While vocational education has arguably had its fair share of issues and bad press of late, there is much in its future that is positive too.

Innovation and Science Australia’s (ISA) vision is that Australia “has a world-leading education system that equips all Australians with the skills and knowledge relevant to 2030.” Their recent paper is built around 5 imperatives. The first is education. It sees VET playing a vital part helping Australians harness the opportunities innovation brings and thrive in the global innovation race.

The issue

The ISA’s 2030 plan focuses particularly on both the school and VET sectors because they believe the university sector is already “performing well in the education outcomes it is delivering”.  The paper points out that vocational education:

“provides initial skilling and helps workers to retrain as jobs and industries evolve, including in response to economic and technological change.”

Thus, a significant role for VET will be helping Australians adapt to changing skill needs throughout their careers, particularly in practical skills-intensive industries. In addition:

“The importance of VET-trained workers will increase as industries adapt to new demands and technologies and require higher skills and more frequent skill updates.”

VET will also be important in retraining those whose jobs are affected by automation. Both these priorities will require that the sector rapidly adapt and remain relevant.

The recommendations

The ISA sees a range of ways forward for vocational education. First, it recommends a review be conducted by the Commonwealth Department of Education and Training to ensure the sector is internationally competitive. The Department should develop a strategy “to make the sector increasingly responsive to new priorities presented by innovation, automation and new technologies”. This will include supporting lifelong learning, helping businesses to compete and developing better interfaces with the broader tertiary sector, especially higher education.

A second recommendation focuses on the need for further VET reform, specifically to optimize the supply-side potential of the Skilling Australia Fund by encouraging both employers and VET providers to identify expected skills

shortages in the future work requirements of high-growth sectors. The recommendation also proposes linking VET student loan funding to employment outcomes, strengthening ASQA’s powers and providing improved information to students on provider quality.