Funding, Funding, Funding – Providing real sustainable Vocational Outcomes
March 23, 2015 3 Comments
I was talking with a group of industry friends last week, some TAFE, some non-public and some non VET people thrown into the mix and as it often does the issues of funding, market contestability and VET-FEE HELP came up. After we had finished a quite lengthy discussion (to be fair we did get derailed on VFH for a while) I got to thinking that it might be time to revisit the issue of funding. One of the things that really bought this to the front of my mind, was when on of the people who were not directly involved in VET, ask ‘How the hell do you guys keep track of all of the different funding and what about to who and how to access it. I tried to look for something the other day and it gave me a headache after about 5 minutes.’ The problem is that they are right, between AAC funding for apprentices and trainees, direct grants to organisations, JSA funding, direct funding to providers, VFH (which I know technically speaking is not funding but a loan), and whatever else is out there, it is a nightmare and if it is a nightmare for those of us in the sector and for industry types who have some understanding of the system, how much more difficult is it for the average person in the street, particularly the average person in the street who is heading to Centrelink to start looking for work and is approached by an Educational Consultant on the foot path on the way in, providing all sorts of promises.
IS IT ANY WONDER WE ARE SEEING PEOPLE BEING FUNNELLED INTO INAPPROPRIATE VET-FEE HELP COURSES AND HUGE DEBT!
Now I have spoken at length, both here and in other places, about things like the effects of contestable funding on Public providers, focussing funding efforts on real vocational outcomes and how government funding effects training delivery, however as a sector we really do need to get this whole, who and what is funded and by whom piece sorted, sooner, rather than later. The problem though, and I think this is a problem more so for the VET sector than other educational sectors, there are often a range of other factors involved that are not as present in other areas. Training is often linked to workforce participation, eligibility to benefits, employer benefits and incentives, it is often used as an instrument to manipulate certain workforces, industries and groups in line with policy, strategy and perceived needs. It is also often used within organisations to reward staff, to establish talent pools and meet compliance needs. So rarely is training solely done for the educational benefit of the individual doing the training, there is always other forces at work, usually managed through funding initiatives (except perhaps and in the case of FFS and even then there is still an effect). Then on top of this there is the argument around public and non-public providers which I am not going to get into here.
Now before I go any further I should put a couple of things out there. Firstly I believe in equality of opportunity when it comes to education, If you are capable of doing a PhD you should be able to do it, if you are capable of doing a Certificate II you should be able to do that as well. Secondly there is no such thing as free education, just because the student doesn’t pay directly doesn’t mean it is free, someone, somewhere has to pay for it eventually and thirdly there are always going to be those people who are going to require additional assistance in order for us to provide equality of opportunity.
So what should funding look like;
It should be as simply as possible, if it is not easy to understand, then read the big letters above, because we will continue to see these thing happen if people don’t know what is available and how to access it.
It should provide students (and organisations) with the opportunity to choose where and with whom they are trained. Students (and organisations) should be able to decide (within reasonable parameters) how they want to study and what works best for them.
It should provide the best possible return on investment in terms of vocational outcomes, after all why are we subsidising vocational education if it is not providing a vocational outcome.
It should for the most part be about education outcomes for participants, not a new Mercedes for TAFE directors or multi million dollar profits for non-public providers. Funded training should be focussed on providing what the participant requires for a real vocational outcome.
It should allow us to be able to meet the needs (as much as actually possible) of our various industries (including trades and small business) for skilled competent workers.
And it shouldn’t give you a headache to try to figure out whether someone is eligible.
Anyway that’s just my opinion
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