What’s one thing that is wrong with the Australian VET system?

You may ask, “is there only one thing wrong with the Australian VET system?” And you are probably right to say that there is more than one thing that is wrong with it. But I have come to the conclusion that Prime Ministers and government ministers with the responsibility for the Australian VET system do not have, or have limited, understanding of the VET system. And this is, and has been, a major cause of the deterioration in the effectiveness and quality of Australia’s VET system.

The rise and fall of the Australian VET system

The current VET system was introduced in 1993. It was 30 years ago that we established a national VET system that recognised the importance of industry engagement, and industry leadership. Also, the VET system changed from curriculum-based to competency-based. In the background, or foreground, has always been the desire to deliver relevant and quality training. Australia was proud to have a VET system that was world-class, if not world-leading.

The following is my representation of the incline and decline of the Australian VET system. Many people who been around the VET system for awhile would have experienced a continued improvement of the VET system between 1993 and 2008. And they have probably thought that the VET system has deteriorated over the past decade, or so.

Kevin Rudd won the federals election in 2007 (Kevin 07). Then we had the Global Financial Crisis(GFC) that required Australia to make significant economic decisions. These decisions included substantive reforms to the Australian VET system. This was a turning point for VET in Australia because it started a continuous, and relentless series of changes. Since 2008, many changes have been introduced prior to previous changes being fully implemented. The VET system has become unstable, and teeters on the edge of chaos. In the name of ‘simplification’, the Australian VET system becomes more complex. The current reforms again promises ‘simplification’ but will deliver greater complexity.

Current reforms to the Australian VET system

Everything in the Australian VET system is being changed.

I think that the biggest problem with Australia’s VET system is that we do not have one creator or one architect. We have consultations, sometimes sham consultations, to determine what changes are needed. Ignorant, misinformed, and conflicted people are given the opportunity to contribute their ideas. Good and bad ideas are embraced by government. Some of the bad ideas are theoretical, unproven or based on ideology. Sometimes research is conducted so that the government can say that they are making decision based on evidence. But some research is limited or biased. Very few people have the time, intellect, or interest in combating government decisions or proposed changes.

The architect of the current reforms, or changes, to the VET system was Steven Joyce, an ex-politician from New Zealand. He did an extremely short-duration review of the entire Australian VET system. The ‘Joyce Review’ provided Scott Morrison with a blueprint for his government to take to the 2019 federal election. The Scott Morrison government won the federal elections in May 2018, and commenced implementing the recommendations from the ‘Joyce Review’.

VET system and political interference

The VET system is influenced by political interference. It is subjected to interference by politicians. Australian Government invest billions of dollars each year into the VET system, and as taxpayers we hope that our politician make good decisions and spend our money wisely. Sometimes, it seems that politicians spend money to appease their backers or to buy votes, rather than make positive changes that would make the VET system more efficient and effective.

The Prime Minister and the ministers responsible for VET, past and present, reply on their advisers and their bureaucrats for ideas. And these ideas are influent by VET experts and academics, lobby groups and associations. We end up with an incoherent patch-work of ill-conceived ideas. This is what the ‘Joyce Review’ provided and this is what has been implemented for the past four years. The impact of these changes will begin to be felt during 2023 and into 2024.

The future of Australia’s VET system

The current Anthony Albanese government did not stop, or pause, the reforms started by the previous government. It seems that the Prime Minister and Brendon O’Connor, the federal minister with responsibility for VET, agree with the massive changes started by their predecessors from the other side of politics. These changes may significantly damage, if not destroy, the Australian VET system. If destroyed, the VET system would need to be re-created again in about 5 years (two election cycles). This will cost billions and billions of tax-payer dollars.

I predict that people will continue to complain about poor quality training after the current changes have been fully implemented, and ‘skills shortages’ will prevail.

My conclusion

I come to the conclusion that our politicians is one thing that is wrong with the Australian VET system. They seem to think short term. They seem to lack understanding of the VET system and its history. They seem to lack systemic thinking. They seem to rely on advice or ideas from ignorant, naïve, self-interested or conflicted advisers, bureaucrats, lobbyists, VET experts and academics. I am not saying that our politicians are bad people. I am saying that the decisions they make can be bad.

It is a shame that the current changes to the VET system were not stopped when the Anthony Albanese government was elected. But they probably didn’t have a VET policy apart from ‘Free TAFE’. The current government probably didn’t, or doesn’t, understand the current changes to the VET system, or they agree with the changes.

It is probably too late. The implementation of changes to the Australia’s VET system were started by the previous government and the current government will complete the implementation before the next federal election. Both sides of politics can take the blame if the system is ruined.

Please tell me what you think.

Author: Alan Maguire

35+ years experience as a trainer, instructional designer, quality manager, project manager, program manager, RTO auditor, RTO manager and VET adviser.

5 thoughts on “What’s one thing that is wrong with the Australian VET system?”

  1. Agree with you 💯. I have also been in VET since last century. I smiled at your comments, because they are in line with my own thoughts. It is too sad. The industry groups who review and update the Training Packages are the second reason VET is in the current state. The consultation process is a joke.


  2. The VET system in Australia developed over time and was brilliant. Then the downturn saw many disillusioned and they left RTO land. So sad… Your graphic illustrates the truth…and reflects how I feel as well.


  3. Totally agree with your comments and opinion Alan. Your conclusion of “conclusion that our politicians is one thing that is wrong with the Australian VET system” couldn’t be further from the truth. Great summary and representation of what has happened to our once great VET system. Shame on those that have led us to where we are.


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