Educating VET consumers.
September 29, 2015 3 Comments
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.