Representing quality private education
providers in Australia

Well, this week I am at a loss

Monday, November 14 2016

At the outset can I apologise to our fantastic higher education, VET and International providers. You are continuing to provide great education.

Today’s message is not about you – we continue to focus on the student loan scheme. That remains the issue of the day.

What can I tell you that will help prepare for the supposed new loan scheme next year?

The Department’s VSL information sessions have come and gone. Providers naturally were professional in their engagement but I must say we are all being tested.

To demonstrate just how ill prepared the department seems to be, let’s just look at some of the basics.

It is mid-November and Colleges would ordinarily have their marketing and information processes well underway.

Not this year.

At the sessions providers were told that they won’t be given any further information on how they might get provisional approval to become a VSL provider until after the legislation passes. The department did though commit to advising of updates as quickly as they are able – well that is a relief.

Here is the rub.

The legislation didn’t pass last week. There are questions being asked and amendments being made. No problem with that but it means the Bill needs to be sent back to the Lower House – welcome to democracy.

So let’s think through the dates.

The next sitting is from 21 November to 1 December.

It is therefore conceivable that private business will have no knowledge of whether they can offer students courses next year, oh unless the students are wealthy enough to pay for it themselves (this is the new commitment to equity) until sometime in December.

So if it passes it means the department has three weeks to advise of the application process, receive applications and process them before Christmas.

The Department believes the turnaround of provisional approval applications is hoped to be within a maximum of 2 weeks and advise they are appropriately resourced to manage this.

Not sure this all adds up.

Remember this is the same department that didn’t notice the scheme blowing out from around $2M to $3B in record time.

Anyway, let’s say they get this done. We hear providers can then offer and enrol VSL students from around 1 January 2017.

However, another fun fact. If a provider is approved as a provisional VSL provider, they will then need to go through another stringent (?) application process to be considered a formal VSL provider.

Ok that’s great.

However, provisionally approved providers (anyone who is not a public servant) cannot make any guarantees to students for enrolment beyond 30 June 2017.


So if you get a provisional license you can offer students a course up until 30 June and tell them it should be fine. Don’t worry – just trust us.

You must be kidding?

Well, this has gone from bad to worse and I cannot believe it is being allowed to happen.

Governments have failed to take responsibility for letting this happen by playing the blame game. They have damaged the reputation of all private providers whereas all of the evidence is that it was only a few.

And now, they have established a system where private providers can’t get access and if they do can’t really make offers to students.

Commonsense must prevail and this must be stopped immediately. This is anti-business, anti-competitive and anti-student and the process is illogical.

I have never seen a worse process.

It is time to allow all providers who don’t have regulatory action against them to get on with the scheme.

This is now urgent and must be addressed.

In terms of related issues, I having been reading a range of reports on the future economy. Yes life is good.

Anyway just as an example the Regional Australia Institute and NBN released a national report on Friday which identifies the skills that matter in the future labour market.

The report finds that future job seekers will need a mix of computer technology and soft communication and creative skills to find their place in the jobs market. As well as digital skills, more tangible attributes – entrepreneurialism, creativity and interpersonal skills were all identified as becoming increasingly important.

I just hope they are engaging with at least two states and getting them on a skills list. Oh sorry, the lists are about today’s occupations.

On that note, lets look at a few more issues impacting on the future of work and therefore education.

Pretty much everyone except the government has identified that skills lists are not an appropriate method for preparing students for the future of work. Jan Owen of the Foundation for Young Australians argues that we need to be helping students to create the opportunities they want and not what job they desire.

The jobs that appear on skills lists are hardly about that.

Look at the facts. According to the FYA, over the last 25 years 250,000 tradies have lost their jobs, 100,000 machinery workers, 400,000 labourers and 500,000 secretaries.

ABS data shows 86% of jobs created in the last year were part-time and Australia lost 8000 metal engineering jobs over the last 5 years but created 13,000 baristas.

Where is other good news?

The expansion of the creative industries? Jobs involving artistic expression and practice and creative thinking are the new way. This is because even outside of the jobs in the creative industries themselves, graduates are taught how to solve problems and think laterally to complex problems.

So what is the solution?

There is simply no way any process can possibly identify what specific jobs we need to be training for. That means the best approach is to maximise the amount and quality of information that is available about future jobs and trends so that students can be equipped with the skills to craft and navigate multiple careers (Jan Owen).

Even more poignant- Boston Consulting states that pretending a job ready course will lead to success in life is a mean trick to play on young people.

Alas there does not appear to be any of this hard analysis and thinking in the reforms proposed for our National scheme.

People need to be informed and encouraged to do what they love as that is what they will be good at and ensuring our curriculum does facilitate skills for labour market mobility.

I might give you a more personal example.

Many of you know I am into exercise. I met a young couple recently when we were out running the same course. We got to chatting (at the end)  and he was once an electrician. He hated it and did not find the job rewarding and found the constant risk of the construction cycle very stressful. He did a fitness course because that is what he loves. He and his partner now own a gym and run fitness and well being programs and are doing fantastic and are employing many other young people.

Now you try and convince Ministers that fitness is a viable career – I have. Electricians will always be on the list but not the growing new jobs in areas like fitness, creative arts and even personal services and therapy. And yet it is where our young people have worked out they need to be.

Anyway – another week beckons – I need a lie down.

Rod Camm


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