‘Elephant’ in the room for Australia’s VET sector

Whilst Australia’s VET sector has been plagued with poor behaviour and outcomes for students over VET FEE-HELP there was an elephant in the room at the recent COAG Industry and Skills Council meeting.

With discussion on the recent budget announcement about the Skilling Australians Fund aiming to prioritise apprenticeships and traineeships in high demand there are two key questions to ask:

  1. what evidence do we have of demand? and;
  2. the fund, “…will be financed by the Government’s reforms that require employers who nominate foreign workers under the new Temporary Skill Shortage visa and certain permanent visas to pay a Skilling Australians Fund contribution from March 2018.”

That seems like a very precarious link!Apprenticeship

Council highlighted that, “Importantly project proposals will need to demonstrate engagement with, and support from, employers and industry.”

Which relates to the ‘elephant’ …

The Commonwealth Government, together with State and Territory Governments, recognise the importance of managing economic shifts and coming to grips with big changes such as globalisation, internationalization and automation on the workforce.

Enrolments in VET are dropping, and in some areas like non-trade based Australian Apprenticeships, it is dramatic.  So where are all the students and what could be the root cause of this accelerating trend?

Some might suggest that this is because of changes in funding and eligibility criteria, consumer confidence and media coverage, VET policy and reform, employer expectations and jobs – together these things definitely have an impact.  But you have to ask yourself, is demand dropping because students and employers don’t see the ‘product’, that is a course or qualification and Training Packages, as fit for purpose?  And this is not to say that all Training Packages are outdated, however when profiling current jobs there is often a mismatch in the competencies required and those available in the system.

Australia’s Training Package system is an asset, many countries aspire to have something similar but the 21st Century capabilities needed into the future are not yet in national qualifications.  The system we have drastically needs updating and in many areas recasting.  An innovation rich economy can’t be based on skills and qualifications trying to play catch up.

When searching www.training.gov.au the current system draws blanks on critical skills in areas such as entrepreneurship, Artificial Intelligence, robots, smart cities, Augmented Reality (AR), big data, blockchain, gig/share economy, machine learning, podcasting, social messaging, and Virtual Reality (VR).

All governments have policies and programs to support small business but the qualifications for micro business and small business are written with a 20th Century approach.  There are good coaches, mentors, trainers and providers that facilitate interesting programs but this is operating over and above the old fashioned, dry qualifications.  A total rewrite with an entrepreneurial mindset and a contemporary view of starting up and scaling up a business is needed.

But rather than another Training Package review, it is action that is needed – a jump ahead to skills for future jobs 3-5 years out, alongside considering international frameworks such as Experience API (xAPI), for transferability, streamlining and simplicity.

In short, the problem or ‘elephant’ is that the scale of change required for Training Packages is huge and it should have been started years ago.

June 2017

PS. See you at EduTECH in Sydney over 8-9 June 2017 and feel free to post your comments or ideas on this blog.


  • Guy Campbell says:

    Yes..will see you at eduTech. This is a good theme for some of the panel discussion. My question “Is VET trying to be all things to too many sectors?” I particilarly refer to the international sector.

  • A good VET practitioner would use the existing framework and build on these extra modernisation skills as part of the delivery process. We all know that a system like VET is so big, with so many fingers in the pie, it is difficult to move in any direction. It is simple to embellish it.

  • JulieInglis says:

    Hi Wendy – interesting topic and agree with the first component re the dry standards, repetition etc. However as an RTO when we consider MBO and Small Business and the current trends in IT, Innovation and Entrepreneurship, please be mindful not to brush all providers/trainers that they are not covering current up to date innovate trends in their content and delivery and all students aren’t getting exposed to this. I guess it is the way that the standards are interpreted and delivered which makes a good provider of this sometimes dry standards. Even in leadership and management we embed Stanford Design Thinking, innovation, Ideaology across the board which brings in the opportunities to expose them to VR, flipped classrooms, Zoom, Robots being used for Security etc. depending on the group and the individual industries of the participants. Customisation, current trends, research and embedding this into training is, at least until the standards change, the key to ensuring students are getting the most current information. Whilst some are doing it not so well, there are some, like us, that are ensuring students are exposed to this and have opportunities to explore it. It is an interesting topic and yes the standards have a way to go to understand this vs every unit in a qualification having WHS criteria included 🙂

  • Interesting how we can read the same statements differently…as always of course. I didn’t read Wendy’s comments as having anything to do with good RTOs which are always changing training to the latest ideas, technologies etc. I read her comments to say we need a process/system that is faster and more reflective of future. Those who are gaining new skills industry needs could be supported by a qualified trainer to run pilots with cutting edge companies as trials that are then reviewed and evaluated. When sure all OK then we develop something others can use. You will remember we previously did it this way if you have been around long enough like me. Out of the box thought…maybe we are too systematic (risk averse?) for the current and future speed of change?

  • So if quality systems e.g. ISO or Business Excellence are adopted by RTOs, then the challenge is for the ISO or Business Excellence owners to show they also understand this imperative and assess their clients appropriately. In other words how can an RTO that is clearly not complying with legislative requirements be awarded its quality system accreditation just because it has a couple of nice other practices?

Leave a Reply

Translate »