Advancing Skills for the Future – QLD’s Draft VET strategy
March 6, 2017 4 Comments
As some of you may be aware the Queensland state government recently released their consultation draft of their strategy for VET entitled Advancing Skills for the Future, so I thought that I might have a bit of a look at what it says and the effect this might have on VET in Queensland. I will however caveat all this by saying that as we are due for an election in Queensland in the next 12 months, the strategy whether it is good or bad, may never move forward, but hey that is the nature of the sector we work in.
Firstly there is the obligatory simple statistics in the introduction, 1430 providers (both public and private), $810 million and change in funding spread across 600 or so PQS providers, again both public and non-public) and in addition 14,000 government-funded students in 2015-16 over 2014-15. Make no mistakes VET is big business and touches the lives of a massive number of Queenslanders every year, with more than 270,000 funded students alone in 2015-16. These types of high level statistics tell us very little about how the sector is operating or which bits might need to change.
Next we come to the now absolutely obligatory statement about the future of work, STEM and advanced technology and automation in the workforce. This is the world we live in now and let’s be honest any government or organisation that isn’t embracing this view of the world right now is going to be left behind. We then have a piece about how the whole VET system works and who is responsible for what and then some more statistics about how well the Queensland VET sector is doing. So far all pretty standard stuff and what you would expect.
Now however we get to the meat of the strategy with the governments vision for VET: In a changing world, all Queenslanders are able to access – at any stage in their lifetime and career – high
quality training that improves their life prospects and supports industry development and economic growth. There are also three key areas that the government see as being crucial to their ability to deliver this vision, which are;
- Industry and innovation
- A quality system, and
- Access and participation
The rest of the paper then looks at what the government intends to do in relation to these areas and what goals it wants to achieve.
Industry and innovation
Job Queensland get a fairly big mention here, particularly in relation to its administration of specialist funding and what seems to be its key role of listening to what is it that industry wants particularly in regional and remote areas. There is a recognition here that the fastest growing job market over the next few years will be health and social assistance with a projected rise in numbers of employees of around 11% or one in five of every new job created. While this recognition of the fact the sector will grow over the next few years my only concern is that I have seen so many numbers released around how many new employees will be needed by so many different agencies and departments that have to think that perhaps someone has it wrong, but then again it is probably far better to prepare for a high need in term of new employees and over compensate than it is to come up short. There is also an additional commitment to STEM and related activities which is again something which should be expected.
A quality system
I have often suggested the Queensland has had its finger on the pulse and has better managed its state based funding arranges that a lot of the other states and it seems that this tighter control over who can deliver funded training in Queensland and the management of risks around it will continue, with the tightening of entry criteria and reporting and renewal of contracts based on the quality of the providers and their outcomes. In addition and this is something that I really do welcome, is a commitment to providing better information to the public about both the sector and the variety of choices which exist for students who wish to engage with it. That this includes a commitment to improve how VET in schools works and the advice given to young people at school and school leavers, an area which has been sadly lacking over the past few years.
Access and participation
In what is by far the largest section of the paper the government goes on to talk about how it intends to achieve its goal of All Queenslander’s having access to skilling pathways
that enhance employability and social wellbeing. After a discussion of what is currently happening in Queensland, which for the most part, at least in my opinion, is working well the paper goes on to discuss the future direction. We will be seeing more Skilling Queenslander’s for work which given it has been the flagship employability program of Labor in Queensland for a number of years now should not be surprising to anyone and neither should the goals of better engaging with vulnerable youth, particularly those who have already intersected with the justice system.
There is also, again not unsurprisingly, a commitment to TAFE. A commitment to ensure that grants allow TAFE to have up to date resources and training facilities and to properly provide the services which they are supposed to deliver. There is also a commitment to look at the TAFE Queensland Act 2013 to ‘ ensure it enables the public provider to fulfill its role in meeting government priorities and providing commercial and non-commercial services in a competitive environment.’
Overall I have to say that when I finished reading this paper, I was, well a little blase about the whole thing. Yes it contains a lot a high level goals as one would expect in a strategic document, but very little in the way of meat. There in of course lies the rub. It is difficult to know, guess at or comment on a lot of the commitments in this paper simply because we don’t actually know what they mean or more importantly what the government means by them. What does the statements about the TAFE QLD act or looking at the appropriateness of grants to TAFE mean? What does a high quality provider look like under PQS? How does the government see it providing for the training of 20-50,000 new health and community services workers over the next 5 years? These are all questions for which no answers are given and while we may be able to hazard a guess of the broad direction some of these commitments might take, given the platform and proclivities of the current government, we certainly cannot read anything certain from this document.
So as a high level strategy document, it does its job, however there are still a significant number of questions that need answering about how this strategy is going to be achieved.
Anyway that’s just my opinion.