Australia will have a national vocational education and training (VET) workforce strategy developed over the next 12 months. What will it cover? And will it improve quality? This article is the first of a series that will explore potential elements of a workforce strategy for the Australian VET sector, including:
- Registration of VET trainers and assessors
- Initial or entry-level qualification for VET practitioners
- Further qualifications to support career pathways and specialisations.
In this article I will outline the background to why we are talking about a national VET workforce strategy.
What is driving the development of a national VET workforce strategy?
Every so often over the past decade or more, someone or a lobby group suggested that Australia needs a national workforce strategy for the VET sector. Stephen Joyce, an ex-politician from New Zealand, conducted a review of the entire Australian VET system. He gathered a variety of ideas – some good, some bad, and some truly ugly. The review had a short three-month duration and it resulted in a report titled, ‘Strengthening Skills: Expert Review of Australia’s Vocational Education and Training System‘; also known as the Joyce Report. 
Recommendations from the Joyce Report have been endorsed by the Australian Government and form the basis for the VET Reform Roadmap. One reform is for the development of a VET Workforce Strategy to be implemented during 2021 and 2022. 
The National Centre for Vocational Education Research (NCVER) is owned by the Commonwealth, state and territory ministers responsible for VET. It has been conducting research in preparation for the VET workforce strategy. Two recent NCVER publications have been:
- Understanding the Australian vocational education and training workforce 
- Building capability and quality in VET teaching: opportunities and challenges 
Before talking more about the workforce strategy, I want to acknowledge that the VET Reform Roadmap will pursue many initiatives. The entire VET system will be changed. The following illustrates the various layers being tackled by the VET Reforms.
The VET workforce strategy is focus on building the capability and quality of VET trainers and assessors. There is an implication that the current VET trainers and assessors are not good enough. And ASQA has implied that VET trainers and assessors haven’t been good enough for many years. This year’s ASQA Regulatory Strategy has identified ‘trainer and assessor capability’ as it’s number one strategic initiative. 
How will the VET Workforce Strategy build capability and quality of trainers and assessors?
The VET workforce strategy aims to build the capability and quality of trainers and assessors.
The NCVER’s Building capability and quality in VET teaching: opportunities and challenges research report explores a range of workforce strategies to improve the quality of training and assessment services. I have categorised these in the five areas:
- Mandatory registration
- Recruitment, selection and induction
- Initial qualification (TAE40116 Certificate IV in Training and Assessment)
- Further qualifications to support career progression and specialisation
- Continuous professional development.
This article is brief and sets the scene for some future articles.
In the next article, I will do my best to convince you that mandatory registration of VET trainers and assessors is a really bad idea.
In the meantime, you may like to do your own reading and investigating about the VET workforce strategy. I have listed source documents as references below.
 https://www.pmc.gov.au/sites/default/files/publications/strengthening-skills-independent-review-australia-vets_1.pdf accessed 17 October 2020
 https://www.employment.gov.au/vet-reform-roadmap accessed 17 October 2020
 https://www.ncver.edu.au/research-and-statistics/publications/all-publications/understanding-the-australian-vocational-education-and-training-workforce accessed 17 October 2020
 https://www.ncver.edu.au/research-and-statistics/publications/all-publications/building-capability-and-quality-in-vet-teaching-opportunities-and-challenges accessed 15 September (it has been removed from the NCVER website, to be reviewed and re-released at a later date)
 https://www.asqa.gov.au/resources/publications/asqa-regulatory-strategy-2020-22 accessed 17 October 2020