What started as a bipartisan Commonwealth strategy to privatise vocational education and training (VET) by enhancing skills through a dynamic competitive market, has ended with allegations of corruption and malfeasance. Worse than that, it has resulted in the deskilling of Australia and $3 billion in dubious VET loans, part of an estimated $13 billion blowout in all unrecoverable student loans to 2017.
Shadow minister Sharon Bird said a Shorten Labor government would ask COAG to drive a new agreement with the states to restore TAFE as a "dominant public provider" to set standards, quality and price with a statutory obligation to provide regional training, access for disabled, disadvantaged and Indigenous communities and to be resourced accordingly.
Minister Ryan says Labor's fix will take two more years. His redesign of VET FEE-HELP will contain costs and restore compliance from its announcement next year. "The Coalition has already introduced more than a dozen reforms targeted at the conduct of providers and brokers and protecting students and taxpayers", he says.
However, it is significant that neither major party will abandon its commitment to the contestable VET market. Why not? With the now exposed loss of financial control, waste and lower skills outcomes $3 billion could buy a lot of certified competent vocational training from providers – public or private.
Vocational education and training is unlikely to be a hot federal election issue, unlike climate change, fair tax reform and marriage equality.
But crucially for its rescue from shonks and ideologues and Australia's 21st century skills capacity … it sure needs to be.
Read the full story in the Sydney Morning Herald
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