24 June 2014
The Independent Review of the Vocational Education and Training (VET) Sector in Western Australia was convened by the former Minister for Training and Workforce Development, the Hon Terry Redman MLA, and continued working under the new Minister for Training and Workforce Development, the Hon Dr Kim Hames MLA. Its brief was to examine how the new entitlement model of training in Western Australian, Future Skills WA, was being implemented and areas which might warrant some modifications or development.
A remarkable convergence of views around the Terms of Reference emerged from the interviews and submissions that formed part of the review process. In addition, some further key issues emerged that, although not being specifically part of the Terms of Reference, nonetheless underpin or relate to many, if not all, of them.
First is the need for clarity around the ultimate design of the VET sector in Western Australia, a framework that would sit alongside the State Training Plan and clarify, for all parties, the State’s expectations of them and their role in the system. This includes whether the system is to remain partially managed but contestable; whether it will move to having private registered training organisations (RTOs) as the primary deliverers in areas of priority qualifications, with the State Training Providers responsible for delivery in thin markets; or whether it will move to be fully competitive. The report proposes that quality and efficiency of delivery should be the paramount drivers for purchasing of training, not any ideological position about either public or private domination of the system.
The importance of training delivery into thin markets and ‘equity’ markets is something raised almost universally in the submissions to this review, and it will be important for the State to clarify its position on who should undertake this delivery and how it will be funded.
The positioning of the VET sector is also of concern to the sector, and there are strong grounds to develop a promotional strategy for VET in Western Australia, where the default position of many key decision makers is to value a university education more highly. This can impact upon decisions made about funding and supporting the VET system, from both the political and business sectors.
In addressing the Terms of Reference, prominence is given to issues such as:
- The need to develop a shared understanding of the meaning of ‘autonomy’ for a statutory authority operating within a State system.
- The need to develop performance measures that would guide the Minister and the Department towards a graduated devolution of responsibilities to the Governing Councils of State Training Providers that demonstrate they are ready to accept the responsibilities and accountabilities that would be involved.
- Greater engagement between the Minister and the Chairs of the Governing Councils.
- Changes to the way in which Governing Council members are appointed and remunerated.
- Potential for greater efficiencies in the ways in which State Training Providers operate and ways of enhancing the management and knowledge exchange across the sector.
- The impact of whole-of-government accountabilities on the operational environment of the State Training Providers.
- The desirability of developing and promoting areas of specialisation within the VET system.
- The importance of ensuring the quality of the student experience within the VET sector.
Concerns about responsibilities in terms of compliance and funding in the new VET in Schools environment post-2015.
- The need to address the State’s poor track record in tertiary pathways and articulation.
The need to address issues for the State Training Providers in relation to international students and international delivery.
- The potential for the Department of Training and Workforce Development to shift its focus from managerial oversight of issues that can be devolved to the State Training Providers, and to a greater strategic emphasis on the overall VET system.
- The importance of the regional State Training Providers for their regions, and means by which they can operate in partnerships to ensure their viability and relevance.
- Streamlining and improving communication between industry, the Industry Training Councils, the State Training Board, the Department of Training and Workforce Development, and the Minister.
- The importance of resourcing the Training Accreditation Council to do a job that is growing and deepening in importance.
LIST OF RECOMMENDATIONS
That the State Training Board and the Department of Training and Workforce Development work with the Minister for Training and Workforce Development to provide clarity around the design of the State’s VET system and the Government’s expectations of that system over the next five years, including responsibilities for the delivery and funding of training in areas of thin and/or equity markets.
That the Department of Training and Workforce Development identify and establish partnerships with other State agencies that have a potential role in the equity training area.
That the Department of Training and Workforce Development monitor the effectiveness of the current concession scheme for low SES students and adjust this where appropriate.
That to ensure a student-focused VET sector, the Department of Training and Workforce Development in conjunction with the regulators, ensure that providers’ credentials and quality systems are taken into account during contracting, accrediting and registering Registered Training Organisations.
That the Western Australian Government, through the Minister for Training and Workforce Development, authorises development of a communications strategy that promotes the value of the State’s VET sector to the broader communities that the sector serves.
That the Minister for Training and Workforce Development review the reporting requirements of State Training Providers, and the role of the Department of Training and Workforce Development in managing the Vocational Education and Training Act 1996 and the Ministerial Regulations, with a view to some of the responsibilities and accountabilities being devolved to the Governing Councils.
That the DTWD develop a new reporting framework that would comprise a set of factors such as:
• quality of governance (as a measure of the following indicators);
– track record of financial performance (through financial statements);
– academic quality and student outcomes;
– Institute profile achievement;
– efficiency of operations (using the Student Contact Hours measure);
– other specific whole-of-government targets (through required reports to central agencies); and
– other targets that might be specific to the particular region in which the State Training Provider operates.
These could be used both for reporting purposes and as a measure of a State Training Provider’s level of maturity and ability to manage under a ‘light touch’ approach.
That the Western Australian Government, through the Minister for Training and Workforce Development, provides a clear statement on the State’s position regarding the autonomy of the State Training Providers and the consequent accountabilities and responsibilities of their Governing Councils.
That the Minister for Training and Workforce Development should meet with the Chairs of the Governing Councils only, twice yearly, as a group.
That the current practice of selection for Governing Council membership be enhanced by a role for Council nomination committees which would make recommendations to the Minister for Training and Workforce Development based upon a skills matrix, developed to reflect the needs of the particular State Training Provider.
