Where to from here? Some reflections.

Well hasn’t the sector been in the news again recently.  Minister Brimingham addressing the ACPET conference and talking about VET FEE help changes, the CEDA chief executive saying that VET has suffered significant reputational  damage, a suggestion that the VET sector is the weakling of the Australian educational system, the release of the apprenticeship reform report  and a number of other releases and statements has made it an interesting few weeks.  So given all of this I thought I would reflect on the last few weeks and ask myself the question where to from here. Interestingly as soon as I did the song “the only way is up” by Yazz jumped into my head, (And yes I did link to it for those to young to remember) because it feels a little bit to me like that is the only way we can go from here.

Now I know a few people were a little critical of my last post where I suggested that we perhaps look for the positive in all of this, but really when you look at the beating that the sector has taken over the last 12 months or so, it really does to me feel like we have bottomed out and are finally starting to move forward again.  While there are certainly issues with the sector, what I am finding now is that more and more people are talking about the underlying issues which have impacted the sector for a number of years now in a positive and solutions based manner; in particular the fact that the sector has been treated like a second class citizen when compared to the K-12 and university sectors in areas like funding, deep policy settings and the purpose of the sector itself.  Now sometimes I agree with what is being said and sometimes I don’t, but what is important in my book is that these issues are now actually coming to the surface and being talked about.

We are seeing the government move to fix the VET FEE help mess, which while as most of you know only really affected a small group of providers and clients, has caused the bulk of the reputational damage to the sector in the last couple of years.  The impact of such a small part of the system will, even with positive changes, haunt us for a while to come yet.  We are seeing changes though and more importantly we are seeing people called to account, either through legislative, market or other forces.  I agree with what Peter Noonan says around what he has suggested will be the changes to the program in his article in the conversation and while I disagree with some of the other points he makes (that might make an interesting discussion for another time) the need to come up with a workable system between the State and Federal governments is paramount.  This is particularly important because it needs to be remember that the National Partnership agreement ends in 2017.  It presents an opportunity for everyone involved to develop a comprehensive, robust system that addresses the reputational damage done to the sector as well as moving us out of the Middle child syndrome we seem to be stuck in.


Anyway that’s just my opinion.

Let’s start being positive about VET

As some of you know I have been out of commission for a couple of weeks due to an injury to my hand, and during this little break from writing, I have spent a lot of time reading commentary, writings and discussions about the sector.  Something has struck me from all of this reading and it is something that really concerns me.  It seems that a lot of the commentators, industry leaders, thinkers and just people in the sector generally are spending a lot of time complaining and focusing on the negative issues which seem to be surrounding us.  Why does this concern me? Well mainly because we know that what it is we focus on and think about is what we see and what we get.  So if we continually talk about what is wrong about this sector, what needs to be fixed, and what all of the problems are, that is what we are going to see, that is going to inform our viewpoint of the sector and more importantly it is going to infect the viewpoint of others about our sector. Don’t get me wrong here, I like everyone am guilty of being critical of the sector and sometimes we do need to verbalise criticism, but too often I think this critical view takes over, so I want to try to change that a little today and see if we can’t just be positive about the sector for a while.

First off I am really proud of the sector that I work in.  I feel privileged to work in the VET sector, this is a sector that changes lives.  I was at a conference recently where a lot of people (and a lot a highly placed people) shared stories about how this sector had changed peoples lives.  Like the (youngish) grandfather who had improved his reading so much while undertaking a VET course that he was now able to read stories to his granddaughter and the massive change in the way he felt about himself that this seemingly small thing had created.  The kids from generationally  unemployed families, in deeply impoverished areas, getting apprenticeships and breaking out of the cycles that had been their lives.  People with Mental illness getting qualifications and training to help them to be able to work with others with mental illness to help those people on their own roads to recovery.

What we do in the VET sector is important!

We don’t just issue pieces of paper to people, or fill their heads with knowledge, or teach them how to perform tasks.  All of that stuff is well kind of the boring stuff of the sector, the nuts and bolts that sit underneath what it is that we really do.  We offer people the opportunity to change their lives, to have the opportunity to do things they are passionate about, to look at the world differently and explore the opportunities that are there.

VET changes lives!

I am so grateful that I have been able to work in the learning sector, be it VET or organisational learning, or professional and personal development for so many years, because it fuels that passion and that idea that what we do is important and let’s be clear it is not just important to the people we teach.  The importance of what we do if is wider than that.  We have seen recently several reports about the return on investment created by the sector, the value of international education, and the range of other important things that this sector does for the country as a whole.

So I have a little challenge for you all, Whether you are from the public sector (TAFE), a private provider, a not for profit or and enterprise RTO, let’s even if only for a little while try to focus on the great things this sector does, let’s talk about and share the good stories, the life changing moments, the things that really matter, because if we do that then we will improve the sector and the image of the sector far more than we ever could by focusing on the negatives.


Anyway, that’s just my opinion.

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