The Vocational Education and Training (VET) sector is in crisis. With TAFE's bloated bureaucracy and closed shop mentality, and private Registered Training Organisations' (RTO) constant eye on the bottom line, they are both unable to keep pace with industry skill and employment requirements. Students are not being equipped with the skills industry is seeking, making it difficult for them to land a job and for employers to find the employees they need. One thing you will never here from anyone in the VET sector is student outcomes. Prime Minister Scott Morrison has made reform of the VET sector a main priority.
The industry training packages are outdated. In my industry, Information and Technology, the training package was last updated by an accounting firm who got the contract from the government. What next, the Plumbing and Electrical training packages being updated by Mechanics and vice-a-versa?
The solution is to outsource the creation and maintenance of the training packages, course material and assessments to industry and their associations to deliver true industry-based training. The running of TAFE campuses should also be outsourced along the lines of the successful outsourcing of Post Offices.
The Australian Skills Quality Authority (ASQA), the VET sector regulator, has been busy of late. In 2016, they made 115 decisions of which 59 RTO's licences were cancelled. Last year it was 394 decisions with 259 cancellations. So far this year, as of writing this article, they have made 293 decisions with 140 cancellations. This does not include RTO's (including TAFE) failing audits. Clearly, things need to change.
Each industry training package is made up of several Units of Competency (UoC). Each UoC details the required skills a student needs to obtain in order to complete a work task(s). The student is then assessed for these skills to ensure that they can complete the task, hence their competency. The VET sector thus undertakes and delivers skills-based competency.
A number of these units are grouped together to form a qualification, such as Certificate III in Education Support. It is imperative that the skills identified in a UoC and the grouping of UoC's to form a qualification are relevant to current industry needs and equip the student with the skills to complete work tasks that employers require.
More often than not, this is not happening. The training packages and UoC's, as well as the majority of course material and assessments, are developed by the bureaucracy, many who have not worked in their respective industry for years, if ever. This goes against one of the core requirements for developing, delivering and assessing UoC's – Currency. That is, do they have relevant up to date and recent industry experience.
Which comes to industry associations. They are constantly in touch with their industry members. They know what the current trends are, the skills required by employers and the skills prospective employees need to obtain in order to work effectively within an industry. They will also be able to access people who have relevant currency within their industry to ensure the training package and UoC's are up to date. They will, as the Prime Minister wants, to be more agile in this area. They would develop the course learning material, resources and assessments as well as the required validations.
Last year, I taught Certificate IV in Business at a private RTO. Like most private RTO's, they use pre-developed course material and assessments provided by various organisations. Trainers deliver the provided course and assess on the provided assessments. More often than not, the course material and assessments are not up to scratch, even if compliant. The development of course material and assessments should be outsourced to the relevant industry association, in this case, the Business Council of Australia. They would be in a much better position to provide the courses employers are looking for.
TAFE will say they already do industry consultation, but in reality, these consultations are just for TAFE to rubber stamp their processes, such as getting their latest template ticked off. Whatever input industry has into the course and assessment creation are ignored as they go through the motions. I should know, I have been on enough of them.
Currently, there is a large variety of course material being delivered for each UoC. Some good, a lot not so or does not fully cover the skill requirements needed. Having the Industry Association take over will standardise the courses. The employers will then be confident in what is being taught and delivered.
Also, once the courses and assessments are developed, the industry association would work with ASQA to ensure it is compliant. Instead of ASQA being reactive, make them proactive.