Skills for All Future Directions – what’s new or different?

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Latest announcements (13.12.13) from the South Australian state government include:

Training courses will be ranked according to their industry demand and projected job openings.

A sliding scale of Government subsidy will be applied to courses with higher subsidy support for courses that address skills shortages and lead to employment.

This price banding will be more responsive to the changing needs of the economy, jobs market and provide greater certainty for the training and skills industry.

Industry groups and training providers told us they wanted to see less reliance on reducing enrolments through caps and move to a price banding model to better target training.  (Source: Skills for All Newsletter)

To read about these changes in more detail go to this link for an outline of the Skills for All Future Directions, Consultation Outcomes Report, FAQ’s, Course List and Guidelines for Training Providers.  What’s new or different?

Public Value Framework

The Public Value Framework is an interesting concept that has been introduced to help assess a course’s public value including Economic Value, Participation Value, Employment Connections and Youth Transitions.  Whilst it’s not 100% clear or explicit, I think it looks like Economic Value may be the first priority?  I think it’s important to have principles underpinning decision making and a way of deciding what should and shouldn’t be funded.  There are 3 main principles missing from this framework in my view:

  1. Industry priorities – identified via evidence based workforce planning and development
  2. Regional priorities – identified via evidence based workforce planning and development
  3. Motivational priorities – some would see this as ‘target groups’ but I mean this in a different way.  That is not ‘youth’ or ‘mature aged’ or ‘people with disabilities’ or ‘indigenous people’ but what motivates individuals to engage in VET.  Examples would include get a job, improve language, literacy and numeracy (LLN), gain an Apprenticeship/Traineeship, be recognised, move to a new path after being retrenched.

Price banding

Skills for All is introducing price branding where the fundamental formula is the higher the public value and the higher the training costs then the more funding (up until fee free) is paid.  Funding for Foundation Courses, LLN, bridging units and VET FEE-HELP will remain.

The model has 5 bands plus fee free courses,

Price banding will be applied to release 8.0 of the Skills for All Funded Training List which will be published on 8 January 2014 and take effect for new enrolments and training accounts created after 10 February 2014.

(The current subsidy levels are as published on the subsidy calculator release 4.0.)

Band 1: the existing benchmark subsidy – there will be no change to the public subsidy currently paid.

Band 2: 90% of the current Skills for All public subsidy will be paid through Skills for All

Band 3: 70% of the current Skills for All public subsidy will be paid through Skills for All

Band 4: 50% of the current Skills for All public subsidy will be paid through Skills for All

Band 5: 20% of the current Skills for All public subsidy will be paid through Skills for All

Skills for All providers will need to be very clever with their planning into 2014 focussing on what their future RTO should be like.

Training Contracts and Training Pilots

I agree that funding for Training Contract qualifications needs to be considered separately as in the past versions of the Funded Training List we have seen qualifications removed entirely and therefore access to funded training for Registered Training Organisations (RTO’s) to support Australian Apprenticeships.  That seemed to be an action that was the opposite of what the South Australian state government would want to encourage, i.e. the employment of trainees and apprentices.

With a personal experience of employing a fantastic school based apprentice this year (who won her Registered Training Organisation business award and her school’s VET award – well done Jessica!) I thoroughly support school-based training pathways.  I would be interested to know the split of numbers between school based apprenticeships, the ICAN program and the Training Guarantee for SACE Students (TGSS).

Industry connected training pilots’ looks a little bit like a reinvention of past programs with initiatives for pre-apprenticeship pathways and training innovation pilots all with an employment focus.  It looks like a broader approach to workforce skills development may include different (successful) methodologies.

Demand

Aligning demand would be easy if we had a South Australian Workforce Plan and it would implement workforce development strategies beyond training courses, qualifications and skill sets.

From July 2014, Skills for All will apply purchase limits to each course on the Funded Training List to provide increased certainty and transparency in the training market.

This sounds like a capacity management or place based allocation model – it must be underpinned by workforce planning and structured to address:

  1. Economic priorities (sectors for growth and those going through significant adjustment)
  2. Industry priorities
  3. Regional priorities
  4. Motivational priorities
  5. Participation priorities

A framework is better than a list as long as the funding framework is designed appropriately and is underpinned by analysis of workforce demand both now and into the future.

Language

Reflecting on the Skills for All Consultation Outcomes report it struck me as to how things have been framed in terms of language.  For example, from the Funded Training List Survey, to Training Account Limits, No New Enrolments, and Caps – can you spot a pattern here?

The Frequently Asked Questions document is useful particularly this one:

Are these changes driven by funding cuts?

No. In the VET sector, training is specifically related to jobs and work place experience. Making sure that students in training have skills and qualifications that meet industry expectations is critical, so is targeting publicly funded training to areas that will bring the greatest public benefit to the State. (p. 2 – see the document for the complete answer)

Skills for All Course List

When I opened up the Skills for All course list I was surprised to see some courses only available for TGSS or School Based Contracts of Training in areas such as business for example.  What about those people who we are aiming to re-engage particularly youth where a contract of training may be suitable but they have left school?  It still seems that Australian Apprenticeships for some sectors have become a dis-incentive – is that correct?!

What should come first?

I know the intent of introducing price branding is to simplify the system, invest in priority area and apply the public value framework – it puts the qualification first.

I would put the job first – critical job roles and areas for jobs growth that is based upon economic priorities, industry priorities and regional priorities.  From the list of critical job roles I would map skills and then see how they link to qualifications.  Every job role we profile for enterprises and industry sectors has 2-3 qualifications worth of skills, at different Australian Qualification Framework levels and across multiple Training Packages.  In addition training is only one of a huge number of workforce development strategies that need to be designed and implemented for a productive workforce and economy.

Smart and Skilled – New South Wales announcements

Recently I wrote a blog post about change in New South Wales for Smart and Skilled echoing a number of similar points.  Their industry actions plans are useful to identify industry needs however in this blog I outline why I disagree with a ‘list’.

Written by Wendy Perry, Head Workforce Planner, Workforce BluePrint, 16 December 2013.

PS. An important date for Skills for All in the New Year is 10 February 2014 when these changes will be implemented with providers notified of contract changes on 8 January 2014.  Planning from now until early February will be crucial but so is taking some time off to spend with your family and consider your work life balance – enjoy the Christmas and New Year break.

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