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providers in Australia

This can’t go on!

Monday, July 11 2016

Well time wanders on and it now appears like we have a government, or perhaps the fertile ground for a completely new series of Yes Minister or the Hollow men.

What matters to us are now the agendas for Tertiary Education reform.

It does not sound that hard when you say it quickly.

No need to state our position on the reform, only that we need some – soon.

Higher Education reform appears to have disappeared beneath the waves. We will continue to push for removing the inequities that can’t be justified.

In terms of VET (yes I have to go there) while much has been said of the behaviour of providers (again I reiterate it was only a small few), I thought it timely to review how Government is going.

That is, how solid is the platform?

Evidence, or fun facts, is the key:

Government-funded students have reduced by 10.7% (to 1.6million) in 2015 compared with 1.8 million in 2014. The number of apprentices and especially trainees undertaking off-the-job training was a significant contributor.

NCVER data released on 4 July 2016 tells the story:

This total compares with a peak of 1.9 million recorded in 2012 .  This is a fall of 17%.

When VET skills are (apparently) critical to fuel industry growth, innovation and productivity, this is alarming.

So what of the public/private split?

Now before TAFE Unions jump up on the table, this data does not include VFH.

So despite a reduction in State and Commonwealth funded students, the number training with private registered training organisations has increased slightly from 2012 to 2015.

Whilst ideology featured in some of the election debate, this highlights the pivotal role that private providers can play in the VET sector and the risks of any moves roll back contestability.

As they say, be careful what you wish for.

Yes I add my contestability comments are conditional on the programs being well managed and only selecting quality providers!
The qualification picture tells a similar story:

Having been in this sector for so long, this data troubles me.

There is a real argument that the sector is failing its own demographic. All government funded qualifications are on the decline!

This would have once been heracy. What is the trajectory now for a student wanting to pursue a skills pathway?

Perhaps fight for a funded place or find the money themselves.

This fails the equity test.

So how are the myriad of (national) entitlement systems fairing?

The graph below shows that Victoria remains the largest training state (31.5% of the national total), despite a reduction since 2013.

The South Australian student levels have fallen sharply, by over 40%, since 2013.  I note the SA Government, after it removed funding for private providers for the benefit of TAFE and now have called a Parliamentary enquiry into TAFE’s performance,  has provided for some job creation programs in their 2016/17 Budget. This announcement is to be applauded but they must be skill based programs for the jobs to stick.
Queensland warrants a mention.

Not only did they win State of Origin, they are the only jurisdiction that has grown their student numbers. While not yet reaching the peak of 2013, it is at least on the right trend. 

Commentators in Queensland tell me that this reflects policy and funding stability in that State.

So there we have it.

It seems hard to work in the sector because, as Peter Noonan has established, funding is fast disappearing.

This must be addressed.

It also shows that reforms to sectors should not be contemplated in isolation. Higher Education reforms will impact on VET and vica versa. Or perhaps more to the point, policy failures in one sector will impact on the other.

Another interesting week ahead.

Rod Camm


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