Don Perlgut, CEO, responds to the Productivity Commission’s Inquiry into Human Services, focusing on the implications of promoting competition in the vocational education and training (VET) sector, with particular attention to the implications for community education providers.
CCA strongly believes that further privatisation of the Australian vocational education and training (VET) sector – implied in the Productivity Commission’s brief for this Inquiry – is not only undesirable, but could create significant new problems for a sector already in crisis. This privatisation – that has already resulted in two-thirds of the total VET “market” now in private for-profit sector hands – already has been a disaster for many thousands of consumers – as well as for the Commonwealth of Australia, which has funded hundreds of millions of dollars of VET delivery that it is often of poor quality through VET FEE-HELP.
Vocational education and training services provided by community-based not-for-profit organisations has a history in Australian going back more than 100 years. Our sector’s providers are agile, great innovators, responsive to local and regional community needs and deliver clearly targeted and customised responses. Effectively designed community education programs are capable of achieving significant engagement, enhanced productivity and community cohesion outcomes. Our providers specialise in building pathways and “job-ready” and life skills for those Australians who often have fallen into the “too hard basket”.
For-profit higher education and for-profit VET providers consistently have been and will continue to be driven by a “bottom line” approach of profitability, preferably as high as possible. CCA maintains that such profitability is inconsistent with the provision of community service obligation funding and basic educational service delivery to vulnerable and disadvantaged Australians. In the VET sector, these services should continue to be provided by government (TAFE) and community education providers.