot more ground than this brief article can hope to capture. VET is a focus of chapter 3 (34 pages), and at least 13 of the report’s 38 recommendations have a direct bearing on VET. Still a lot of ground, but let’s choose three cards from the pack.

Recognising VET’s role

First, on that question of lack of recognition for VET in NISA, the Committee’s report deals succinctly with that omission:

‘The Committee recommends [Recommendation 16] that the Australian Government’s National Science and Innovation Agenda be expanded to include the VET sector.’

Slow accreditation processes

A second card is about innovation in the VET system itself. Navitas told Committee members it takes ‘at least a year, sometimes 18 months’ to design a new course and secure ASQA accreditation.

The Committee’s response to this old news was simple and refreshing. It recommends ‘a 12 month benchmark for accreditation of new courses.’ Perhaps more interesting is this:

‘The Committee recommends that ASQA and training package designers move towards real time curricula development; allowing real-time course updates that reflect the rapidly changing skill requirements in the workforce.’

Integrating tertiary education

The final card is a complicated play. Much of chapter 3 considers how Australia might achieve a better integrated tertiary education system. (Though it’s disappointing the report sometimes speaks about tertiary education as if it comprises universities alone rather than VET and higher education.) One part of Recommendation 26 is worth noting:

‘The Committee recommends that Skills Service Organisations… require VET providers to link the competencies developed in certificate IV, diploma and other VET qualifications to corresponding bachelor degrees.’

Obviously that will require VET and higher education providers to cooperate closely rather than play sector solo.