Vocational Education and Training (VET) plays an important role in providing disadvantaged learners with educational opportunities and the skills they need to gain and sustain meaningful employment and to participate more fully in society.
Victorians who are already likely to face disadvantage – including vulnerable young people, Aboriginal people, people with disabilities, single parents, older people, people with low levels of education, people from culturally and linguistically diverse communities, and people from rural, regional, urban fringe or low socioeconomic communities – may face multiple and complex barriers to employment. In May 2015 VCOSS’ submission to the VET Funding Review made recommendations to improve the quality of and access to vocational education and training for vulnerable and disadvantaged members of the community, as a pathway to meaningful employment.
In July the VET Funding Review Secretariat released an Issues Paper outlining the interim findings of the review and identified a range of questions and issues for further consultation. VCOSS is pleased to see the Issues Paper reflect:
- A strong focus on the important role of VET “in providing training and access to further education by vulnerable, disadvantaged and high needs groups” within Victoria.
- The importance of engaging early school leavers in education and training options, and the key role of VET.
- An acknowledgement that students need to be better protected and supported to make informed training decisions that best meet their needs.
- A strong focus on ensuring funding is “targeted towards education and training that is high quality, meets Government objectives, and is delivered by capable providers”.
- An acknowledgement that in order for VET to “meet the skills needs of industry…there is scope for the funding system to better reflect priorities, and for greater cooperation and information sharing between employers, training providers, government and students”. An approach that engages all of these key stakeholders more effectively will help ensure VET makes a contribution to meeting industry needs, including the community and health services sector, one of the fastest growing sectors in Australia.
- Recognition of the importance of a sustainable TAFE sector, and the need for additional funding that “acknowledges their contribution and costs”.
The VCOSS response to the VET Funding Review Issues Paper addresses the questions of most concern to VCOSS members and outlines opportunities for the VET sector to better meet and protect the needs of Victoria’s vulnerable learners. Some of the key issues highlighted include:
- Recognising the role of both the public and not-for-profit vocational education and training services in providing vulnerable learners with educational opportunities, and supporting high needs students.
- Adequately funding the community obligation activities of training providers to support students’ wellbeing as well as their education and employment outcomes.
- Supporting and protecting students through a range of measures, including providing vulnerable students with access to high quality, independent advice about training and career choices.
- Recognising the community and health services sector as an important and growing employer, and ensuring the VET system supports a highly qualified and well-supported workforce.
- Ensuring the VET system is aligned to labour market priorities and skills shortage areas, but while doing so, adequately reflectregional labour market needs as well as entry level or re-entry workforce opportunities, particularly at the local level.
The VET system is an important element of Victoria’s education and training system. The recent VCOSS Submission to the Education State makes recommendations to build a strong and inclusive education and training system from early childhood, through to school and on to further education and training.
 VET Funding Review Issues Paper, 2015. p.2.
 VET Funding Review Issues Paper, 2015.