VET FEE-HELP scrapped, entitlements dumped & VET workforce tested

For some 2015 was an Annus horribilis in VET, for others they just got on with it, and if you are a VET leader then you most likely redirected your energy, strategy and thinking.

This blog post outlines possible futures for VET in Australia covering changes, what may be dumped or scrapped, with 2016 a year of reckoning and regeneration.

Firstly let’s talk about two “R’s” – regulation and responsibility.

Change Registered Training Organisation Regulation

Make this a national approach for every RTO.  ASQA don’t’ threaten shonky colleges with deregistration – instead do it!

Change Responsibility

One of the key issues will be the possibility of shifting the responsibility of VET to the Commonwealth Government.

Whilst most State and Territory Premiers see very open to this idea there are groups coming out against this move.

For example, in Tasmania where vocational training groups fear federal takeover,

…Tony Kennedy, the CEO of Tasmanian private hospitality and tourism training school Industry Link, said a takeover would jeopardise the effectiveness of the industry and close relationship with the State Government.

Mr Groom, the State Growth Minister, said the Government is against a Commonwealth takeover.

“The Tasmanian Government’s position is clear: the Government does not support a national takeover of the system,” he said.

“However, we will still continue to work with other jurisdictions, including the Federal Government, to improve the VET system.

“The Government’s training and workforce development strategy is directly aimed at meeting industry needs and producing positive employment outcomes for individuals.”

For Regional Australia the shift in responsibility for VET would need to be mindful of local collaboration as outlined in a Brisbane Times article titled Co-operation beats competition for regional universities in Australia,

As many of the members of the Regional Universities Network have found, this is essential if they are to provide regional communities with dual-sector teaching and research services. Such co-operative working relationships enables a local regional city library or high school to operate as a study centre to support students studying state government-funded TAFE program or federal government-funded university programs.  A key task for the Federal Minister of Education and Training, Simon Birmingham, must be to lead the bridge building across all three levels of government in order to avoid the waste of taxpayer dollars when, as is often the case, these levels of government operate in splintered silos.

The suggestion is that Australian Apprenticeships (funding for employers and RTOs), Foundation Skills, Innovation Strategies (competitiveness, growth, and international education), Training Package development and Youth Employment programs should be funded and managed nationally.

Training Packages must take a job role first approach and consider global recognition through frameworks such as Tin Can API or Ex-API.

Business and VET collaboration needs to be even stronger with the university sector (and similarities in VET) blasted in a recent report comparing Australia to countries such as the US, United Kingdom, Israel and Finland – read more here.

Consider are all of the states and territories doing a good job facilitating an evidence based employer/industry demand led VET system with preferred Registered Training Organisations?

At a local level it will be important for agencies and partners to implement workforce development strategies that address workforce participation and engagement including adult community education, career development, entrepreneurship, up skilling, industry and regional skill requirements.

Scrap Funded Training Lists of Qualifications and Skills Sets

Instead align state and territory local initiatives and knowledge, with a national vision for VET, state/territory policy, industry priorities, regional drivers, critical job roles and capabilities.

Scrap VET FEE-HELP

With calls for the broken VET sector and rorts akin to “roof insulation” to see legislative change, and fines for regulatory breaches outlined in The Australian, some headlines are hard to read – Stop the rot before vocational system bleeds dry.

Now, Minister for Vocational Education Luke Hartsuyker has announced a package of “urgent” measures including:

  • Freeze on loans to providers at 2015 levels
  • New conditions for providers registering for VET FEE-HELP
  • Powers to suspend payments to providers
  • Payments in quarterly arrears rather than upfront
  • Students to have year 12 equivalent qualifications

Further information on the Higher Education Support Amendment (VET FEE-HELP Reform) Bill 2015 can be found here.

But moreover VET FEE-HELP should be scrapped as there are too many problems with it, by association it is damaging reputations and surely there is something better!

From the lowest point now, Australia must reinforce its international credibility as one of the top 3 Technical Vocational Education Training (TVET) systems in the world.

Design a vision for VET in Australia

Australia should strive for a 21st Century Workforce and a World-class VET system which is the key to unlocking Australia’s talent.

A 21st Century Skills Framework would mean, “a talent match between workers’ qualifications and the specific skill required and combination of skills that employers want.”

