Who is in charge of VET in Australia?

My good friend Marc from the famous MRWED made a comedic comment on one of my posts recently, which when I starting to think about it drove something home to me.  His little joke got me to thinking about a very serious question, ‘Who is in charge of VET in Australia?’

I challenge you all right now to answer that question.  It should be easy shouldn’t it, shouldn’t we as professionals within the sector be able to say who is in charge, who is the person that speaks for the sector, who makes sure it actually works?

How many of you said either Minister Birmingham, or Assistant Minister Andrews, the COAG industry and Skills council perhaps, the Australian industry and skills committee maybe.  Is it Michele Bruniges or Subho Banerjee (They are the secretary and deputy secretary of the Federal Department of Education if you weren’t aware) or perhaps the various State based ministers or departments?

Ah, stuff it, I give up.  It is just too difficult!

Seriously though, just thinking about this hurts my head and clearly between all of the Ministers and committees, and departments, there is no one single person who is actually responsible for the oversight of the VET system in this country.  In addition there is no one person whose role it is to promote and advocate the sectors interests, not the interests of TAFE (TDA and AEU) or of private providers (ACPET), or enterprise providers (ERTOA), but the interests of the sector and if the person is supposed to be doing this advocating and promoting is some one from the federal department they are doing a particularly shoddy job of it.  The various ministers and political spokespeople for all of various parties often talk a big game, but also all to often their rhetoric is tinged by political ideology and agendas rather than by what is good for the sector.

Why can’t we have a Chief Vocational Education and Training Officer, someone whose job it is, is to look after the sector, make sure it works, manage all of the conflicting parts and promote and advocate for and on behalf of the sector, even if all they did was promote and advocate for the sector that would nearly be enough.  Because the longer the sector is managed by committees, faceless bureaucrats (with no background in the sector) and an endless array of ministers who usually change at least every 3 years, until it stops being a political football, used by some to pursue their own ideological viewpoints we will continue to see it flop from one disaster to another and for someone who is passionate about the value of the VET sector I find that a really shame.

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Queensland VETiS and the New ATAR, a disaster waiting to happen?

So as some of you may know, I have over the years been quite critical of a range of things which occur in the VET in Schools (VETiS) space, not only in Queensland, but in most other states as well.  Things such as the the clear lack of adherence by school based RTOs to the Standards, the qualifications and depth of industry experience of trainers and assessors (particularly those who are teachers) and the types and levels of qualifications which are being delivered.

So let me be clear right from the outset where my opinion lies, anything higher than a certificate III (and if I am being completely honest even Cert III level often worries me) should not be being delivered within a schooling setting.   The concept of the delivery of Certificate IV, Diplomas and even advanced diplomas to students who have not finished their secondary education is in my opinion ridiculous and fraught with dangers.  In addition while I have nothing but the utmost respect for Teachers, just because you are a teacher does not mean that you know a dam thing about vocational education or the needs of industry in terms of training deliver and assessment, and sorry, but if you are a PE teacher who has been RPLed through a Certificate IV in Training and Assessment and  Certificate IV in Fitness so that you can deliver Certificate III qualifications to your students, unless you have a whole pile of industry experience (and I don’t mean teaching experience I mean actual experience working the industry you are training in), you ARE NOT qualified to train and assess your students and you are not complying with the Standards.

Now that I have been really clear about where I stand on this it will probably come as no surprise that I consider the Queensland curriculum and assessment authority’s (QCAA) stance on VET and the new ATAR system being introduced, as potentially incredibly damaging to the quality of training and assessment being provided to our school students, shortsighted and showing a complete lack of understanding of the VET system in this country, will have a devastating effect on the workforce participation potential and ability to undertake further training of a significant number of students, and is well frankly idiotic.

What you may well ask is happening to elicit this vitriolic response? It is actually quite simple, and revolves around the calculation of ATAR rank, and while on the surface it seems not to problematic, there is a mindset underlying it which has the potential to be incredibly damaging.  When calculating the new ATARs QTAC will calculate ATARs based on either:

  • a student’s best five General (currently Authority) subject results, as is currently the case for the OP system, or
  • a student’s best results in a combination of four General subject results, plus an applied learning subject result.

Now on the surface that seems reasonable, however as is often the case with these things the devil is in the detail and when you look further into what an applied learning subject result might be you find this;

The best result in a:

  • QCAA Applied (currently Authority-registered subject or Subject Area Syllabus subject) or
  • Certificate III or
  • Certificate IV or
  • Diploma or
  • Advanced diploma,

Did the person who came up with this concept, have even the slightest notion of what is, or should i say should be, involved in completing a Diploma of Advanced Diploma.  The QCCA is actively encouraging the delivery of programs of study which almost by definition will be rubbish, because there is simply no way in which (at least in most cases) the assessment requirements for studies at the level that they are talking about can be met within a school setting, and to think that this is possible shows an utter and shameful lack of understanding of VET and the AQF.  Further more they are encouraging the delivery of programs to students, which will make them ineligible for the vast majority of the post secondary VET funding options which are available for when they realise that their Diploma in Business is utterly worthless and will not help them to get a job. Why?  Because for the vast majority of actual funding programs, if you hold anything higher than a Certificate IV in anything you are automatically excluded. 

VETiS in Queensland is already a disaster and this will simply devalue further the qualifications which are being delivered through it more and deeply harm the outlook for students who have been sold the lie that the piece of paper they get from their school saying they are competent at a Diploma level (or really any level at the moment) will get them a job.

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