The Australian vocational education and training sector is at high risk of a steep decline in participation, says a new report by the Mitchell Institute, released today.
“If we look at the tertiary education sector as a whole – both VET and higher education together – and think ahead, then we face a significant risk of declining participation rates in post-school education on current settings, and that’s mainly because of the alarming decline in VET enrolments and participation,” report author Professor Peter Noonan told the Guardian.
The report warns that “based on current trends VET sector enrolments would fall from 5.3% of 15 to 64-year-olds in 2016 to 1.3% by 2031. That equates to more than half-a-million fewer enrolments in the sector in a 15 year period,” writes the Guardian.
“Assuming the ongoing decline in student enrolments is not reversed ... in effect, VET would become a residual sector …. While this scenario may seem implausible, governments will need to act quickly and decisively to arrest the continuing decline in public investment in VET and the ongoing decline in publicly funded student enrolments,” the report states.
“The critical thing for governments to acknowledge is that both VET and higher education are equally important in ensuring the sustainability of our future workforce, and our economy,” Professor Noonan said.
“If you were a casual observer you’d think that the education system consisted of schools and universities because all the debate has been around Gonski and the various iterations of university reforms. At the same time the VET sector has been in free fall and no one has either noticed or cared,” Professor Noonan told the Guardian.
Dr Don Perlgut, CEO of Community Colleges Australia comments:
“As one of the most respected higher education think tanks in Australia, we must pay attention to the conclusions in the Mitchell Institute’s alarming report. Professor Peter Noonan, who has spoken to CCA meetings twice in recent years (including the July 2017 Annual Conference), provides a clear-eyed and knowledgeable assessment of the situation. This report’s major new contribution is to analyse current trends and model scenarios to project future tertiary participation. The result is deeply concerning, indicating that the future of Australia’s VET system, our national skills development and our future productivity are all at risk. How has Australia let this system fall so far?”
The Mitchell Institute media release (23 April 2018) is available here.
The full Mitchell Institute report is available here.
The Guardian Australia news item (23 April 2018) by reporter Michael McGowan is available here.
The Mitchell Institute analysis (by Professor Noonan) of VET funding (“VET funding – more than a Band-Aid required”) is available here.