Strengthening skills: expert review of Australia’s vocational education and training system

Adult education Vocational education and training Educational evaluation Education Australia
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For decades, vocational education and training (VET) has been one of the key pillars of Australia’s economic success story. Generations of tradespeople and skilled workers have successfully developed their skills and knowledge in a practical work-based learning environment.

Vocational education today remains an effective and efficient way of imparting the skills needed for employment. If anything it’s likely that work-based learning models will be more important in the future as technology-driven changes to the ‘way we do things’ need to be quickly transmitted across industries and around workplaces. Our fast-moving world will need flexible and applied ways of learning, so people can lay strong foundations for their careers and then build further skills and knowledge in order to participate in new and changing industries.

This Review set out to conduct a health check of the Australian VET sector to determine how ready it is to step up to the challenge of training more Australians, now and in the future.

Some good work has been done, particularly in setting up the key elements of an integrated national framework such as the national regulator, the Australian Skills Quality Authority (ASQA), and nationally-portable qualifications. The Government’s creation of a universal student identifier and the new VET Information Strategy are further steps in the right direction. And the recent reforms to address the VET FEE-HELP issues have helped restore confidence in the sector that had been lost.

Most participants in this Review were very passionate about the vocational training model. They believe that ‘learning while you earn’ is critical for a fast-changing work environment.

However, many were also concerned whether the current VET systems and processes can deliver the sort of flexible work-based learning models that would help Australians obtain the necessary skills for the future of work.

Slow qualification development, complex and confusing funding models, and ongoing quality issues with some providers were cited as issues that needed addressing. Careers education, VET in schools and access for disadvantaged learners were also cited as needing attention to ensure VET continues to deliver for Australians.

These concerns are backed up by empirical evidence. Employer surveys show confidence in the sector declining, and numbers of qualification-seeking students decreasing.

This Review argues that there needs to be a significant upgrade to the architecture of the VET sector so it can successfully deliver the skills needed for Australia’s future.

It proposes a new vision for vocational education in Australia as a modern, applied and fast-paced alternative to classroom-based learning. This Review recommends a six point plan for change and a roadmap for achieving it. The plan seeks to deliver a stronger skills sector which is a positive choice for many more Australians, whether they are starting their working lives or need new skills to advance their career.

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