New South Wales community education providers continue to over-perform in reaching vulnerable and disadvantaged learners

On almost all tracked measures of vulnerability and disadvantage, NSW community education vocational education and training (VET) providers over-perform, compared to both TAFE and private for-profit providers.

The latest research from Community Colleges Australia (CCA) analyses the 2017 government-funded VET data, and concludes that NSW not-for-profit community providers disproportionately cater for students from the state’s most disadvantaged groups and regions.

“This achievement is consistent with CCA’s analysis of the 2016 data. It shows that, in percentage terms, the state’s not-for-profit community education providers deliver VET programs funded by governments to significantly more Indigenous students, students living in regional and rural New South Wales, students with a disability, students from lower socio-economic backgrounds, older learners – aged 45-plus and females,” said Dr Don Perlgut, CCA’s CEO.

In 2017, NSW community education providers achieved the following percentage proportions of their government-funded VET student populations:

  • 13.4% Indigenous students (12% in 2016), compared to 9.6% of TAFE and 7.0% of private for-profit VET providers;
  • 19.7% students with a disability (15.5% in 2016), compared to 12.1% of TAFE and 8.9% of private for-profits;
  • 63.8% regional students (70.9% in 2016), compared to 36.6% of TAFE and 32.6% of private for-profits;
  • 65.6% most disadvantaged students (bottom two SEIFA quintiles; 69.1% in 2016), compared to 55.2% of TAFE and 56.2% of private for-profits; and
  • 35.8% older (age 45+) students (34.8% in 2016), compared to 19% of TAFE and 14.7% of private for-profits.

The CCA report, entitled Vulnerable and Disadvantaged Students of NSW Not-for-Profit Community Education Providers, draws from calendar year 2017 data collected and collated by the National Centre for Vocational Education and Research (NCVER).

“This achievement results from the funding provided by the NSW Government’s ‘ACE Community Service Obligation’ (CSO) program and the ability of NSW not-for-profit community providers to use those funds effectively and successfully to meet the program’s desired outcomes to ‘guarantee training for key equity groups’,.” Said Dr Perlgut.

Click here for a copy of the Report (PDF).

The Report’s Recommendations

Based on the analysis of this report, CCA has recommended that the NSW Government:

  1. Increase the funding for the adult and community education Community Service Obligation program for NSW community providers, given the capacity of community providers to use the funding effectively to reach the state’s vulnerable and disadvantaged learners. Based on CCA’s estimate of the NSW community education sector’s capacity, CCA recommends that a 50% increase – from the (current) approximately $20 million/year to $30 million/year – is appropriate and achievable, and will be a highly effective investment by the NSW Government.
  2. Re-allocate some of the Smart and Skilled funding from other VET providers (particularly the private for-profit providers) to not-for-profit community providers, especially in locations of greatest social and economic need such as regional and rural NSW and Western Sydney.
  3. Increase funding for foundation skills, adult basic education and teaching of English as a second language, given the high level of expertise and capabilities in the community sector – including an examination of the fee reimbursement structure for these courses, because of their intensive and high-cost nature required for the lowest educational level of learners and the total “volume of learning” required in foundation skills programs.
  4. Ensure that NSW community education providers and their staff are properly supported with professional development and technical expertise to ensure that high quality delivery is maintained and enhanced. This challenge is particularly acute because so much of CSO activity takes place outside of the Sydney metropolitan area, as figures in this report show.
  5. Support the upgrading of buildings and IT infrastructure of NSW community education providers, which have no outside sources of capital – unlike government-owned TAFE and the private capital that supports the private providers. CCA has quantified the cost of maintaining the infrastructure of its NSW members – averaging at $277,000/year; CCA has proposed that the NSW Government support community providers by $100,000 each year.

In addition, CCA recommends that the Australian Government:

  1. Enlist community education providers in job and other training programs targeted at older (age 45+) workers, given the unique ability of community providers to engage older Australians. The learning environments in Australian community education organisations provide the support, style and type of learning that older workers find attractive and conducive to study.

About the Data

Each year the NCVER publishes annual totals for vocational education and training (VET) student activity for the previous calendar year. The NCVER publishes in two formats:

  • Government funded VET, defined as “all Commonwealth and state/territory government-funded training delivered by TAFE institutes, other government providers (such as universities), community education providers and other registered providers)” – 1.2 million students participated in government-funded VET in 2017; and
  • Total VET students (also known as “total VET activity”) – approximately 4.2 million students enrolled in VET in 2017.

The NCVER data undergoes significant quality control to ensure it will be of value to Australian policy makers and researchers.

In NSW, “government-funded” VET for community education providers primarily refers to one of two programs managed and funded by the NSW Department of Industry: the Smart and Skilled program and the ACE (Adult and Community Education) Community Services Obligation (CSO) program.

CCA will release a report soon that examines similar patterns for Victoria and for the whole of Australia for both government-funded and total VET activity.

For details on the needs of NSW regional and rural community education providers, click here.

For details on the needs of Western Sydney community education providers, click here.

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