What is the purpose of a VET qualification?

Over the last few weeks, the concept of mission statements for, and the purpose of, Vocational Education (VET) has been rolling around in my head, so this week I thought I might throw an idea or two about the purpose of VET in particular out to the world and see what happens.  Firstly then here is what I think is a relatively simple statement about what VET is designed to do;

Vocational Education and Training (VET) is designed to deliver workplace specific skills and knowledge, across a wide range of careers and industries which prepare participants for work, advancement or further study.

but let’s just leave that there sitting in your brains while I go on a little bit of wander through some of my thoughts on this idea of purpose in VET.

The first question which comes into my mind when I think about any kind of education, but particularly education over and above compulsory, Primary and Secondary education is why? Why would someone make the decision that they wished to undertake some program of study in some chosen field?  While we talk about lifelong learning, and learning for the sake of enjoyment and personal interest and I am sure that for a significant number of people the continuing learning process is something which motivates them and to at least some extent underpins some of their decisions in relation to learning, I don’t think it is for most people the central thing which drives them to undertake formal courses, particularly formal courses in the VET sector.

Most people, according to the NCVER just over 80%, undertake VET for employment related reasons.  This would seem to suggest that for the most part people who undertake a VET course are looking to convert the outcomes of that course (skills and a certificate) into either employment or advancement in their role or field.  This idea of converting a VET qualification into employment is an important one because I think it is one that in general all stakeholders can agree upon in terms of a purpose.

For employers and industry the idea of being able to convert a person to a worker or a more highly skilled worker through a qualification is central to why employers would utilise the VET system. Employers need workers with the right skills and qualifications to undertake the roles they have within their organisations.  From a Government perspective, if we focus on workforce participation, converting people into workers through a qualification reduces unemployment numbers, (even when they are undertaking training) and creates a pool of skilled workers for employers and industry to call upon when needed.  For providers having a good qualification to employment conversion rate helps to make the business more profitable and sustainable through growth in their reputation as a quality provider.

So it seems to me that this idea of conversion, converting a qualification into employment or advancement is an important one across the board and one which we could perhaps use to underpin our various models and thinking.  If the central goal of the delivery of a VET qualification is employment or increased chances of employment and advancement, this creates an environment where the outcomes for the student are central and quite clear.  This should then provide us with a critical lens through which to assess compliance and quality in terms of providers, connection with industry, funding levels and appropriate courses and range of other parts of the puzzle.  It also would provide students with a lens through which to evaluate both the courses they are interested in undertaking and the providers through which they wish to undertake them.


Anyway that’s just what I think.

About pauldrasmussen
Paul Rasmussen is one of Australia’s most widely read Vocational Education and Training Commentators. He provides deep, unbiased analysis and insights not only on topical issues, but also on the underlying structure and policy which supports the industry. His writing and analysis has been praised for its uncompromising and thought provoking style and its ability to focus on the issues of real importance to the sector. He has advised various government departments and ministers, training providers, public and private organisations, not for profits and small to medium enterprises on the VET sector and the issues and opportunities facing it. He is one of Australia’s most awarded learning professionals and a regular speaker at a range of conventions and forums. His extensive experience in vocational education, and learning and development coupled with formal qualifications in philosophy, ethics, business and education management allow Paul to provide a unique view of the road ahead and how to navigate it.

15 Responses to What is the purpose of a VET qualification?

  1. basdenleco says:

    Initial gut reaction is that your statement resonates for me.
    I will get back when time permits but your whole article proposes much that aligns with ideas and values that I believe are very important as a VET practitioner.
    Thank You Paul for the excellent article.
    Derek Bailey

  2. Nam says:

    i like this post Paul. It made me reflect back to when I considered a ‘TAFE’ qualification. Doing so would allow me to get a job.

    Once i started, i had great teachers who were upfront and honest by stating that this is just the start, from the course you will learn enough to get you started. When you do start your new job, you will learn things that cannot be taught at school.

    • pauldrasmussen says:


      And I think that is definitely, something important we have to acknowledge both to ourselves and to our students. A qualification will give you what you need to get you a start, what happens after that is entirely up to you. Once you are in a job then what you have hopefully learnt through your qualification becomes the foundation upon which you can learn all of the other things you need to know.

  3. Mark Jones says:

    Hi Paul, as usual good commentary. I like your definition… quote “Vocational Education and Training (VET) is designed to deliver workplace specific skills and knowledge, across a wide range of careers and industries which prepare participants for work, advancement or further study”.

