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Home > News > 2020 > July > Members' voices heard in VET sector review

Members' voices heard in VET sector review

Write_web_qual.pngOur union has made a submission to the Productivity Commission’s Review of the National Agreement for Skills and Workforce Development (NASWD) to ensure the professional voices of our members working in the Vocational Education and Training (VET) sector are heard.

The Commission was established to evaluate NASWD with the input of relevant stakeholders, to assess whether the program is still an effective long-term framework for intergovernmental cooperation on VET policy.

IEUA-QNT Research Officer Adele Schmidt said extensive VET sector member feedback and consultation continues to occur so our union can advocate for their best interests and inform policymakers of best practice.

“Our members, whether working in private post-secondary colleges, schools with in-house VET programs or those that make use of external VET providers are all impacted by any changes in regulation and operation of the VET sector,” Adele said.

“For this reason, we have previously made submissions and engaged in consultation around a variety of state and federal inquiries into, and reform of, the VET sector and will continue to do so.

“This NASWD review, similarly to previous relating to the VET sector, seeks to simultaneously review numerous elements of the system, rather than identifying and concentrating on a few key areas for improvement,” she said.

A recent survey of our members working within the private VET sector indicates that 64 per cent of respondents ranked reform of the sector as “extremely important” or “very important”.

Key points in submission

While addressing the numerous questions asked in the review, our union’s submission noted two major constraints on the quality of VET as identified by our members:

1. An over-reliance on casual and short-term contracts of employment for trainers and assessors, which makes it difficult for them to deliver high quality education and training programs; and 

2. A tendency for governments to respond to problems within the sector by introduction of sweeping changes, which has made the sector change-weary and contributes to a public perception that the sector is both overly complex and inherently dysfunctional. 

Adele said one of the major flaws of the VET sector is the tendency for private Registered Training Organisations (RTOs) to focus on profit rather than provision of quality, wholistic education.

“The provision of secure employment for qualified, professional teachers is a key indicator of quality VET, although current policies and practices do not reward providers of quality educational programs and instead encourage profiteering,” Adele said.

There have been constant suggestions from government and other sources to reform the VET sector because it has a reputation for poor quality.

Adele said this is hardly surprising, given the conditions many trainers and assessors in the industry work under, where casual and short-term contracts are prolific

“The primary focus of any reform should be to provide VET teachers with professional, secure, working conditions so they can deliver quality education,” she said.

Changes needed to improve sector

To positively reform the VET sector, members also flagged the need for:

  • Improving accountability within the sector by requiring individual providers to report outcomes for all cohorts and making this a condition of funding.

  • Mandatory reporting by providers of percentages of students who complete training and progress to work and/or further study. 

  • Compulsory reporting of information relating to student satisfaction and the employment status of trainers and assessors.

  • Employers to provide professional wages and secure work conditions.

  • Preserving the capacity of individual TAFEs and RTOs to respond to localised training needs.

  • Avoiding ‘voucher’ systems which are abused by unscrupulous providers.

  • Greater funding from the federal government for students undertaking VET pathways income-contingent student loans.

  • Adequate support and funding for public providers (TAFE).

  • The federal government to ask states and territories to provide information to inform federal investment and policy, given they are best positioned to identify and respond to localised industry needs.

  • Allow greater consultation with industries to ensures development and delivery of courses are responsive to changing practices.

  • Schools, teachers and guidance counsellors to promote strong, positive perceptions of VET as a pathway to meaningful, quality employment.

  • Greater recognition and provision of pastoral support in RTOs.

  • Introduction of trainer registration, similar to schemes that are in place for school-based teachers.

  • Continuation of the JobKeeper scheme which is an essential support for the private VET sector which has been impacted by COVID-19.

Read the full IEUA-QNT submission to the review here.

We thank the members who have contributed to our submission – an active professional voice is integral to making meaningful change in our community.

Authorised by Terry Burke, Independent Education Union of Australia – Queensland & Northern Territory Branch, Brisbane.