Discussion paper

Roles and responsibilities in education part B: reform of the Federation White Paper issues paper 4

23 Dec 2014

This issues paper examines the current arrangements put in place by governments to support our educational attainment and particularly in post-school, in vocational education and training (VET) and higher education - as Part B of a two-part paper.

More specifically and consistent with the White Paper’s Terms of Reference, it considers how the current split of roles and responsibilities, and the overlap and duplication inherent in them, is contributing to pressures on the efficiency and effectiveness of our education system, and governments’ capacity to deliver better services and educational outcomes for their citizens.



The vocational education and training (VET) system plays a vital role in delivering trained individuals that have skills needed by the labour market for Australia’s economic development.

While this provides significant benefits to employers and the economy, more importantly, it provides significant benefits to individuals that have obtained the skills, both in terms of their social inclusion and participation in society, but also their own future employment prospects and earning potential.

VET offers students and learners the opportunity to (1) attain nationally-recognised qualifications1 for a wide range of jobs, from entry-level occupations through to highly technical para-professions; (2) gather the skills necessary to meet regulatory or licensing requirements for many trades and occupations; and (3) pursue an educational pathway that suits their needs, either to learn basic or foundation skills to prepare for higher level qualifications or to enter the workforce, or to move on to higher education.

The training system encompasses Certificate I through to a Graduate Diploma (see Appendix A). Certificate III is the central qualification for trade training, and Certificate IV generally introduces managerial competencies. However, some people choose to undertake only part of a VET qualification (known as a skill set) in order to acquire specific skills that may help them specialise or progress in the workplace.

Around 3 million students a year study VET, with 1.5 million students in government-subsidised training places, including around 400,000 apprentices and trainees.2 In 2013, around 240,000 students did VET courses as part of their secondary schooling (VET in schools) which helps many of them move from school to work. VET is also an important part of Australia’s international education market with 135,000 overseas students in 2013.

Training is provided by more than 4,6003 public, private and community providers. In 2013, about half of all government-subsidised training was provided through Technical and Further Education (TAFE) institutes and other government providers. The rest of the subsidised training is delivered by around 2,0005 registered training organisations that include a mix of private for- profit colleges, not-for-profit organisations such as community colleges and schools, and enterprises delivering accredited in-house training. There are around 80 education providers that are registered to deliver both VET and higher education courses, including 11 TAFE institutes and 15 universities. In addition, there is a significant amount of non-accredited training conducted each year with around 8 million Australian workers undertaking some form of adult learning.

In 2014-15, governments will provide an estimated $5.9 billion in funding for subsidised training (31 per cent of which will come from the Commonwealth). The recent opening up of government-subsidised places to private providers has seen their share of the subsidised training market increase to around one third Australia-wide, compared to about 20 per cent in 

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