Australia’s national VET system slammed by former top public servant

Australia’s national vocational education and training (VET) has been heavily criticised by one of Australia’s top former public servants. Terry Moran AC, currently Chair of the Centre for Policy Development and a former Secretary of the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, has authored a report on South Australian TAFE for the SA Government. Entitled TAFE SA Strategic Capability Review 2018, it was presented to SA Parliament on 4 September 2018, and released by TAFE Directors Australia (PDF document).

Although focussed on SA TAFE, Terry Moran has taken a swipe at national VET policies that impact South Australian training. He describes Australia’s national training system as “fragmented and devalued” with “no effective governance”.

Mr Moran specifically mentions how quality not-for-profit community providers are not supported by the current regulatory model. He is also critical of how Australia has had seven ministers responsible for VET in the last five years, with minimal participation in national meetings.

Report excerpts

Excerpts from Terry Moran’s national VET analysis (pp. 31-32 of the report) are below:

“A number of the approved Training Package developers have behaved like monopolists and, in lieu of a strong performance culture by the funding body, have been able to perform poorly with no effective sanction. The regulator is dependant on Training Packages that are often dated, of variable quality and in some cases essentially an industrial document. In particular, this can be seen in the reliance on the minutiae of assessment criteria, which can be developed with little consideration of the educational factors associated with the assessment of skills and knowledge.

“In seeking to drive a competitive VET market, governments and industry have sought to encourage diversity of training provision while constraining the products and services that can be delivered. Consequently we have a large number of providers – more than 3,000 – of various sizes and ownership models. In an environment where the bar to entry is low and public funding has been readily available, there have been significant problems of quality and abuse. The regulatory model has been designed to catch poor behaviour after market entry rather than establishing a regulatory regime based on entry through genuine educational quality. This has left quality providers, whether public, private or community-owned, subject to a regulatory model that does not support or reward quality delivery.

“The national VET system has been fragmented and devalued in the following ways:

  • There is no effective governance over Australia’s skills training system. Since 2013 there have been seven Commonwealth Ministers with some responsibility for VET. The attendance of Ministers is haphazard. In some cases, quorums have only been met through attendance by teleconference.
  • Funding arrangements for the sector are chaotic, with some States withdrawing funding. The national funding agreement is not settled and is dependant on a hypothecated tax on some employers. There is no investment strategy at the national level designed to maximise the benefits of public and private (firms and individuals) investment in skills development.
  • There is no national strategy, and the Annual National Report has been abandoned in the interests of ‘cutting red tape’. The last Report was for 2012. It is disingenuous to argue that the Annual National report is effectively covered by the Productivity Commission’s Review of Government Services, which only deals with the Government-funded elements of the VET system’s performance. This is particularly unfortunate at a time when a unique student identifier and collection of total VET activity is starting to paint a rich picture of the system’s characteristics.”

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