VET is underperforming, complicated, and suffering from ad hoc policy, PC report says

VET is underperforming, complicated, and suffering from ad hoc policy, PC report says

by Freya Lucas

June 26, 2020

Australia’s Vocational, Education and Training (VET) sector is “underperforming, excessively complicated and suffers from ad hoc policy approaches” an interim report released earlier this month by the Productivity Commission has found.


Commissioner Jonathan Coppel spoke about the impact of COVID-19 on the VET sector, saying that while the conditions of the pandemic had hit the sector hard, the VET sector will also be part of Australia’s economic recovery. 


“A better VET sector will help people gain new skills and find jobs, ultimately lifting productivity and wages,” Mr Coppel said.


A revised Commonwealth-State agreement and coherent policy direction would ideally be at the heart of “a fundamental re-orientation” of the VET system, the report said, with Mr Coppel noting the “substantial scope”  to reduce waste and better target the $6.1 billion in government spending in the sector. 


“We hope the report will provoke a broad discussion of big reform,” he said.


While the challenges of COVID-19 have meant the VET sector has found new ways to deliver training online, an improved VET sector moving forward would be one which is “equally open to testing new ways to support people acquiring skills” Mr Coppel added.


Flexibility and choice, Commissioner Malcolm Roberts added, should be core drivers moving forward. 


“It is time to think about shifting the focus from funnelling subsidies to training providers to giving students more help to choose the training they need. We now have dozens of different subsidy rates, even for the same courses,” Commissioner Malcolm Roberts said.


The report also outlines a range of options for improving affordability by expanding access to student loans for a broader range of training, with safeguards to prevent the ‘rorting’ that occurred under the VET FEE-HELP program.


Unlike other tertiary learning, the VET system is co-managed by Commonwealth and State/Territory Governments, and as such major changes require cooperation.


The interim report can be found here, with submission or comments able to be made through the website ahead of the final report, which is anticipated to be released November 2020.