‘Elephant’ in the room for Australia’s VET sector

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Whilst Australia’s VET sector has been plagued with poor behaviour and outcomes for students over VET FEE-HELP there was an elephant in the room at the recent COAG Industry and Skills Council meeting.

With discussion on the recent budget announcement about the Skilling Australians Fund aiming to prioritise apprenticeships and traineeships in high demand there are two key questions to ask:

  1. what evidence do we have of demand? and;
  2. the fund, “…will be financed by the Government’s reforms that require employers who nominate foreign workers under the new Temporary Skill Shortage visa and certain permanent visas to pay a Skilling Australians Fund contribution from March 2018.”

That seems like a very precarious link!Apprenticeship

Council highlighted that, “Importantly project proposals will need to demonstrate engagement with, and support from, employers and industry.”

Which relates to the ‘elephant’ …

The Commonwealth Government, together with State and Territory Governments, recognise the importance of managing economic shifts and coming to grips with big changes such as globalisation, internationalization and automation on the workforce.

Enrolments in VET are dropping, and in some areas like non-trade based Australian Apprenticeships, it is dramatic.  So where are all the students and what could be the root cause of this accelerating trend?

Some might suggest that this is because of changes in funding and eligibility criteria, consumer confidence and media coverage, VET policy and reform, employer expectations and jobs – together these things definitely have an impact.  But you have to ask yourself, is demand dropping because students and employers don’t see the ‘product’, that is a course or qualification and Training Packages, as fit for purpose?  And this is not to say that all Training Packages are outdated, however when profiling current jobs there is often a mismatch in the competencies required and those available in the system.

Australia’s Training Package system is an asset, many countries aspire to have something similar but the 21st Century capabilities needed into the future are not yet in national qualifications.  The system we have drastically needs updating and in many areas recasting.  An innovation rich economy can’t be based on skills and qualifications trying to play catch up.

When searching www.training.gov.au the current system draws blanks on critical skills in areas such as entrepreneurship, Artificial Intelligence, robots, smart cities, Augmented Reality (AR), big data, blockchain, gig/share economy, machine learning, podcasting, social messaging, and Virtual Reality (VR).

All governments have policies and programs to support small business but the qualifications for micro business and small business are written with a 20th Century approach.  There are good coaches, mentors, trainers and providers that facilitate interesting programs but this is operating over and above the old fashioned, dry qualifications.  A total rewrite with an entrepreneurial mindset and a contemporary view of starting up and scaling up a business is needed.

But rather than another Training Package review, it is action that is needed – a jump ahead to skills for future jobs 3-5 years out, alongside considering international frameworks such as Experience API (xAPI), for transferability, streamlining and simplicity.

In short, the problem or ‘elephant’ is that the scale of change required for Training Packages is huge and it should have been started years ago.

June 2017

PS. See you at EduTECH in Sydney over 8-9 June 2017 and feel free to post your comments or ideas on this blog.

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