Export VET know-how

Take Australian VET products and services to the world by demonstrating the connection to priorities, workforce planning and development strategies first.

Identify Industry, Regional and Critical Job Role Priorities

With evidence from industry sectors, clusters, networks and supply chains, identify workforce priorities, aligned with regional drivers, leading to understanding critical job roles and capability gaps.

This approach should inform VET funding and investment, with Australian Apprenticeship outcomes on top of the list, all encouraging employment, engagement and entrepreneurship.

VET Workforce

Whatever comes in 2016 it is clear that the VET Workforce is being tested.  Rather than wait for things to be announced and done to you, get your own skills profile in order.

Access the VET Workforce Skills profile, identify skills that you are competent in and could develop others, update your LinkedIn profile and join the Australian VET Leaders group to expand your networks.

December 2015

PS. Last chance to register for 2 webinars

This is your final opportunity to register for next week’s webinars, putting you in the right frame of mind to tackle 2016:

8.12.15, 11.30 am ADST How to develop a World-Class VET (TVET) system and RTO

10.12.15, 11.30 am ADST VET Predictions for 2016

6 Comments

  • Vic says:

    I have been a training provider since 1997 and an RTO since 2006, I have never received funding and have relied on fee for services only, the heading in your statement reads that VET Fee is scrapped when it is only frozen at 2015 levels, scrapped would be the way to go as then it would be a level playing field, I get fed up with all the talk of shonky RTO’s (usually by people that would love to live in an ideal world)
    There are a lot of honest and hard working RTO’s that are doing or trying to do the right thing only to be jumped on for not numbering a page correctly or dotting an i, this so called compliance policing needs to be dealt with first

    • We are in the same position as you, a private fee for service provider that was forced to become an RTO. I agree with you totally, scape the VET – Fee help scheme it haws become a bigger rorte than the old style funding and it seems to attract providers that are just chasing the cash and don’t care about quaility of training or student results. As Don commented it allows these providers to have huge marketing budgets that just perpetuates the problem of smaller , honest RTO’s not being able to compete on a level playing field. I also beleive Don is right in that the auditors find it easier to jump on the honest RTO’s for not ‘dotting an i’ or some other irrelevant indiscretion than really looking at the bigger problems of quality and student completion rates. How in two days can an auditor effectively audit an organisation with multiple Cert III’s, IV’s etc which may mean that the provider has a hundred units or more on their scope.

      • Wendy says:

        Thanks for your comment Glenn and we aren’t an RTO and we do really feel for honest RTOs that get on with the job but have been impacted by this negativity.

  • Don Bacchi says:

    We would be happy to be part of a group to work towards scrapping Vet Fee help

    As you said the damage it has done to a great industry should not be allowed to happen

    The massive financial benefits to certain Vet Fee Providers has also given them a substantial market edge as they have unlimited funds to extend their marketing

    Regards
    Don

  • Alexis says:

    I’m not certain a complete scrapping of VFH is the solution. The system is absolutely not working as it was intended, but that is largely a design and monitoring problem, not one of fundamentals. As a small, not-for-profit RTO turning 16 this year we have always operated on a blend of fee-for-service, State and Commonwealth funding via subsidies, grants, tenders and other contestable models. We’ve been in all of them, bar apprenticeships – but only because of scope. I support taking an outcomes-focused approach and working back from there, adjusting the settings at each step in the VET journey using a risk-based methodology. One of the biggest challenges I see (aside from the handful of less-than-ethical RTOs abusing the sector and damaging its reputation right now) is balancing the needs of students, employers, providers, taxpayers, politicians, governments and the VET workforce in a super-complex landscape of changing skills priorities, demographic shifts, technology impacts, globalisation, local competition, employment, social value, industrial reform, and rising ambiguity about the future. Defining measures that all agree on is incredibly challenging.

    It’s a complex space, and things that appear simple on the face (scrap VFH) are unlikely to be so in their implementation or full impact.

    • Wendy says:

      Thanks for your professional and thoughtful comments Alexis. It is complex but I think a fresh start to considering this type of funding support is needed. Hence the call to scrap it, especially with the negativity surrounding VFH, and I think we can do better in terms of design, outcomes and making our VET system world-class.

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