Veteran VET researchers Kaye Bowman and Victor Callan looked at what influences employers to engage with the national VET system and nationally recognised training.

Developing closer partnerships between employers and registered training organisations is the challenge, and the key, in upskilling the Australian workforce and addressing skills shortages.

The project

The report, by Kaye Bowman and Victor Callan, was released just before Christmas last year. It examines “the factors in the current VET environment that influence employers’ decisions when choosing training options, in particular, nationally recognised training.” It is based on 15 interviews with a range of peak stakeholder bodies in late 2020 and early 2021 and with 35 employers between March and June last year.

They define nationally recognised training as: “training that leads to vocational qualifications and credentials that are recognised across Australia, deliverable only by registered training organisations (RTOs).” ‘Non-nationally recognised training’ is defined as that which does not lead to nationally recognised certification, such as ‘locally developed programs and non-accredited modules or skill sets that can be delivered by all training providers not just RTOs.’

What they did and found

The researchers noted that there has been “a downward trend in employer engagement with the national VET system” over the last decade and a half or so. Their research was also quite strategic in that the employers selected for interview were from five industries with comparatively low engagement with the national VET system: agriculture, retail, transport, warehousing, and information media and telecommunications.

One of the key messages is that:

“Employers train their workforces to improve their businesses. They use both nationally and non-nationally recognised training and view these two forms of training as complementary.” [They judge training] “by its relevance to the skills needs of their workers; its flexibility in fitting in with their business cycles; the expertise of its provider; and its cost. These factors are more important to employers than its recognition status; that is, whether it is nationally recognised or non-nationally recognised training.”

In favour of nationally recognised training

It’s good for initial training and also has a real value for “upskilling in critical new technical skills,” and especially for those “that need to be formally acknowledged or recorded for certification purposes.” Where there are licensing and regulatory requirements, nationally recognised training is a necessity for employers and the workforce. But, unless there is that regulatory or legislative requirement, some employers are not concerned about their employees completing qualifications in whole or part.  “The ability of nationally recognised training to recognise units and skill sets … adds flexibility and enables short forms of nationally recognised training to be provided.”

Nationally recognised training is often of most value to employees as they want to have what training they have done recognised in some formal way.

Why employers might not use it

Employers may not use nationally recognised training because of “outdated training packages; training not tailored to employer needs; a lack of continuity in public funding for training; the complexity of the nationally recognised training system; and no requirement for nationally recognised qualifications or parts of the training. Employers like non-nationally recognised training because of its ability to be more tailored and ‘bespoke’.

Making things better

Paradoxically COVID 19 has shaken up VET’s practices and promoted more flexibility, and this is seen as a good thing. Those interviewed favoured “increasing employer—RTO partnerships for improved collaboration in adapting nationally recognised training products and their provision to better meet workforce needs.” This might be done through better focused skill sets.

There are some support documents too!

If the report is not enough for you, Kaye and Victor have also produced three other support products:  a literature review, and summaries of the interviews with peak bodies and employers.