Christmas in VET land.

Well it is coming to the end of another year and holidays are rapidly approaching for me at least.  So I thought that now was a appropriate time to look back over the year that was (and what a year it was) and to consider what has changed and what hasn’t for those of us who live in VET land.

Personally it has been an busy and fruitful year for myself and the organisation that I work for, not just in our training business but in our overall community services business as well.  Sure we are not a massive operation dragging in ever increasing amounts of money, but we are and continue to grow and be successful which I think for most of us is all we actually want.  We are a niche provider and the decision to focus more on particular parts of that niche (community services) has given us a number of highly successful income streams which will continue over the next year or so and which are not heavily reliant on either direct government funding or programs like VET FEE Help.

Now onto wider issues and perhaps the most pervasive and divisive issue of the year, VET FEE Help.  For a lot of us who have been questioning the prices, actions and activities of a range of providers in this sector, both public and private and who have expressed concerns over how the program has been run and managed, this year has (or at least I hope it has) been a bit of a watershed.  We are seeing prosecutions and regulatory actions taken in relation to a number of providers, again both public and private with at least a few more to come in the New Year.  We have seen changes made (whether or not they are the right changes I will not comment on here) to the system itself and a commitment to substantially change the landscape around VFH for 2017.  These are in my opinion all positive things.  I know that many of you, like me have despaired at the negative media publicity and what now seems to be almost daily stories about the horrors of the VET sector, but two things rise up in me when I think about it, firstly that the vast majority of these issues relate to the VFH side of the sector and those of us who either don’t access or only access sparingly the VFH system still stand with our reputations strong.  This is, or at least should be a business that is built on the strength of the reputation and outcomes of the provider, not the churn of endless new students recruited through unscrupulous brokerage firms.  This should not be take to condemn those who use VFH extensively or all brokers, it is to point out that even the best of us can be unfortunately be severely effected by the actions of a few bad apples.  The second thing that rises to my mind from this whole situation is the idea ‘this to shall pass.’   Change is part of this sector and always has been, not just around funding models, but compliance, training products, everything, change is part of what we do, and it something that most of us do and cope with well and we should be proud of that.

Of course it hasn’t been just the VFH side of the sector that has seen problems and changes.  We have seen changes to direct funding arrangements in SA and the beginnings of changes in Victoria ( a system and situation which even today I still struggle to make sense of both in terms of policy and operations).  We have seen the public sector shout loudly (some more loudly than other, I am looking at you AEU) about the horrors of having to be accountable and competitive and provide outcomes and services that people and business both want and need and to not just expect to governments to pick up the tab no matter how large it might be.  Queensland has acted to remove funding contracts quickly from providers who were doing the wrong thing and to sanction others in other ways.  In general we are I think finally starting to see the shift and progress towards to goals of the VET Reform project.

Now enough of what some of think might be a focus on the negative.  Again this year I have made some amazing friends and acquaintances and colleagues who along with those of you I have know for many years really are for the most part the best of the best.  You all care so deeply about this industry and about providing the kinds of outcomes that change the lives of people.  I am honored to humbled to know you all.  That is not to say that all of the people who I have met during this year have been peaches and cream, but hey you can please everyone all of the time and to be honest the good out ways the bad so much as to make it unimportant.

Some of my highlights of the year for me were the VELG conference in Adelaide and I think  tremendous amount of thanks need to go out to the VELGY bunch for their work not only on the conference but within the sector as well.  Being part of the VET Reform process; it was I know not only for myself but for a lot of other in the sector nice to feel that our thoughts and ideas were not just being aired but also listened to.  Which of course brings to the need to thank our previous Minister, now Minister for Educations, Senator Simon Birmingham.  It has been fantastic to have a Minister in this portfolio who actually seemed to genuinely care and want to make the VET sector as good as it can be.  Along with the team at VET reform and the department in general it actually felt like the sector was being listened to, something which had not seemed to happen for a long time.  I also feel sure that Minister Hartsuyker will continue the good work done by Minister Birmingham.  While on politics, we saw a senate inquiry where for some they could not separate their ideology from what is good for the sector (Yes Greens and Senator Rihannon I am looking at you) which is disappointing to say the least.

It would I think also be remiss of me not to that Rod Camm and the wonderful people at ACPET.  Rod I think has done a fabulous job during very difficult circumstances and the ACPET team (at the very least the Queensland team) has been supportive and have worked to attempt to ensure that the great things that are done in this sector by non-public providers are not lost.

So all in all it has been a very very big year for the VET sector and I have to admit I am looking forward to having a couple of weeks off from the hustle and bustle of it all.  So thank you all for journeying along with me this year, through my rants (and there were a couple) my opinions and my other various scribblings.  May you all have a very happy and safe festive season, enjoy some time away from this world of VET and come back next year refreshed, happy and ready for the challenges ahead.  I know that is my plan.


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.

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