Shaping vocational training

Vocational Education and Training (VET) plays a vital role in underpinning productivity and driving economic growth in Australia. The VET system provides greater opportunity for Australians to obtain employment, filling much needed industry positions. We have a world class vocational training system with broad appeal not only to industry and domestic students but also to a growing number of over 200,000 full fee paying international students.

Lately, the sector has taken big hits from a number of negative occurrences including the failure of the poorly designed, implemented and regulated VET Fee Help system, and the collapse of a number of Registered Training Organisations (RTOs). The objective of VET reform is to provide greater regulation and governance with the aim to improve the image and quality of the VET sector.

VET emphasizes skills and knowledge required for a particular job or trade. It is imperative that VET is championed as a real option for students supported by a system that is responsive, effective, appealing to business and valued by the broader community.

The VET system includes training packages which are made up of 3 components:

  1. Units of competency – these define skills and knowledge and how these need to be applied to perform effectively in a workplace context
  2. Qualifications framework – groups the units into various levels of qualifications from Certificate I through to Graduate Diploma
  3. Assessment guidelines – how assessments should be conducted and what determines competence to perform effectively in the workplace.

Training packages do not suggest how a learner should be trained.  In a competency-based system like we have in Australia, assessment is the gatekeeper for quality, not timeframe or curriculum.

The Australian VET System has many checks and balances. These regulate on; how a training package is put together; determining the qualification level; and access to and delivery of the training package content. 

The public funding attached to vocational training is not limitless, and has shrunk by nearly 5% compared to 10 years ago. Employers tend to resist paying premium dollar for training, have a reluctance to release their staff for training and a preference for highly customised training. To balance the expectations from employers, VET trainers must deliver quality outcomes, for less money, as quickly as possible. They are also required to maintain their industry knowledge, provide timely feedback and keep up with regulatory requirements.

Research is showing a decline in people signing up to apprenticeships and finishing what they started.  Yet, student surveys show nearly 9 out of 10 students are satisfied with the training they received. There is pressure on RTOs to reduce ‘non- completions’. We can all play a part in ensuring vocational training is more highly valued and promoted as a career pathway.

There are some challenges that are unique to the NT. The number of RTOs with capacity to support workforce training needs is shrinking. Many trainers care about making a difference in the lives of their students. They go the extra mile and this is leading to exhaustion for some trainers. There is a flow on effect where businesses may become frustrated as they don’t understand why a service can no longer be provided.

The apprenticeship model is not the only delivery model for building skills for jobs. We need to ensure consumers become more informed about the training options available to them.  More choices are and will be available which includes courses resulting in full qualifications, or an option to undertake individual units.  People can re-skill, upskill, transfer or transform their skills.  The tool used to do this is the vocational training package. ISACNT scope emerging areas of skills needed to ensure workforce gaps are minimised in the Northern Territory.

Australia needs a system in place that produces trained people ready to jump, skilled and job ready into jobs.  If not vocational training, where will we get our skilled workforce from?  The federal government is calling on the wider community, including business and training providers, for ideas how we can do vocational training better.

Help shape the world of VET and contribute your ideas HERE.