The vocational education and training (VET) system will play a key role in supporting Australia’s recovery from the unprecedented impact of COVID-19.

VET will be critical to making sure all Australians have access to the training they need to actively participate in and help drive our economic recovery.

However, the sector has faced a range of enduring challenges and is not currently equipped to respond effectively to many of the questions and issues posed by COVID-19.

Sustainable and coherent reform is needed, to build on the sector’s strengths, empower providers to deliver high quality and relevant training, and address these persistent challenges.

The Mitchell Institute’s new report,

, describes these key issues and charts a way forward to create a VET system that will effectively support a strong recovery from the pandemic.

Priority reforms – 10 ways forward

1. Establish a clear point of policy direction and leadership for the VET sector, in a way that mobilises and empowers all stakeholders to deliver on a shared purpose.

2. Prioritise effective governance, with government and industry having clearly defined roles. Decisions about strategic direction, system-wide objectives and funding should rest with government, taking into account input from industry, providers and communities.

3. Create a simpler, fairer national funding arrangement between the Commonwealth and state and territory governments. Position student needs and equity objectives as central, through a ‘baseline plus loadings’ approach, and a workable model for student loans.

4. Simplify the subsidies – agree on a national process for harmonising the approach to subsidy setting across the country, based on the costs of quality provision.

5. Develop a comprehensive national quality framework – drawing on the model of regulation for the Australian early childhood sector – that defines standards of provision (‘inputs’) and encourages and rewards continual improvement.

6. Rethink assessment to ensure confidence and trust in the skills and competencies attained. Explore more independent assessment (partnering within industry and professional bodies), moderated assessment (through a government entity) and including more information on levels of proficiency for higher-level VET qualifications

7. Ensure the system responds to industry skills needs at a macro and micro level. From the top down: establish an authoritative source of quality, timely information on national skills needs, taking into account VET, higher education and skilled migration. From the bottom up: empower providers to partner with industry and community to meet local and regional needs

8. Design competencies and qualifications that reflect what is required in the workplace, by working with industry to address current needs, and looking beyond the current world of work, to prepare individuals to succeed in the future labour market

9. Establish a national platform for sharing information on careers so students, and those who advise them, can make more informed choices

10. Capitalise on the momentum from the crisis, and the appetite for reform, to reshape VET in Australia.

Authors

Sarah Pilcher
Education Policy Fellow, Mitchell Institute
Peter Hurley
Education Policy Fellow, Mitchell Institute