Stop doing Training for the sake of Training – and stop funding it as well

So as some of you are already aware I attended the first of the QLD Governments Industry Skills Forum today. Firstly I am going to say if you get the opportunity to attend one of these forums (and apparently there will be more to come) you should.  If for no other reason than to ensure that you know what is going on.

The morning was hosted by Brett Schimming from  Construction Skills Queensland, and I will come back to what Brett said a little later.  Assistant Minister Saxon Rice spoke, outlining the government’s position on training  and TAFE.  The keywords were;

  • Engagement,
  • Accessibility, and
  • Quality

with the main engagement piece being around the creation of the Ministerial Industry Commission, an independent body providing advice directly to the Minister for Education.  Assistant Minister Rice and every one else who spoke, pointed out quite strongly that this would not be a representative commission.  It would not be a table around which all of the industry groups and sectors and other interest groups sat.  Its purpose would be rather to look the evidence are training and employment needs in the state and on the basis of the evidence it would advise the Minister, in particular on skills and workforce development priorities.

So where will that evidence come from the various sectors and industry and other stakeholder groups, through consultation and submission to the commission which will then utilise that and a range of other data to decide on priority occupations and other workforce development needs.

The biggest takeaway if you will from the morning came from Brett, when he said and I am paraphrasing here a little (sorry Brett feel free to correct me if I have got to badly wrong)  ‘the VET system is not the main game, it is not the center of the universe for business, it is the benefits derived from training not the training itself that is important, we need to stop doing training for the sake of doing training.’

This position seem strong through everyone’s talks and hits the nail on the head at least in my opinion.

There are too many RTO’s out there who continue to say that they cant stay in business because the government has changed the funding model.

It is not about you (or us as an RTO) it is about industries, the organisations, the business and the individuals, who derive value from the training.  Training for the sake of training, (at least funded training in the VET sector where there are supposed to be employment outcomes) provides very little benefit to industry, organisations or the individuals who utilise it.  Giving someone a Diploma of Management just because there is government funding available to do it (and trust me that is the pitch of almost every RTO that has cold called me in the last 2 years) is pointless unless there is going to be some benefit derived from that training and some tangible benefit, not one of these oh so common increased productivity calculations that are nothing by trumped-up nonsense.  There must be strong, evidence based reasons for the funding of training, we should be able to show what the benefits to the business or individuals are in terms of employment or productivity or workforce participation, we should have strong and robust evaluative systems that allow us to actually show this value.

If training is not linked to an actual employment outcome and strongly linked (and let’s be serious is a personal training certification really an employment outcome when I can’t walk to the train station without tripping over people currently doing the qualification) then why should it be funded.

About pauldrasmussen
Paul Rasmussen is one of Australia’s most widely read Vocational Education and Training Commentators. He provides deep, unbiased analysis and insights not only on topical issues, but also on the underlying structure and policy which supports the industry. His writing and analysis has been praised for its uncompromising and thought provoking style and its ability to focus on the issues of real importance to the sector. He has advised various government departments and ministers, training providers, public and private organisations, not for profits and small to medium enterprises on the VET sector and the issues and opportunities facing it. He is one of Australia’s most awarded learning professionals and a regular speaker at a range of conventions and forums. His extensive experience in vocational education, and learning and development coupled with formal qualifications in philosophy, ethics, business and education management allow Paul to provide a unique view of the road ahead and how to navigate it.

4 Responses to Stop doing Training for the sake of Training – and stop funding it as well

  1. Susan says:

    Interesting perspective and I would have to disagree with your basic philosophy, that training ( but I would like to strike the training word out and replace with EDUCATION) is wasted unless there is a job outcome. ( monkeys are trained, people are educated)
    You use the example of. Diploma in Management. You don’t train at diploma level. It’s an education. It’s about teaching people to think, to problem solve and to give them some skills. To educate is to empower.
    Who are you to deny anyone their choice of career. If I want to have a go at being a personal trainer, then let me do the course and have a shot at it. Without the qual, I can’t even get to first base. I need the qual to get insurance.
    Our government has an obligation to provide public education ( as it does public health care) to all. It should not be education for those who can afford it.

