Another year, another review of VET! With some staple recommendations along with a bold plan to substantially change not only the face and structure of VET, but the name itself (Skills Education) along with an argument to move to more of a time based, graded model, the review is bound to be controversial. This summary aims to review key findings and recommendations from the 168 page Joyce Review. “In total, the Review makes 71 separate recommendations around the six points of the plan:
The report reviewed the current state of play in relation to skills shortages and projected growth areas. It noted the growth which had occurred over the last ten years and the expected continued growth over the next 5-10 years and beyond; key growth areas including Health care and social assistance, the Construction industry, Education and training, and Professional, scientific and technical services. It stated that traditional apprenticeship trades would continue to see skills shortages noting that “low training wages for up to four years were cited by respondents to the Review as one reason why young people are less attracted to the traditional apprenticeship model.”
Over 4.2 million students studied VET in 2017 with the figure to left showing the breakdown of short course; qualification; apprenticeship and VET in Schools enrolments. Additionally, half of the students studying institutional VET qualifications were receiving a subsidy of some sort. In 2017, of all VET students:
TAFEs received around 72 per cent of government funding in 2017, and trained about 49 per cent of total government-funded VET students. Non-TAFE providers received about 28 per cent of government funding and trained just over half of government-funded students.
Employment outcomes for VET students are generally positive. In 2018, around 59 per cent of students who graduated from a VET course in 2017 stated that their employment status had improved after the training.57 Of those who were not employed before training, 48 per cent were employed after training – this was similar regardless of whether they completed a subject or a full qualification.
There are a range of recommendations linked to increasing the brand of VET, this is similar to many previous recommendations and reviews so I will not delve too much into this. It is noted that one recommendation is to rebrand VET to Skills Education or Skills Ed. A few recommendations do however stick out which would make a major impact on the operations of an organisation:
“To ensure the strength and uniqueness of the vocational education system, the Commonwealth and the States and Territories should set a long-term goal that all funded qualification-based vocational education should include formal work-based elements.” While the recommendation is specific to funded, I would anticipate that this will most likely be put into place through the training packages, this has been a trajectory for a while. While this is manageable for qualification such as childcare, aged care, it’s implementation and implication for short courses, skill sets and certain industries (such as construction) may be more difficult. Consultation with Industry Skills Councils (the training package developers), will be crucial to have a voice in the implementation of some of these requirements.
The report makes a few recommendations specific to the regulator ASQA those being:
Overall, I would expect to see ASQA continue to limit and reduce the number of RTOs, while ASQA will continue to invest in producing more guides, videos and advice for RTOs, it is not expected that ASQA will adopt a position of providing advice. This advice and recommendation has been included in the last several reports, yet the regulator continues to adopt a strong stance on providing advice, templates, etc. Any progression in this area is expected to be slow (glacially so).
The report echoed sentiments that short courses continued to be a concern, as such the report has recommended the introduction of benchmark hours. “Benchmark hours should be specified in qualifications by qualification developers as a guide to the average amount of training required for a new learner with no experience in the industry to develop the required competencies in the qualification. Benchmark hours should be developed for Australian Skills Quality Authority designated ‘high-risk’ qualifications first and then progressively introduced. They can be used by the Australian Skills Quality Authority and other quality assurance regulators as a guide to assist in determining whether delivery times in courses and qualifications are of a reasonable length.”
Where the Braithewaite report recommended the concept of a Master Assessor (a recommendation that was outright rejected by ASQA); the Joyce Review has recommended the implementation of an external validation scheme. “The Commonwealth should work with the States and Territories to pilot independent assessment validation schemes.” This continues to be a highly controversial issue and is it expected that the regulator may not adopt a supportive stance with this either. The current issue arises from this is where ASQA auditors and RTO assessors disagree on the interpretation of unit criteria.
The report has also called for proficiency based assessment to be introduced (graded assessments); “Proficiency-based assessment should be piloted with certain qualifications and willing industries, with a view to extending to all relevant industries. The COAG Industry and Skills Council to work with the Australian Skills Quality Authority and Skills Organisations to develop guidance for Registered Training Organisations on the use of proficiency assessment in addition to current assessment descriptions in training packages.” This will be a major topic for debate as in combination with the required durations, it is taking VET from a competency based system to something that looks a lot more like it’s counterparts in Higher and Secondary Education…
Around a quarter of submissions to the Review identified the quality of trainers as an issue for the sector. Some submissions suggested that greater skills in training and in instructional design were required to ensure students understood the course content. The report identified the issues associated the upgrade of the TAE, as well as the challenges of finding good TAE trainers and the challenges associated with finding trainers in specific industries an regional areas. Unfortunately, the response in the report was that “The ultimate incentive for RTOs to improve the quality of trainers is to place strong regulatory requirements around the registration and quality assurance of all RTOs. The Review is confident that by implementing the recommendations in this chapter, Governments will be ensuring that minimum teacher quality will be significantly improved.” The writer of this, is less confident… Unfortunately, a lot of the great recommendations made through the Braithewaite report have not been adopted in the Joyce Review… as such, at this time it will remain the onus of good RTOs to support the continued development of good trainers…
The report has recommended, similar to the Braithewaite report that all RTOs and all students should be under a Tuition Protection Scheme (currently only required if you taking more than $1500 in advance), while this is a great premise, the devil will be in the detail as some tuition assurance schemes are quite expensive and how this would be catered for is yet to be seen.
