Advancing Skills for the Future – QLD’s Draft VET strategy

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;

  1. Industry and innovation
  2. A quality system, and
  3. 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.

 

 

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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.

4 Responses to Advancing Skills for the Future – QLD’s Draft VET strategy

  1. Mark Jones says:

    Hi Paul, concur…. I got my head into the QLD Strategy document and like all the other recent State government releases I picked up on the big shift back to TAFE and the public system. My question like your’s becomes what happens now to the PQS and those QLD based RTO’s operating on a high percentage of User Choice funding to support apprentices and trainees if the governments preference is to support the TAFE system.

    How will the AASN’s be directed or measured in the way they align business needs, appropriateness of providers and flexibility of the training needs of apprentices? Will these strategies further reduce the competitiveness of private providers and subsequently reduce their numbers through a biased competitive tender, performance management and compliance driven process?

    Like you have said… a number of positive ideological strategies, but no real meat on the sandwich or clarity of how these strategies will be implemented and managed. (MJ)

    • pauldrasmussen says:

      Mark,
      I think without a doubt ideologically there was always going to be a shift back towards TAFE under the present government, how large that shift might be is open to debate, however given that I think currently 70 or 75+ percentage of government funding in QLD actually goes to TAFE at the moment. When you factor in grants, access to specialist funding arrangements etc it is probably a little higher than that even. If we add to that, the fact that the current government has on a number of occasions, spoken about the need for strong non-public PQS providers, I think that the entitlement side of the equation will probably not change significantly. I think however you are right when you talk about user choice, I think that a range of providers who have significant skin the user choice, particularly the apprenticeships, side of the game, including the GTO’s may actually face a bit of an uncertain future in terms of funding. I think that it will become more costly for non-public providers to play in the user choice field and also more unattractive for other reasons as well. This will push some employers who may have gone with non-public providers to TAFE, which will in turn exacerbate the difficulties felt by non-public providers in this area.

      The AASN’s are an interesting fish in all of these arrangements. Firstly I think that non-public providers will need to make sure that they are ‘on good terms’ shall we say with the various AASN’s, which creates in my opinion a quite severe and unfair power relationship imbalance. I think TAFE is probably the best placed to capitalise on these circumstances. On a side note I don’t personally see the AASN system operating for more than one more contract term after this anyway, before it is replaced with something else.

      In general I think the shift back to TAFE will be more of a marketing and psychological one, more funding for buildings and specialist equipment, more advertising into schools and linking TAFE with VETiS programs to try and simply stream school leavers into TAFE as clearly the only option available.

      Also thanks for your comments Mark I always enjoy them and find them insightful.

      Paul

      • Mark Jones says:

        My pleasure…I like you (baby boomers) have seen a lot of change within our sector over the past 10 to 15 years, not always for the better. However, my passion and drive for an effective, capable and fair VET system still prevails. (MJ)

  2. Richard says:

    Like it

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