Community Colleges Australia
Community Colleges Australia requests the next New South Wales Government to recognise, support and empower & enable the state’s not-for-profit community education providers, who are also called “community colleges” or adult and community education (ACE) providers.
New South Wales Community Education at a Glance
Not-for-profit community education providers represent an important force in the NSW training landscape. Almost 40 community education providers provide post-secondary education and training to New South Wales residents, workers, students and communities. In 2017, NSW community providers delivered accredited vocational education and training (VET) to 11% (146,080 learners) of the state’s total of 1,330,165 students (which includes fee-for-service as well as government-funded students), almost half the number delivered by TAFE (21%, with 281,550 students). NSW community providers also delivered government-funded VET to 18,606 students in 2017, 4.4% of the state total (TAFE delivered to 62.4%, representing 263,890 students).
NSW community providers specialise in delivering education and training to many of the state’s most vulnerable and disadvantaged learners: on almost all tracked measures NSW community VET providers significantly over-perform compared to TAFE and private for-profit providers, disproportionately catering for students from the state’s most disadvantaged groups and regions. Of NSW government-funded VET students in 2017, community providers achieved the following reach to vulnerable and disadvantaged groups:
- Almost 20% of community students had a disability, compared to 12% of TAFE and 9% of private providers: community providers effectively doubled the percentages of other providers.
- More than 13% of community students were Indigenous, compared to less than 10% of TAFE and 7% of private students: on a percentage basis, community providers delivered to one-third more than TAFE and almost double private for-profits.
- Almost 64% of community students lived in regional, rural and remote areas, compared to less than 37% of TAFE and less than 33% of private students: community non-metropolitan provision doubled that of other providers.
- Almost 66% of community students were in the most socially and economically disadvantaged categories – the bottom 2 SEIFA quintiles (representing the bottom 40% of Australians, calculated on socio-economic disadvantage), compared to 55% of TAFE and 56% of private students.
- Almost 36% of community students were aged 45 or over, compared to 19% of TAFE and under 15% of for-profit students – more than double other providers: community providers disproportionately have the ability to reach older workers, and need to be enlisted in more programs for older workers.
- Non-English speaking background was the only category where community providers did not top the charts, with 7% of students, compared to TAFE with 21% and private providers with 11%: this resulted in part because of the large number of non-metropolitan community students, most of whom are native English speakers.
In addition, more than 64% of community education students were female, compared to 57% of TAFE and 51% of private students. Community education providers engage in fewer traditional male-dominated programs, including trade apprenticeships, and many deliver more female-dominated certificates such as Individual Care, Child Care and Hospitality.
Special assistance secondary schools: More than one-third of NSW community education providers run special assistance secondary schools that cater for marginalised and disadvantaged secondary students, with most schools located outside metropolitan Sydney. The development of these schools constitutes a notable innovation for the community education sector, which has already been transforming its business models to cope with changing social, economic and educational needs.
Other education, training and community services: NSW not-for-profit community providers also work closely with small business, as shown by the recent “Tech Savvy for Small Business” program, where NSW community providers delivered training to thousands of the state’s small businesses. As well as accredited VET, NSW community providers provide non-accredited and personal development education and training which engages many thousands of the state’s residents in learning. Most community education providers complement training activities by delivering other community services, for young people, migrants, Indigenous Australians, farmers, entrepreneurs and businesses, people with disabilities, people facing mental health challenges, women and other groups.
Social capital: Because of its community base, the New South Wales not-for-profit community education sector is a significant builder of social capital, particularly in regional, rural and outer metropolitan locations where local educational institutions are part of the “glue” that holds communities together.
What do we want for the NSW community education sector?
Legislative Recognition through a new Government Structure
Recognition for the valuable work undertaken by the NSW community education sector through an official NSW State Government structure set up by Parliamentary legislation, similar to the previous Board of Adult and Community Education.
