Two certainties about VET’s future are that it will play a critical role in skilling Australians and that it will remain in a constant state of change. Here we address six burning questions about VET’s future.
The future of VET is a hot topic right now, with the Federal Government’s Vocational Education and Training Review having closed to industry submissions in late January this year. With potential change afoot in the sector this year and beyond, VETtrak and our parent company ReadyTech ask a few questions about what the future could hold. Here are six questions that might get us closer to an answer.
1. Is technology crucial to the future of education?
As a technology company this first question might seem a little self-serving. However, it’s because we’re in the business of selling best practice technology for VET providers that we are always asking how better use of technology could benefit all of us in the future.
What then are some of the ways technology could play a greater role in VET?
Our parent company ReadyTech is a provider of student assessment technology through a brand called A2E, which stands for Assess2Educate. Through a simple pre-enrolment questionnaire, A2E is able to help educators assess the attitudes and commitment levels of an individual to a course before they even start, allowing providers to allocate and provide support and resources for the students who need them.
This makes ReadyTech and VETtrak very aware of the role behavioural science and prescriptive analytics can play in assessing the commitment levels of students before they begin. By applying more science to the pre-enrolment process, providers in future might be better able to ensure individuals are investing in the right course for them, which would lead to less attrition, improved completion rates, and overall better student satisfaction.
VETtrak’s recent Voice of VET RTO Industry Australia 2018 Report found online training was offered by less than half of RTO providers when they were surveyed last year. There is a risk that, to some extent, as a sector we may be trailing student expectations. For example, a recent survey of ‘study interested’ workers by Deloitte found 78% of people who want to study want at least half of their learning delivered online. The future may see our sector continuing to expand further into an online delivery or mixed-delivery model that would allow the VET sector’s limited number of providers to scale and meet the demand of students for training when and how they need it, including in rural areas.
Data-driven decision making
Data is a powerful asset to our industry, and in future we might choose to use more of it. The VET industry is in a position to leverage deep pools of data from across our economy on everything from job outcomes to skills needs and derive insights that will position both individual providers and the sector as a whole better for the future of work.
2. Will private RTO providers show VET the way forward?
Entrepreneurial private VET providers are well placed to move quickly to address the skills needs of industry and students in line with the pace of change expected in future. As more individuals seek to add new skills and the business sector seeks a general accumulation of skills, the market will need to be in a position to service that demand. VETtrak’s recent Voice of VET survey found that 25% of RTO providers were looking at new markets or new courses as key growth opportunities over the next 12 months. It may be that unlocking the power of private providers to deliver skills needs will only assist the VET sector overall.
3. Does our qualifications framework need to evolve?
The Australian Qualifications Framework (AQF) plays an important role in our education landscape. However, there are questions over whether the pace of change we will face in the future will require us to take a second look at the way the AQF works. Given the rate of skills adaptation, we will all need to adjust to in future, a future model that encourages innovation and experimentation with new and evolving learning content could ensure providers adapt more quickly to the real-world realities of the industry niches they service.
Could the future see providers offered incentives to create new and relevant content against an agreed skills list, giving progressive VET providers a chance to take on the risk of innovation and have them pitch for funding? Could it see the emphasis on full qualifications reduced and a shift towards accounting for single skills or packets of related skills? Could more providers be licensed to create their own self-accredited content in line with national frameworks? Could funding be directed not just to teaching, but to other areas that enhance student outcomes, including mentoring and coaching? Only time will tell.
4. Will the future demand skills rather than qualifications?
Will the future require us to adopt a new language of skills around what we do in the VET sector, rather than our current emphasis on qualifications and certificates? As businesses increasingly demand skills and see value in them – perhaps even more than a ‘certificate’ – it may be VET providers will begin to reinvent themselves along these lines, providing more fluid, customisable and stackable skills that may be more in vogue in a future workplace.
5. Will there be increased intimacy with industry?
Many VET providers are responsible for innovation in training in their niche areas, but in some cases, they have not moved fast enough to align the skills they are teaching with real-world demands. Is there a solution? It may be the future will involve a wholesale pivot towards industry, with greater industry involvement in the agile maintenance of a skills register that would help guide and focus VET on evolving needs. A focus on work placements and internships could be increasingly important. Such a situation would ensure industry itself doesn’t bypass the VET sector altogether by creating their own enterprise channels for workforce development that will leave VET providers locked out and irrelevant.
6. Will student experience become as important as progression?
Student progression has always been an important measure of performance, but in future, could student experience (SX) rise to prominence? As our sector moves ahead into the future, VET providers may be encouraged to place more value on qualitative feedback from students on their experience as well as their progress through a course, to ensure that they continue to evolve in line with the expectations of their student customers and that the VET sector remains robust and competitive with other education channels.