Oh What a Year its been!
December 7, 2016 Leave a comment
When I think back over the last year, it really has been quite a big one for the sector. So as the holiday season approaches and as I probably will not be updating my blog as regularly again until January, I thought I might consider the year past and the year ahead.
As just about everyone knows, in fact I think it would be difficult to find anyone in this country who didn’t have an opinion on VET at the moment it has been in the news so much, the sector has been in turmoil for a pretty lenghty period of time. I remember Rod Camm talking at the Queensland ACPET Christmas party last year and saying he both thought and hoped that the worst was behind us. However with ACN going into administration, Aspire college and the rest of the Global Intellectual holdings disappearing overnight, Careers Australia and the ACCC decisions and agreements, and Ashley Services looking very shaky at the moment it has not been a great year, particularly at the top end of town. Not that small to medium sized providers were immune either with quite a few either leaving the sector voluntarily or because they could simply not sustain their businesses anymore. Add to this massive uncertainty about the future of the sector during a very very long general election race, what would happen to VET FEE Help and the debacle of the new Certificate IV in Training and Assessment qualification and this year has been a cracker.
Enough bad news for the time being though. What have been the positives for the year? Well, whether we like it or not there is now a replacement to the troubled VFH system, VET Student Loans, so at least there now exists a level of certainty around the that portion of the market. A large proportion of those providers who were doing the wrong thing have now either left, been forced out, or either been fined or in the process of being chased by the ACCC and others. Simply removing these providers from the pool can only help to improve the quality and perception of the sector. In terms of large scale good news that is about it, however I have seen so many providers this year, working so hard to create outstanding outcomes for their students and clients and when we look at the research and figures from NCVER we can see that overwhelmingly, this sector does a fantastic job and contributes so much towards the Australian economy and workforce.
So what about next year? Let’s just say that I think the roll out of VSL will be an interesting (the Chinese curse kind of interesting) space to watch. With stricter entry requirements, loan limits for students, variable caps for providers depending on completion rates and a raft of other things, a lot of providers who were VFH providers or who might have been considering moving in that direction are viewing it as simply falling in the too hard basket and won’t be seeking approval to deliver. The National Partnership agreement on skills reform, up for renegotiation as the current on expires in June 2017 seems currently if not dead in the water, leaking severely, with the states calling for a one year extension to the current agreement and the Federal government pretty much saying no. No NPA would basically leave most of the state budgets for training with holes of around $100 Million plus.
In terms of providers and the market itself, I also dont think we are out of the woods yet in terms of closures, restructures and downsizings. It seems to me, as an outsider, that Ashley Services may have a very hard time trading out of the position it is currently in, at least in its current form. There are also a number of other providers who had grown substantially on VFH incomes who will see those incomes slashed by in some cases 50-75% even if they are given approval to deliver under the new VSL system. This will mean in most cases that there will be little chance of them continuing in their current forms and closures or restructures in terms of both staff and delivery will need to occur. Is this a bad thing? Yes and No. Clearly there are probably some providers who expanded rapidly, did not deliver and did not properly invest in their continuing existence and the market may well be better off without them. The down side of course is much wider than that, fewer available places and less choice for students, quality VET staff finding themselves unemployed or moved to contract and part time, casual work. There may also in some areas be knock on effects in terms of skilled workers in certain areas over the coming years. So while there is a need to make sure that providers are meeting their requirements and delivery quality outcomes to their students and stakeholders, there is also a need to ensure that happens while we keep an eye on the wider picture and the impacts the VET has more generally.
Next year will be a year for consolidation and restructuring throughout the sector at all levels, a year of readjustment and reevaluation. A year where we will see the number of providers, particularly at the bigger end of town shrink considerably both in number and size, but also hopefully a year in which the sector can reestablish itself and begin to move forward.
Anyway that’s just my opinion.
Thank you all for reading and interacting with this little slice of me for the year and thank you to all the friends both near and far I have made or held onto over the past year. May you all enjoy whatever it is that you do over this time of year and all return happy and safe in the new year.