New NCVER report confirms Australian community education providers provide the best VET services to disadvantaged Australians

Australia’s community education sector provides the best services to disadvantaged Australians, a regional “place-based” analysis has shown.

This is one of the major findings from a new report from the National Centre for Vocational Educational Research (NCVER), Improving participation and success in VET for disadvantaged learners.

The NCVER report undertook detailed correlation analyses, which showed that: 

“The [most] significant and large positive correlations [were] found between regional participation in community providers and higher rates of participation across all disadvantaged learner groups (table 2 of the report). Highlighting the role that community providers play in serving some of the most disadvantaged populations, the associations are strongest for learners with a disability, unemployed learners and learners with low prior educational attainment.”

“The NCVER report confirms what we in Australia’s community education sector have long known: our organisations provide the best services to Australians who are experiencing the most disadvantage,” said Dr Don Perlgut, CEO of Community Colleges Australia.

“If you are serious about addressing economic and social disadvantage in Australia through skilling and education, you must start with empowering and expanding the role of Australia’s adult and community education sector,” Dr Perlgut said.

The report’s authors undertook national mapping of Australia, which revealed that the regions that are most successful in engaging disadvantaged learners in VET and promoting completion are:

  • more likely to be located in non-metropolitan areas;
  • reporting higher-than-average concentrations of community provision – especially important for learners with disabilities, unemployed and individuals with low prior educational attainment;
  • enrolling significant proportions of VET learners in TAFE;
  • offering strong capacity for basic VET delivery (lower levels of AQF); and
  • focusing on classroom-based learning delivery.

The report examined strategies that characterise high-performing regions:

  • using community member programs and engaging in community partnerships;
  • co-locating education and training with other community services;
  • delivering programs in community settings;
  • tailoring programs specifically for learners with low skills;
  • building relationships with local employers to help learners gain work experience; and
  • providing intensive course and career guidance.

“The unique success of Australia’s community education sector results from our organisations following these strategies. The NCVER report underscores the importance of community-based VET provision,” said Dr Perlgut.

The NCVER report, released on 22 March 2018, was written by Stephen Lamb, Quentin Maire, Anne Walstab, Graeme Newman, Esther Doecke and Merryn Davies. The report notes:

“Improving VET participation in and outcomes for disadvantaged Australians is an important strategy for improving life and work opportunities. VET is a stepping stone for many into further education, training and work, and is an essential tool for tackling a range of barriers to workforce participation, including long-term unemployment, early school leaving, low literacy or numeracy skills, and the need to retrain or upskill. As a result, VET is a fundamental contributor to productivity, workforce development and participation. VET also provides personal benefits for learners, as well as social benefits to the community.”

The report’s Executive Summary describes important course-based strategies and learner-level support:

Course-based strategies are used across courses and are available for all learners. At this level, the most common strategies for supporting learner participation and completion are:

  • the use of flexible delivery options (for example, offering program delivery outside the provider in community contexts);
  • partnering in the delivery of training;
  • having specific staff positions dedicated to understanding and meeting the needs of learners;
  • building relationships with employers to help learners to gain work experience in their individual areas; and
  • customising articulation arrangements to promote employment or further training opportunities.

Learner-level support is more likely to be conceived in terms of individual wellbeing, with strategies geared to the provision of interventions on a case-by-case basis. Effective strategies at the learner level include case management and counselling. However, a number of strategies were identified as being particularly useful in supporting positive outcomes for certain categories of learners. For example:

  • over 60% of the training organisations in the regions with the highest rates of completion for unemployed learners use mentoring;
  • many had partnerships with community agencies for the provision of auxiliary support such as housing, transport and material assistance;
  • many had support units for particular groups of learners with specific needs; and
  • some employed dedicated staff to manage the needs of specific groups of disadvantaged learners.

The full NCVER report is available here (PDF).

An extract from the report (PDF) on "Regional Analysis of VET Participation and Completion" is available here.

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