Additionally, the report recommended that the VSL Ombudsman be expanded to be the VET Ombudsman to cover all students. Pending that the resources are behind this, it would work well. Current response times for the Overseas Student Ombudsman is up to several months which is not adequate, however, generally the VSL and Overseas Ombudsman have worked well and this could be a good support for students and RTOs alike.
Quarterly reporting for AVETMISS is coming, this report has echoed the request from the Braithewaite report that RTOs should be reporting all data quarterly! This means more frequent data and regulators can see where enrolments spike for RTOs as part of their overall risk rating… triple your numbers in a quarter? Maybe the regulator needs to come out and check out that you have sufficient resources in place to deal with this massive growth? Had a new Certificate III on scope for three months and already had over 100 students complete? Hmmm… Quarterly reporting allows for the regulator to identify potential issues before they become major “shut you down” issues…
The report identified that generally there is support for nationally recognised qualifications, however the timeframe around development and updating, as well as the lack of true industry consultation were significant issues for RTOs. The recommendations which followed from this represent major changes to the process, structure and responsibilities of ASIC, the Service Skills Organisations (SSOs) (to be changed to Skills Organsations (SOs) and ASQA. Recommendations include:
Training packages overall, under the SOs would then:
There are also recommendations for some check and balance mechanisms with SOs. It is proposed that this is rolled out as a trial first and then expanded across the VET sector.
Calls continue to come for a unified funding model; additionally, the report notes that “total public funding for VET has declined in the past ten years while funding for schools and higher education has increased.” The review recommends that the National Skills Commission oversea and work with national, state and territory agencies to determine a national funding model based on averaged delivery costs, with agrees loadings for rural and remote areas and disadvantaged groups.
“The NSC would also utilise RTO performance data from the Performance Information for VET, which was endorsed by the CISC. The information would be used to measure student outcomes and completions at RTOs. It would be provided to the States and Territories to assist them in their allocation decisions. The NSC would also agree on a performance measurement framework with the States and Territories which it would use to report on the performance and outcomes of the VET sector. This would have shared objectives that would be regularly reviewed and updated as required.”
Finally, the NSC would be expected to revamp the apprenticeship incentives model to make it more attractive to apprentices and trainees and update the National Skills Needs List (NSNL) (which hasn’t been updated since 2011).
This would have a significant impact on the international education as the NSNL is used for immigration purposes.
Additionally, there were recommendations for how the unified funding model would come into place with Skills Organisations determining priority areas and being delivered by preferred providers.
The final recommendation in this section was for a lifelong learning account for all students which would extend across the VET and HE sector to be used as was most appropriate for the student.
The sixth set of recommendations deals with the marketing and provision of information to students and employers about courses. For this the recommendation has been made that the National Careers Institute (NCI) be established to consolidate all current sites and information about courses and providers and provide all marketing and course information services (including taking on some of the roles of the current AASNs). The NCI would also provide information on providers (based on mandated information) and be responsible for the “a major multi-year public marketing campaign to lift the reputation and attractiveness of VET careers.”
The report makes recommendations for based on much of above, increased work place hours, unified approach across states, increased industry linkages.
“NCVER data also show that, despite stronger participation, qualification completion rates and employment outcomes for Indigenous learners remain below those of non-Indigenous students.” As noted above, part of the response for this is based on the funding above, the review also recommends the development of more Indigenous owned and led RTOs and better coordination with other support services.
Overall the Joyce Review is somewhat more radical than any previous review, it also makes a lot of concrete recommendations. However, the changes it requires necessitate major legislative changes, as well as the creation of new bodies and the abandonment of a large range of only newly established bodies. The current SSOs as an example are only in their infancy at less than 3-4 years old and the most recent commonwealth/state funding arrangements are only just being rolled out after introduction more than a year ago.
The changes also substantially change the role and powers of ASQA and require relegation of state funding authorities and regulators, which is likely to be highly contested.
A few changes are likely to be adopted in some form:
Less likely, but would be great:
This review does have a more definitive and constructive air than previous, as a diehard optimist, we can only hope that some of the changes may come to fruition to allow for a more streamlined, industry focused sector, however, the road plotted has some major changes and change always has its adversaries.
You see find a roadmap in the full review here https://pmc.gov.au/resource-centre/domestic-policy/vet-review/strengthening-skills-expert-review-australias-vocational-education-and-training-system and you can see an overview of the proposed big players and their powers below in the appendix… until the next review…
Appendix 1- The Architecture (Pages 114-116 of the Joyce Review)
Australian Skills Quality Authority
ASQA would be the single national regulator of the VET sector, working to ensure quality across the sector. It would have a strong relationship with other regulators and Commonwealth, State and Territory funding bodies with streamlined reporting and auditing processes. ASQA’s role would include:
National Skills Commission
Under the direction of the Commonwealth Skills Minister, the NSC would be a trusted and respected voice on the operation of the Australian VET system through its national leadership in assessing labour market demand, costs of training delivery and outcomes of VET qualifications. The key functions of the NSC would be to:
National Careers Institute
The NCI would be established as an independent office within the NSC. Utilising data collated and analysed by the NSC, its key role would be to provide an authoritative single government source of careers information, with a focus on marketing and promoting vocational careers. The key functions of the NCI would include to:
Skills Organisations would be established to ensure employers and other industry stakeholders (such as unions and licencing bodies) lead the development of qualifications and the training of a skilled workforce for that industry. SOs would:
The new architecture for the skills education system would place industry at the centre of the skills system while promoting close co-operation on funding and quality assurance between the Commonwealth, States and Territories.