National Recognition of Adult and Community Education
The state of New South Wales needs to work with the Commonwealth and other states and territories to update and reissue the national Ministerial Statement on Adult Community Education (ACE).
Establish State Targets for Community Provided VET
For the VET system in New South Wales to remain diverse, relevant and sustainable into the future, community-provided VET should be maintained to a minimum 15% of the total VET market and 10% of government-funded VET.
Infrastructure and Operations
Ongoing maintenance and operations funding of at least $100,000 per year for each NSW not-for-profit community education provider.
Establishment of a replenishing facilities funding program to undertake construction of new facilities and major renovations of existing facilities.
VET Program Funding
A 50% increase in funding for the NSW Adult and Community Education (ACE) Community Service Obligation (CSO) program – which funds not-for-profit community education providers to deliver to disadvantaged groups – to $33 million/year, as a highly effective investment in the state’s future.
Annual indexation of CSO funding at a minimum to inflation.
Quarantine of CSO funding solely for not-for-profit community education providers.
Extension of contract timelines for CSO from one year to a minimum of three years to provide certainty, flexibility and greater innovation in delivery.
Re-allocation of some of the Smart and Skilled funding from other VET providers (particularly the private for-profit providers) to not-for-profit community providers, especially in locations of greatest social and economic need such as regional and rural NSW and Western Sydney.
An increase of funding for foundation skills, adult basic education and teaching of English as a second language, because of their intensive and high-cost nature required for the lowest educational level of learners and the total “volume of learning” required in foundation skills programs.
Development of a targeted program delivered by community providers to assist the state’s older workers in retraining and employment skills.
Governance, Leadership and Professional Development
Increase Teaching and Leadership program funding to the NSW not-for-profit community education sector to at least $450,000 per annum.
Quality of Teaching
Re-establish and provide core funding to State Government-led VET teaching on a state-wide basis, through a model similar to the Victorian VET Development Centre (VDC).
Regional Economic Development
A special section of UrbanGrowth NSW be set up as a “Community Education Development Corporation” to ensure that the state’s not-for-profit community education providers have opportunities – and access to funds and land – to take their full role in the Sydney urban growth centres.
Proper facilities be set aside in the Parramatta North Heritage Core to include a community education-driven education and training centre for Greater Western Sydney.
A regional community education economic development fund be established to assist the state’s not-for-profit community education providers to engage in economic development projects.
Legislative Recognition through a new Government Structure
Community Colleges Australia requests recognition for the valuable work undertaken by the NSW not-for-profit community education sector through an official NSW State Government structure set up by Parliamentary legislation.
This structure would return New South Wales to the position it was in from 1990 to 2008 when it had a legislatively constituted Board of Adult and Community Education (BACE), with members appointed by the Minister, with functions to:
- promote the provision of adult and community education in NSW;
- foster and support the establishment of organisational structures that facilitate the co-ordinated provision of adult and community education in NSW;
- advise the Minister and the NSW Government on needs and trends in, and the co-ordination of, adult and community education;
- arrange for the distribution of government funds to adult and community education agencies; and
- commission research into adult and community education activities in NSW.
Establishing this structure would bring New South Wales in line with Victoria, which has an Adult, Community and Further Education (ACFE) Board, established as a statutory authority. The ACFE Board’s role is to plan and promote adult learning, allocate resources, develop policies, and advise the Victorian Minister for Training and Skills on matters related to adult education.
National Recognition of Adult and Community Education
CCA requests that the state of New South Wales work with the Commonwealth and other states and territories to update and reissue the national Ministerial Statement on Adult Community Education (ACE).
This statement was issued in December 2008 by the Ministerial Council for Vocation and Technical Education and confirmed the “value of ACE in developing social capital, building community capacity, encouraging social participation and enhancing social cohesion.” The Statement also described how the sector can respond to industrial, demographic and technological changes in Australia, including important contributions to skills and workforce development – and thus to productivity.
