To understand how industry and employers can better engage in the vocational education and training (VET) system, we recently consulted stakeholders about what they need and expect from the national training system, and how a future system should work.
Industry plays a critical role in specifying the skills needed today and into the future. Enhancing industry engagement is a key reform measure in the Commonwealth, State and Territory governments' Heads of Agreement for Skills Reform.
The Agreement seeks to reform the VET system to ensure it is delivering for learners and employers and can support Australia's immediate economic recovery and future prosperity.
Employer satisfaction in VET has fallen over the past decade from 86.3% in 2009 to 78.8% in 2019. Australia's VET system is internationally recognised. However, we need to ensure it continues to respond to the needs of the market, and Australia has a highly skilled workforce, now and into the future.
Known areas for improvements across the system include:
- strengthening industry engagement across the national training system
- increased responsiveness to employer needs and skills change
- boosting student outcomes through better qualifications.
Between November 2020 and April 2021, we consulted with stakeholders through surveys, online workshops and webinars, and meetings. Submissions were also invited in response to a discussion paper, Improving industry engagement and reforming qualifications in Vocational Education and Training. You can read the submissions (where respondents agreed to have their feedback published), on the Department of Education, Skills, Employment Industry Engagement Reforms web page.
Initial consultations on industry engagement sought views on:
- the role of industry in the VET system and how it could be improved
- improving collaboration across industry groups
- the effectiveness of the current arrangements and opportunities for improvement.
We sought views from industry (employers, unions, and employer peak bodies), representatives within the existing system (Australian Industry and Skills Committee (AISC) members, VET sector peak bodies, Industry Reference Committee (IRC) members, Skills Service Organisations), Skills Organisation Pilots, regulators, training providers, Registered Training Organisations (RTOs), trainers and assessors, and users (learners, parents/carers, schools).
What stakeholders said
Overall, there is widespread support to enhance industry's role in the VET system, with recognition that a shift in the role requires a new model. Industry recognises the benefits of collaboration. To strengthen this, all levels of industry, including small business, must be represented.
Findings have been summarised under five key areas of focus.
1. Broader role of industry
- There is strong support for a broader role for industry in the VET system beyond training package development.
- Industry should be involved in collecting data and evidence, strategic workplace planning and collaborating with training providers on delivery.
- Industry needs to be a driver for recognising workplace needs, growth areas and pathways for students and graduates.
- All parts of industry, including smaller industries and small and medium enterprises, need to be engaged in the VET system.
2. Improving collaboration across industry groups
- Stakeholders broadly support more cross-sector collaboration, with many identifying links between skills requirements and training packages for different industries.
- This would expand transferrable skill sets and career pathways for VET graduates and maximise the workforce available to employers.
- There are opportunities to streamline between industries and increase representation.
"The current system, which silos skills development within industries must change to reflect the work environment -- shifts in skills sets are occurring within roles, changing combinations of knowledge, abilities and characteristics..."
Australian Industry Group submission to Improving industry engagement and reforming qualifications in VET discussion paper
3. Improving representation
- Stakeholders emphasised the importance of broad, diverse, relevant and robust industry representation in the development and approval of training packages.
- Engagement should be made more accessible to smaller businesses, niche industries and stakeholders based outside of metropolitan areas.
- Industry should have a broader remit than training package development across the VET system, including strategic workforce planning. This would help to attract senior and high-quality industry leaders.
"The benefits of direct employer engagement are immense and include access to a direct end-user voice that speaks directly to the quality and applicability of skills acquired through the VET system."
Construction Skills Queensland submission to Improving industry engagement and reforming qualifications in VET discussion paper.
4. Training package development
- Training packages need to be more responsive to industry needs, in both speed to market and content.
- Industry should set the skills and competency to be addressed by training, and then work with the training sector to support curriculum design and delivery.
- An independent dispute resolution process would be useful.
5. Training package approval
- Training package approval could be streamlined and improved to ensure training products are fit-for-purpose.
- Some stakeholders have multiple opportunities to participate in development and approval and exert significant influence. There needs to be clear expectations for when stakeholders can most usefully be involved.
- On balance, stakeholders support an independent approval mechanism to assess training packages.
"The needs of industry are constantly evolving, and the pandemic heightened the need for responsive training product development and review."
Queensland Tourism Industry Council submission to Improving industry engagement and reforming qualifications in VET discussion paper
Continue to check for updates on next steps for Industry Engagement Reforms. You can also subscribe to our email updates for news and future opportunities to get involved in Skills Reform.