Claire Field spots a dud idea for training


In the VET sector it is rare for NSW government ideas to be sidelined, but that may be about to change

There are five VET reform blueprints underpinning the current National Skills Agreement negotiations.

* The Commonwealth’s Joyce Review and Productivity Commission Review.

* The Macklin Review from Victoria,

* The New South Wales Gonski-Shergold Review and,

*  the VET reform recommendations of Tasmania’s ‘Premier’s Economic and Social Recovery Advisory Council’.

Ms Macklin delivered a comprehensive reform plan and, election permitting, Tasmania intends making TasTAFE more autonomous (potentially triggering significant industrial relations and infrastructure changes), pushing the Commonwealth for other VET funding reforms, and reforming how it funds VET.

NSW has five reform ideas:

* establish an Institute of Applied Technology (IAT) as an entirely new form of Australian tertiary institution

* establish Careers NSW

* improve the breadth and quality of VET in Schools

* improve industry engagement in VET by revamping the NSW Skills Board

* establish an income-contingent loan for Certificate III and IV qualifications

The Commonwealth has recently established a National Careers Institute and the Productivity Commission has recommended loans for certificate courses. Restructuring the NSW Skills Board and improving VET in Schools are good, modest initiatives and necessarily State-specific.

That leaves the IAT, which is going to be “entirely new” but also fit into “existing funding, regulatory and accreditation requirements.” The IAT will “fully integrate VET and higher education” so students can progress from a Certificate IV, through an Advanced Diploma and finish with a Bachelor’s degree.

Many international students already follow this path with independent dual-sector providers. Government funding restrictions preclude domestic students easily doing the same. Despite their higher education experience, the reviewers do not advocate funding changes to support the IAT, leaving its bachelor students to presumably access much more costly FEE-HELP loans than their university counterparts.

The IAT’s course development will not be “constrained by the present cumbersome processes of designing or changing national training packages.” It seems that it will therefore be limited to teaching niche accredited courses (outside Training Packages), further limiting its attractiveness.

States and Territories will be actively considering the Commonwealth, Victorian and Tasmanian VET reform proposals.

Less so those from NSW.

 Claire Field is an advisor to the tertiary education sector