NSW ACE Providers Over-Perform in Reaching Vulnerable and Disadvantaged Learners

A new report from Community Colleges Australia (CCA) shows how NSW adult and community education (ACE) providers consistently over-perform compared to other types of training providers, disproportionately catering for students from the state’s most disadvantaged groups and regions. On almost all tracked measures of vulnerability and disadvantage, not-for-profit NSW ACE providers reach these learners far better than other types of training providers, including TAFE and private for-profit companies.

The CCA report, entitled Vulnerable and Disadvantaged Students of NSW Adult and Community Education Providers: Analysis of 2021 Data, is part of a series that analyses government-funded vocational education and training (VET) students by provider type, based on 2021 data compiled by the National Centre for Vocational Education Research (NCVER). (Download a full copy of the CCA report – PDF.)

Community education providers delivered 7.6% of government-funded training in NSW in 2021, up from 6.2% in 2020. Over the same period TAFE delivered 60.0%, Private providers 28.0%, Schools 8.6% and enterprise providers 1.5%.

Total NSW government-funded student numbers fell in 2021 from 472,385 to 464,220 students.  The percentage provider shares of provision altered, most dramatically for TAFE and private providers. The private provider delivery share rose from 19.4% in 2020 to 28% in 2021, while the TAFE share decreased by a similar percentage from 68.6% in 2020 to 60%, albeit from a higher numerical base. School and enterprise provider provision both slightly decreased. ACE providers experienced a 1.4% rise in student numbers.

The ACE increase may be attributed to the JobTrainer market stimulus, packaged as “Skilling for Recovery” in NSW, a response to COVID-19 in 2020/2021. While JobTrainer provided a stimulus and increased training numbers in some areas, the 2021 data demonstrates a clear drop in the numbers of vulnerable or disadvantaged students engaging with learning across all provider types, which supports CCA’s view that these cohorts have been significantly impacted by COVID-19 factors and were not returning to training. The 2021/22 financial year government-funded VET data released in November 2022 reinforces this correlation.

In 2021, NSW ACE providers achieved the following percentage proportions of their government-funded VET student populations:

  • 10.6% students had a disability (down from 13.5% in 2021), compared to 9.3% of TAFE, 5.3% of private for-profit providers, 2.2% schools and 2.8% enterprise providers;
  • 45.9% regional and rural students (48.6% in 2021), compared to 29.5% TAFE, 29.5% private for-profits, 25.5% schools and  42.0 % enterprise providers;
  • 59.7% most disadvantaged students – bottom two SEIFA quintiles, compared to 44.2% TAFE, 29.5% private for-profits, 40.6% schools and 50.7% enterprise providers;
  • 19.4% non-English speaking background students, compared to 21.3% of TAFE, 15.6% of private for-profit providers, 1.0% schools and 9.5% enterprise providers;
  • 34.8% older (age 45+) students, compared to 18.6% TAFE, 23.5% private for-profits, 0.15% schools, and 22.5% enterprise providers; and
  • 11.4% Indigenous students, compared to 8.4% of TAFE, 6.9% of private for-profit providers, 0.13% schools and 5.9% enterprise providers.

In addition, 64.4% NSW ACE provider government-funded VET students were female, the highest of any VET provider group in 2020. This compares to 54.8% of TAFE, 48.9% of private for-profit providers, 45.7% schools and 48.2% Enterprise providers.

Download a full copy of the CCA report (PDF)Vulnerable and Disadvantaged Students of NSW Adult and Community Education Providers: Analysis of 2021 Data, including tables, published on 16 January 2023.

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