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The need for a comprehensive national review of VET

16 March 2016

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Following is an extract from a submission by the LH Martin Institute to the House of Representatives Inquiry into TAFE (May 2013) which argues the need for a comprehensive national inquiry into VET.

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…policy-makers, in particular, but also industry, the VET provider sector and analysts need to be mindful of the sometimes enervating effect of constant changes to and attempts to remake the VET system.  A restless, seemingly ceaseless search for perfection seems to characterise the official mindset about the VET sector.  At any one time, it is almost certainly likely to be that one or other or several of Australia’s nine government jurisdictions will be inquiring into VET and or have in train a process of “skills reform”.

The sector would undoubtedly benefit from a period of stability, certainty and consolidation.

That stated, it is, of course, a requirement that policy settings and system architecture including funding arrangements be understood to be and broadly accepted to be “about right”.   Whether such a condition of broad consensus is achievable appears moot: it has, evidently, proved beyond achievement for a decade or more.

LH Martin Institute has stated the case for a broad overarching, root and branch review of VET, as has occurred in recent years in higher education (the Bradly Review) and schools education (the Gonski Review).  It’s well past time: such a fundamental review has not occurred since the Kangan Committee in 1973/74.

In particular, attention needs to be paid to funding arrangements, to place them on a basis that will sustain the sector and ensure some national consistency (Australia has, in effect, nine different funding models: the eight state and territory systems overlaid by the Commonwealth model).  Quite simply, the quality of training outcomes cannot be divorced from funding.  It is a matter of record that national funding of the VET sector has been in relative decline for a number of years: expenditure per hour of training in VET actually decreased around 25%. Whatever the perceived funding travails of the higher education sector, they pale in comparison to those of the VET sector.

Such a National Review of VET would bring together and, as far as possible, synthesise the findings of the diverse reviews that have taken place in recent years.  It would enunciate a revitalised vision and mission for the VET sector in helping to meet Australia’s skills needs in a rapidly changing economic environment.  Importantly, it would clarify respective Commonwealth and State/Territory   roles and responsibilities, including funding.  The work of this inquiry would be an important contribution to such a renovation project.

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