Welcome to this month of VET News. Lots of great articles. The item of significance in this month’s news is the closure of the NSSC. I do feel that we are experiencing the calm before the storm. The government has been very vocal about the over regulation of the sector. There has been much talk on LinkedIn and other forums about the impending closure of ASQA. I just can’t believe the government would be that stupid! Thanks for all the feedback in relation to last month’s VET News. I am sure we all gave the VET Reform Taskforce something to think about.
Anyway,, just before we get on with the news I just want to highlight my concern about the current trend of the VET Fee Help market. For those not aware, VET Fee Help is a funding program that allows students to effectively take out a loan with the Federal Government to help pay their tuition fees. VET Fee Help is not new and has now been operating since 2009. A student can only access VET Fee Help via an approved training provider (so, an RTO approved for VET Fee Help). At the moment the student can borrow as much as $96,000.00 over their lifetime. The important item to understand is that this loan is repaid through the tax system only when the student’s wages have risen above the current threshold which for 2014-15 will be $53,345.00 (they call this income contingent). There are no interest charges on these debts but the total amount owing is indexed with the CPI so effectively the total amount would grow each year by 1-3% depending on how the economy is going. A lesser known fact is that the student is hit with a whopping 20% loan fee when the loan is established. Currently the national HELP debt (HECS / VET Fee Help) is about $22 Billion and this is growing rapidly. The National Commission of Audit has made a few recommendations about the future administration of HELP debt, see that news article.
What is concerning me about the VET Fee Help program is the way it is getting abused by some providers and way over-heated. It reminds me of that 2006-2009 period when the CRICOS market did the same thing and then collapsed. There are some great providers out there, many are our clients. These are RTOs that offer 12 month / full time / face-to-face training and typically provide their students with a pathway into university or employment. Fantastic! On the other hand we have some providers out there with very poor training programs with minimal or no contact hours (distance or online) which are resulting in very low completion rates. Students are attracted by the big marketing and the opportunities these courses offer and are sold on the basis of train now and pay later. There are no specified restrictions on the amount a provider can charge for a VET Fee Help course (other than the lifetime limit of $96,000.00!). These courses typically cost $12,000.00 plus. From the student’s perspective, they see a big marketing campaign for training being delivered by a course approved by the federal government. Some providers are advertising “Free Training” “Enrol now and nothing to pay”. Some providers are incentivising students with an offer of a “Free Laptop”. Of course the laptop is not free and is factored into the overall tuition fee. I also see very little regulation of the relevant legislation (Higher Education Support Act 2003). It’s certainly not ASQAs responsibility and the federal Department of Education has no real enforcement function.
I predict this program is going to come unstuck. Mind you I said that 18 months ago and it seems to be still going strong. I am certainly giving advice to my clients who have come to rely on this revenue stream that they must diversify. Now that the bad end of town is getting onboard this program, I predict its days are numbered. It may not be ceased altogether but it will certainly have greater limitations imposed on it and it should certainly be regulated by someone! As always it is the student who loses out and ends up with a huge tax debt before they have even begun to earn a proper wage. The only way I see to cleaning this sector up before it goes completely off the rails is we must make a complaint if we see practices that are detrimental to students. We must take action against dodgy providers and bring their poor practices to the attention of ASQA or the Department of Education. In doing this you will help keep this program on-track and weed out the dodgy end of town.
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Compliance and Regulatory News
Protection of fees in advance. ASQA has provided clarification regarding SNR 11.3/22.3. It has confirmed that ACPET’s Australian Student Tuition Assurance Scheme (ASTAS) is not an approved Tuition Assurance Scheme under Option 2 of the Standards, but rather it is an alternative fee protection measure approved by the regulator. As such RTOs that are members of ACPET’s ASTAS are complying with Option 5 under SNR 11.3/22.3. Read the ASQA news article at the link below.
Industry and Skills Council Advisory Committee to be established
The VET Reform Taskforce has confirmed that the National Skills Standard Council (NSSC) has been dissolved and its ongoing functions will be delegated to the Industry and Skills Council Advisory Committee which is expected to be functioning by mid-2014. Read the VET Reform Taskforce news article at the link below.
Increase in TAC registration fees
Fees for registered training organisations with TAC will increase from 1 July 2014. The new schedule of fees will apply to applications received from 1 July 2014. Read more and access the new schedule of fees at the link below.
NCVER’s Data Support Bulletin
The link below will take you to the NCVER portal where you can download the latest Data Support Bulletin. The bulletin includes the following:
- Updated AVETMISS classifications and validation rules
- Fact sheet: Where, when and how do I report AVETMISS data?
