Inequality in Australia: What can Vocational Education and Training Do – presentation by CEO Dr Don Perlgut

Inequality of wealth and income. It’s blamed for everything from the election of Donald Trump to the passage of “Brexit” to the growth of political third parties in Australia.

It’s an enormous topic, fraught with challenges for governments. CCA CEO, Dr Don Perlgut, will present a live Zoom webinar on how vocational education and training (VET) can help reduce Australian inequality.

  • When: Thursday, 15 June 2023 at 11.00am (NSW, VIC).
  • Duration: one hour. Part of CCA Presents: Ideas for Australian VET and Skills Leaders.
  • How to attend: Register via Eventbrite – no charge; open to all.

The Presentation

Dr Perlgut’s presentation takes on extra importance with the announcement in the recent Commonwealth Budget of a substantial increase in foundation skills funding, and the Budget commitment to address entrenched disadvantage in communities through better use of “place‑based approaches to target disadvantage and to support a greater ability for communities to make decisions reflecting their needs.”

Australia’s future skills are dependent on a vital VET sector, which can make a substantial difference in reducing inequality. Because many VET students are drawn from lower socio-economic status groups and live in areas where VET is more highly valued, such as rural and regional Australia, VET has a special role to play in making Australia more equal and socially sustainable.

This presentation will use a case study of not-for-profit adult and community education (ACE) providers, which represent more than 10% of VET students nationally, and specialise in delivering to vulnerable and disadvantaged learners.

Dr Perlgut will conclude his presentation with six ways to enable VET to make Australia a more equal and just society:

  1. Create proper pathways, from ACE to TAFE, and from VET to universities.
  2. Embed systemic approaches and place-based access to VET and foundation skills training to ensure equity and accessibility. More than three years into the pandemic, the tremendous rush three years ago to move post-secondary education to online platforms must ease and develop a more sophisticated and balanced approach.
  3. Develop regional skills plans, in both metropolitan and non-metropolitan areas, which prioritise social justice goals and consider the needs of disadvantaged learners.
  4. Properly fund VET and language, literacy, numeracy, digital and employability skills – recognising the importance of skilled trainers and the special needs of adult basic education students, who may not fit into traditional VET teaching models.
  5. Implement a national VET outreach program to re-engage disadvantaged and vulnerable learners – a large percentage of whom are on a foundational skills learning level – who have left training because of the impact of natural disasters or COVID-19 concerns.
  6. Renew the national-state-territory policy statement on the value and place of ACE and its place in Australian skills and training, to update the 2008 Ministerial statement – a statement that is needed to ensure program funding has a strong underpinning strategic policy framework.

Background: Inequality in Australia

The Evatt Foundation states that “the poorest 40% of Australian households have effectively no wealth at all, and half of them have negative net wealth because of debt.” By contrast, the top 10% and especially the top 1% are both getting richer, both in absolute and relative terms compared to the next 50% of households. The Foundation identifies two widening fault lines: between the bottom 40% and everyone else, and between the top 10% and the middle 50%.

Australia Institute research shows those in the top 10% of income and wealth received almost all (93%) of the gains of economic recovery from 2009 to 2019. “How long can Australia sustain an economic and social setting which excludes the bulk of its people from sharing in the economic gains?” the Institute asks.

About Dr Don Perlgut

As the CEO of CCA since late 2015, Dr Don Perlgut has worked to strengthen CCA’s research, communications and advocacy activities. Prior to his commencement as CCA CEO, he worked as the CEO of three other organisations, including the Rural Health Education Foundation and the Western Sydney Regional Organisation of Councils (WSROC). Don supervised the development two ABC TV adult literacy series with NSW TAFE and received a Commonwealth Literacy Medal for his work during International Literacy Year 1990. He has committed much of his professional career to advancing social and economic justice through adult, community and post-secondary education and was nominated three years in a row – 2019, 2020 and 2021 – for the Pro Bono Australia “Impact 25” social sector awards. He holds a PhD in media/communications from Macquarie University and a Master of City Planning (MCP) from the University of California, Berkeley; and is a former professional film critic.

Register for the webinar via Eventbrite or read more here.

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