Claire Field warns: students deserve better on VET assessment  


Skills committee inertia risks sending tens of thousands of students into unemployment

 With a once in a century global pandemic, unemployment at a 20-year high, technology intensive jobs expected to lead Australia’s post-COVID recovery, and a manufacturing renaissance responding to fragilities in global supply chains VET has a key role to play.  But funding for extra training places is only part of the solution.

Federal Liberal backbencher, Dave Sharma, says “the challenge for government and for policymakers is to support this recovery, seek to make the transition as frictionless as possible, and lean into the change.”

In VET an emergency response sub-committee of the Australian Industry Skills Committee was established to “reduce the friction” and “lean into the change”, or as per the committee’s website “to enable short-term and urgent adjustments to qualifications and training package requirements to respond to areas of critical workforce and skills needs during the COVID-19 pandemic.”

However, almost six months after its formation the sub-committee has approved four skill sets and allowed adjustments to two units of competency, despite being presented with requests for adjustments to many more qualifications and units, because COVID-19 is preventing students undertaking mandatory work-placements or accessing specialist equipment.

The sub-committee’s response has variously been that it is “considering the issues”, “drawing together advice”, “undertaking analysis” or telling providers to contact the VET regulators. To be clear, it is the AISC and its sub-committee (not the regulators) with responsibility for approving the adjustments being sought.

The sub-committee’s inertia risks sending tens of thousands of students into unemployment because they cannot finish their qualifications this year without time in the workplace or access to equipment. Delayed graduation is not an option, as they will then be competing with thousands more students next year for the same work-placements and use of specialist equipment.

A solution must be found which is as ‘frictionless’ as possible. Students deserve better.

Claire is a consultant to the tertiary education sector. She was a member of the National Quality Council (a predecessor to the AISC) and has held senior roles in state and national VET regulatory agencies.