There is very little in the 2008 Ministerial Statement that does not apply today. But the world of post-school education has changed in the last 11 years. CCA requests a new national policy statement that articulates the new realities of Australian VET, given our rapidly changing economy. This new statement will include the complementary nature of not-for-profit community providers to TAFE and the private, for-profit education sector, as well as the role in educating young people, and providing services to the NDIS and other programs.
Establish State Targets for Community Provided VET
For the VET system in New South Wales to remain diverse, relevant and sustainable into the future, community education provided VET should be maintained to a minimum 15% of the total VET market and 10% of government-funded VET.
These targets will ensure the state’s VET system is viable and works for everyone seeking vocational education and training. It would be a significant policy failure to allow the successful New South Wales ACE model to diminish, rather than capitalising on the sector’s acknowledged expertise to reach the vulnerable, marginal and disadvantaged learners and groups in the community and regions.
The marketisation and privatisation of Australian VET has been a disastrous failure. In the Australian schools sector, there are almost no “for profit” institutions. In the university sector, for-profit institutions enrol only 5% of students. Yet in the NSW VET sector in 2017, more than 56% of students enrolled in private for-profit institutions, including massive 33% of all government-funded VET students enrolled in private for-profit colleges.
The age of “contestable funding” for VET has severely disadvantaged community education providers. Education is a public good; it should not be sustaining profit margins greater than 30%. The marketisation of Australian public services has never been more problematic than in the VET space. Education and training is not a suitable buy-and-sell commodity, both on rational economic as well as social criteria.
The Australian Government’s Productivity Commission acknowledges that, “The expansion of VET FEE-HELP access after 2012 is a well-documented example of how policy can fail if governments do not ensure proper policy design along with suitable regulatory oversight.” Competition in delivering education does not bring lower prices or higher quality for learners; in fact the opposite often occurs. New South Wales does not need more VET “choice”; what we do need are properly funded government (TAFE) and not-for-profit community providers that are committed to the common good, and not to producing high levels of profit for individuals and corporations.
Infrastructure and Operations Funding
One of the greatest challenges facing NSW community education providers is how to maintain existing and construct new buildings and centres for learning, given that the bulk of community training is “face to face”. Small and medium providers, especially in regional and rural areas, as well as growth sectors such as outer metropolitan Sydney, face special challenges to maintain the high infrastructure costs imposed by accreditation and competitive tendering.
Building and maintenance issues facing not-for-profit community education providers include:
- postponing essential maintenance because of limited funds;
- the costs of maintaining older heritage buildings; utilisation and retro-fitting of buildings not originally designed for education and training;
- poorly maintained buildings providing poor branding and marketing image;
- establishing learning centres in accessible locations, which is important for both youth and adult clients, who often study on a part-time or casual basis in between other work and family responsibilities; and
- ensuring buildings are accessible to people with disabilities, given that community providers have a much larger percentage of learners with disabilities than other VET sector providers.
In 2009, the then Commonwealth Government set up a $100 million “Investing in Community Education and Training program”, part of a $500 million VET Capital Fund that included TAFE. This fund offered not-for-profit community education providers grants up to $1.5 million for major capital infrastructure developments and upgrades. A recent CCA survey of almost half of the organisations that received funds from this program, found that in the seven years after funding:
- more than 100,000 additional students undertook training – in other words, a new student was trained for every $1,000 invested, a fabulous return on investment;
- 75% of fund recipients offered new courses;
- More than 90% of recipients provided training to more students;
- More than 95% improved existing courses;
- 80% improved accessibility to their educational facilities for staff and students living with disabilities; and
- 20% hired new staff, with 67% improving staff skills.
Repeating this facilities investment for not-for-profit community education providers is an obvious New South Wales State Government policy to pursue, a cost-effective means to support the education and training aspirations of the most vulnerable.
