Making the case for VET: call for HECS-style loan

The NSW Government announces it adopts all five recommendations of Peter Shergold and David Gonski’s VET review

Their brief was to, “ensure NSW remains nationally and internationally competitive, and that VET is regarded as a genuine and desirable option for school leavers” and they respond with five recommendations.

The most ambitious is an Income Contingent Loan scheme, which the state should establish itself if the Commonwealth is not interested. Shergold and Gonski acknowledge the VET FEE HELP catastrophe but argue this was due to bad design and not an intrinsically flawed principal.

A well-designed scheme would, “reduce the distortion between higher and vocational education, increasing user choice and participation. It will make VET more accessible to students upfront and will level the playing feld of student decision-making,” they argue.

All their recommendations are,

* establish a multi-college Institute of Applied Technology, to, “deliver fully integrated theoretical and practical employability skills”

* create Careers NSW, to provide “life-long careers information”

* “improve the breadth and quality of voced in NSW high schools

* give employers “a more influential role” in planning and designing education and training courses

* an income contingent loan scheme for Certificate III and IV courses in priority skills areas

But there’s no rush. “While we advocate for the implementation of our package as a whole, the components of our reform agenda can be rolled out progressively. Indeed, we see virtue in demonstrating the benefits of new approaches before scaling up. … Each of the recommendations can also be implemented independently of the others, should that be the preference of the NSW Government,” they suggest.

There’s more to that than giving the government wriggle room – the state’s public training system had a terrible time with the too-much, too-fast implementation of the One TAFE administration. As the state’s auditor general advises, “TAFE NSW committed to timeframes and benefits without fully understanding its baseline, nor how achievable these timeframes and benefits would be,” (CMM January 20).