Representing quality private education
providers in Australia

What a week!

Monday, August 29 2016

What a fantastic APIEF and National Conference! We heard from some truly inspirational and very thought provoking speakers who challenged us all to think differently about our place in the world and how we deliver our services into the future. I again am reminded about the true quality of our sector!

We heard that the world is changing, the workforce is changing and students are changing.

The old structures, systems and methods of allocating funds and picking winners are becoming irrelevant. The paradox is that despite this these approaches are increasingly becoming prevalent in government policy. While governments are attracted to ‘skills lists’, a well informed student and their families are far better placed to select the course that is right for them. Let's not forget that less than 50% of graduates go on to work directly in the industry that they have studied. This means their training must prepare them for portability in the labour market, not just for the occupation they choose first.

Narrow lists are not the way to ensure our education and training system remains flexible, agile and responsive to our rapidly changing world. We also need to change the discourse about public vs private providers and overhaul funding and governance to create a seamless, integrated and equitable framework for a rapidly changing workforce. The key here is that we must be tireless in our drive to ensure only the best of providers are able to access publicly funded programs. This alone takes away many of the problems!

Labour market flexibility and an acceptance that we are actually training for jobs not yet thought of requires a major shake up of the way things have been done, across the board. We need to update training packages, as while occupational competencies remain important, so too is the increasing demand for broader skills that can perhaps only be delivered by quality educators and a different approach. 

I again must reiterate just how important it is for students to be empowered and well informed to make education choices to prepare themselves for the changing job market. These students are likely to have upwards of 20 jobs during their careers, most of which haven’t been conceived of yet. Robotics, animation and creative thinking will be critical, as will soft, entrepreneurial and technical skills, critical thinking and creative design.  Students are best placed to determine their futures.

Apprenticeships remain ever so important and they can not be allowed to wither on the vine!.

Instead of public policy designed for the daily media cycle and to address short-term fixes, a roots and branch reform of funding models, the disconnect between State/Territory and Commonwealth approaches, how long qualifications take and also what is taught and how it is delivered is required.

The quality of providers and the courses they deliver underpin this brave new world.

It goes without saying that only proven quality providers should deliver and ACPET is addressing these issues through our membership framework.  Over 3 million students selected private providers in 2015 and they did not get their choice wrong and reported high levels of satisfaction. Only 6% on enrolments were in VET FEE HELP though the poor providers that got through the door have hurt us all.

However, importantly the quality educators just kept delivering. In terms of the highly intelligent discussions at the conference, Professor Ian Harper’s view on what went wrong in VET FEE HELP is compelling: a poorly designed program with no focus on outcomes, a quality assurance failure, poor information for students, no oversight and inappropriate incentives. The inability to rapidly exit poor providers and the funding ‘power’ being placed with the providers and not the students were further design mistakes. The National Disability Scheme is evidence of how client choice can work effectively.

We must rebuild confidence and trust in our sector. It will take time and I never again want to see negative headlines that tarnish an industry that is, in the main, comprised of passionate and committed educators.

In that regard ACPET intends to play a role and our new Quality Endorsed Program will just focus on performance, with regard to student outcomes including course completion, employment and career progression. The program will involve a comprehensive review of performance, site visits and interviews with a range of students and stakeholders.

Only those members who can demonstrate consistent delivery of high quality service, ethical practices, support and outcomes will become ACPET Quality Endorsed.

The program is an opportunity for government to partner with industry and give students, their parents, government and industry full confidence in the provider and the quality of the programs they provide.

I left the conference reinvigorated and excited by our future. May we all boldly go and become our own disruptors!

Of course I must mention our International program, which comprised more than 130 delegates at this year’s Asia Pacific International Education Forum in Hobart on Wednesday.

Delegates heard how Australia is poised to capitalise on enormous opportunities in the international education industry, which is enjoying unprecedented level of focus and funding from the Federal Government and Australia’s state governments and territories. However, the forum also heard that fully leveraging this effort would require greater levels of coordination, collaboration and consistency across the country.
It again was a truly fantastic forum and I am already looking forward to next year's.

On a final note, on Friday the Victorian Government launched its Skills First program which they have described as a commitment to a “contestable but more managed training and TAFE system”. We are pleased to note that student choice has been maintained and that quality providers will continue to be an important element in the Victorian training system.  Any effort to restore confidence and improve quality is a good thing and ACPET supports this.

More information can be found in the Victorian update.

The Hon Simon Birmingham, Minister for Education and Training

Mel Koumides, National Chair, ACPET

The Big Debate: Future Architecture of Tertiary Education in Australia
Professor Ian Harper, Chair, Competition Policy Review
Stephen Conway, CEO, Tas TAFE
Andrew Norton, Higher Education Program Director, Grattan Institute
Helen Zimmerman, Chief, Corporate Affairs, Navitas

Rod Camm, ACPET, CEO - Launches ACPET’s Quality Membership Framework



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