Community Colleges Australia (CCA) has released its 2022 National Election Briefing for the May 2022 election.
CCA will monitor all statements by major political parties and independents that have relevance to Australia’s not-for-profit (NFP) adult and community education (ACE) providers.
Australia’s Adult and Community Sector
- Consists of more than 400 not-for-profit adult and community education (ACE) training providers, most of them located in Victoria and New South Wales.
- More than 2000 other community education providers in Australia deliver accredited, pre-accredited and pre-vocational training, as well as personal interest and leisure learning and other courses.
- Of the 3.9 million Australian vocational education and training (VET) students enrolled in 2020, 386,400 (9.8% of the total) studied with a not-for-profit ACE provider. This represents a decrease of 21% (102,700 students) on the previous year – 2019, the largest in recent history, due to COVID-19 impact of less learning engagement by vulnerable and disadvantaged students.
- Other VET sector numbers: TAFE (20.1%, 792,700 students); private for-profit providers (71.9%, 2.8 million); universities (1.8%, 75,100); schools (2.8%, 111,000 students); and enterprise providers (2.4%, 95,600 students).
- ACE providers are especially important in regional and rural Australia, where they are frequently the only local provider.
- ACE provider students show the greatest increase into employment of any provider type: 16.8% of community education VET training graduates moved from unemployment to employment (2018) resulting from training, compared to 10.1% of TAFE graduates (the national average) and 9.5% of private for-profit training providers.
- ACE sector specialises in very important areas of national training priority: foundation skills (LLND) as well as the care sector – aged, disability and childcare worker training. Almost one-quarter of government-funded aged care worker training (Certificate III Individual Support) in New South Wales and Victoria are with ACE providers.
- ACE providers take a “community development” approach, and deliver innovative employment-driven, regionally relevant projects, including social enterprises, environmental awareness and special assistance secondary schools for disadvantaged youth.
- ACE providers have an unbroken 109 year history of adult community education dating to 1913, the year that WEAs (Workers Education Associations) were established in Newcastle, Wollongong, Sydney and Adelaide.
Vulnerability and Disadvantage
Community VET providers significantly over-perform compared to both TAFE and private for-profit providers, disproportionately catering for students from the most disadvantaged groups: the highest government-funded student percentages for Indigenous (First Nations) people, people with disabilities, lower socio-economic backgrounds, women and regional/rural areas, and often for people from migrant& refugee backgrounds. NCVER reports that the most successful Australian regions that engage disadvantaged learners in VET and promote completion “report higher-than-average concentrations of community provision – especially important for learners with disabilities, unemployed and individuals with low prior educational attainment.”
What Our Sector Needs: The Commitments We Seek from the Next Government
- A funded national learner re-engagement and outreach strategy that focusses on the disadvantaged and vulnerable learners who have withdrawn from accredited VET because of COVID-19 concerns about participating in face-to-face training.
- Reversal of national and state policies that have “marketised” VET, also known as “user choice” – a term that does not show how profound and destructive the policy has been. With 72% of all VET students, for-profit providers have effectively privatised Australian training, at the loss of TAFE and the not-for-profit ACE sector. Research shows that disadvantaged and outer regional students have missed out because of this policy. Contrast this to two educational sectors in Australia – schools and universities – where for-profit education remains small in universities (@5%) and almost non-existent in schools. CCA opposes any further privatisation and actively campaigns to roll back existing VET marketisation.
- A national-state-territory policy statement on the value and place of ACE and its place in Australian education and training, which updates the 2008 Ministerial statement.
- An infrastructure funding program that enables NFP community education providers to modernise both physical facilities and improve digital connectivity, to support national economic recovery efforts, based on a model established in 2009 by the Commonwealth Government when it set up a $100 million “Investing in Community Education and Training program”. Investing in ACE provider infrastructure makes economic sense.
- Development a comprehensive national VET policy, in conjunction with the states and territories, including adult literacy and numeracy, part of which includes a regional and rural VET policy that acknowledges the important – and undervalued – role of community providers.
- Proper VET funding: Australian VET continues to be the poor cousin (“forgotten middle child”) of Australian education: going backwards for many years.
- Ensure that Commonwealth VET initiatives such as the Foundation Skills for Your Future and the VET Student Loans program are accessible, applicable and relevant to community education providers.
View the CCA 2019 Federal Election Platform. which provides additional details of the needs of Australia’s ACE sector.