Commission of Audit recommendation – Hand VET back to the States
May 2, 2014 4 Comments
As a lot of you are probably aware by now the Australia News paper has reported that the Federal Governments Commission of Audit has recommended that the commonwealth should pull back from its involvement in vocational education and training. They should hand full policy control back to the states while still “rolling out market reforms “to achieve demand-driven VET outcomes”.”
So what does this most recent twist in the already winding path of the VET sector. I have to admit that I am in two minds about it. One thing that has always made the government-funded side of the VET industry problematic has been the fact that funding has been handled at both a state and federal level, meaning multiple possible sources of recurrent and non-recurrent funding all with differing rules and reporting requirements and different methods of applying and utilising the funding, with funding for the TAFE sector being somewhat separate from that relating to enterprise and commercial RTO’s. All of this of course meant that it was difficult even for those who knew the arena well to navigate it and get the best value for money and outcomes, but for those with that almost insider knowledge it was almost impossible. And for once I am in agreement with (and you won’t see this often) Martin Riordan from Tafe Directors Association when he says federal involvement had led to a “hybrid system” which had amplified confusion and red tape. One particular example of this in my mind is having a national regulator (ASQA) which not all states were forced to sign up to, fragmenting the regulatory system. I have never understood how you can have a national regulator (and lets avoid arguing about whether or not ASQA has done a good job or not) who is not responsible for all of the various areas it is supposed to be regulating.
There are essentially two things at stake here, one is who funds training and how is it funding and the other is policy and regulation of training providers. As has been pointed out on occasions and is mentioned in the article by Danny Bielik when he talks about Victoria “the role of the Victorian government, which owns large providers while maintaining its own regulator, was “eminently more conflicted”. Whether true or not a significant number of voices in the sector have always felt that TAFE’s not just in Victoria but across the country have had a much easier road with things like compliance and governance, audit and scope adjustments than either private or enterprise rto’s, being that the government both owned institutions and controlled the regulator for their state. Yet by the same token I also feel that the States have perhaps a better grasp (in some cases) of what is needed in terms of funding, an example of this was the Strategic Investment Fund rolled out through Skills Queensland (when it still existed). This provided focused funding to organisations to meet their skills needs in a meaningful way, unlike the federally funded National Workforce Development Fund which was to put it mildly at least in my opinion and ill-conceived right royal pain in the ass to both apply for, manage and attempt to get paid for. Apprenticeship funding however might be better controlled on a national level, at least from a macro point of view, with the states given latitude in terms of skill needs.
So here is an idea;
- Regulation of all RTO’s be they TAFE, Enterprise or private, should be maintained at a federal level through a SINGLE I repeat SINGLE regulator and all RTO’s should be subjected to the same set of and application of regulations.
- Macro level policy around the general direction of the VET sector and the needs of nation in terms of its skilled and unskilled workforces should be a federal responsibility
- Funding of the VET sector should be handed back to the States to be directed to those areas of particular state need, informed by the macro level policy decisions made federally
- The state’s control the funding and the federal government controls the RTO’s themselves.
Anyway for what it is worth that is what I think.