February 20, 2017 6 Comments
So a number of people over the past few weeks have asked me about my opinions about how we can rebuild and revitalise VET in Australia. While I have in the past spoken about what I thought might be specific changes to particular parts of the system, I have to at least some extent shied away from proclaiming my view for a future of VET. One of the reasons for this is that, to me, a lot of what happens in this sector, a lot of what the sector does and the vast majority of the outcomes which are produced are excellent. I am not sure that the sector needs a reimagining or wholesale reenginerring of how it operates.
If you listen to the left you will hear the constant chant of TAFE TAFE TAFE, get rid of private providers and the system will be right. If you listen to the right, it is all about market forces, competitiveness, and the free market and here of course is the rub, they are both right and they are both wrong. The answer lies somewhere in between.
We need a strong public provider and a strong network of private providers to make the system work effectively, more importantly though we need both groups to be treated the same and regulated the same, and not just in name only, in actual practice.
We need to recognise that trainers and assessors in this industry need to have three skill sets. They need to have a deep understanding and relevant, up to date knowledge of their industry; they need vocational currency. They need to have and understanding of the VET sector; how assessment processes work and what it means for someone to be competent, and they need to be good at presenting the material they are covering in an engaging and meaningful way, so that students actually learn what they need to.
We need the owners and senior managers of of all providers, be they public or private to really actually put students and their outcomes first. Yes sustainability is vitally important, but we are in the business of education, so the actual education should be our focus, not how much money we can make, or whether or not we have the best office or the best view, or what awards we get. The outcomes for students should be at the heart of what we do and if it isn’t we should probably get out and find another sector.
We need the regulator to actually regulate. More than that however, we need to regulator to act fairly, consistently and in timely manner. It is essential that providers regardless of whether they are public or private, new entrants or longtime RTOs, catering to 100 students of 10,000 students that they will be treated and assessed fairly and consistently and that breeches dealt with appropriately.
We need to government to invest in the VET system and to invest in it properly. There is a need for sensible long term commitments to funding plans, be they direct entitlement style funding, organisational funding or contingent loan facilities. The commitment however has to be long term and it has to address the skills and knowledge needs of this country moving forward.
Sounds really simple doesn’t it.