NCVER report details significant impacts of COVID-19 on Australian VET

The National Centre for Vocational Education Research (NCVER) new report Impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on VET details numerous ways that the pandemic has affected VET providers, teaching and students.

The report quotes CCA’s research at length, and will also feature at CCA’s October Conference, during which Dr Daniella Trimboli, NCVER Researcher will speak about the report, highlighting its conclusions.

The report’s Executive Summary

When the COVID-19 virus was declared a worldwide pandemic by the World Health Organisation (WHO) in March 2020, no one could have anticipated the extent to which it would impact on all aspects of Australian society, including the vocational education and training (VET) sector — nor for how long. The VET sector has always prioritised practical experience and face-to-face engagement between learners and trainers, an underpinning characteristic of the sector that has been affected at every level throughout the pandemic. In 2023, it is now clear that while the fundamental structure of VET has remained intact, COVID-19 has significantly reorganised the business practices of training providers and its impacts on the sector will be long-lasting.

This research assembles a range of quantitative and qualitative data to map the key impacts of the pandemic on VET students and providers. Student enrolments, outcomes, and satisfaction data from 2020 through to the end of 2021 are compared with pre-pandemic data (2019). Augmenting these data are qualitative findings from consultations with peak body representatives and interviews with training providers from across Australia.

Key messages from the report

  • The COVID-19 pandemic brought challenges to the VET sector, affecting mandatory work placements (MWPs), student enrolments and engagement, and staff wellbeing and retention. Students in disadvantaged cohorts were most severely impacted, as were students and training providers located in the states or territories where infection numbers were high and public health mandates proportionately more intense.
  • The impacts on training provider financial viability because of reduced student enrolments and completions were substantial, with training providers reporting a decline in these areas in the early stages of the pandemic, some recovery in late 2020 and into 2021, and either stabilisation or further decline in 2022.
  • Training providers reported several operational changes in response to the pandemic, the most significant being the transition to blended delivery modes, changes to hygiene practices, and new approaches associated with flexible work arrangements, communication strategies, and wrap-around services, such as mental health and wellbeing programs. These offer lessons for both alleviating pain points and highlighting areas of opportunity arising from the pandemic.


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