The Victorian Skills for Victoria’s Growing Economy Review has released its issues paper, and it’s well worth a read. While In New South Wales a Review on the VET Sector is headed David Gonski AC and Professor Peter Shergold AC, and its report is due in July this year.

The Macklin Review issues paper

In an earlier article we alerted you to Jenny Macklin’s review of Victoria’s post-secondary education system. The Review’s website lets you access the issues paper in PDF format, and it is also available in Word.

The paper puts the review in context, and that is “to ensure [that Victorians] have access to the skills they need for the jobs of the future.” This will need “a world class VET system”.

However, the paper also takes a broader view than just VET, so the context really covers Victoria’s emerging needs and how those might be addressed by the broader post-secondary sector. An early section provides an overview of post-secondary education in the state and the issues impacting Victoria’s economy and broader society – especially those facing inequality or disadvantage. In addition, it notes that Australia’s labour market is changing and has ‘hollowed out’. We will also see more frequent job changes and more learning through life so that people “gain skills, reskill or upskill throughout their lives.” This, the paper argues, will lead to more education and training hours being required.

The review is seeking input from key groups: students, families and communities; providers; industry and unions and researchers. It is now entering a period of stakeholder consultation from March until May, not made any easier by Coronavirus. They are also seeking submissions, and the issues paper outlines some of the key questions for each stakeholder group that may provide a focus for their submissions. That process finishes in June.

The issues

It then raises a range of issues for each of the interest groups, especially governments, students, providers, and industry and unions. For governments, the issues include a focus on equality and excellence, system stability to develop a long-term vision for VET, accountability to “ensure we have a system of trusted, well-regulated, high-quality public and private providers accountable for public funding”, with that funding needing “to be less complex [and] sustainable” to allow providers to plan for the future. Finally, governments need to work towards and ensure effective system governance at all levels.

For students, they want to transition from their training to get a good job, but they also need better information, especially about their VET options, to help them decide what course it is best for them to study in the first place. Completion rates need to be improved, the paper suggests, but there also needs to be a better understanding of why students don’t complete. The paper also points out that students are being charged widely variable fees, and this needs to be looked at. It argues that improvements in the quality of course delivery are also needed and “issues and inefficiencies in course design, curriculum, assessment, and certification” addressed. Finally, there are accessibility issues and lack of choice for those outside the metropolitan area. Better support is needed for vulnerable learners too, including those lacking essential literacy and numeracy skills.

Providers have been affected by what is seen in the paper as a failed free-market model that deeply affected the Victorian VET system beginning in the late 2000s. The paper sees TAFE as a vital component of the system, and there are problems with infrastructure, buildings and equipment that need addressing. Maintaining old infrastructure can be costly, and VET students also need access to industry-current equipment. Excellence and innovation is also needed, the paper says, and some specialisation by particular providers is proposed. However, providers are only as good as their staff, so it argues that a “workforce development strategy [is needed] that will ensure an adequate supply of high-quality, industry-relevant teachers and assessors.” In addition, the paper proposes that providers need to work together more collaboratively. Finally, it suggests:

“The uneven policy and funding environment across VET, higher education and adult community education has meant that parts of the sector have grown, while others have struggled or declined.”

Industry and unions have their part to play too. But consultations to date reveal these stakeholders are looking for the system to deliver certain things too, for example work-ready graduates. On the other hand, the paper suggests the need for industry and unions to engage effectively with providers. Partnerships are part of this too, and: “The best partnerships between industry and education and training providers [will] boost innovation for all parties involved.” Finally, the paper maintains there is a need for a fair co-investment between industry and government.

A previous issue of the TAFE Directors Australia Monday newsletter summarises this issues paper too. Worth a look as well for another ‘quickie’ overview! And other articles in this issue of VDC News highlights a current review of VET in NSW, and the Skills Senior Officials Group’s ‘Roadmap’ for VET.

Review of the New South Wales VET Sector

In New South Wales’ a Review is headed David Gonski AC and Professor Peter Shergold AC, and its report is due in July this year.

Why this review?

Since 2001 there has been a decline in VET participation in NSW. In addition, completion rates are relatively low. The review’s webpage reports that skills shortages are higher in NSW than other eastern states, with 30 identified skill shortage areas identified.

As the Review’s website also notes:

“Other challenges faced by the NSW VET system include quality and efficiency, public perception and system complexity. Many of these challenges are also faced by other Australian jurisdictions and have been the subject of a number of recent, comprehensive reviews.”

And the Senior Official’s ‘consultation draft’ is another example.

What will the review focus on?

According to the Review’s website: “the review will submit recommendations for how the NSW Government and TAFE can:

  • Transition school leavers into in-demand skills training opportunities that equip them to secure and create the jobs of the future.
  • Provide better information to students so they can make informed decisions and improved career advice to support lifelong learning.
  • Better integrate secondary, vocational and tertiary learning opportunities, including consideration of micro-credentialing and university and VET training products.
  • Deliver opportunities for resolving current skills shortages to benefit the State’s economy, with consideration given to ensuring the NSW Skills List is forward looking, the speed of design and delivery of courses, and flexibility.”