Community Colleges Australia – the peak national body that represents community-owned, not-for-profit education and training providers – has called on all the Commonwealth and all state and territory governments to update and reissue the Ministerial Statement on Adult Community Education (ACE).
The last “Ministerial Statement” was issued in December 2008 by the Ministerial Council for Vocation and Technical Education. The statement confirmed the “value of ACE in developing social capital, building community capacity, encouraging social participation and enhancing social cohesion.” The statement also described how the sector can respond industrial, demographic and technological changes in Australia, including important contributions to skills and workforce development – and thus to productivity.
“There is very little in the 2008 Ministerial Statement that does not apply today,” said Dr Don Perlgut, CEO of Community Colleges Australia. “But the world of post-school education has changed rapidly in the last eight years, the post-GFC period. We need a national policy statement that articulates the new realities of vocational education and training in Australia, given our rapidly changing economy in the post-mining boom period. This includes the complementary nature of community providers to TAFE and the private, for-profit sector, as well as the role in educating young people, and providing services to the NDIS and other programs.”
“Despite recent massive changes in Australian VET, including a new regulator and the growth of the VET FEE-HELP program, little attention has been paid to community VET providers,” Dr Perlgut said. “The community providers are arguably the most efficient, accessible, community-focussed, responsive and flexible learning organisations. We play a particularly important role with vulnerable and disadvantaged learners, and in serving rural and regional Australia.”
Ten years ago, Dr Kaye Bowman identified the six key roles played by community education providers, roles which still characterise the sector.
The three economic development roles community education providers play are:
- Platform builders, re-engaging adults with basic education and support services;
- Bridge builders, providing pathways into formal tertiary education and paid work; and
- Work-skills developers, offering accredited vocational training.
The three community development roles community providers play are:
- Community capacity builders, facilitating local networks, community-led development and leadership at suburb, town, regional, state and national levels – with particular importance for programs for young people;
- Promoters of citizenship, engaging adults active in community activities, contributing to social cohesion and unity; and
- Facilitators of adult health, improving mental, physical and emotional well-being, especially for people who may be socially marginalised.