CCA is pleased to report that – following bi-partisan support from most NSW Members of Parliament – a small but significant step has recently been made in this area, with the NSW Department of Industry now planning a 2019/20 program of “ongoing infrastructure support as part of a review of the implementation of the Community Service Obligation (CSO) program,” which supports community education providers. This current initiative provides an excellent beginning, but more is required.
- Ongoing maintenance and operations funding of at least $100,000 per year for each NSW not-for-profit community education provider.
- Establishment of a replenishing facilities funding program to undertake construction of new facilities and major renovations of existing facilities.
VET Program Funding
The current dedicated NSW Government funding program for not-for-profit community providers is the Community Service Obligation (“CSO”) program. In 2018/19 that program delivers $21.6 million to not-for-profit community education providers to assist “people who experience social and educational disadvantage or have geographical barriers to accessing training.” Given the capacity of community providers to use the funding effectively, CCA requests:
- A 50% increase in funding for the NSW adult and community education (ACE) Community Service Obligation (CSO) program – which funds community education providers to deliver to disadvantaged groups – to $33 million/year, as a highly effective investment in the state’s future.
- Annual indexation of CSO funding at a minimum to inflation.
- Quarantine of CSO funding solely for not-for-profit community education providers.
- Extension of contract timelines for CSO from one year to a minimum of three years to provide certainty, flexibility and greater innovation in delivery.
- Re-allocation of some of the Smart and Skilled funding from other VET providers (particularly the private for-profit providers) to not-for-profit community providers, especially in locations of greatest social and economic need such as regional and rural NSW and Western Sydney.
- An increase of funding for foundation skills, adult basic education and teaching of English as a second language, because of their intensive and high-cost nature required for the lowest educational level of learners and the total “volume of learning” required in foundation skills programs.
- Development of a targeted program delivered by community providers to assist the state’s older workers in retraining and employment skills.
Governance, Leadership and Professional Development
For New South Wales community education providers to fulfil their organisational purposes, they must be sustainable, with well-trained staff and strong governance structures. The NSW Department of Industry requires that all Smart and Skilled training providers “must develop and implement a CPD policy that reflects the needs of their business but also includes, as a minimum, key staff and management (including trainers, assessors, administration officer and managers)”.
Investment in the capacity of the not-for-profit sector “has been miniscule as a percentage of total sector turnover. Of particular concern is the failure to provide adequate professional development opportunities,” writes David Crosbie, CEO of Community Council for Australia. The Centre for Social Impact points out that lack of money and time are the key barriers for accessing professional development by Australian not-for-profits (NFPs), which is consistent with CCA’s findings:
Insufficient financial and structural support prevent the Australian NFP sector and its people from engaging with more professional development. Smaller NFP organisations appear particularly prone to financial challenges, while larger NFPs are challenged by the time and support required to offer training. Thirty-three per cent of NFP executives have no access to a designated training budget.
The Australian Government Productivity Commission has concluded:
NFPs in the community services sector appear to experience the greatest challenges in attracting and retaining employees and volunteers. Addressing these challenges is vital to enhancing the efficiency and effectiveness of these NFPs, especially those delivering government funded community services.
The NSW Department of Industry has supported the governance and professional development needs of NSW community education providers to build both the quality and capacity of the providers. This funding, primarily through the “ACE Teaching and Leadership” funding program, has been valuable in that it empowers the sector to deliver NSW Government training and skills programs in the best possible manner, although funding actually declined by $50,000 from 2017/18 to approximately $200,000 in 2018/19. This funding is especially important to rural, regional and outer metropolitan providers (the majority of community providers), which have reduced access to both formal and informal professional development opportunities, due to the travel distances to the Sydney CBD.
The value of the Department’s ACE Teaching and Leadership funding program has also been exhibited through the work that CCA has undertaken on corporate governance and CEO coaching and mentoring. While capability across the sector has improved markedly, performance by the voluntary not-for-profit boards of directors can be uneven and inconsistent, especially so without ongoing assistance. Proper governance – with associated management expertise – is second only to funding in relation to the success of NSW community colleges.
