Role of TAFE / VET

Vocational Education for the 21st Century: A series of policy discussion papers (2018)

Policy discussion papers prepared by LH Martin Institute Fellows, associates and researchers to contribute to the debate we ought to have to reform and invigorate the vocational education sector.

See collection

Revisioning the system: A critical analysis and the way forward

Dr Ruth Schubert, Professor Leo Goedegebuure, Professor Lynn Meek (2018)

Today’s postsecondary education system in Australia is a complex tapestry of different types of institutions with different histories, governance structures, funding arrangements, serving quite different types of students and focusing on quite different sets of activities. For vocational education this makes for an especially murky picture complicated by the federated nature of the Australian system with different roles and responsibilities of the Commonwealth and State governments and further compounded by the lack of a coherent bi-partisan national vision.

Download PDF

Viewed from the margins: navigating disadvantage and VET

George Myconos, Eric Dommers, Kira Clarke (2018)

It is seldom acknowledged that Australia’s VET sector is now more than ever one part of a broader safety net catering for the needs of a large number of disadvantaged Australians. Although disadvantaged students are dependent on the sector to provide the skills, qualifications, networks and psycho-social resources they need, the sector struggles to respond effectively. Poor completion rates for ‘equity cohorts’ give rise to real concern. In this chapter we explore the experiences of young early school leavers undertaking vocational education to illuminate broader issues of equity and access. We argue that to overcome many of the sector’s shortcomings, policymakers and provider communities must first affirm equity and access as central to the sector’s core business. We see little recognition of this and, as a result, poor connectivity and integration of the VET sector with other community supports. There is a relatively weak commitment to ‘inclusion’, and a lack of understanding of the range of support needs of disadvantaged learners at key moments in their educational journeys. Our conclusion points to changes that might enable the VET sector to better respond to the needs of early school leavers and, indeed, all disadvantaged learners.

Download PDF

Marketisation of VET: The New South Wales response 1990s–2017

Robin Shreeve and Joanna Palser (2018)

For most of the period under review, New South Wales (NSW) was a comparatively resistant adopter of national VET market policy, particularly reforms instigated through intergovernmental funding agreements. For this resistance NSW drew criticism, largely due to perceived inefficiency, limited programs and funds open to competition, and the ongoing dominance of the public provider, TAFE NSW. This hesitance began to shift around 2005, with a series of state-initiated reviews pushing for changes in funding market arrangements and TAFE NSW governance. The year 2012 was significant, with the new Coalition Government introducing what was arguably the state’s most detailed and sophisticated VET marketisation platform to that point, Smart and Skilled. The policy was implemented in 2015, and was accompanied by significant structural changes in TAFE NSW, with the ‘OneTAFE’ policy delivering anticipated amalgamations, staff cuts and savings, but contradicting earlier policy directions towards increased devolution of authority to local institutes. The story of the development of the training market in NSW is also a narrative of TAFE NSW and the tensions of redistributing reduced state funding among a broader range of providers. What has been clear over the period is the difficulty that successive state governments have had in letting go of the public provider as a flagship of their social justice commitment, but more pragmatically as their mechanism for timely regional funding injections and political influence.

Download PDF

How Economics Explains Failure of the Publicly Funded Privately Delivered Training Market

Phillip Toner (2018)

Creation of a ‘training market’ for publicly funded but privately delivered vocational education and training (VET) is one of the most transparent failures of neoliberal public policy over the last three decades. It is an exemplar of the great damage inflicted when a naive and idealised neoliberal conception of how markets work is the basis for public policy. Over the last decade or so I have sought to highlight a key paradox. For forty years orthodox economics has been the primary justification for introducing the training market and designing its operation. But orthodox economics is also an immensely powerful tool for explaining widespread and persistent concern over quality and malfeasance in the publicly funded but privately delivered training market (Toner 2011, 2014, 2018). The paradox arises because advocates of the training market, either wilfully or through ignorance, failed to apply economic analysis to VET in Australia to determine its suitability for contracting out and the incentives driving participation and behaviour of many training market members. Such analysis demonstrates that widespread quality diminution and malfeasance are an inexorable outcome of publicly funded but privately delivered VET. This chapter provides a brief summary of these arguments. This has been a unique perspective on the training market complementing the dominant educationist explanation of failure in the training market.

