Representing quality private education
providers in Australia

Message from ACPET A/CEO

Monday, October 8 2018

Last week, The Australian published an article titled ‘Poor choices impact opportunities’ that captured The Business Council of Australia’s (BCA) view on the need for a reform agenda for the tertiary education sector.

The article comes just four weeks after the release of the BCA report Future Proof- Australia’s Future Post- Secondary Education and Skills System (if you haven’t already, I urge you to read this). The report identifies some key issues inhibiting the sector, and then goes on to detail the rationale for change and a strategic approach to move forward.     

Whist ACPET may not support every detail of the report and news article, there is much value in the overarching principles presented.  

Undoubtedly, in 2018 we need an education system that is more accommodating of rapidly changing workforce demands. Whilst it isn’t necessarily a new concept, the current buzz term ‘micro credentialing’ has probably never been more relevant. We need to ensure that learners have access to training that ensures competence in specific areas that support them in their career -both now and in the future. As Jennifer Westacott, BCA Chief Executive, put it “It is about putting the learner and the needs of the employer at the centre”.

The BCA believes that students are making ill informed choices when it comes to selecting a not only courses but provider types.
The divide between Vocational and Higher Education has been a long time narrative, with VET often being dubbed the lesser of the two. The lack of cohesion between the sectors has impacted prospective student’s ability to understand options available to them across the latitude of the greater tertiary education sector.

The sector needs to be recognised for its entirety; VET and Higher Education are both critical to the future of the Australian workforce and economy. A collaborative approach is required, and all elements of the tertiary education sector should be seen as complementary and vital in the outcomes they offer.

This needs to start from the top down, policy and funding settings need to ensure that students are not being disadvantaged or incentivised to make a decision. Rather, the decision needs to be made with full consideration of job outcomes in mind.

ACPET has been a long-term advocate of ensuring vocational education is not recognised merely as a lesser alternative to a higher education qualification but recognised for the vital role it plays in continuing to skill the Australian workforce.  

ACPET’s incoming CEO, Troy Williams, has already recognised this as one of the challenges that will be on his agenda when he joins us in late November. He said “(the Role) is one that allows me to work towards reducing the artificial stratification that separates our schools, vocational providers and higher education providers. It will be a creative challenge working with the ACPET membership to provide business with the skilled and educated graduates it needs for the future and doing so in a manner that puts students at the centre”.

Tomorrow the Chair Bruce Callaghan and I will appear to give evidence at the Senate’s Select Committee on Red Tape public hearing in Melbourne, further to ACPET’s submission to the inquiry. Details about the inquiry’s context are available here, and it will be an excellent opportunity for us to further highlight how system design is constraining competitive neutrality, student choice and innovation.

Peter McDonald


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