VET Qualification Reform

In June 2023, Skills and Workforce Ministers established a Qualification Reform Design Group (The Design Group) with representatives from unions, employers, educators, and state and territory governments.  

The Design Group are to provide recommendations to the Australian Government on how to reform vocational education and training (VET) qualifications and have recently tabled their first report. 

This report notes that economical and societal changes are placing new demands on VET. Higher order knowledge and skills tend to be the leverage for success today to prepare students for jobs for the future. These skills are the foundation for lifelong learning, and assist all workers, as the use of digital tools and automation for routine tasks blur the boundaries between occupations and tasks. In light of this, some workers are also being left behind because their literacy, numeracy and digital skills are insufficient to fully engage. 

Historically, the focus has been on “one qualification – one job”, and this works for a segment of the sector, particularly those with well-defined occupations with specific competencies required. Trades qualifications supported by modern awards fall within this category. Over time, this philosophy, driven by national policy to connect qualifications with occupations and jobs, has been the go-to to meet skill needs. This has resulted in a system that contains 1,200 qualifications and 15,000 units of competency. However, a significant portion of these are either under-utilised or unused. 

Compliance associated with assessment and delivery has also resulted in over-prescription which has compromised engagement of students. In some cases, this has led to reduced focus on employability skills such as critical thinking and problem solving.  

Training providers are also experiencing increasing costs associated with rapid transitioning of qualifications to maintain currency. 

So, with all of this being identified by The Design Group, what is the way forward?  

The Design Group acknowledges the relationship between knowledge, skills and application vary across occupations and industries. While some occupations would benefit from a broader application, others require more specification. They recognise this dichotomy, and have proposed that qualification developers need to initially determine the purpose of the qualification within three parameters.  

The first looks at qualifications that are designed to meet regulatory or licensing needs, anticipating that these qualifications will remain highly specified.  

The second is about preparing learners for multiple roles within an industry and this will require consolidating entry level qualifications with overlap.  

The last are those qualifications that are economy wide and move beyond specific occupations, with these requiring evolution beyond the competency-based model with the focus on learning outcomes. 

To support this way forward, Jobs and Skills Councils (JSC) will be tasked with mapping their training products to one of these three parameters.  

Demonstration projects that draw on industry and educator expertise will commence as first movers on reform. Meanwhile, The Design Group will complement the work undertaken by JSCs by exploring complex issues associated with qualification reform such as assessment, industrial relations, funding and foundation skills. 

As part of their ongoing advice, The Design Group will include an implementation plan for a proposed new system from 2025.  

We look forward to further information and developments in this space from The Design Group, ensuring that the training sector remains of relevance for all participants.