VET-Industry engagement needs work warns Claire Field


Perhaps Euro COVES might offer an answer

In the same week the NCVER released a report comparing VET-industry engagement in a number of OECD countries, the European Union issued a briefing note on their Centres of Vocational Excellence (CoVEs).

Australia has a “top down” approach to industry engagement formalised in Industry Reference Committees, the Australian Industry Skills Committee, three pilot Skills Organisations, and other bodies (for example the Digital Transformation Expert Panel). Concurrently VET providers consult employers on their proposed teaching and assessment approaches, but this engagement is secondary to the national parameters established in training packages.

The current arrangements have proven inadequate with an ongoing decline in the number of employers using VET.

To solve the problem, Steven Joyce recommended new governance arrangements for the Skills Organisations (i.e. created by industry) and that they have a role in funding VET providers. Jenny Macklin recommended a place-based approach through “Future Skills Labs”, echoing a key feature of the CoVEs.

CoVEs “bring together a wide range of local partners, such as providers of vocational education and training, employers, research centres, development agencies, and employment services (among others), to develop ‘skills ecosystems’ that contribute to regional, economic and social development, innovation, and smart specialisation strategies. They aim to provide high quality vocational skills, support entrepreneurial activities, diffusion of innovation, and act as knowledge and innovation hubs for companies (particularly SMEs), while working with centres in other countries through international collaborative platforms.”

Governments have piloted/are implementing similar approaches here, for example, the NSW government trialled a “skills ecosystem” approach 15 years ago, and the South Australian government has established Lot 14 as an innovation hub involving employers, universities and TAFE SA.

With further changes expected to industry engagement arrangements in VET, it remains to be seen if governments will look to encourage more place-based approaches.

In the meantime, a hat tip to the NCVER for their contribution to the debate. Their report is well focussed and refreshingly direct in its language. Australia needs more international comparisons to guide policy development. One minor point for the future: governments need this analysis at an earlier point in the reform process.

 Claire Field is an adviser to the tertiary education sector.