Representing quality private education
providers in Australia

Shut the gate...a bit anyway

Monday, July 17 2017

About a month ago, I mentioned the National VET Regulator Act was being reviewed and highlighted the importance of the review in shaping the future direction for the sector. As I said then, the issues identified with the VET FEE-HELP program and the impact on students and the sector highlight some potential weaknesses in the current regulatory powers and their implementation. But more importantly, the review provides an opportunity to have the discussion about what we want the sector to look like…to stand for.

Public consultations have now been invited and I would encourage training provider members and others to have a look at the Terms of Reference for the review and consider making a submission. ACPET will, of course, be doing so. These public consultations close on 18 August - so not a lot of time.

It is pleasing to see that the consultation questions do ‘go to the heart’ of some of the big issues facing the sector. I’m particularly pleased to see a focus on how to support continuous improvement and not just compliance with the RTO Standards. How do we ensure that providers have the right intention and focus in their business plans? How do we measure quality in the context of an increasingly outcomes-focused regulatory environment? These are some of the fundamental questions that we need to grapple with.

For mine, we need to have a regulatory environment that ensures only those committed to delivering high quality training ‘get through the gate’ and thrive. While so much of the recent problems have been due to poor government program design and implementation, we can’t afford to have poor performers trashing the sector’s reputation. With stronger barriers to entry and a regulatory regime that supports quality training providers, innovation and a focus on outcomes, not just compliance, we will be well on the way to achieving this.

And more of the same

While regulatory reform is part of the answer to lifting the performance of the sector, so too is simply enabling more of our job seekers and workforce to get the skills they and industry need. Unfortunately, the latest government-funded training data released last week largely continues the familiar pattern of subdued government-funded training activity. 

The NCVER report on government-funded training activity for 2016 indicates a slight upturn (3%) in activity nationally but this hides some concerns. If we look at the performance of the states and territories it is clear, if not for a rebound in New south Wales following some problems with its Smart and Skilled program in 2015, it would be much grimmer picture.
The following table ACPET has prepared from the NCVER data for states  tells the story.

Have a look at the picture over the last decade or so. It simply reinforces the need for a new approach to government funding for the sector to arrest the decline. As Peter Noonan at the Mitchell Institute continually highlights, there needs to be an integrated tertiary education and training funding model that enables students to get the skills they and industry need. At the moment, it can be a ‘lucky dip’ dependent on negotiating the labyrinth of Commonwealth and state and territory budgets and programs.

Rod Camm


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