That the Department of Training and Workforce Development raise with the Public Sector Commission the complete devolution of responsibility for the performance reviews of the Managing Directors of the State Training Providers to the Chairs of the Governing Councils.
That the Department of Training and Workforce Development in conjunction with the State Training Providers consider ways of enhancing management expertise and knowledge exchange across the VET sector.
That the Minister for Training and Workforce Development should require that ensuring the quality of training remain the top priority for the Department of Education Services in its support of the function of the Training Accreditation Council.
That the Department of Training and Workforce Development continue to monitor the viability, and work with the Minister for Training and Workforce Development and Department of Treasury to ensure the effective functionality, of the State training network.
That the Department of Training and Workforce Development and the Department of Treasury work together to obtain the most efficient and effective capital works management process for the State Training Providers.
That, as part of its role of monitoring the sector, the Department of Training and Workforce Development should support innovative approaches to gaining greater efficiencies in corporate services management by the State Training Providers, and measure the outcomes at the end of two years.
That the Department of Training and Workforce Development convenes discussions with the Department of Commerce to seek a way within the current industrial framework for Government agencies that would provide more flexible and individualised Agreements for each State Training Provider.
That the Department of Training and Workforce Development, after consultation with the Department of Treasury, work with the Managing Directors of the State Training Providers to revise and update the Delivery and Performance Agreement to reflect a longer planning cycle, and to incorporate revised reporting components.
That the Department of Training and Workforce Development be permitted to manage the salary caps for State Training Providers at a VET sector level, and that commercial activity undertaken on a full cost recovery basis not be considered as part of the caps.
That the Department of Training and Workforce Development negotiate a specific provision for marketing of courses to students for State Training Providers that would align this marketing effort with that of the private sector providers.
That the Department of Training and Workforce Development and the State Training Board develop a policy position on the future criteria to underpin the development of areas of specialisation.
That the Department of Training and Workforce Development provide a policy on the provision and funding of student support, for dissemination to the broader VET sector.
That the Department of Training and Workforce Development liaise with the Departments of Education and Education Services, and the Training Accreditation Council, to provide clarity to the sector as regards the requirements and costs of implementation of the new WACE model.
That the Department of Training and Workforce Development and the Department of Education Services convene a forum with the Western Australian Vice Chancellors and the representatives from the Managing Directors of the State Training Providers, to begin development of a State-wide pathways and articulation framework; and that the Department of Training and Workforce Development provide to the forum details of proposed and existing pathways projects, as a background for deliberations.
That the Department of Training and Workforce Development work with the Federal Government to ensure that My Skills is improved and provides adequate information for consumers in an appropriate format.
That the Department of Training and Workforce Development reconvene the governance group for Education and Training International at which issues of concern, such as marketing and transparency of costs can be discussed and potentially resolved.
That the Department of Training and Workforce Development and the governance group keep a watching brief on international developments and ensure that Western Australian providers are fully engaged in international servicing of VET markets.
That the Minister for Training and Workforce Development direct the Department of Training and Workforce Development to shift its focus away from management oversight of issues that can effectively be devolved to the State Training Providers and towards a more strategic focus on the ongoing design, planning, policy formation, facilitation, and monitoring of the entire Western Australian VET system.
That the next review of the Vocational Education and Training Act 1996 include any changes required in order that the recommendations of this review might be implemented.
That the Minister for Training and Workforce Development raise with the Minister for Regional Development the potential for Royalties for Regions to fund a five-year project under the heading ‘VET Regional Partnerships Program’ for regional State Training Providers that are looking to embark on new, innovative and long-term partnerships for the benefit of their institutions and their communities.
That the Department of Training and Workforce Development work with State Training Providers to establish a policy by which private Registered Training Organisations or other parties might deliver training from State-owned campuses. This should include reference to the use of information and communications technologies.
That the Minister for Training and Workforce Development determine the extent to which the State Training Board should be independent of the Department of Training and Workforce Development, and advise the Chair of the Board and the Director- General of the Department of Training and Workforce Development accordingly.
That in order for the State Training Board to be able to fulfill its mandate, the Minister for Training and Workforce Development direct the Department of Training and Workforce Development to pass through the Board’s funding without being subject to Departmental efficiency reviews or resource distribution allocations.
That there be a quarterly meeting convened between the Chair of the State Training Board and the Chairs of the Industry Training Councils to review the effectiveness of the flow of advice to and from industry.
That there be an annual strategic discussion between each Industry Training Council (ITC), the State Training Board, and the Department of Training and Workforce Development, at which the top few priorities for Government and the top few priorities for each ITC are identified in each of the ITC service agreements and given greatest weight in the reporting of outcomes. The Department of Training and Workforce Development should then provide the State Training Board with an annual report on the outcomes of the ITC service agreements.
That service agreements with each Industry Training Council should include an addendum that provides a plan for systematic engagement with the regions and the separate Regional Workforce Development Alliances or similar groups.
That the State Training Board’s remit be broadened to include the workforce development implications resulting from the increasing convergence between the VET and higher education sectors.
That the State Training Board works with the Industry Training Councils to resolve any anomalies in industry groupings that could reasonably be adjusted. The outcomes of these discussions should include consideration of the appropriateness of the names and memberships of the Councils.
That the methodology for constructing the State Priority Occupation List be reviewed by the State Training Board and the Department of Training and Workforce Development so as to deal with issues raised about currency and alignment with regional workforce development plans.
That the resourcing of the Training Accreditation Council be reviewed to ensure that it can appropriately provide quality assurance for training provision in Western Australia and that, in particular, it is able to oversee effectively the regulatory compliance of participants in the VET in Schools program from 2015.