Queensland VET Investment Plan 2014-15

So as most of you are aware the Queensland Government has released its VET investment plan for 2014-15, so let’s have a look at the plan and see who the winners are.

It is important to remember that one of the things which underpins the decisions made in the investment plan is the Annual Skills Priority Report delivered by the Ministerial Industry Commission and based on in part a healthy consultation process with industry.

At a high level we see the following

  • $225 Million in User Choice funding
  • $155 Million in Certificate III Guarantee funding
  • $55 Million for Higher Skills and
  • $26 Million for Strategic Interventions

There is also $154 Million allocated to Public Providers because “The department recognises public VET providers play a significant role in Queensland’s VET system and initially have a higher cost base compared to other providers in the market. To address this, the department has opted for an annual grant model to subsidise the cost differential, as opposed to a higher subsidy rate payable through investment programs. This grant will reduce over time as reforms reduce the cost differential faced by public providers.”

Out of the $225 million in user choice most of it goes towards Apprenticeship and Traineeship funding ($200M) with the rest allocated to a range of foundational, skill gap and other programs.

From the Certificate III funding most, as would be expected goes to fund Certificate III places with $10 Million for Cert I & II programs and $20 Million for foundation skills.

The $55 Million in higher skills funding is designed to meet crucial skill needs while not duplicating funding from federal sources.

The $26 Million in Strategic Interventions is broken up with $10 Million going to Community Learning (up to $400,000 per project), $10 Million to Industry Partnerships (up to $400,000 per project with a 50:50 co-contribution) and $6 Million to indigenous training (again up to $400,000 per project)

 

Now there has been some criticism levelled at the government for reducing the amount of funding provided there are now a wider range of  courses and programs being funded and in my opinion that is win.  Yes it means that some RTO’s will choose to increase the amount of the mandatory student contributions, but others won’t as the funding levels still provide a solid level of income in most cases it seems.

So is the 2014-15 VET investment plan a good one?  I think on the whole it is, it addresses some of the issues with previous funding models, and provides a fairly wide range of funded qualifications for students, wanting to either enter the workforce, change careers or upskill for a new role.  Will everyone be happy?   Of course not, the reduction in subsidies in some areas already has people alarmed, but all in all I think it is something that will work for at least the next 12 months.

 

 

Government Response to QLD Skills and Training Taskforce

The Queensland Government has released it official response to the Queensland Skills and Training Taskforce Report.

The response released a few days ago is no real surprise with the Government fully supporting 35 of the 40 recommendations and providing in principle support to the other 5 recommendations.  So which of the recommendations did the government only support in principle?  Recommendations 2.1-2.5 all of which relate to the creation of an Industry led Skills Commission were only supported in principle, with the Government committing to;

• rejuvenate the state’s industry engagement arrangements to better meet industry skill
needs
• clarify the contribution of Industry Skills Bodies in gathering advice and insights from a
broad range of industries across the state.

So why didn’t fully support and accept them, personally I think it is an issue of timing and funding.  Skills Queensland already exists and operates exceedingly well within the confines of its powers, although criticisms have been raised of the level of industry engagement it undertakes.  A clarification of the role of Skills Queensland and a strong separation between purchaser and provider as outlined in the recommendations is something that could be done relatively quickly, but in terms of timing it is probably better to deal with the issues surrounding TAFE and get the public provider running more efficiently, effectively and competitively before implementing any other changes.

There are also a couple of other things in the response that I think are worth noting;

  1. direct public training investment towards qualifications that are more likely to lead to  employment – This needs to happen as soon as possible, if there are not strong employment outcomes why is the training being publicly funded,
  2. make funding for entitlement training fully contestable from 1 July 2014,
  3. target training funding towards VET in Schools options that deliver clear employment pathways – Less funding for arts and entertainment (video game design for example) and more funding for Trades and Health and Community Services,
  4.  refocus TAFE Queensland to operate commercially and provide training that is responsive to industry and student demands,
  5. work with TAFE Queensland employees and unions to negotiate a modern enterprise agreement that delivers increased productivity outcomes – See my previous post,
  6. open up third party access arrangements by the end of 2013 with the aim of maximising use of public training assets – private providers able to use TAFE facilities, what and excellent idea.
  7. establish a parent entity for TAFE Queensland, independent from the Department of Education, Training and Employment – This should assist TAFE with the transition, particularly if the right people are put in place from the word go.

