The State of the VET industry survey results.

As many of you are aware last month I conducted the second State of the VET industry survey through this blog.  Thank you to the many 100’s of people who responded to this survey.  Without your input it would be difficult to be able to look at the data in a meaningful way.  What I want to do in my post today is to look at some of the results and think about what they might mean and how they look when compared to the results we got from the survey which was undertaken six months ago, because as we know a lot has changed in the sector since then.

As with the last time the vast majority of respondents were either from Non-public RTO’s or were independent trainers and assessors, with a very small amount of respondents from TAFE, who were consultants, or who worked for non-RTO training companies.  Also in tune with the last survey the majority of respondents were either in senior management roles in their organisation or where in training and assessing roles.  Interesting, though not significantly was a reduction in the number of compliance or middle manager respondents from the last survey.  Again similarly respondents worked for organisations which primarily worked either nationally, in Queensland or in Victoria.  This similarity in demographic data around respondents is important because it provides us with a level of confidence when we look at the other data collected and see changes from previous surveys, that the data sets are at least on the surface comparable.  So lets look at the other data and see what we can see.

When asked ‘how satisfied are you with the vet sector currently‘, the answers were fairly similar to previous surveys, which given the results of those surveys is not terribly encouraging.  On the bright side the percentage of people who were very dissatisfied dropped from 29% to 23%, however on the not so bright side the percentage of people who were dissatisfied, rose from 51% to 55%. Interestingly about 5% of respondents were satisfied with the sector currently a small rise on last survey’s 0%, yes zero.

Clearly casualisation of the training workforce and the use of contractors is something that is on the minds of everyone, as while  the number of full time, part time, casual employees and contractor remained basically the same as with the last survey, when asked how they thought their workforce would look in 12 months, the consensus was that full time numbers would drop by around 25% and while part time numbers would remain about the same, the 25% loss of full time staff would would be taken up by casual and contracted staff.  This thinking is clearly driven by uncertainty in the market around sustainability, cost vs income, and an uncertainty around funding arrangements.

This uncertainty plays out across the questions regarding income streams, profitability and continued financial viability.  While it seems that most RTO’s are attempting to utilise as many different sources of income as they can, there is a significant, almost 15%, increase in the number of RTO’s operating in the fee for service space, with that 15% showing up as a drop in the number of providers utilising VFH arrangements.  Providers have either dropped out of the VFH market or have changed their business models to prioritise VFH less within their income streams to attempt I think to somewhat limit the damage to income as a result of the changes to VFH and the release of VET Student Loans.

Interstingly more than double amount of respondents this time felt that their profitability would increase over the next 12 months, 38% as opposed to 14% in the last survey, problematically however,  there was also a significant increase in the number of respondents who felt their profitability would decease substantially, 24% in this survey as opposed to 11% in the previous survey. My initial thoughts around this would be the increase in the number of who felt their profitability would decrease substantially stems from the changes to be rolled out under VSL, such as price and student enrollment capping, while those that feel their business will increase, are I think those who feel that increased fee for service delivery and changes to business models will drive profitability up.

This trend is around uncertainty is also seen when we look at financial sustainability over the next 12 months.  While the percentage of respondents who answered neutral, sound or very sound in terms of their financial viability over the next 12 months remained exactly the same at 37%, the number of responded who felt their financial viability was very unsound increased from 9% to 23%. The upshot of this would seem to be that we will continue to see a range of providers throughout the market close up shop over the next 12 months unless they can find ways to solidify their financial base.

The final thing I want to talk about today was the results of the questions around the VET Student Loans (VSL) proposal which seem to echo the sentiment that I have been hearing a lot from people that I talk to.  A significant number of respondents (41%) are neither happy nor unhappy with the proposal, answering neutral to the question how happy are you with the VSL proposals.  While it is true that about 30% percent of respondents were dissatisfied or very dissatisfied with the proposals about the same percentage were satisfied or very satisfied with it.  Clearly however the vast number of respondents, some 73% have no intention at least in the short term of applying to be able to access the VSL system as it currently stands.

So there you have my first cut of the data that has come through and as I said a lot of what the data says seems to echo the general anecdotal sentiment that I have been hearing over the last few months.  While people in the sector are worried about its future and the impacts of the massive amounts of change we have seen, and will continue to see, there is still significant numbers of people who feel at least somewhat buoyant about the future

I will leave a link to the survey here  so if anyone who hasn’t contributed would like to they can.

