Category Archives: VET policy

AQF – massive changes ahead

A re-structuring of the national qualifications framework is no small undertaking. However, that is the key recommendation of the Report that reviewed the current AQF. Peter Noonan’s panel concluded that a complete overhaul was necessary, because its ‘ten-level structure is not consistently expressed, too rigid and overly hierarchical, with artificial and arbitrary distinctions between levels.’ In simple language, it is old fashioned and no longer fit-for-purpose.

The twenty-one findings and recommendations are in this four-page extract from the Report. Click here.

These are some specific points of interest to registered training organisations.

Less bands
Reduce the number of levels in the AQF from ten to eight for knowledge and to six for skills and rename levels as ‘bands.’ 

New qualification types
Create new qualification types, such as a Higher Diploma that might be equivalent to a degree. Also, rename existing Certificates as per this table.

New short form credentials
Create shorter form credentials, particularly micro credentials, that are portable and acceptable for credit transfer.

Volume of learning
Retain volume of learning as a benchmark expressing the notional duration, for a new learner, of all teaching and learning activities required to achieve an AQF qualification type. Specify volume of learning in hours only.

The report recommends a two year+ timeframe for implementation and there is a roadmap for implementation in the report.

Full report here

VET sector to be ‘reformed’ again.

New-ish vision
Apparently the policy makers have had a vision and it involves VET. The recent meeting of COAG (Premiers of all states) agreed to a one-page high level statement that states ‘VET and higher education are equal and integral parts of a joined up and accessible post-secondary education system..’ The document abounds in conventional 20th Century wisdom and it is devoid of any of the inspirational rhetoric usually contained in a ‘vision’ statement. However, a COAG statement of any kind is like a starting gun. We can expect change in the sector.

COAG Vision for VET. Click here

The COAG Communique (9th August 2019) says ‘Skills ministers will work together through a new COAG Skills Council, in consultation with education ministers, to advise leaders on future reform priorities by the end of 2019 and provide a reform roadmap to COAG in early 2020.

Yep! Another high level body is to be created AND the sector is to be ‘reformed’ again.

Craig Robertson, CEO of TAFE Directors Australia, wrote a comment piece in The Australian about it. It comes from his professional perspective but does make a couple of points worth a ponder. Click here.

New VET Stakeholder Committee
This is a new advisory body (not the same body that is mentioned above – another one) that met together for the first time this month. Their mandate is to advise the Minister for Skills so that ‘stakeholder views are understood, considered and included during the implementation’ of reforms.

The full list of members can be found in the Minister’s media release. Click here

New approach for ASQA?
The departure of the Chief Commissioner heralds a possible change of direction for the regulator. The Deputy Commissioner, Saxon Rice, will act in the role of Interim Chief Commissioner. Legislative changes are also in the wind, so changes that directly impact RTOs can be expected in near future. 

Claire Field has also written an opinion piece for The Australian that comments on the opaque nature of current regulatory practice. Click here.

New VET research institute
The Mackenzie Research Institute is a new kid on the block, which has the goal of providing an evidence-based rationale for the reform of tertiary education in Australia. It is an independent body, although it has a strong TAFE focus, and intends to ‘actively produce policy-based research that challenges the existing tertiary framework in Australia’.  Watch this space. More information and initial research papers can be found on its website. Click here.

VET is being reviewed – again

It has been ‘All quiet on the Review Front’ for a few years but there is an election in the wind. So VET is being reviewed again. Steve Joyce has been appointed as the reviewer and he must provide his report in March. There is an opportunity to provide input via an online form on the website of Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet. There are four questions to guide a response. Murphy’s Law is in play. Theoretically submissions close at midnight tonight. However, maybe they’ll turn it off on Tuesday morning.

My response is below. Feel free to re-use/add to it/ignore it if you would like to contribute to the review. Announcement of the Review: click here

Submission to 2019 Vocational Education and Training Review –  by Marilyn Harvey

What is working well in the VET sector? 

1. Clients are happy
NCVER surveys students and employers about their satisfaction with VET training on a regular basis and year after year the results are very positive. The evidence:

  •  2018 survey shows 90.4% of learners who completed a VET subject were satisfied with the overall quality of the training, whether it was government-subsidised training and or training on a fee-for-service basis.
  •  2017 survey shows 82.2% of employers were satisfied that nationally recognised training provided employees with the skills they require for the job.

2. ASQA 
The Australian Skills Quality Authority now uses a risk based supervisory framework with an auditing model that makes sense to RTOs. Regulation is necessary. It’s a bit like medicine. Most RTOs acknowledge it keeps the sector healthy. The evidence:

  • ASQA’s 2017 survey drew a response from 2353 training providers and 77% of them rated ASQA’s overall performance as a regulator as excellent or good.

3. Resilience of the VET sector
There are approximately 4,500 training providers operating in the VET sector. All but a handful of them qualify as ‘small businesses’ by both the ATO’s definition (annual revenue under $2 million) and the ABS’s definition (fewer than 20 employees). This a reflection of the economy generally, as over nine in ten Australian businesses are small businesses.
They operate in a competitive environment where responsiveness to the market and flexibility in provision of services are not just desirable – they are core survival skills.

What are the key challenges in the VET sector? 

1. Continual propagation of negative image
The VET sector could be described as a ‘soft target’ in that it is relatively unprotected or vulnerable to attack from several sources, including political parties, the media and lobby groups with vested interests. It is not unusual to read that VET needs to be ‘fixed’ or ‘reformed’, ‘re-modelled’, ‘re-directed’ or ‘return’ to what it was somewhere in the past. Over-generalisations are the order of the day.
2. Criminal operators
Criminal operators gravitate to any industry where it is possible to access government monies. This includes the VET sector. They damage the VET brand and most training providers support ASQA’s focus on closing them down.