Despite the funding from the NSW Department of Industry, CCA is aware that a majority of professional development needs of its NSW member staff – totalling some thousands of staff – remain only partially met at best.
As a consequence, CCA requests:
- An increase of the Teaching and Leadership funding available to the community education sector to at least $450,000 per annum.
Quality of Teaching
The quality of Australian VET teaching has been widely debated and discussed, and is considered vital to the success of Australian training. Although the Industry Programs Directorate of the NSW Department of Education and Training (then responsible for VET in NSW) ran state-wide professional development VET programs for many years, this was eliminated in 2014. The current approach, of leaving VET professional development to the “market” does not work. The further you travel from the Sydney CBD – such as Western Sydney, the Central Coast and regional and rural NSW – the more difficult it is to access proper professional development for VET teachers, many of whom are contract, casual or part-time.
Unlike in New South Wales, the Victorian Government continues to support VET teaching, having established the VET Development Centre (VDC) in 2005 to “promote the development and raise the professional standing of people working in the vocational education and training sector.” The VDC plays a unique role in Australian VET professional development. In 2017, the VDC received $3.6 million in Victorian Government funding and hosted 295 events, with many thousands of participants.
CCA believes proper investment in VET teaching is an important means of ensuring VET quality in the state, and requests the NSW Government to:
- re-establish and provide core funding to State Government-led VET teaching on a state-wide basis, through a model similar to the Victorian VET Development Centre (VDC).
Empower and Enable
Regional Economic Development
The NSW community education sector contributes substantially to the economic and community development of the state. CCA has detailed at great length the extensive capabilities of its members in regional and rural New South Wales, as well as Western Sydney. Successful economic development activities include:
- business incubators, such as those run by Business Growth Centre and Byron Community College;
- working with Indigenous communities, such as the ACE Community Colleges’ award-winning Aboriginal drivers education program;
- social enterprises, such as those run in Western Sydney by JobQuest and Jesuit Social Services;
- workplace and business services, such as VERTO's Australian Apprenticeship Support Network and Western Riverina Community College’s English in the Workplace;
- employment programs and services, such as Kiama Community College’s NextGEN Digital Development Program supporting local businesses in their digital presence and accelerating young peoples’ job readiness;
- Byron Community College’s international reputation as a supplier of permaculture and sustainability training, making it an important attraction for employers;
- health and social services, such as the St George Sutherland & City East Community College’s “Recovery College”, as well as Port Macquarie Community College’s formation of the Mid North Coast Human Services Alliance; and
- arts and culture, such Riverina Community College’s Disability Art Studio.
The UrbanGrowth NSW Development Corporation (UrbanGrowth NSW) is a NSW Government agency that works with government, the private sector and community partners to drive economic development including the renewal of urban places across metropolitan Sydney. UrbanGrowth NSW operates in five growth centres: Parramatta North, Redfern Waterloo, The Bays, Cooks Cover and Granville. NSW community education providers are capable of participating in the development of most of these locations, but need assistance to enable their participation.
CCA requests that:
- A special section of UrbanGrowth NSW be set up as a “Community Education Development Corporation” to ensure that the state’s not-for-profit community education providers have opportunities – and access to funds and land – to take their full role in the Sydney urban growth centres.
- Proper facilities be set aside in the Parramatta North Heritage Core to include a community education-driven education and training centre for Greater Western Sydney.
- A regional community education economic development fund be established to assist the state’s not-for-profit community education providers to engage in economic development projects.
(NSW Election Platform ends. Footnotes and references follow on following pages.)
 Source: National Centre for Vocational Education and Research, https://www.ncver.edu.au/research-and-statistics/data/all-data/total-vet-students-and-courses-2017-data-slicer.
