This occasional paper provides the views of 17 ‘thought leaders’ in the Australian vocational education and training (VET) sector. Their insight and opinions were sought to inform a larger research project focused on the student entitlement reforms that were introduced into the national VET system from 2012. A particular emphasis has been on the implications of the reforms and the challenges faced in its implementation in the context of achieving a balance between national consistency and jurisdictional flexibility.
The interviewees considered key elements of the national training system, namely: standards for VET products (training packages and materials); standards for VET providers; and a flexible training market. The interviewees commented on the consistency and flexibility sought in each of these key elements, highlighting where tensions exist, particularly in student training entitlements.
The views of experts highlight differing observations and opinions, yet also some unifying themes.
Both consistency and flexibility are required in the national training system, with both balanced effectively to achieve meaningful outcomes at the national and jurisdictional levels.
The distinct requirements and approaches of each of the jurisdictions have resulted in eight distinct training entitlement schemes being established. This has contributed to perceptions of fragmentation rather than these various approaches being received as ‘flexibility’ in the national VET system.
Balancing local and national skills priorities is difficult and a perennial source of tension within the national training system. The entitlement system may not currently address whether and how a student could undertake courses in which there is a national but no local skill shortage.
The eligibility criteria for the student training entitlement could have a greater level of consistency across the various training entitlement schemes. This would assist in meeting equity goals and provide increased functionality in the national training system.
Prices, subsidies and fees have always been different across jurisdictions and even within jurisdictions, for good local reasons. Under any entitlement system, however, the subsidy level combined with the student fee needs to provide sufficient resources to allow for measurable quality in training.
High-quality training experiences and outcomes is paramount to all aspects of entitlement schemes. National standards for registered training organisations (RTOs) and training products must be applied and continuously improved to be fit for purpose in a more marketised training environment.
Adequate information for consumers about quality in VET and what to look for when choosing a suitable course or provider remains an important requirement in the national VET system.