3. RTOs not regarded as stakeholders
Training providers are rarely consulted as part of any decision-making process that is integral to their reason for existence. In the past, I have seen several diagrams of all the stakeholders in the VET sector that did not even include training providers. It is odd. It is like saying that schools are not part of the secondary education sector.

TAFE Directors Australia (TDA) and Australian Council for Private Education and Training (ACPET) both work towards making sure the voice of the sector is heard in the corridors of power. There are many VET professional networks and associations. Were they invited to participate in this review? Is there even a list of these anywhere? Were training providers generally informed that this review was taking place and directed to the website if they wished to make a comment?

What changes would you make to the VET sector? 

1. Acknowledge that VET is now about more than getting people into jobs.
29.6% of students who enrolled in a VET subject last year did so to get employed (NCVER data). Excellent. This reason feeds into current political narratives very well.

However, 70.4% of VET students were not looking for a job. They wanted a new career, or extra skills or they were required to do it as upskilling for their work role or for other personal reasons. Adults are turning to VET in droves to ensure that they stay skill-relevant in today’s work landscape.
2. Acknowledge that training providers are part of VET
VET is the frontline when it comes to skilling Australia’s workforce. Training providers are a source of solid market intelligence as they are inside industries on a routine basis and have a grass roots perspective. Acknowledge that training providers are an integral part of the VET sector and have a vested interest in its’ ongoing wellbeing.
How can VET help Australians prepare for the future workforce?

This is the heart of the matter. VET must be a major part of the solution.

Whole industries are being transformed at lightspeed. The question is how does VET provide the upskilling required for people who already have degrees or years of experience?

At a futures-oriented conference recently, I was quite shocked by the number of speakers who issued pleas to the audience for skilled staff. No IT boffins needed, but did anyone know a product manager, a marketing strategist, a business analyst or a logistics specialist who had any experience, or even some understanding, of the digital business world? The link to my editorial is below.

There are systemic and practical issues that need to be addressed but there are no quick fixes for them. One example is the restricted nature of the training packages. Qualifications are important. However, they do not cater for the marketplace call for micro-skilling in specific areas.
Perhaps there is room for a series of Investigative papers to inform future decision-makers about realistic options in this space.

AQF under the microscope

The Australian Qualifications Framework (AQF) is the national policy for regulated qualifications in Australian education and training. The current version has been in place since 2011 and it is currently ‘undergoing a review’, which is policyspeak for ‘change coming: watch this space’.

Changes are highly likely to impact all registered training organisations because, by definition, an RTO only registers so that they can deliver AQF regulated qualifications.

A potted version of process
1. AQF Review Panel of six experts has been appointed by Australian Government
2. Contextual research report will provide background and recommend terms of reference
3. Discussion paper and public consultation during latter half of 2018
4. Final report to be provided to government by June 2019.

Steps 1 and 2 have been completed. The contextual research is an interesting read if you are into ‘big picture’. It contains an Australian environmental scan and a thumbnail overview of qualifications frameworks in 22 other countries. Overall, the Principal Findings are politely saying Australia used to be a world leader in this field, but we are not anymore. The researchers’ have included implications for the review terms of reference. A quick scan of these will give readers some grasp of possible issues addressed by a revamped AQF.


1. Review the structure and description of the AQF components (levels, qualifications and relevant explanations) including the extent to which:
a) the relationships between levels and qualifications are clear, appropriate and unambiguous;
b) the levels as currently defined are appropriate and fit for purpose;
c) the descriptors are expressed in simple language that supports ready interpretation; and
d) the knowledge, skills and capabilities reflect and support the full range of learning outcomes required for adaptation and successful participation in work and life.

2. Consider the issue of volume of learning including:
a) whether the volume of learning should cease to be expressed in the AQF in terms of calendar years and be replaced by a credit point system;
b) whether the disparities in volume of learning between qualifications at the same level can be supported by additional information such as prerequisite learning to dispel confusion; and
c) whether the volume of learning can be aligned with other measures of learning volume employed in VET sector specifications and requirements.

3. Review the positioning of vocational education and training (VET) and higher education (HE) qualifications in the AQF and consider:
a) whether more explicit differentiation of VET and HE qualifications would be beneficial in general and specifically at levels 5, 6 and 8;
b) whether the variety of qualification titles used at the same levels for VET and HE continue to be relevant and meaningful in both the national and international context;
c) means by which any implication of a status hierarchy from VET to HE qualifications can be mitigated through changes to the structure or language of the AQF; and
d) means by which greater consistency in regulation of compliance with the AQF can be achieved between HE and VET sectors.

4. Review the desirability and feasibility of developing a system for the quality assurance and incorporation within the AQF of sub-qualification credentials such as skill sets, enabling and foundation courses, and in-service and advanced training provided by industry or professions.

5. Consider whether the AQF policies (issuance policy, pathways policy, register policy, addition or removal policy, and principles and processes for alignment with international qualifications frameworks and relevant explanations)
(a) are appropriate and fit for purpose and
(b) should remain within the AQF itself or be rationalised with TEQSA/ASQA registration and accreditation guidelines.

6. Review ways in which the AQF could more effectively facilitate learning pathways and mobility within and between levels, sectors and qualifications.

7. Consider what changes may be required to AQF governance arrangements, to the AQF itself or to regulation that references the AQF to ensure consistency of its application and ongoing monitoring and review.

8. Given the findings from issues 1 to 7, recommend any necessary changes to the AQF and devise an implementation plan for achieving the changes.

Extract from: Contextual Research for the Australian Qualifications Framework Review, Final Report. 25 April 2018.

Australian Government review announcement: click here