VET Reviewer Steven Joyce speaks out

The Hon Steven Joyce (pictured), a former New Zealand Minister for Skills appointed by the Prime Minister to undertake a review into Australia’s vocational education and training (VET) system, has spoken out about his report.

Mr Joyce’s report, Strengthening Skills: Expert Review of Australia’s Vocational Education and Training System, was released in conjunction with the Commonwealth Budget in early April. Last week, he spoke about the Review, at the Apprenticeship Employment Network NSW & ACT Sydney conference.

(The following is extracted from a summary prepared by TAFE Directors Australia.)

Steven Joyce, has described Prime Minister Scott Morrison as a “champion” of the VET sector, and says he doesn’t believe that political divisions should stand in the way of his key findings being adopted.

“It’s something I know the PM is very passionate about,” he said.

“He’s very, very passionate about vocational education and he thinks it’s underweight in Australia. So, you’ve got a real champion there.”

He also expanded on other aspects of his report, including:

  • He does not see the VET system – with the possible exception of policies around TAFE – being so overtly political that it should threaten a national agreement to make the system run better.
  • He conceded that despite the reform effort in New Zealand, the country’s polytechnics are now struggling.
  • The planned National Skills Commission would have a strong focus on skills forecasting, acknowledging that “initially it’s not going to be that accurate but it’s going to evolve over time”.
  • He dismissed a suggestion he might be a candidate to head the new skills commission.
  • He warned that poor quality VET-in-Schools programs may be actually worsening the job prospects of some VET secondary school students.
  • He said one of the “best and simplest” ideas from the New Zealand experience was the colour-coding of school subjects so students could identify university and vocational choices.
  • He was “a fan of group training organisations” and saw them working in partnership with the proposed new skills organisations.
  • He cautioned that the VET brand was “too broad” and “confused”, and should be narrowed, with a higher profile on new occupations such as those in the digital sector.

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