Queensland’s VET Skills and Training Taskforce (Some More thoughts)

Some more thoughts on the recommendations of the QLD Skills and Training Taskforce

Today I want to continue on from yesterdays post and look more closely at some of the recently released recommendations of the Queensland Skills and Training Taskforce and I thought that I might start off with the second set of recommendations (Recommendation 1.0 really just reaffirms the importance of the VET sector and Training in general) around and Industry Engaged VET system.  There are three main areas the recommendations look at;

  1. An Industry led Skills Commission,
  2. Government VET investment, and
  3. VET in Schools and links to Higher Education

So lets look at each of them separately, starting with

An Industry Led Skills Commission (Recommendations 2.1-2.5)

Recommendation 2.1  The Queensland Government establish a truly industry-led Queensland VET sector characterised by the creation of an independent statutory Queensland Skills Commission directly accountable to the Minister for Education, Training and Employment.  I really think this is a great idea particularly when linked to 2.3 and 2.4 which would hopefully see the commission have control over the funding and contracting arrangements themselves.  This was and I think that I echo the thoughts of a lot of people here, one of the big issues that faced Skills Queensland they did not have any real power in relation to the funding etc which reduced their ability to be as effective as they could have been.  (This should not be seen as  criticism of Skills Queensland whom I think have done and do a fantastic job in terms of their connection with industry.

The only criticism I would level at this recommendation comes from 2.2 and is around the make up of the commission.  While I understand the Governments viewpoint on wanting the ‘4 pillars’ represented to suggest that the largest employment sector in the state (Health and Community Services) should only potentially have representation is ridiculous in the extreme.

The Health and Community Services Industry:

Injects more than $16.2 billion to the Queensland economy each year

  • Pays more than $13.5 billion in wages and salaries
  • Attracts volunteer and carer contributions, estimated to be worth $10.5 billion annually
  • Purchases around $2 billion worth of goods and services annually from other Queensland industries and businesses
  • Created 20,400 new jobs in Queensland in 2011 representing more than 80% of Queensland’s job growth of 25,400
  • Created 71,900 new jobs or 28 per cent of the state’s total employment growth over five years to 2011

There should without a doubt be at least one representative of the Health and Community Services Industry and I would suggest two (one from the Health Industry and one for the Community Services industry) as despite any assertions to the contrary it is the biggest employment area both currently and into the future and has and will continue to have incredibly high need for training of staff and unlike some other industries (mining in particular) does not have the wealth of self-generated funds to put towards training staff, relying heavily on Government subsidy.

Transforming VET Investment (Recommendations 2.6-2.8)

There is really nothing out of the ball park here, the only thing I would say echo’s my statements above, about the need to ensure that the Health and Community Services Sector is not left out of the ‘selected Certificate IV and above qualifications, skill sets and other specific priorities.’  There is a significant need for the Health and Community Services to be able to access funding for training at levels above a Certificate III level.  I would however like to add here that there needs to be some focus on how funding is handled.  I have made the point before that a model focussing on Units of Competency rather than full qualifications may in some areas by incredibly useful from both an employee and employer perspective.   In order to obtain the best results in terms of completion rates and employment outcomes, more of the funding needs to be funnelled to organisations (employers) and less to individuals.  This gives employers the ability to recruit, train and retain staff, at levels that will be achieved without tight employer involvement.  I say this because when you consider completion rates from Enterprise RTO’s (that is employers who have their own internal RTO to train primarily their own staff) they are in the area of 90+%, because it is in the interest of the employer to ensure that they recruit  the right people and give them all of the assistance necessary in order to complete.  This is simply not the case with external providers who are training individuals who are hoping that on completion they will be able to gain employment.

VET in Schools and Links with Higher Education (recommendations 2.9-2.12)

I think recommendation 2.9 definately sets the scene here “There is a clear role for VETiS into the future, within a strictly applied framework that supports achievement of the Government’s economic goals, however, Government’s VRG investment in VETiS needs to be focused on employment outcomes and aligned to the skill needs of industry,” and is on the money.  The need for stronger links between the vocational course offered to and taken by high school students become abundantly clear when you see that the biggest increases (between 300 & 800+%) in course has been in entertainment and fitness qualifications.  However again (and I know I am banging on about this a little) just going back to offering trade qualifications without reference to other industries with equal or more demand for workers would be a definite mistake.

The need for better dialogue between the VET and Higher Education Sectors (recommendation 2.12) is something that almost self-evident and needs to be improved.

So there you have my thoughts on specifics of the recommendations in section 2 of the report.  Tomorrow I am going to have a closer look at the recommendations around TAFE.

As always happy to hear what you have to think on any of these subjects.

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