When national skills regulator ASQA announced it would suspend ten SA TAFE qualifications the Weatherill Government did what any ministry on its last legs would do, commissioned an inquiry to report after the poll. Which is where we are now, with the Nous Group’s analysis out. And scathing reading it makes.
Certainly, the consultants acknowledge a range of circumstances imposed on the agency and points to specific performance pluses and more minuses, including:
“There is a large contingent of highly motivated and loyal staff who want to help restore confidence in the institution of which they are very proud, but who have felt alienated from and unclear about the overarching strategy and role of TAFE SA in the wider system. They have also been inculcated into a culture of fixed rules and entitlements that arguably diminishes a sense of trust, responsibility and ability to ‘lead from below’.”
“Despite efforts to reduce spending, TAFE SA still does not appear to provide a strong return on investment from its training funding. In 2016 TAFE SA received 87 per cent of government VET funding, yet only trained 64 per cent of total government-funded students Even when incorporating the additional costs of being a public provider, these figures point to inefficiencies in the organisation’s operations.”
“Considering the risks of further adverse audits, we nevertheless recommend that there be a concerted effort to ensure that TAFE SA’s lecturers, particularly those who have been on staff for a long time, have maintained industry currency. Given the relatively low turnover of staff, there is a risk that some staff may fall short of the standard.”
But the overall message is that the buck stops with the board;
“Board membership was unbalanced, the wrong structures were in place to effectively monitor risk to regulatory compliance and reputation, and performance metrics for executives were skewed. The most concerning finding, and an indicator of both the poor support provided to the Board and the limited sense of responsibility of its members, was that internal quality auditors had made discoveries similar to those later made by ASQA. They reported TAFE SA’s noncompliance ‘up the line’, but these internal audit findings revealing a high degree of exposure were not given proper consideration at either the executive or Board level.”