What is Queensland VET doing right with its funded training?
July 5, 2016 Leave a comment
So on Sunday I was pondering what it was I was going to write about this week. I had planned to look at who won the election and work through what that might mean in terms of the sector, but that had sort of gone out the window by about 9.00 pm, on Saturday night. I even contemplated not writing something this week (I know, the horror), but then yesterday NCVER saved the day for me, with their statistical report on Government Funded Students and courses 2015. I had heard a lot of people talking yesterday about how the numbers looked and the fact that there were declines in the number of government funded students, and further claims from some circles that it was all the fault of private providers in the market. However, when I got to sit down and read it I was pleasantly surprised. Pleasantly surprised because I am a Queenslander and what seems to me to ring quite loudly when you look at the report is one sentence in particular “Queensland was the only jurisdiction to experience an increase in student numbers in 2015 — up from 264 100 students in 2014 to 283 300 students in 2015 (7.3%). In addition, subject enrollments increased by 278 000 subjects (10.6%), hours by 8.8 million (10.7%) and FYTEs by 12 300 (10.7%).”
Now lets just think about that for a moment, out of all of the states in Australia in 2015, Queensland was the only one where student numbers, subject enrollments, hours and FYTE went up, by between 7 and 10%. This then lead me on to a very simple question. What is Queensland doing right with its government funded training? I can see the assumption that some pundits in the sector might leap to, Queensland has a Labor state government and a strong, supported TAFE sector so naturally they are going to have a good result. Now as I have said on a number of occasions I think TAFE QLD is a bit of an exemplar about how TAFE should be run, and the kinds of outcomes for both students and the state we should be expecting from our public provider, however as we go on let’s just keep in mind that South Australia last year basically gave all of its public funding to the public sector provider.
There is another interesting piece of information which sits in this report though, Queensland has the highest number of private providers involved in government funded training of any of the states and the second highest overall number of providers involved in funded training (It is worth noting that the reason Victoria has higher overall numbers is the enormous number of Community Education providers involved in their system). Its interesting isn’t it, the state with the highest number of non-public providers has the only increase in student numbers.
The other thing which makes this interesting to me is that it is quite difficult to become and continue to be a Pre-Qualified Supplier (PQS) in Queensland. In fact with the new contract arrangements we have seen a number of providers not invited to have their contracts continue and others only invited to continue with conditions imposed upon them, to ensure that those providers who are delivering qualifications under the Queensland funding programs are of the highest quality.
In addition we then have the fact the Queensland government has reintroduced its Skilling Queenslanders for work program which strongly links community organisations, RTOs and employers in order to attract, train and find employment for those people who might ordinarily fall through the cracks in the system for whatever reason. Its policy settings for its VET investment plan, also seek at least in my opinion, to make it possible for those people who are most likely to need to access government subsidised training places to be able to do the training they need.
When we add all of this together, what is it that Queensland is doing right when it comes to VET? I think first and foremost they are approaching the concept of government funded training from reasoned, sensible and not ideologically driven viewpoint. A viewpoint that recognises that we need to have a strong public provider in TAFE, but that we also need to have strong non-public provision, to provide student choice, niche markets, alternative delivery strategies and really just options for both students and employers. It is a viewpoint that recognises that there needs to be support given to particular cohorts of students, over and above the support given by the training providers, in order to assist them not only to successfully complete their training but also to find employment pathways as a result of it.
When we look at the differences between Victoria and Queensland in their approach in terms of what qualifications were funded, who was allowed to deliver them, and how that delivery was managed from a government perspective, I think we can see why there have been problems in the Victorian market that haven’t been present in Queensland.
When we look at South Australia where we see a nearly 17% drop (the highest of all states) in student numbers on the back of a decision of the state government there to all but exclude non-public providers from the market. Now, I think it says something powerful. It says something powerful to those people who insist that the reason that numbers are declining is because of the effect of non-public providers in the market.
But anyway that’s just my opinion.