The vocational education and training (VET) sector helps individuals develop skills and knowledge across a broad range of industries. These skills prepare graduates for employment or further education.
Victorians may study VET through technical and further education (TAFE) institutes and universities, or through other government and non-government providers, such as secondary schools, community organisations and industry skills centres. There are 12 publicly owned TAFEs across Victoria, and four dual‑sector universities that deliver VET.
The Education and Training Reform Act 2006 states that TAFEs must provide efficient and effective training programs that meet the needs of their local communities. Dual‑sector universities have a similar mandate and deliver significant amounts of both VET and higher education. In contrast, TAFEs deliver mostly VET. For this audit, 'TAFE' refers to both standalone TAFEs and dual‑sector universities.
Following years of significant policy and regulatory change, the Victorian Government has prioritised the development of a strong and stable VET sector that protects students' rights and interests. It aims to achieve this through Skills First, a government-subsidised training program that targets industry needs while maximising students' employment prospects.
The Department of Education and Training (the department) engages providers, such as TAFEs, to deliver the Skills First program using the VET funding contract (the contract). Due to past occurrences of corrupt conduct, the contract has strengthened requirements regarding the enrolment process. These requirements aim to prevent fraud by determining how TAFEs assess prospective students' eligibility and suitability for government‑subsidised training.
In this audit, we examined the efficiency of enrolment processes for Skills First training at five institutions:
- Box Hill Institute (Box Hill)
- Melbourne Polytechnic
- Sunraysia Institute of TAFE (SuniTAFE)
- Swinburne University of Technology (Swinburne)
- William Angliss Institute of TAFE (William Angliss).
In Victoria, prospective TAFE students do not consistently experience an efficient enrolment process for government-subsidised training.
Depending on the institution they seek to enrol with, some will engage with an online enrolment process with the flexibility and support needed to complete key steps based on individual needs. More commonly, individuals will experience a rigid enrolment process that relies on manual processing and in‑person visits. Manual processing is inefficient for TAFEs and increases their costs. It also hinders their ability to track people through the enrolment process and use that information to improve their efficiency and effectiveness. And while in-person visits may benefit some prospective students, they inconvenience others.
The open-ended requirements in the department's contract with TAFEs for considering a prospective student's literacy and numeracy skills add to inconsistency and inefficiency in TAFEs' enrolment practices. By prioritising compliance in this area, most TAFEs impose onerous testing requirements that disregard an individual's educational background. If the department clarifies when and how testing should occur, TAFEs could implement more streamlined methods that maintain compliance.
Despite these inefficiencies, a significant proportion of prospective students find it easy to enrol at the five audited TAFEs. These TAFEs are working to improve their enrolment systems and move more processes online, but this work is uncoordinated. Greater sector-wide efficiency can be gained if the department leads and works with TAFEs to develop a shared solution, rather than TAFEs duplicating effort using their own limited resources.