Smart and Skilled – ready or not?

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Implementation now in 2015

Back in October 2012 the news was, “The long awaited announcement from New South Wales – an open VET market from 2014” which has now been pushed out to 1 January 2015.

Why?  Well things have been quiet [publicly] although I understand there has been lots of work in the background and it seems the NSW Skills List needs more time for validation, consultation and to be communicated to stakeholders.  I think that the training market hasn’t had enough prep or information for a 2014 implementation either.

Current training market contracts will be rolled over into 2014. Training funded through the training market in 2014 will be based on the Skills List.

IPART has now provided its advice to the Government on prices and fees. This will be considered by the NSW Skills Board which will provide advice to the Minister.  Advice on prices and fees for 2015 will be released in 2014.

Smart and Skilled pic

In mid 2014, we will invite training providers to apply to deliver services under Smart and Skilled in 2015.  (Source: State Training Services NSW Department of Education & Communities Update)

So 2014 will be a transition year for the VET market in New South Wales with announcements on subsidies, fee calculator and contracts negotiated with preferred providers.

From 1 January 2015 we’ll see ‘eligible*’ individuals funded for up to Certificate III and foundation courses, pre-vocational training, skill sets and qualifications from Certificate IV to Advanced Diplomas some with course fees to supplement the subsidy all based upon a Skills List.

Eligibility

Note on what is “eligible*”:

An individual may be eligible for government subsidised training if they are:

  • an Australian citizen, permanent resident or humanitarian visa holder, and
  • aged 15 years or older, and
  • live or work in New South Wales.

If a person has left school and has no previous qualifications at Certificate IV or higher they will be eligible for the entitlement, which includes select foundation courses and full qualifications up to and including Certificate III.

For other training, such as skills sets, pre-vocational training and full qualifications from Certificate IV to Advanced Diploma, a limited number of places will be offered in priority skills areas.

Under Smart and Skilled, there are eligibility rules regarding qualifications already held.  If an individual has attained a Certificate IV or above qualification, he/she is not eligible for the entitlement.  If the post-school vocational qualification completed is Certificate III or below, the individual is eligible but will have to pay a higher fee for the subsequent qualification.

However, if the individual is undertaking an apprenticeship or a traineeship the above rules do not apply. Foundation skills courses on the Skills List are not counted as a first post-school qualification.

An individual who has completed a qualification at Certificate IV or above will be ineligible for the entitlement regardless of time passed, or where they obtained their qualification. However, the individual may be eligible for a government-subsidised training place at Certificate IV or above.

What’s the Skills List likely to look like?

Firstly a list of qualifications – Certificate III as the core and foundation courses with learner support for disadvantaged learners particularly through TAFE NSW and ACE providers.

Secondly a list of targeted training – pre-voc, skill sets particularly for jobseekers and retrenched workers, Certificate V – Advanced Diploma qualifications in skill priority areas

Eligibility with weightings/subsidies based upon location and target groups (particularly Aboriginal people, students with a disability and welfare recipients, regional and remote areas for disadvantaged students).

The list will be reviewed after a year and I’d suggest this may need to be sooner depending on implementation issues and “demand”.

NSW Skills Board

In September 2013 a new skills board was announced to lead the implementation of Smart and Skilled.  This board replaces the NSW board of Vocational Education and Training and is chaired by Mr Philip Clark AM.  Mr Bert Evans AO, chair of the Board has been appointed Mr Evans as the first New South Wales Apprenticeships Ambassador.

Members of the NSW Skills Board come from the Australian Industry Group, Australian Workforce Productivity Agency, Deutsche Bank, Australian Indigenous Mentoring Experience, small business operator, ABS and the Office of Education, Department of Education and Communities.

As the board’s role emerges I’ll be interested to watch their focus as in other states and territories such groups have been tasked with identifying future workforce demand, critical job roles and priorities.  If this is not a features of the board’s role, the task of implementing Smart and Skilled may be very ‘here and now” rather than forward thinking, proactive and dynamic.

Ideally an evidence based New South Wales workforce plan would identify workforce priorities linked to economic development goals, regional needs and specific target groups.  This intelligence could inform a “list” however a list [what’s on, off, when should changes be made] is fraught with difficulties whereas an application based approach underpinned by evidence would be based upon workforce demand.

Written by Wendy Perry, VET Strategies, WPAA, 29 October 2013.

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