The COVID-19 crisis has created unprecedented global upheaval, creating conditions as unpredictable and challenging as we have ever seen. New and bold economic and social policies are required for Australia to navigate a recovery, and beyond that, a pathway to inclusive and sustainable economic growth.

As we enter new phases of readjustment, what skills will be in demand? How can those who have faced job-losses or disruption best retrain and re-engage? What about young people, with their pathways out of school and tertiary studies interrupted? What’s the role of government, and of industry, in this new world?

Vocational education and training (VET) is a key component of Australia’s education and training system. However, the sector is not currently equipped to respond to these questions with the agility and reliability that’s required. Many involved in Australia’s VET system have been concerned about the state of the sector for some time.

Key suggestions for reform:

  • Create a simpler, fairer national funding arrangement between the Commonwealth and state and territory governments. Position student needs and equity objectives as central, through a ‘baseline plus loadings’ approach, and a workable model for student loans.
  • Prioritise effective governance, with government and industry having clearly defined roles. Decisions about strategic direction, system-wide objectives and funding should rest with government, taking into account input from industry, providers and communities.
  • Rethink assessment to ensure confidence and trust in the skills and competencies attained. Explore more independent assessment (partnering within industry and professional bodies), moderated assessment (through a government entity) and including more information on levels of proficiency for higher-level VET qualifications.
  • Ensure the system responds to industry skills needs at a macro and micro level. From the top down: establish an authoritative source of quality, timely information on national skills needs, taking into account VET, higher education and skilled migration. From the bottom up: empower providers to partner with industry and community to meet local and regional needs.
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