Billions Wasted in Vocational Education

Did we need any more proof that uncapped funding of private for-profit vocational education and training (VET) providers has been a disaster for Australia? A “disastrous backfire”, according to John Ross, writing in The Australian on Thursday 1 February 2018. His article (“Vocation training open market schemes a disaster”) about the Productivity Commission’s Report on Government Services for the period 2012 to 2016 notes that 520,000 students participated in government-funded VET in 2012, a figure that fell to 367,000 in 2016 – despite this funding rising from $160 million (in 2012) to $$1.68 billion in 2016.

Ross quotes Professor Peter Noonan (Mitchell Institute, Victoria University), who “said targeted government funding of private colleges had worked well for years. ‘When states like Victoria completely opened the market up, that’s when all the bottom feeders were able to get in.’”

There’s a larger principle here, said Dr Don Perlgut, CEO of Community Colleges Australia (CCA): “The so-called ‘VET market’, which was supposed to reduce costs through competition and democratise VET, is and was not an efficient market at all.”

“CCA calls on the Commonwealth and all state governments to learn from this failed privatisation of Australian VET, and to shift the emphasis towards funding not-for-profit and public providers. That’s the only way we can bring a sensible approach to a deeply flawed system,” said Dr Perlgut.

“VET should no longer be the forgotten middle child – relegated primarily to private for-profit providers – unlike our university and schools sectors,” Dr Perlgut said.

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