Goodbye VET, hello ‘Skills Education’?

The recent Joyce Review argued for a host of changes that may affect your RTO. The question is, are you ready if they are adopted by a new Government in full?

The new financial year has begun. The difference is that this time around, this annual marker coincides with the beginning of a new Federal Government term, and potentially the entry into some new territory for VET and the RTO market in Australia.

RTOs will be well aware the lead up to the recent election involved an Expert Review into Australia’s Vocational Education and Training system. Conducted by Steven Joyce, the Strengthening Skills review recommended changes that could affect RTOs.

The new financial year is a good time to revisit these. With recent member advice from the Independent Tertiary Education Council of Australia (ITECA) suggesting the Government has an appetite for adopting many – if not all – of the changes that were recommended in the review, and it’s worth RTOs being prepared for what could be just around the corner.

The beginning of ‘Skills Education’?

The Joyce Review recommended changes right across the VET industry in Australia. From leadership to funding, the thrust was about ensuring that VET is a highly regarded pathway for students and workers and that industry has a more central role in the future.

In fact, one recommendation was that the sector is entirely rebranded as ‘Skills Education’, rather than VET, to ensure that the industry is able to gain new life as a ‘modern, fast-paced skills acquisition alternative to institution-based learning’.

While the full review can be accessed here, in summary, it recommended:

Changing the leadership of the VET system

More coordination across the Commonwealth, States, and Territories on the purpose of VET, industry architecture and funding. Recommendations included speeding up qualification development, simplifying funding and reducing the funding differential with universities.

Strengthening quality assurance

A reaffirmation of the Australian Skills Quality Authority’s role in ensuring ‘consistent quality assurance’, while encouraging more transparency on things like ASQA’s activities and audits. Raises the prospect of ASQA ranking RTOs in the future based on their quality.

Speeding up qualifications development

Recommends industry-owned, government-registered Skills Organisations be set up to take responsibility for industry qualification development and training packages. Skills Organisations would be piloted in one or two industries and expanded to the whole sector.

Simpler funding and skills matching

Argues for a simpler, nationally consistent funding for all government-subsidised qualifications, including agreed national average costs and subsidy levels, with the States and Territories continuing to allocate places on a contestable basis to meet skills demand. A new National Skills Commission would administer funding.

Better careers information

Recommends a ‘single, authoritative government source of careers information’ for VET. A National Careers Institute would collate and publish information on career pathways, including demand forecasts for occupations, training information and likely income levels.

Clearer secondary school pathways

Better design of pathways between schools and VET careers to promote a clearer understanding of the pathways that can be taken through years 9 and 12. A student identifier would track outcomes being achieved through subsequent education and training.

Greater access for disadvantaged Australians

More support for disadvantaged cohorts in the Australian community, including a recommendation that ‘foundation skills’ be agreed upon nationwide and that fee-free foundation-level education, be provided to Australians who need the training to get their language, literacy, numeracy and digital literacy levels up to a basic level.

Work has a future

The changes in the Joyce Review would represent a period of change for our sector. If adopted, they would require RTOs to be as nimble as possible in responding, while ensuring mission-critical compliance is taken care of through robust systems and processes.

The Government has already committed to some measures out of the Joyce review. The measures and funding announced in this year’s pre-election Federal Budget include:

  • $525 million in total funding for the total vocational education and training skills package;
  • Expanded apprenticeship incentives including $8000 in incentive payments for employers who take on apprentices and $2000 payments for apprentices. The beneficiaries will include occupations with skills shortages including bakers, bricklayers, carpenters, and plumbers;
  • $4 million for the creation of a new National Skills Commission;
  • $36.3 million over four years for a National Careers Institute and National Careers Ambassador;
  • $67.5 million over five years for the creation of 10 training hubs for school-based VET in regions with high youth unemployment;
  • $62 million to upskill workers with low-level language, literacy, numeracy, and digital skills.

At ReadyTech we like to be prepared for the future of work because work always has a future and we know there will be perpetual change. We encourage RTOs to take another look at the recommendations in the Joyce review and stay on the front foot as the financial year commences and the Government makes its intentions for VET clearer.