Claire Field on the state of VET


As Minister Robert flagged significant reforms to apprenticeships and VET qualification design in a speech to launch National Skills Week, it is timely to examine the latest NCVER Total VET Activity data to see where the VET sector is currently at.

Looking at programme enrolments (i.e. full qualifications, accredited courses and skillsets) in TAFEs and independent providers, the data shows that for the TAFE sector at the national level government-funded enrolments were largely stable (-2 per cent) between 2016 and 2020. However, there was a significant decline in TAFE domestic fee-for-service enrolments (-67 per cent), and international fee-for-service enrolments (-38 per cent).

The past five years have seen major restructuring of the New South Wales, Queensland and Western Australia TAFE systems (and prior to that, restructuring in Tasmania and South Australia). It remains to be seen if fee-for-service activity in TAFE will rebound as institutes bed down their new operating models.

Government-funded programme enrolments in independent providers declined by 10 percent over the last five years. In the same period their domestic fee-for-service enrolments also declined (-18 per cent) while international fee-for-service enrolments increased significantly (74 per cent).

In addition to the 2.6 million programme enrolments in VET in 2020, there were more than 26.4 million subject-only enrolments. More than half of these (55 per cent) were fee-for-service (i.e. not government-subsidised). However, since 2016 there has been a serious decline in subject-only enrolments in a number of important fields (e.g. financial services, ICT, public service, resources and infrastructure, retail, and transport and logistics).

Increased automation and the introduction of advanced technology means some employers now rely more on equipment manufacturers for their training needs. In other industries, there is a growing availability of industry-certified, alternative credentials offered by the technology giants and EdTech platforms.

Complicating the picture is a shift in subject-only enrolments from TAFEs to independent providers in fields such as: * construction and plumbing * foundation skills * furnishing * property services * sport, fitness and recreation * tourism, travel and hspitality

More detailed analysis, including at the State and Territory level, is available on my website.

Claire Field is a non-executive director of apprenticeship provider MEGT and therefore does not comment on apprenticeship issues, but the minister’s speech signalled significant reforms are being planned for the apprenticeship sector