Representing quality private education
providers in Australia

The sector moves on - I think.

Monday, June 8 2015

I would like to start with what will become a weekly ‘profiling’ of upcoming sessions at our National Conference.

Last week I mentioned the focus on public policy and the reform agenda.

This year’s conference will kick off with a provocative but much needed discussion, involving a panel of high profile representatives of the sector. Leading edge CEOs and CEOs who are trying to rebuild after everything went wrong (for them and all concerned) will be joined by a ‘Broker’, Industry representatives and a high profile academic.

The group will be led in the discussion by a well-known journalist who will ask the confronting question we must face: Has competition ruined the Training Industry?

I want you, the industry driving the questions? From the floor I want all of the hard questions. What happened, what can be done and by who and where to from here?

It will be ground-breaking if you make it so….

There will also be critical discussions from high profile leaders and practitioners regarding regulation, higher education and of course international.  More about some of that next week.

Last week I spoke to you all about the developments in South Australia.

A resolution has not yet appeared, though this is not surprising.

The key concern is what the changes really mean for students and the young unemployed.  Put simply the reform (?) sees the number of government-funded vocational education and training places collapse by 92,000 places since 2013. Yes, there were 173,000 students in government-funded training in 2013, compared to 81,000 (including existing students) places in 2015/16 budget.

For a State that needs high quality skills and pathways to help rebuild an economy, this type of fall is untenable and will hold back the State for many years to come. If you are unemployed or long term unemployed, the odds on winning a training place are like winning Lotto. Of course I am also concerned that of the new places, only 5000 students of 51,000 will get any choice between public and private registered training organisations. This further exacerbates the problem – it is the students in South Australia who have voted with their feet. Despite only receiving 18% of the funding, private RTOs delivered over 43% of students.

The opportunity is that this shows just what is possible if Assistant Minister Senator Simon Birmingham by-passes the South Australian Government and contracts the $65 million of training direct with the private sector. The sector will deliver up to three times the outcomes, and we can all work to ensure quality outcomes.

There are simply no winners. Industry is outraged and can no longer drive the system, students have no choice and many small businesses will be forced to close. This is real and many are shedding staff already.

Of course I must say that providers should not be totally reliant on government funding. However, in this case the South Australian government created a supposed 10 year program, where to get access providers needed to supply their financials - so government knew the extent of the dependency. These South Australian businesses had five year business plans agreed with the government and now, three years in, they’ve had the rug pulled out from under them while being told they should have seen it coming.

Really? The government conducted ‘consultations’ and spoke of ‘tweaking’ the system, then brought the house down without any notice.
Not the contemporary transparent government one should expect, and no opportunity for businesses to develop transition plans.
There are many elements of the arrangements in South Australia that appear to contravene National Competition Policy. An issue we will need to investigate.

On a much brighter note – again let us remember why we are here.

Alan Matthew Pepler was a student/graduate of SAE at Byron Bay

Over 2 decades ago, Matthew caught SAE in his sights and nearly enrolled at the Perth campus. A series of life circumstances however, stood in the way. Years later, and as a solo parent, Matthew decided to pursue his dream of a creative career. He joined SAE Byron Bay in 2014 to study film within the VET Digital Screen and Media – Digital Video Production program.

As a returning student after nearly 35 years away from formal education the option of entering the Diploma program appealed to him and allowed the necessary transition and confidence building required.

Matthew excelled in the VET Diploma program and opted to continue studying with SAE within the Bachelor of Film degree program. Currently, Matthew is working on a documentary film in the roles of director and editor. Pursuit of a first in family degree is now within his sights and he is considering completing the Diploma of Electronic Music Production to round-out his skills and allow for an understanding of sound track production in order to enhance his film work.

Matthew is the reason we all do this!

Rod Camm


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