Labor want a review into the VET sector in Australia
March 16, 2016 2 Comments
So the big news around the place this morning is the announcement from the Federal Labor Party that if it wins office in the next election it will launch a major review into the Vocational Education and Training sector in Australia. A full review of the sector is certainly well over due, particularly as we have seen the amount of funding provided to the sector decline over the past few years and certainly not keep up with the schools or university sector. However, it needs to be an actual proper review. A review that puts aside our entrenched bias, ideological and political agendas and simply focuses on one key question, what do we need to do in order to ensure that the VET sector in this country is able to provide value for Australia for many years to come? Now the rhetoric in the announcement about evidence based approaches to policy making and the terms of reference for the review which can be found in the Shadow Ministers press release seem promising at least in terms of an impartial review , but will we really get that? We have seen both Labor and Green politicians jump on the ‘Stop TAFE cuts’ bandwagon, which is being heavily pushed by the Education unions with both parties already in various forums suggesting that the answer to problems in the sector is to simply pour more money into TAFE. So I would call on both Bill Shorten and Sharon Bird to emphatically promise us that any review into the VET sector is actually an impartial one. One that is prepared to BBQ sacred cows if that is what turns out to be necessary.
So how can this kind of impartial review be undertaken in a way which will convince the sector that it is transparent and not simply a justification of pre-existing ideologies. Firstly there needs to be representation from all of the parts of the sector public and non-public. The terms of reference need to not preference any particular part of type of provision, which they currently seem to. There needs to be a chair or whoever is tasked with leading the review who is truly impartial. The person needs to be someone who the sector can trust is not driven by ideological commitments, someone who does not have commitments to either the public or non-public parts of the sector. An academic perhaps, I think would be suggestion a number of people could make, however again I would caution this choice as as we have seen from a lot of the writings of the academics in the sector at the moment there seems to be, at least to my mind, a bias towards public providers and I a not insubstantial amount of cases connections to either the education unions or the public VET sector. I actually think that in order for this to be a fair, impartial review that whoever leads it needs to be from outside the sector, preferably with few, if any actual links to it.
Any kind of advisory panel associated with the review also has to be well-balanced and consist of both those from industry and the provider side of the picture, BUT please not just the big players. I for one am sick and tired of seeing advisory panels in this sector stacked with managing directors or the like of very large providers, massive industry groups and worse union leaders or worse academics who have no idea of how the sector works as they have never actually worked in it. Given that when we take the big players both public and private out of the picture the average provider has less that 750 students there is a massive disconnect if the only people who advise the government are the large providers. And the same goes for industry groups, there needs to be representation from those people at the coal face of employing graduates from the sector and to be honest I have really understood why the unions actually need to be at the table at all in these discussion but that may just be me. Too often these kinds of reviews become rarefied academic affairs rather than something which produces an actual tangible and usable model for the future.
If Labor, or any other party is going to do this then they need to do it properly, they need to put aside their politics, ideology and sacred cows and undertake a review that looks impartially and transparently at what this sector needs going forward and if it doesn’t produce recommendations which match to what they would have desired they need to suck it up and actually do what is good for the country and sector.
Anyway that’s just my opinion.