Representing quality private education
providers in Australia

It's time to get going

Monday, August 8 2016

Last week I had some comments on the 2015 Total VET Activity report that was released by the National Centre for Vocational Education Research just under a fortnight ago. While this report confirmed the scale of the fee-for-service market and the important role of the private sector in supporting students and industry it once again highlighted the parlous state of government-funded VET across most of the country (ACPET members can access a detailed analysis on the ACPET web site). Since then, a number of stakeholders, like the Australian Education Union, have picked up on the slide in the performance of the TAFE sector. The calls to quarantine funding for TAFE are being recycled.

The premise seems to be simple, if you can’t compete - don’t.

What this report really does highlight is the urgent need for the federal government to ‘get going’ on governance and funding reform of the sector now the election is ‘done and dusted’. Government-funded enrolments are going backwards (they were down 10 per cent on 2014) at a time when the need to boost workforce skills has never been greater. The Committee for Economic Development of Australia (CEDA) summarised the position nicely in its June 2016 paper, Australia’s economic future: an agenda for growth, “While Australia has had relatively high levels of participation and employment in recent times, there are segments of the community where skills development and participation are poor and the country lags behind international averages, let alone best practice.”

As I have said before, there is a real need to sort out the funding and governance shemozzle of essentially eight different approaches to VET courtesy of shared responsibilities between states and territories and the federal government. While I don’t think we want to see a ‘one size fits all’ approach or hand the system over to the federal government (think VET FEE-HELP), surely there can be some agreement on the priorities and funding. With National Partnership Agreements, that carve up some of the funding for the sector, ceasing in less than 10 months Minister Birmingham and his state and territory counterparts clearly will need to get going.

We need a similar approach in relation to the future funding of the higher education sector after two years of uncertainty following the Government’s 2014 proposed reforms. While the recent consultation paper put a few ideas ‘on the table’ it’s time to work with the sector to put some certainty into arrangements for 2018 and beyond. Given the planning horizons, that’s not far away.

Of course what we really need is a coherent, integrated tertiary education and training governance and funding regime but that’s a bridge too far for now.

While the Government didn’t have a lot to say about lifting the poor apprenticeship (and particularly traineeship) numbers during the election period, it is also ‘time to get going’ on measures to reform the apprenticeship and traineeship system. While the Government is working to implement its Youth Jobs PaTH program that will support young disadvantaged jobseekers (and that’s great), we also need a strong, vibrant apprenticeship and traineeship system to support young people and others seeking skilled entry level careers. Once again, given the shared responsibilities, it’s time for the federal government to pull together all the government and industry players to sort out some short and longer-term measures to revitalise apprenticeships and traineeships in Australia.

With just over two weeks to go until our 2016 ACPET National Conference it’s also time to get going if you haven’t registered.
The conference comes at a critical time for our industry.

It has been a very difficult year for private education and training providers, particularly those who have a long and proud history of delivering quality outcomes for students, employers and the broader community.

Identifying, achieving and maintaining the highest quality standards is always a challenge in a constantly evolving industry, but it is imperative that we do. Quality is a key focus of this year’s Conference. I will launch ACPET’s Quality Membership Initiative which is designed to ensure new members are well supported to meet our expectations, and to recognise and endorse consistently high performing members.

We have also invited people representing a range of interests to debate quality, accountability and standards issues with us. I look forward to these important conversations and urge everyone to attend and have your say to strengthen our industry.  You can register here.

Rod Camm


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