 Source: National Centre for Vocational Education and Research, https://www.ncver.edu.au/research-and-statistics/publications/all-publications/government-funded-students-and-courses-2017.
 For a standard definition of “vulnerable and disadvantaged”, see the Australian Government’s Productivity Commission 2008 Consumer Policy Framework: https://www.pc.gov.au/inquiries/completed/consumer-policy/report.
 In 2016, Indigenous Australians made up 2.9% of the NSW population; see http://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/Lookup/by%20Subject/2071.0~2016~Main%20Features~Aboriginal%20and%20Torres%20Strait%20Islander%20Population%20Data%20Summary~10. Indigenous Australians participate in VET at a much higher rate than non-Indigenous Australians – approximately double; see https://www.ncver.edu.au/publications/publications/all-publications/indigenous-vet-participation-completion-and-outcomes-change-over-the-past-decade.
 The SEIFA index of disadvantage is calculated by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) by separating the Australian population into 5 “quintiles”, with each quintile representing 20% of the NSW total population. See https://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/mf/2033.0.55.001.
 See the CCA submission at https://cca.edu.au/wp-content/uploads/2018/03/Tech-Savvy-for-Small-Business-28March2018-final.pdf.
 “Social capital” is defined by the OECD as “networks together with shared norms, values and understandings that facilitate co-operation within or among groups; see ”What is social capital?”, https://www.oecd.org/insights/37966934.pdf. Also see Adult Learning Australia, “Adult Learning and Civic Participation”, https://ala.asn.au/civic-participation/.
 See CCA’s NSW submission on this at https://cca.edu.au/wp-content/uploads/2018/05/CCA-Submission-Maintenance-costs-of-NSW-Community-Education-Providers-21May2018.pdf.
 NSW Department of Industry, Smart and Skilled Teaching and Leadership Policy, July 2016, p. 3,
 See “Investing in People Who Make a Difference”, by David Crosbie, Pro Bono Australia, 31 January 2019, https://probonoaustralia.com.au/news/2019/01/investing-people-make-difference/.
 Learning for Purpose: Researching the Social Return on Education and Training in the Australian Not-for-Profit Sector, by Ramon Wenzel, Centre for Social impact, University of Western Australia, 2015; available at https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B1--xR9XdxCEZ0lRaGZ1S1BHT2c/view.
 Australian Government Productivity Commission, Contribution of the Not-for-Profit Sector, January 2010, p. 249, https://www.pc.gov.au/inquiries/completed/not-for-profit/report/not-for-profit-report.pdf.
 See Kilpatrick and Bell, https://www.ncver.edu.au/__data/assets/file/0014/3209/200.pdf.
 The Department’s funding has enabled CCA to develop the following current (January 2019+) programs:
- Additional 6 programs to the current 8 of the audio podcast series on corporate governance https://cca.edu.au/resources/#governance
- Coaching and mentoring program for CEOs: https://cca.edu.au/member-services/professional-development/ceo-mentoring-and-coaching-program-2019/
- CEO-Chair workshop: https://cca.edu.au/member-services/professional-development/ceo-chair-workshop/
- VET Manager Professional Development: https://cca.edu.au/member-services/professional-development/vet-pd-2019/
 See https://theconversation.com/teachers-and-trainers-are-vital-to-the-quality-of-the-vet-sector-and-to-the-success-of-its-learners-101384, https://news.flinders.edu.au/blog/2018/11/21/expert-recommends-build-capability-australian-vet-teachers/ and https://melbourne-cshe.unimelb.edu.au/lh-martin-institute/research/projects/study-on-the-quality-of-teaching-in-vet.
 Source: VET Development Centre (VDC) 2017 Annual Report, https://vdc.edu.au/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/S5460-VDC-2017-Annual-Report_LR_10.pdf.
 See https://cca.edu.au/member-services/western-sydney-regional-economic-development-and-community-education/ and https://cca.edu.au/home/nsw-regional-and-rural-economic-development-report-summary/.