Claire Field on where TAFE is hard to find


COAG’s Skills Senior Officials’ Network has released its VET Reform Roadmap for consultation.

It is good to see officials are consulting although there is no closing date for responses. I suggest compiling your thoughts sooner rather than later, and if micro-credentials are your passion there is a separate but related discussion paper seeking comment by 20 March 2020.

I will save my observations on the roadmap for a later date – except to note what’s missing – any statement on the role of TAFE.

The word “TAFE” appears only 5 times in the document – how TAFEs and private providers can deliver new teaching resources, share quality resources, and undertake applied research; as well as reminding us that ministers see a role for both TAFEs and private providers in the VET system.

This is a statement on the future of the VET sector authored by states, territories and the Commonwealth. It was a chance for states and territories to “anchor” TAFE within the broad reform framework emerging from Steven Joyce’s review. Instead the lack of focus on TAFE is stark.

By contrast, when discussing the role of TAFE in a contestable market, the Productivity Commission chair stated, “more clearly defining and understanding the (Community Service Obligation) responsibilities of the incumbent providers in the system is an important element in policy design”, i.e. the current arrangements do not do this well enough.

Terry Moran, the architect of contestability in VET (through User Choice funding and the Victorian Training Guarantee) went further in a recent speech saying outsourcing, including in VET, was “just not working”.

It is against this backdrop that I spoke with Dr Don Zoellner, University Fellow at Charles

Darwin University, on the podcast. Don posits two theories for thinking differently about the role of TAFE and the broader VET sector. His thinking moves us beyond the narrow concept of “the market” and I would strongly recommend the episode to both skills senior officials and anyone else with an interest in the VET sector.

Listen in your favourite podcast app or online.

 Claire Field is the host of the ‘What now? What next? Insights into Australia’s tertiary education sector’ podcast