- An AVETMISS tip about the outcome to be reported if a client has not yet completed a subject
- An announcement about CCOS opening on 5 May 2014.
National Commission of Audit Report released
The report from the National Commission of Audit has been released. It made the following recommendation applicable to the VET sector:
- Merging ASQA and TEQSA to create a single Commonwealth tertiary regulator, recognising that many tertiary institutions currently deal with both bodies. This should help to streamline regulation and reduce the duplicative reporting requirements of institutions, and administrative and governance costs.
- The interest rate relating to outstanding HELP loans should be increased to a level which reflects all the costs to the Commonwealth in making the loan. Currently HELP Loans do not incur an interest charge but are indexed to the CPI.
- The minimum HELP repayment threshold could be reduced to be equal to the minimum wage (currently $32,354 per year), with a low repayment rate of 2.5 per cent of income. The rate of repayment would then increase with income until it matched the current initial repayment rate of 4 per cent at an income of $51,309 per year.
- HELP loans held by the Commonwealth are not recommended to be securitised or sold off to the private sector. The Commission observed that it does not represent a good investment option for the private sector.
The full report of the National Commission of Audit can be downloaded at the link below.
Training Package News
Recent Training Package endorsements/updates
- UEE11 Electrotechnology – Release 1.4 – 17 April 2014
- PMC10 Manufactured Mineral Products – Release 1.1 – 29 April 2014
- TEA10 Training and Education – Release 3.3 – 1 May 2014
For details of release information go to http://training.gov.au/
Events, Resources & Funding News
Australian apprenticeship & traineeship update
Click on the link below to view the Training Package qualifications recently implemented in States and Territories. Information is current as at 29 April 2014.
Australian apprenticeship & traineeship career resources
There is a new page on the AAT Information Service site that now aggregates all the industry career information and quizzes. There is also a new quiz available for hairdressing. Check out the page at the link below.
Vocational Education and Training Outbound Mobility Program
The Vocational Education and Training Outbound Mobility Program (VET Outbound) provides support for VET students to undertake international short-term (less than six months) study experiences that relate to a student’s course or field of study. Eligible public and private RTOs may apply for funding to support the participation of outgoing Australian students to undertake mobility experiences in Asia, the Pacific, Europe, the Americas, the Caribbean and the Middle East. See the following link for more details.
Complimentary LLN training videos
The Workplace English Language and Literacy (WELL) program has released nine new complimentary language, literacy and numeracy (LLN) training and professional development videos, as part of ‘What Works for LLN’, produced and distributed by Ideas That Work. Access the resources at the link below.
2014 VET E-standards for Training
Following an annual e-standards review, the 2014 VET E-standards for Training have been released, following ratification by the E-standards Expert Group, which comprises representatives from all states and territories, the Department of Industry and other key cross-sectoral stakeholders. This annual review researches potential technologies, standards and specifications in order to recommend and support implementation of those applicable to the VET sector. Access the standards at the link below.
NCVER No Frills Conference 2014
Registrations are now open for this annual, national event. There are two keynote addresses discussing issues relevant to the VET sector, pre-conference workshops and over 50 conference presentations. This event will be co-hosted with Holmesglen on 9-11 July in Melbourne, Victoria. Find out more at the link below.
NCVER Portal – No Frills 2014
Skills Tasmania 2014 conference
The 2014 Skills Conference will be held on Monday, 2 and Tuesday, 3 June at Wrest Point Conference Centre, Hobart. The 2014 theme is Riding the wave – it’s all about… The theme is about consolidation after a period of significant reform and change. Find out more at the link below.
SkillsDMC 10th annual conference
The SkillsDMC 2014 Resources and Infrastructure Industry 10th Annual Conference will take place Brisbane on 11 September 2014. The theme for this year’s Conference of Quality Outcomes Through Skilling Partnerships highlights the critical characteristic of skilling the workforce where industry determines the skills requirements and suppliers deliver quality training outcomes to meet the needs of a zero-harm and productive work environment. Find out more at the link below.
SkillsDMC RII workshops
Since the transition of the RII Resources and Infrastructure Industry Training Package to the new Standards for Training Packages SkillsDMC has fielded a large number of enquiries about changes that were made and their impact on implementing the Training Package. In recognition of this need, an Implementation Workshop has been developed to provide stakeholders with information about the changes and guidance on how to implement them in training and assessment practice. Find out more at the link below.
IBSA TAE workshops
Half-day workshops begin in May 2014 to provide information about the proposed new TAE qualifications, units and assessment requirements and discuss the implications of the changes, in particular the process for transition. Find out more at the link below.