Now I don’t know about all of you, but as the silly season is fast approaching, (I will start saying Happy Christmas to people tomorrow as I have a ban on saying it prior to December 1st) things will slow down somewhat around here until early in the New Year.  So firstly I would like to thank all of you out there who read this little piece of me, whether you read every everything or have just read one thing I truly appreciate it.  To all the people who comment, both here on wordpress, on linkedin and in other forums, I really want to thank you for engaging, for challenging, for both agreeing and disagreeing.  If as a sector we are unable to look upon the work that we do objectively, and to listen to both the criticism and the praise then we are doomed to fail.




Student cohorts, learning outcomes and employment possibilities

So as you may have noticed I haven’t posted anything for a couple of weeks, this was mainly due to two things, firstly I was on holidays and secondly I have actually been out on the boards so to speak again, delivering some training.  A certificate II in community services to be exact which has kept me in the field and somewhat away from the keyboard.  It has done something else as well, it has driven home to me the need that we have in this sector to make sure that when we enroll people in programs that they are in the right program for them.  The level of the program needs to be right, both in terms of content and assessment, it has to link to what they want to do with their lives and there needs I think to be the possibility of an appropriate outcome for them.  Unfortunately I think that perhaps we in the sector and those around the sector who recruit, for want of a better word (I will explain what I mean later), student cohorts for us to deliver training to sometimes don’t look hard enough at those who are going to be doing the course before we start them on their journey.

Now as most of you know I am a strong believer in the value of education for everyone, particularly in terms of the possibility of improving a persons lot in life shall we say, for example assisting them to move into gainful employment.  At the same time I am troubled that a lot of the programs and funding which is spread around by various governments with the idea of helping highly disadvantaged people to improve their prospects  may in fact by quite ineffectual simply because the student cohorts who are being recruited into these programs, for a range of reasons, such as, the  eligibility requirements, the pressure on organisations to reach certain numbers of attendees and recruitment being often done by third party organisations (community sector and NFP’s) who don’t understand the VET system.

I have had this exact thing driven home to me over the past weeks, while as I said delivering a Certificate II in community services through a program where community sector organisations are funding to recruit and provide a range of wrap around services like CV’s for example and the provider ‘simply’ delivers the accredited part of the program under standard funding arrangements. That I encountered such issues with a lower level qualification may puzzle some of you, but bear with me as I explain.  Firstly there are a range of criteria set by the government for who can undertake these programs, students must be either unemployed and not receiving commonwealth benefits or have been unemployed for a period of more than six months.  Now as anyone who has been unemployed for more than six months, either by choice or not, their are in general significantly more issues around getting back into the workforce then for people who are currently employed or only short term unemployed.  Secondly the organisations are given funding for a certain number of students, so if they don’t get the numbers they need they may well have to refund money to the government when the program is over and thirdly the vast majority of organisation involved in these programs have little no experience in the provision of accredited training, they are service providers not training organisations.

So what happens when all of this comes together?  Well you get a group of people (twelve to be exact) out of whom, I would suggest only two will gain employment as a result of the program and maybe another two more will go on to do further study.  So about two thirds of the group will not achieve one of the listed outcomes for the program. Why? Well there are a variety of reasons some of which are,

  • lack of social and work skills, to such an extent that it will take far more work and training than what they are having to overcome
  • Attitudinal issues bought about from previous experiences, both in work and elsewhere
  • a lack of ability to determine what is appropriate behaviour and act accordingly, and
  • their world view

The first thing that is interesting about this list is that for the most part none of these issues relate to their ability to successfully complete the assessments for the program.  There are one or two who have really struggled with the content and assessments, but all but one will actually successfully complete.  What is interesting is that when the class first started I thought the number of people who would get an appropriate outcome would be much higher, but as time has progressed and we have had more and more conversations, the students have felt safer and more comfortable, they have said and done things which show clearly why a number of them have had the experience of never keeping a job for more than about 3 months.

None of this of course should not be taken to suggest that the students have not grown, learnt things and perhaps become a little better equipped for life.  What it is to suggest is that we need where we can, across the board, to try and do a bit better job when it comes to recruiting students, across all levels of qualifications.  Now can we always get it right at the start, no and to think we could would be foolish.  We recently had to withdraw a student who had an undisclosed mental illness, which made it impossible for him to complete the requirements of the course.  He didn’t disclose it, because he thought it was going to have an impact, but as the course rolled on it did and despite the supports we were able to offer it was impossible for him to continue and as I have said with my recent experience, issues didn’t become clear until we touched on a particular subject or the student felt sufficiently safe.

The other thing that needs to be done is for the funding bodies to look at the criteria they are placing on these courses and programs and ask themselves some hard questions about whether the criteria themselves are making it more difficult for everyone, students included to get the desired outcomes.

Anyway that’s just my opinion.

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