Renewing Australia’s VET system – Options for reform

Renewing Australia’s VET system — Options for reform

Australia’s Vocational, Education and Training (VET) sector is underperforming, excessively complicated and suffers from ad hoc policy approaches, says an interim report released today by the Productivity Commission.

“The VET sector has been hit by COVID-19 and will also be part of the recovery strategy. A better VET sector will help people gain new skills and find jobs, ultimately lifting productivity and wages,” Commissioner Jonathan Coppel said.

The report floats options for a fundamental re-orientation of Australia’s VET system, with a revised Commonwealth-State agreement to set out an agreed, coherent policy direction.

“We hope the report will provoke a broad discussion of big reform. There is substantial scope to reduce waste and better target the $6.1 billion in government spending,” Mr Coppel said.

The challenges of COVID-19 have meant the VET sector has found new ways to deliver training online — we should be equally open to testing new ways to support people acquiring skills.

“We want to see an improved VET sector that gives students and employers more flexibility and choice,” Commissioner Jonathan Coppel said.

“It is time to think about shifting the focus from funnelling subsidies to training providers to giving students more help to choose the training they need. We now have dozens of different subsidy rates, even for the same courses,” Commissioner Malcolm Roberts said.

For example, one of the most popular VET courses in Australia is the Certificate 3 in Individual Support – the course you’d study to work in aged or disability care. Standard subsidies for this course vary by as much as $3700 across Australia.

The Commission’s approach also means students need better information on career opportunities and the quality and prices of courses.

The report looks at options for improving affordability by expanding access to student loans for a broader range of training, with safeguards to prevent the rorting that occurred under the VET FEE-HELP program.

The VET system, unlike the university system, is co-managed by Commonwealth and State/Territory Governments and major changes will need cooperation.

The interim report can be found at www.pc.gov.au and submission or comments can be made through the website.

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