A Federal system for Vocational Education?
July 27, 2015 Leave a comment
I for one have been for a long time now a proponent of the Federal government being in charge of Vocation Education in Australia, so as you might expect I have reacted quite well to the news recently that there seems to be once again support for this notion both Federally and by the States. As I said I have for a long time thought that a set up where the federal government is in charge of the regulation and funding of a national system of vocational education makes sense. It should make it easier to navigate the morass of funding that currently exists and changes whenever you attempt to work across state boarders whether from an RTO perspective or from an organisational perspective. Having a single set of rules and criteria would certainly make a difference.
One of the significant things I think having a Federal system would do is to change the States from being on both the provider and funder sides of the equation. Currently all of the states fund VET in their state, however they also provide vocational education through their network of TAFE institutes. Moving all of the funding for the delivery of training to the Federal government would have the effect of TAFE becoming another provider in the market, simply a provider which is owned by the State government and the state government could then determine from its overall budget what amounts it wanted to allocate to the resourcing and infrastructure of their TAFEs. It would see a transparency around what money being given to TAFE from the State government was actually being used for. Now that is not to suggest that a federal system might not earmark a certain amount of money for delivery by public providers, but what it would do is clear up the sometimes muddy waters around what is support for delivery and what is support for infrastructure.
The other significant thing it would or should do is as I said at the start even out the currently differences in what is funded and to what level. As I said a couple of weeks ago I was amazed when I found out that in Victoria every AQF qualification is funded, the amount of money simply varies, which is unlike Queensland and other states where funding is allocated to what is seen to be the needs of that State in terms of skilled workers now and into the future. Having one set of funding rules across the country would work for everyone, it would make it easier for organisations (particularly those who work across the entire country or a number of states) to access funding for their staff training, which is as anyone who has ever worked in a L&D role in such an organisation will tell you is currently a brain melting nightmare. It would work well for providers both niche and large. For example we are one a small number of providers who deliver a particular qualification, currently someone from Queensland can obtain the qualification for around $100 (it is funded in QLD), where as someone from NSW (where it is not funded) would have to pay $3,500 for the same qualification. The management of funding contracts at a provider level would also be much easier, no longer perhaps having to produce multiple reports for different states with different rules and requirements. A federal system should have the effect of smoothing out a range of the issues which currently make funded programs across states difficult to manage for everyone.
So what are the downfalls, well there could be some issues where their might be a mismatch between the needs at a national level in terms of skills and the needs at a state level. On a nation level there could be a shortage of appropriately qualified aged care workers say but WA might have a massive over-supply. Conversely there could be no national shortage of plumbers but serious shortages in QLD. Not that these kinds of issues could not be relatively easily addressed, it is just that given that we are such a large country it may be the case that such differences arise. Although on a side note seeing these differences at a national level rather than at a state level might encourage the federal government to provide incentives for say aged care workers in WA to move to other states or plumbers to move to QLD.
I also don’t think a federal system would affect programs like for example Skilling Queenslanders for work, where the additional money in the program is not going to providers but to community organisations to support the learning activities of their cohorts. There kinds of programs could still be funded on a state by state basis dependent on need, the funding source for the provider would simply change for the state to the federal government.
It would or should remove this ridiculous situation we currently have where while most of the providers in the country are regulated by ASQA, two states still regulate a portion of RTOs in their state. All providers both public and non-public would be just that providers for a national system, providers with one set of regulations and one set of rules around funding. I for one really hope it gets legs and gets over the line.
Anyway thats just my opinion.