Advancing Australia’s VET Sector. Curated industry news #1 2021

We hope you had a restful and restorative break! It seems as if we are all going to need as much fortitude as possible to make a positive start moving forwards with this new year…

From recent media coverage and comment, it looks like 2021 could be the year Australia’s international student crisis really bites with major economic implications according to a feature in The Mandarin published in January.

“2021 is shaping up as very difficult for universities, as well as the more than 130,000 people whose jobs rely on the international education sector. In October 2019 almost 51,000 new and returning international students arrived in Australia. In October 2020, this figure had fallen by 99.7% — to just 130. The Mitchell Institute has previously estimated about 36% of annual international student spending is on property and another 36% is on hospitality and retail. The large drop in international students inside Australia means the many businesses and property owners that rely on international students will continue to suffer.”

Echoing this sentiment, another feature in The Guardian published in January outlines the warning from the university sector that “the continued exclusion of international students from Australia will have a detrimental effect on the quality of the country’s workforce and diminish its standing in the region.”

“The warning from Universities Australia comes after the Victorian premier, Daniel Andrews, made it clear his state wouldn’t be able to help facilitate the arrival into Australia of almost 165,000 international students stuck overseas.

As the start of the 2021 academic year approaches, many overseas students are now giving up on the prospect of continuing their studies here, and the pathway that provides to permanently migrate to Australia.”

This situation was further underlined by a report by Study International that found many international students are now swapping planned studies in Australia for Canada and the UK.

The international education sector is crying out for answers for the year ahead and clamouring for national cabinet to set a date for foreign student arrivals. We’ve included a Feature Article from The Australian below in this newsletter outlining more details on this topic.

Focusing on vocational education and training, the Productivity Commission’s Study Report ‘National Agreement for Skills and Workforce Development Review’ (Skills Workforce Agreement) was sent to Government on 15 December 2020 and publicly released on 21 January 2021.

The report sets out the Commission’s Review of the National Agreement for Skills and Workforce Development (NASWD). Its key messages were that the NAWSD should be replaced with a new principles-based agreement, and there is manifest capacity for governments to get a better return from their investment in vocational education and training (VET).

The Australian Financial Review reported on a key recommendation of the Productivity Commission’s to forge “a new national agreement between the states and Canberra to revamp the Vocational Education and Training (VET) sector.

“State governments should give TAFEs autonomy over industrial relations to get better value for the $6.4 billion in taxpayers’ money that pours into the training sector, which remains so divided and unco-ordinated that one former managing director of NSW TAFE described conditions as “archaic”.

ITECA’s Victorian Chair confirmed this with a statement that “Education providers need to be supported… they need to be given confidence, clarity and harmonisation of conditions so they can meet future capabilities.”

Claire Field of Claire Field & Associates also responded in The Campus Mail that this was “a mammoth report with a raft of useful findings and sensible recommendations” however stated that she did not agree with them all.

A key concern for her has been the restructuring of TAFE institutes in some states in recent years which has impacted the effectiveness of their employer engagement activity, with the report finding that employer satisfaction is ‘significantly higher among those who use private RTOs’.

Claire emphatically states that “rebuilding employer satisfaction must be a key TAFE, and broader VET, priority” and we have more details on this topic available below.

Meanwhile the Prime Minister has put education, trades and a skilled workforce at the centre of Australia’s economic recovery, announcing major commitments to support a skills-based recovery, including $4bn to take on new apprentices and $1bn for the JobTrainer fund at his recent address to the National Press Club in Canberra earlier this month.

Let’s see what surprises this new year brings!

Judith Bowler
Educational Strategist & Founder, RTO Advance

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