Claire Field on what’s next for VET

whoever holds the federal purse strings after the election will exert significant influence on a sector that espouses national priorities but is currently fragmented

By CLAIRE FIELD

As the country heads towards the next Federal election, it is timely to reflect on what the result will mean for the VET sector. A returned Coalition government will pursue efficient VET pricing and more funding contestability; whereas Labor is promising 45,000 new “free TAFE” places and the conversion of 420,000 existing VET places to “free TAFE.”

A raft of other reforms are underway which are likely to be progressed irrespective of the election outcome, including:

* a new model of industry engagement (Industry Clusters)

* reforms to simplify VET qualification design

* trials of new assessment models, and

* trials of new apprenticeship models.

It is funding for VET delivery though which is crucial and the latest data shows significant differences, despite apparent national agreement on VET priorities.

Micro-credentials for example are identified as a priority in the draft VET Reform Roadmap, yet only the New South Wales government currently provides significant funding for short courses (skillsets). In the first nine months of 2021, 20 per cent of government-funded VET students in NSW enrolled in skillsets. In Victoria it was just one per cent.

And while business is crying out for more workers with digital skills, only two per cent of government-funded enrolments were in IT courses, and despite shortages in healthcare workers only six per cent of government funded-enrolments were in Health. Further analysis is on my website.

My point here is not that one jurisdiction is doing better than another, or that only IT and Health are important; rather that whoever holds the federal purse strings after the election will exert significant influence on a sector that espouses national priorities but is currently fragmented.

And as we look to future reform, Gerald Burke’s latest work can contextualise those reform ideas and should be required reading for all parties to the next National Skills Agreement.

Gerald Burke is a keynote speaker at this year’s AVETRA annual conference. The conference comes at a critical time for the sector and begs the question “what role will evidence-based research have in the VET policy reforms of the next Federal government?”

Claire Field is a member of AVETRA. She recently interviewed Innovation Business Skills Australia’s  Sharon Robertson on the What now? What next? podcast to discuss the new Industry Cluster reforms.