Download PDF

Boundaries and connections between VET and higher education at AFQ 5/6

Dr Craig Fowler (2018)

This paper examines education and training undertaken at Australian Qualification Framework (AQF) levels 5 and 6, which are the overlap between the vocational education and training (VET) and higher education (HE) sectors. It follows an earlier paper, The boundaries and connections between the VET and higher education sectors: ‘confused, contested and collaborative’ (Fowler, 2017).

Given the quantum of public resourcing by Commonwealth and state and territory governments that support both sides of the HE/VET AQF 5/6 divide, this paper explores the similarities, differences and interconnections between the sectors that affect educational and skills outcomes, sectoral pathway opportunities and future employment for students. These matters are relevant to HE and VET policy and increasingly to employers, who expect graduates to have both discipline knowledge and technical skills.

Download PDF

The problematic role of CBT in Australian VET

Steven Hodge (2018)

Any attempt to improve or reform Australia’s system of vocational education and training (VET) should address the model of curriculum that is at the heart of the system. This model is often referred to as ‘competency-based training’ (CBT) although most stakeholders are probably more familiar with CBT in the form of ‘training packages’. CBT is not only central to the way Australia’s VET system works, it has been a constant for over twenty-five years. For many who work in the system, CBT is the only curriculum model they know for vocational education. This discussion describes the attractions of CBT to make clear that the architects of training reform had good reason to make CBT the cornerstone of a new system. This survey is followed by a systematic look at criticisms and shortcomings of CBT as articulated by researchers and other stakeholders. Finally, two questions are presented which would be useful to ponder in any attempt to shift away from CBT.

Download PDF

VET policy: processes, stakeholders and issues

Hugh Guthrie, Emeritus Professor Berwyn Clayton (2018)

This discussion paper aims to foreground other papers in this series by defining what policy is and providing an outline of the ‘ideal’ approach to its development and translation into practice in the VET context. To do this we define the VET sector and its missions. We then move on to describe the key stakeholders in the sector and the sorts of policies that have been enacted from 1998 onwards using the VET policy timeline developed by the National Centre for Vocational Education Research (NCVER).

Download PDF

VET FEE-HELP: What went wrong?

Francesca Saccaro & Robyn Wright (2018)

The VET FEE-HELP scheme commenced in 2008, after the 2007 amendments to the Higher Education Support Act (2003) extended the Commonwealth Higher Education Loan Program (HELP) to full fee-paying students undertaking high level vocational study (Diploma, Advanced Diploma, Graduate Certificate and Graduate Diploma qualifications). VET FEE-HELP was promoted widely by the Commonwealth as an equity measure, allowing anyone, including those on low income and disadvantaged learners, to participate in high level fee-for-service vocational courses, without upfront fees and financial barriers. Loans for VET students would also facilitate the marketisation of vocational education, to allow students to move students to private providers if they chose. It was felt it would create a more level playing field where public providers, subsidised by states, lost their obvious costing advantage, and user-choice, along with user-pays, is supported by the system.

Download PDF

Vocational education for the twenty-first century

Anne Jones (2018)

The crisis in Australian vocational education2 is more than a funding, marketisation or system design issue: it is a question of the fitness of our vocational education model for our times. In the context of revolutionary digital technologies, continued globalisation, population ageing and changes to work patterns such as the emergence of the gig and post-work economies, we are failing to repurpose our vocational education resources to develop the twenty-first century capabilities needed by individuals, communities and industries.
This paper starts with history, looking at how late twentieth-century vocational education revolution and counter-revolution trapped Australia’s vocational education sector in a pre-digital time warp. The discussion will go on to reflect on promising concepts of vocational education emerging in some other countries as they grapple with twenty-first century challenges: what we can we learn from them and from our own experience. Finally, we will reimagine vocational education in Australia as it could be to increase inclusivity, innovation and prosperity.

Download PDF

Changes in Funding in australian vocational education and their effects

Gerald Burke (2018)

The paper considers changes in funding for vocational education and training (VET) from the early 1990s when the move towards a market in vocational education began.
Government funding to non-TAFE provider began to grow in the 1990s with provision by the Commonwealth government to the states of ‘growth funds’ of which a proportion had to be allocated to private providers. User Choice was introduced for the training of apprentices and trainees which allowed the employer to choose the public or private training provider who then received public funding. Commonwealth incentive payments to employers of apprentices were extended to traineeships and to existing and part-time workers. From 1995 there was a rapid increase in international students, associated with permanent migration, and very substantial fee revenues mainly received by private providers.

