Educating VET consumers.

Myself and others, including Minister Birmingham in his recent speech at the VELG conference in Adelaide, spoke about the lack of consumer education in the VET marketplace, particularly in comparison to the high level of education around the University Sector.  There is a wealth of information available to potential university students, including ranking tables, information about how funding works, transitions from high school and a range of other things which informs consumers about their choices when they are shopping for a degree.  This information has been available for well, as long as I can remember and has molded degree consumers into a generally well-informed group.

If we compare this to the level of education that potential students have around the VET sector, well we only need to look at any number of recent stories in the mainstream media to see that the VET sector has a fairly poorly educated consumer group and for the most part it is our own fault as a sector.  Funding options vary from state to state, as do eligibility requirements and co-contribution levels and the like.  In fact just this one part of the sector is so complicated that many VET professionals struggle to understand and apply all of the rules.  Add to this questions about what qualification is better to do, which in some areas is quite obvious, namely if you want to be a tradesman there is a definite path, but in others is well muddy to say the least.  Take for example community services training where consumers can struggle greatly with trying to determine what is the best option for them.

The data that we have and supply to consumers is also incredibly limited in terms of assisting them in choosing which provider to utilise in order to get the best outcomes.  Take for example someone wanting to do the new Diploma of Leadership and Management there are currently 405 providers of this qualification across Australia.  Now how without assistance is a consumer to have any real hope of determining who the best provider for what they want to achieve is.  This becomes even more difficult when we add brokers into the system, who might appear and may even present themselves as impartial advisors, but who in reality are simply commission based sales people, only recommending those organisations with whom they have a relationship.  A consumer has no way of making rational decisions about who is a high quality provider and who may not be.  The data which is available on places like myskills is of little or no real assistance at all, particularly now as there is no provider data available at all as we all wait for the TVA data to be released.  As I have said previously, even I struggle when someone asks me to recommend a provider in an area where I don’t personally know someone who delivers the training that the person wants and that is troubling.

This should not be the case and it is in fact ridiculous that consumers do not have access to the information that they need in order to make sure they are able to informed choices about their vocational training.  With such a lack of information, and such an uneducated consumer group, it is no wonder that less than honest providers and brokers are able to so easily entice people into programs that are extremely costly, have little or no employment outcomes and the students have little or no chance of actually completing.

Perhaps we do need some kind of easily distilled ranking system based on things like, length of time the provider has been operating, employment outcomes for students, completion rates, deviation from average qualification pricing levels and general student satisfaction.

Anyway that’s just my opinion.

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.

3 Responses to Educating VET consumers.

  1. Hey Paul. I agree with your opinion. There should be vital information given to the VET consumers before delving into a certain institution or VET centres. Australia has a lot of accredited and nationally recognized training organizations and it can be a daunting task to choosing one. Consumers may also read reviews online about the certain institution or ask for the previous students. Your opinion about filtered ranking system is I think helpful. I just hope that the Education sector would help too not only in boosting the number of students in VET but also helping them to choose one.

  2. Keith Meyer says:

    Couldn’t agree more with your comments. This has long been one of the missing links in the VET industry. There has to be verifiable and transparent information for those seeking quality education outcomes. Achieving this of course will be a formidable task.

  3. Jena Lucas says:

    Hi Paul, thanks for sharing your opinion, may I share mine. I agree that there is not the same degree of information readily and easily available for VET consumers when so many options to pay high course fees or incur loans have become the norm.
    In WA going back many years ago, they had the Training Information Centre, run by the Department of Training. They had a central telephone line and a large centre open in the Mall where people could go to get advice about the many training options, career counselling/testing, apprenticeship/traineeship information etc. They were my main point of referral when people mistakenly called the Training Accreditation Council office for this sort of provider advice or directions. It was a fantastic support centre and information source that was widely promoted in the training sector in Perth. Perhaps this model could be expanded nationwide and include more of the funding options.
    It is disappointing that there is still so much confusion surrounding this for students and potential students, as I feel all of the sector changes have been constantly moving towards arming people with the information, performance stats to make informed choices and, making the myriad of training options more accessible to those who need or want to access it. .i.e. AQTF>VQF to lift standards, NTIS, MySKills, all of the reporting requirements, VET FEE HELP. It just seems it cannot keep up and unfortunately to those who don’t know the sector like the ones who work within it “you can’t know what you don’t know” there are many websites to look at, source overload, people benefit from having someone to talk to.

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