Recent VET publications
Environmental Scan 2014: Transport and Logistics Industry
Transport and Logistics Industry Skills Council (TLISC)
Following an extensive consultation process and the analysis of intelligence and data, TLISC has developed and released the E-Scan 2014. The Environmental Scan identifies the macro and micro factors affecting the skill needs of the workforce and its composition. It considers how well the national training system, its products and services, and industry itself are responding to those needs.
Environmental Scan 2014-15: CPSISC
Construction and Property Services Industry Skills Council Ltd (CPSISC)
In a Media Release on 7 April 2014, the CPSISC Chairman Mr Glenn Simpson stated that the ageing workforce represents a need for strategic planning to address skills and corporate knowledge losses as older workers opt for less physical roles and retirement. The E-Scan outlines a need to balance specialist skills migration with training and development opportunities for Australian practitioners to meet stakeholder human resource needs for the future, especially as the economy begins to recover from a long period of financial downturn.
Engineering apprentices: review of qualification completions in engineering trades apprenticeships
NCVER & ACIL Allen Consulting
ACIL Allen Consulting in partnership with the National Centre for Vocational Education Research (NCVER) was commissioned by the Australian Workforce and Productivity Agency (AWPA) to provide advice on completions of engineering trade apprenticeships in Australia. This report presents the profile of engineering apprenticeship commencements and completion rates, and discusses the factors contributing to the completion and non-completion of apprenticeships based on the literature and findings from the consultations.
Annual Skills Priority Report
Ministerial Industry Commission
The Ministerial Industry Commission was established by the Queensland government in November 2013 to provide advice on industry’s needs as a basis for directing government investment. This Annual Skills Priority Report is the first significant step in delivering on the Queensland Government’s commitment to a genuine partnership with industry. The report identifies the key trends across the Queensland economy and within industries affecting the labour market such as technology change, commodity prices and building approvals. It pinpoints the occupations that are growing and the skills required to fill them.
Manufacturing Workforce Study
Australian Workforce and Productivity Agency
Higher level graduates from the vocational education and training (VET) sector will be needed for a revitalised manufacturing sector according to the latest report from the Australian Workforce and Productivity Agency (AWPA). The AWPA says that while manufacturing employment is in long term decline, Australia has a solid future in advanced manufacturing and the report puts forward eight recommendations to build an adaptive, skilled and innovative manufacturing workforce that will be well placed to manage the transition to more advanced and diverse manufacturing.
Other News of Interest
Minister Pyne flags deregulation of the university sector
As reported in the Sydney Morning Herald on 28 April 2014, Education Minister Christopher Pyne, in a speech to a London think tank, said a new wave of deregulation was needed to stop Australia’s universities falling behind the rest of the world. The speech follows the release two weeks ago of the Kemp-Norton review, which recommended federal funding for private universities, TAFEs and other non-university higher education providers. Read more at the link below.
Australian Workforce and Productivity Agency (AWPA) abolished
On 9 April 2014, a statement was issued by the Chair of the Australian Workforce and Productivity Agency, Mr. Phillip Bullock confirming that the AWPA will be terminated and its functions transferred to the Department of Industry from 1 July 2014. The expectation is that the $700 million National Workforce Development Fund, which AWPA administers, will be cut or abolished in the upcoming budget. Read Mr Bullock’s statement at the link below.
House of Representatives Committee on TAFE
On Tuesday 15 April 2014 LH Martin Institute Senior Fellows John Maddock and Brendan Sheehan appeared before the current House of Representatives Committee on TAFE to discuss the role of TAFE. The Institute, they say, is agnostic as to the efficacy of a market orientation in VET provision: it doesn’t matter what institution is delivering a qualification – public or private, TAFE or university – so long as it represents value in terms of both cost and quality. They do argue however that TAFE is essential to a diverse and polychromatic VET system. Read more at the link below.
TEQSA Advisory Council named
Education Minister, Christopher Pyne has appointed members of the newly established Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency (TEQSA) Advisory Council. The Council will be headed by Professor Peter Shergold AC, Chancellor of the University of Western Sydney, Chair of NCVER, and former Secretary of the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet. The Minister said the Council will advise TEQSA and the Minister on all aspects of ‘minimising regulatory intervention relating to Australian higher education, consistent with ensuring accountability for quality’. Read more at the link below.
TAFE mergers underway in Victoria
Two of Gippsland’s major higher education and training providers, Advance TAFE and GippsTAFE, will merge under a new entity called Federation Training. The two institutes, which cover 14 campuses across the Gippsland region, will merge from 1 May 2014. In a second stage, it is proposed that in 2016 Federation Training will integrate with FedUni (formerly University of Ballarat), which operates the former Monash University campus at Churchill. FedUni will then have responsibility for providing post-secondary training across Gippsland. Read more at the link below.