Download PDF

Shaken not stirred? The development of one tertiary education sector in Australia

Leesa Wheelahan, Sophie Arkoudis,Gavin Moodie, Nick Fredman and Emmaline Bexley (2012)

The number of ‘mixed sector’ institutions is likely to increase as the boundaries between vocationaleducation and training (VET) and higher education become progressively blurred. Even though the sectoraldivide is being eroded, it still shapes institutional relations and emerging hierarchies.In 2009 the National Centre for Vocational Education Research (NCVER) published research examiningthe nature of higher education offered by public VET providers (Higher education in TAFE byLeesa Wheelahan, Gavin Moodie, Stephen Billett and Ann Kelly). This project extends that research byexamining universities that offer a small amount of VET, and private providers that offer both VET andhigher education.

Download PDF

How can VET teacher education and development be improved?

Hugh Guthire and Ann Jones (2018)

The Standards for Registered Training Organisations (RTOs) 2015 updated the qualifications required for delivering and assessing training in the vocational education and training sector ending sixteen years of controversial dependence on Certificate IV level qualifications to prepare most vocational education teachers for their teaching practice. From the beginning of 2016, the mandated qualifications were broadened to include the Certificate IV or diploma or higher-level qualifications in adult education. Importantly, these latter include higher level qualifications in language, literacy and numeracy. From 31 March 2019 the new standards will offer qualification choices including the latest version of the Certificate IV TAE (TAE16), the former TAE10 with additional units of competency in LLN and assessment as well as diploma qualifications and above including postgraduate qualifications in adult education (ASQA 2017a). These changes address a number of the problems that have beset the Certificate IV. They offer all of us stakeholders in vocational education the opportunity to reconsider what we have learned during the years in which a specific Certificate IV qualification was mandated for all VET teachers except those working in limited roles such as enterprise trainers. Since our insights have been shaped by Certificate IV failures as much as successes, we will look at history to understand what research, enquiries and audits during the Certificate IV era and before can tell us about the formal qualification needs of vocational education teachers. We will then go on to discuss the future: what formal qualifications could better support the initial and continuing education of VET teachers; who should deliver them and how.

Download PDF

Revitalising the ‘vocational’ in flows of learning and labour

Leesa Wheelahan, Gavin Moodie and John Buchanan (2012)

This discussion paper introduces a three-year research program, ‘Vocations: the link between postcompulsoryeducation and the labour market’, which is investigating both the educational andoccupational paths that people take and how their study relates to their work. The program alsoexplores the notion that a new conceptualisation of ‘vocation’ would be useful in improving the waythe links between education and the labour market operate. The researchers hope that the researchprogram will produce an operational definition of ‘vocation’ and ‘vocational stream’. They have inmind an amalgam of the alternative dictionary definitions of vocation as: a mission to engage in a lineof work; and a synonym for an occupation. Thus a vocational stream in, say, health would encompassoccupations from aged care, to nursing, to medical specialities.The research program comprises three different strands: entry to the labour market from school;pathways within tertiary education and within the labour force; and the nature of vocations in thelabour market.

Download PDF
Profiling Institutional Diversity Across the Australian VET Sector

Ruth Schubert, Peter James Bentleyand Leo Goedegebuure (2016)

The briefing report covers the findings of a collaborative research project aimed at portraying in a novel and transparent way, the institutional diversity of providers in the Australian VocationalEducation and Training (VET) sector. The research team adapted an approach previously usedby LH Martin Institute in 2013 to profile the diversity of Australian universities. The results of thisresearch highlight the significant diversity existing across 35 providers out of the 100 largest VETproviders invited to participate. In 2012, the top 100 VET providers covered 75% of all providersdelivering publicly funded VET based on the NCVER figures. By 2014, the market share of theTop 100 providers had fallen to 60% of publicly funded VET (publicly funded does not includeVET FEE-HELP).

Download PDF
21st National Vocational Education and Training Research Conference ‘No Frills’: refereed papers

Tabatha Griffin (2013)

The 21st National Vocational Education and Training Research Conference, colloquially known as ‘NoFrills’, was held in July 2012. To celebrate this special anniversary, speakers were offered theopportunity to have their papers peer-reviewed, and these 14 refereed papers have been compiled.The papers span a broad range of topics, including: Indigenous students and their intentions;educational pathways; skills recognition; leadership in VET providers; workplace mentoring; and theexperiences of apprentices.The papers provide an insight into the array of topics presented, and I hope they generate interest inattending a future National Vocational Education and Training Research Conference.

Download PDF