Community education training providers delivering government-funded vocational education and training (VET) over-perform in delivering to vulnerable and disadvantaged groups, in comparison to other providers – TAFE and the private for-profit sector. This is the key message arising from the Community Colleges Australia (CCA) analysis of 2016 data published by the National Centre for Vocational Education Research (NCVER).
“On all tracked measures of vulnerability and disadvantage, NSW community education VET providers significantly over-performed, disproportionately catering for students from the state’s most disadvantaged groups and regions,” said Dr Don Perlgut, CCA’s CEO.
“This is an outstanding achievement, made possible by a combination of funding from the NSW Department of Industry – especially the Community Service Obligation (CSO) program – as well as the efficiency, commitment and learner-centred approach of NSW community education providers,” said Dr Perlgut.
CCA’s report, entitled Vulnerable and Disadvantaged Students of NSW Community Education Providers: Analysis of Participants in Government-Funded VET 2016, shows that in 2016, NSW community education providers achieved the following percentage proportions of their government-funded VET student populations:
– 12% Indigenous students, compared to 8.4% of TAFE and 6.3% of private for-profit provider students;
– 15.6% students with a disability, compared to 11.1% of TAFE and 5.3% of private for-profit provider students;
– 70.9% regional students, compared to 34.9% of TAFE and 31.5% of private for-profit provider students;
– 69.1% most socially and economically disadvantaged students (bottom two SEIFA quintiles), compared to 53.7% of TAFE and 55.3% of private for-profit provider students; and
– 34.8% were aged 45 or over, compared to 20.9% of TAFE and 15.3% of private for-profit provider students – indicating that community providers proportionately reach older workers and other older members of the “equity” groups.
As a result of the analysis in the Report, CCA recommends that the NSW Government:
- Increase the funding for the adult and community education Community Service Obligation (CSO) program for NSW community colleges, given the capacity that community providers have shown to use the funding effectively to reach the state’s most vulnerable and disadvantaged learners.
- Reallocate some of the Smart and Skilled funding from other VET providers (particularly the private for-profit providers) to community providers, especially in locations of greatest social and economic need.
- 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.
- Ensure that NSW community colleges and their staff delivering CSO 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 metropolitan Sydney, as this report indicates.
- Implement a program to support the upgrading of buildings and IT infrastructure of NSW community colleges, which have no sources of capital – unlike government-owned TAFE and the private investment capital that supports the private providers.
- When determining the priorities for additional allocations (or re-allocations) of Smart and Skilled funds, ensure that there is a high weighting of the criteria towards proposals that meet the needs of vulnerable and disadvantaged (“equity”) groups.
The report can be downloaded here. In NSW, “government-funded VET” predominantly refers to one of two programs run by the NSW Department of Industry: Smart and Skilled or Community Service Obligation (CSO), a subset of Smart and Skilled specifically for community colleges.
CCA will conduct similar analyses for community providers in Victoria and for the whole of Australia for both government-funded and total VET activity.