    • pauldrasmussen says:

      Susan, I both agree with you and disagree. I think using the term education conflates some of the issues here though. I have a firm belief that education is central right of everyone, I also believe that it should be free. I dont however think that this by necessity means that everyone should get to do whatever they want and have the government pay for it. Perhaps this could happen in a perfect work where their were unlimited funds for health, education etc, but that is not the world we live in.
      I am not seeking to deny anyone a career of their own choice, however what I am saying is that (and I constrict myself to the VET market here, there are other arguments for both secondary and tertiary ed) VET is about vocational outcomes, it is about employment or the ability to participate in employment, it is not about just getting to do whatever you want to do. It is not an issues of peoples rights to do what they want to do it is about priorities of funding in a market where not everyone can get what they want. Unless there are strong employment outcomes attached to the course or program why should it be funded. We cant just use the argument, well it should be free because the government has an obligation to provide it for free, because it simply doesn’t work. The government has the obligation to ensure that everyone has equality of access to education, to ensure that everyone has a standard of education which allows them to partake in the standard activities of the nation, such as being part of the workforce, engaging in their political rights etc. It is difficult to see where an extended right for everyone to have access to whatever education they want to have is something that is philosophically justifiable.

      What I am talking about when I talk about funding etc and the VET sector, really is that skill based, competency based training, it is training (it is also education yes, but it is a particular subset of education) These are not University, or post graduate level programs that we are talking about here where the vast majority of the learning is around theoretical underpinnings and the expansion of knowledge. VET is about the workplace and should always be about the workplace, and therefore what should be funded are those programs that meet that strong workplace linking criteria.

      anyway, that my opinion.

  2. Neville Coward says:

    Hi Paul
    Brett’s is right however I do want to bring in a point – in my experience few organisations have any idea how to measure productivity gain or ROI for training. Many RTOs do not know how to guide them in this respect either. The comment in regard to ‘stop training for the sake of training’ has been around for a long long time in the sector – I fully agree with its intent however the reality is that there have been a disproportionate number of employers who would never have had any staff undertake training or put on apprentices without the funding.

    What always bothered me was that the funding was sold to employers in most cases to ‘fully offset the cost of the training’ – when I had conversations with employers I would always advise that the funding would assist bit nor fully off-est the cost – very few people ever added up, for example, the actual down time hours when training was taking place for staff and put a cost on it to get a true indication of the full cost of training – just the cost of the course.

    As well, very few ever sat with the employer and asked what would be an indicator of success of a program – what can be measured at that workplace to demonstrate, 3 to 6 months post training completion, that there was a productivity gain, a cultural change, attitudinal shift, better understanding of the business etc.

    As for why the funding was high on the agenda – The driver for much of the funding has been Australia’s need to raise it ranking in regard to our qualified skills base and productivity per capita, to lift our standing in the OECD rankings – COAG applied targets to achieve this and funding was provided to make it happen. Particularly at the Cert IV and above level. That is why we say a spike in funding for existing workers, the NWDF etc.

    Where money is available many (human nature it seems) will find the quickest and easiest way to access it (employers, RTOs, JSAs, community organisations and other peripheral agents). Unfortunately there have been too many dodgy players or ones just sailing the breeze until the funding looks like drying up and they disappear or divert to elsewhere. No excuses – the dodgy ones have tarnished the majority of good players in the training marke.

    So I really believe that there needs to be more funding to support employers to:
    1. better understanding what ROI means and how to measure it
    2. learn how to negotiate with training providers and demand more in regard to ‘outcome guarantees’
    3. learn more about training and take responsibility for things that can be greatly beneficial for their business – what is available, what is needed (often not a full qualification or even an accredited outcome) – The number of employers who have said to me…. “training? – that is your business – that is what you do – you tell me!”… is far too many over the years.
    3. learn how to establish long term partnerships not just going for the cheapest product

    Very much agree with your comments- VET is about outcomes employment and work – but many VET providers also provide a less tangible outcomes – engagement, re-engagement, socialisation, community, opportunity etc – well before an employment outcome is within reach for some (many?). Without funding much of this might not be achieved.

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