The first meeting of Skills Ministers from across the country endorsed several regulatory reforms to improve regulation of the sector, streamline delivery of new training packages and considered recommendations to address quality concerns relating to unduly short training.
Key Issues —
The Council of Australian Governments (COAG) Skills Council was established by COAG to develop and implement high-level policies that will assist Australian industry to be competitive and motivated to create jobs and investment.
At its first meeting in Melbourne on 20 September 2019, Skills Ministers agreed on key priorities to ensure Australian vocational education and training (VET) is a responsive, dynamic and trusted sector that delivers an excellent standard of education and training. It agreed on reform priorities and discussed short, medium and long term areas for action to inform the delivery of a shared reform roadmap to COAG in early 2020. The Council tasked skills officials with developing the draft roadmap for consideration at the next Council meeting in November 2019.
Members agreed three future priorities for VET system improvements:
Relevance – actions in this area will ensure that VET is relevant and responsive to the job market, employers, industry and learners.
Quality – actions in this area will support public confidence in the quality and value of VET for students throughout their lives and move it to parity with the higher education system.
Accessibility – actions in this area will ensure all prospective students and employers can access suitable information and training when and where it is required, and, include a specific focus on supporting access for disadvantaged Australians.
The COAG Skills Council agreed on the importance of placing learners, from every background, at the centre of VET reform. Members also agreed that industry taking greater responsibility for the skills and training of their workforce will be central to the achievement of the COAG vision for VET.
A key topic of discussion was that effective regulation is central to the quality of and confidence in the VET sector. The COAG Skills Council agreed agreed that the national regulator, the Australian Skills Quality Authority (ASQA) should improve its engagement with the VET sector and expand its educative role.
Both the Braithwaite Review of the National Vocational Education and Training Regulator Act 2011 and the Expert Review of VET emphasised it is critical to ensure that training providers are aware of, and are supported to understand, their compliance requirements, and that regulatory decisions are transparent. Members called for immediate work to be done to reform ASQA’s regulatory approach, improve confidence in the regulator and support continuous improvement in training provision across the VET sector.
Recognising the call of the Independent Tertiary Education Council (ITECA) and other stakeholders, the COAG Skills Council agreed agreed to take urgent action in streamlining training package development, update and implementation. This will make it faster, simpler and more responsive. This will be considered at its next meeting.
A related outcome was that consideration of recommendations to address quality concerns relating to unduly short training. There was agreement to change the Standards for Training Packages to allow for the development of minimum training durations in exceptional high-risk circumstances.
Of interest was that the COAG Skills Council agreed and welcomed progress on the expansion of the unique student identifier into higher education and the opportunities for students to engage with lifelong learning.
The ITECA Vocational Education and Training Reference Group will continue its engagement with the COAG Skills Council to ensure that independent providers in the VET sector play a lead role in reform of the sector.
ITECA’s ability to play a lead role in matters associated with this issue rests on the advice and guidance of individuals serving on the ITECA Vocational Education Reference Committee.
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