Claire Field warns we are missing a once in a generation training opportunity


The Commonwealth and states are ignoring the reforms Australia will need

Finn, Mayer and Carmichael. Names from another time … Specifically the early 1990s when unemployment was at record highs and there were fears for the future competitiveness of Australian industry.

The Finn Review, the Mayer report and the Carmichael report recognised the profound challenges facing Australia, not least the impact of the recession, and the significant investment needed to improve the economy and individuals’ life chances.

Their recommendations were bold, strategic and laid the foundations of the current Australian VET system, including:

* the AQF

* a national quality/recognition framework for providers

* competency-based training

* apprenticeship reforms including User Choice, and

* national targets for youth participation and attainment.

It is hard to imagine what the “founders” of the modern Australian VET system would make of the current responses to the skills challenge arising from COVID-19.

Instead of grasping the opportunity to invest in skills development to help workers transition to new and emerging occupations and a more digital future – instead we have:

* the Commonwealth tweaking the VET Student Loan scheme

* NSW offering short on-line courses at TAFE in business admin, word processing, how to use spreadsheets, etc., and

* Victoria investing money in stabilising TAFE funding (not necessarily extra places) and short on-line courses in cleaning, food hygiene, and first aid.

While other jurisdictions noticeably Queensland, South Australia, Tasmania and the ACT have invested more in their VET systems, the additional investment is not always easily quantified and seems unlikely to be sufficient to meet the skills needs of millions of unemployed people.

There is also no overarching purpose to the activities each jurisdiction is undertaking.

Coalescing around the recommendations of the Joyce Review would allow the VET sector another once-in-a-generation opportunity to support the economic reforms Australia is going to need.

Claire Field advises on VET, international education and private higher education.


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