    I do believe though our duty of care as professional trainers and assessors within the VET sector is to ENSURE our trainees are actually competent and capable of fulfilling all tasks and job functions within the required qualification skillsets. I think this is a grey area for many, yes skills and underpinning knowledge are critical components of competence, but more important is the demonstrable ability to perform the required tasks. At this point, I as a qualified and experienced assessor would be happy to say yes student XXXX is qualified and we as VET practitioners have actually done our job well.

    Anything else falls short of the mark! Anyway that’s my opinion for what it’s worth. (MJ)

    • pauldrasmussen says:


      I think you are right, certainly there needs to be that assurance that students are actually properly competent across the ranges of skills and tasks they need to be. My initial position would be that the only way in which we as providers could successfully fulfill our part of the process is if we ensure that students are properly competent before we provide them with certificate. It is this proper assessment of competent which which provides robustness to the conversion of a qualification to employment for the students and allows employers to trust the qualifications we provide.

      • Mark Jones says:

        Touchet! Unfortunately as practitioners the odds are often staked against us.

        I believe there is not enough rigour and importance placed on ensuring students are pursuing a particular vocation for the right reasons (motivation), and secondly have the capacity and ability to properly undertake and complete the required levels of learning and assessment. This is a really important issue and one that unfortunately our politicians are yet to embrace, their focus is merely numbers, that is people off social security, job numbers and in many cases part time work just to make themselves look good. Like a number of nameless RTO’s student learning outcomes and employability outcomes are overshadowed by the almighty dollar! Again, that’s also my opinion! (MJ)

      • pauldrasmussen says:

        I couldn’t agree more with what you are saying. I remember refusing to enroll a student in the TAE program because when I spoke to her and asked her why she wanted to do the course and what she wanted to train she said oh whatever, there is just lots of jobs for people with TAE isn’t there. One of the issues is that VET is often used as a means of attempting to deal with other issues like unemployment, because after all a person who is in training is not unemployed, so as you say the government views it as a numbers game.

      • Mark Jones says:

        Hi Paul,

        As an industry advocate and agent for change I am sure you can site many examples of such occurrences. I would love to discuss a specific with you, however the online environment is probably not the right forum. If you want any anecdotal evidence for future forums give me a call to discuss.


        mark Jones
        0481052 400

      • pauldrasmussen says:

        Thanks Mark

  4. Tony says:

    Nothing may be achieved without industry involvement. Interned employment with govt support will link industry with courses better than VET first and then internship.

  5. Tony says:

    To continue my prior comment…
    1. If the VET is funded in part on a quota for existing interns, already accepted by the industry and employed, then the govt and the RTO can justify the funding and the expense.
    2. The second quota of the balance of students not already part of the employment need to be prepared for based on regional employer requirements. This is instead one size fits all type national standard courses, which are not relevant to specific industry in the region.
    3. The third quota may be for those who are motivated to learn the national standard qualifications and may also be willing to travel and explore outside the region to look for jobs.

    Sorry my last comment was shortened by power shortage in my computer, so I saved without editing.
    This formula may provide better training and more effective and efficient delivery of courses with targeted govt funding.

  6. Chris Ainsworth says:

    Paul, in your first statement “Vocational Education and Training (VET) is designed to deliver workplace specific skills and knowledge, across a wide range of careers and industries which prepare participants for work, advancement or further study.” two areas I would challenge – “specific” is too narrow one will require training to be extremely broad, just leave out “specific”, “prepare” is another word which is too broad, as the training we “introduce” in many cases skills and capabilities which enable an graduate core elements which allow them to integrate into an organisation. Personally I would use language like “acquire a capability to undertake work, seek advancement or progress onto further development”.
    Anyway, these are my humble thoughts.

  7. Chris Ainsworth says:

    Part 2
    After a little more thought, a qualification is a good foundation benchmark. For the new entrant, provides the underpinning knowledge and in some cases skills, however this is the “start point” of the journey.
    Those who are able to RPL, I prefer to use Recognizing Current Competency,of a candidate, which may or may not identify skills gaps, and establishes one potentially has surpassed this foundation benchmark.
    As I work in “high risk” areas, the consequence of these underpinning knowledge and skills not being thoroughly reviewed, has a potential catastrophic impact on communities. Few ever realize that impact until they personally are affected.
    Give a credible RTO who implements realistic and verifiable volume of learning practice, engages skilled and “qualified (area of expertise)” practitioners, then there is a great space for VET and qualifications.
    We are hampered by new regulations and requirements, all because too many have chosen shortcuts within the system through applying their own rationale to the issues.
    Just a humble point off view

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