COAG Skills Council endorses ASQA role in education

The Council of Australian Governments (COAG) meeting of federal, state and territory skills ministers – held on Friday 20 September in Melbourne – has agreed that the Australian Skills Quality Authority (ASQA), Australia’s national VET regulator, should “improve its engagement with the VET sector” and expand its role in helping to educate training providers.

The inaugural meeting of the COAG Skills Council issued a Communique (reproduced below, and available here) which stresses that both the Braithwaite Review and the Joyce Review of VET have highlighted the importance of training providers being helped to understand their obligations, while ensuring that “regulatory decisions are transparent”.

COAG “Members called for immediate work to be done to reform ASQA’s regulatory approach, improve confidence in the regulator and support continuous improvement in training provision across the VET sector,” the Communique says.

National VET Stakeholder Committee meets

Last week, the Commonwealth Government’s VET stakeholder committee also met for the first time. This group comprises representatives of peak bodies – including Community Colleges Australia and Adult Learning Australia – that will be part of the national consultation on VET reforms and new initiatives.

Community Colleges Australia comment

“CCA is very pleased that federal, state and territory skills ministers are working so closely together through COAG on a national approach, developing a shared vision that all Australian governments will implement,” said Dr Don Perlgut, CEO of CCA.

“We support the expansion of ASQA’s role into developing and disseminating deeper education activities, noting that the regulator already runs annual stakeholder briefing sessions.

“We caution that it is not possible to expand the role without additional resources. Experience of other regulators – such as the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) which runs the MoneySmart financial literacy website – indicates that national community, stakeholder and professional education cannot be done ‘on the cheap’. Proper resources need to be applied, and a user-pays system would be inappropriate,” said Dr Perlgut.

“One of the top priorities for the COAG skills ministers should be developing a policy statement on the role of adult and community education organisations in Australian skilling, updating the 2008 – now outdated – statement. Both CCA and Adult Learning Australia have consistently advocated for this.

“CCA is also pleased to participate in the Commonwealth’s VET stakeholder committee, and looks forward to representing the perspective of not-for-profit community education providers into the national VET reform discussions,” said Dr Perlgut.

The Communique

The COAG Communique 20 September 2019 wording follows:

The Council of Australian Governments (COAG) Skills Council (the Council) held its inaugural meeting, as a standalone Council, today in Melbourne. Skills ministers agreed on key priorities to ensure Australian vocational education and training (VET) is a responsive, dynamic and trusted sector that delivers an excellent standard of education and training.

Delivering on the COAG vision for vocational education and training

Council considered the shared vision for the VET system agreed by COAG on 9 August 2019 and agreed on reform priorities and discussed short, medium and long term areas for action to inform the delivery of a shared reform roadmap to COAG in early 2020. Council tasked skills officials with developing the draft roadmap for consideration at the next Council meeting in November.

Members agreed three future priorities for VET system improvements:

  • Relevance – actions in this area will ensure that VET is relevant and responsive to the job market, employers, industry and learners.
  • Quality – actions in this area will support public confidence in the quality and value of VET for students throughout their lives and move it to parity with the higher education system.
  • Accessibility – actions in this area will ensure all prospective students and employers can access suitable information and training when and where it is required, and include a specific focus on supporting access for disadvantaged Australians.

Council agreed on the importance of placing learners at the centre of VET reform, including those of all ages and at all stages of their learning journey and career.

Members also agreed that industry taking greater responsibility for the skills and training of their workforce will be central to the achievement of the COAG vision for VET.

The Council acknowledged the shared responsibility for VET across all jurisdictions and the importance of a viable and robust system of both public and private provision of VET.

Regulation of the national training system

Council confirmed effective regulation is central to the quality of and confidence in the VET sector.

Members agreed that the national regulator, the Australian Skills Quality Authority (ASQA) should improve its engagement with the VET sector and expand its educative role. Both the Braithwaite Review of the National Vocational Education and Training Regulator Act 2011 and the Expert Review of VET emphasised it is critical to ensure that training providers are aware of, and supported to understand, their compliance requirements, and that regulatory decisions are transparent.

Members called for immediate work to be done to reform ASQA’s regulatory approach, improve confidence in the regulator and support continuous improvement in training provision across the VET sector.

Council also considered recommendations to address quality concerns relating to unduly short training. Members agreed to change the Standards for Training Packages to allow for the development of minimum training durations in exceptional high-risk circumstances.

Industry relevant training

The National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) presents one of the largest job creation opportunities in Australian history, with a significant increase in the workforce over the next five years. The Council welcomed a report on progress developing a NDIS workforce strategy being led by South Australia and remains committed to engagement between skills and disability officials on development of a national plan.

Council agreed to take urgent action to streamline training package development, update and implementation to make it faster, simpler and more responsive. The Council will consider report recommendations at the next meeting.

The Council welcomed progress on the expansion of the unique student identifier into higher education and the opportunities for students to engage with lifelong learning.

The Council also endorsed the thirty-four training packages approved by the Australian Industry and Skills Committee.

(image below: COAG Skills Ministers meet in Melbourne, 20 September 2019)

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