The Senate Education and Employment References Committee today heard worrying evidence about the condition of Australia’s Vocational Education Training (VET) system.
Today’s evidence highlighted that the current arrangements for quality assurance and the regulation of the VET system are not up to the job.
Both the Pharmacy Guild of Australia and the Australian Education Union (AEU) stated that the Australian Skills Quality Authority (ASQA) is not strong enough to deal with the sector and is “demonstrably” not fit for purpose.
The AEU also said that providers received funding on the basis of hours of delivery, yet there is no commensurate requirement to deliver a minimum number of hours.
Further, the AEU spoke of subcontractors being engaged in the delivery of courses but noted that subcontractors do not come within the regulator’s line of sight and scrutiny.
Evidence from the Victorian Department of Education and Training showed that the information exchange between state and federal VET regulators remains poor. This has been highlighted by the recent ASQA Childcare audit and the fact that the Department has been unable to secure a meeting with the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission regarding its VET taskforce.
Other evidence before the committee included:
The Consumer Action Law Centre revealed that even after regulatory changes were made, it has continued to receive reports of the regulations being flouted by unscrupulous private providers. The centre has received nine cases since April 2015. It has called for the establishment of a new national industry ombudsman, who can assist with mediation in the domestic VET market.
Careers Australia stated that currently third party brokers who enrol students receive commissions of up to 20 per cent of the course fees. Students only need to comply with the Australian Council for Private Education and Training’s guidelines, and are not subject to regulation by any government body, such as ASQA.
The Pharmacy Guild of Australia has received reports of: individuals holding Certificate III qualifications who are currently working in pharmacies without sufficient knowledge of the medicines being handled; and training for a course that’s supposed to take 12 or 24 months being delivered over a single weekend.
The Abbott Government must find a way to weed out unscrupulous providers, manage the cost of the Higher Education Loan Program and ensure the current regulator is fit for purpose.
The Australian economy can only thrive when its workforce has access to great training and retraining sectors in order to deliver participation, productivity, innovation and growth into the future.
WEDNESDAY, 2 SEPTEMBER 2015