NSW Government announces review of VET sector

The NSW Government has announced a review of the state’s vocational education and training (VET) sector.

Originally announced by the Premier on 25 February 2020 with an apparent focus on TAFE, the review’s Terms of Reference – announced on 4 March 2020 – have a more general focus. (See below for the complete Terms of Reference reproduced.)

In the original parliamentary discussion about the announcement, NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian was quoted by The Sydney Morning Herald as foreshadowing “the private sector playing a bigger role in delivering courses.”

“Given that original comment, Community Colleges Australia expressed its concern to the Premier, the Deputy Premier and the Minister for Skills and Higher Education that the review would allocate yet more funding to private for-profit VET providers, possibly at the expense of TAFE and not-for-profit community education providers. The much more general terms of reference does not indicate any added ‘marketisation’ of the state’s VET funding,” said Dr Don Perlgut, CEO of Community Colleges Australia (CCA).

“CCA looks forward to providing a full submission to the review as it commences,” said Dr Perlgut.

Review on the NSW vocational education and training sector: Terms of Reference

Terms of reference for the review on the NSW vocational education and training sector. (See these on the NSW Department of Education website.)

Context

The VET sector in NSW needs to do better for the future:

  1. From 2001 to 2017, participation in VET declined steadily. Those students who do participate are failing to complete their course at a rate of 47.5%.
  2. NSW has a higher overall skills shortage compared to Victoria and Queensland, with 30 identified skills shortage areas in NSW.

Other challenges faced by the NSW VET system include quality and efficiency, public perception and system complexity. Many of these challenges are also faced by other Australian jurisdictions and have been the subject of a number of recent, comprehensive reviews.

Over the last five years, major reforms and initiatives have been implemented to improve the quality and efficiency of the NSW VET sector. These include the introduction of Smart and Skilled in 2015, modernising TAFE NSW, and providing 100,000 fee-free apprenticeships.

But there is much more to do.

Scope

Reform to the VET system is needed if NSW is to remain nationally and internationally competitive, and VET is to be regarded as a genuine and desirable option for school leavers.

Areas of focus

The review will submit recommendations for how the NSW Government and TAFE can:

  • Transition school leavers into in-demand skills training opportunities that equip them to secure and create the jobs of the future.
  • Provide better information to students so they can make informed decisions and improved career advice to support lifelong learning.
  • Better integrate secondary, vocational and tertiary learning opportunities, including consideration of micro-credentialing and university and VET training products.
  • Deliver opportunities for resolving current skills shortages to benefit the State’s economy, with consideration given to ensuring the NSW Skills List is forward looking, the speed of design and delivery of courses, and flexibility.

The review may also consider how findings can be implemented through exemplar projects, such as the Meadowbank Precinct and the Western Sydney Aerotropolis.

Governance and reporting

Mr David Gonski AC and Professor Peter Shergold AC will lead the review.

Secretariat support will be provided by the Department of Premier and Cabinet.

The final report will be provided to the NSW Government by July 2020.

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