Forget about V.E.T. Courses – look to Higher Education instead
Slowly the stories emerge about college recruiters stalking disadvantaged people at Centrelink, offering $50 cash and a laptop if they sign on for a ‘free’ Vocational Education and Training (V.E.T.) course. What happened next is astounding. The government would pay the college in full for the course, commonly $18,000 or more. The agent earned as much as $3,000 for the signup.
Thousands of disadvantaged and indigenous people signed for courses last year, and the year before, and the year before that. The course cost was covered by V.E.T. Fee Help, a student loan that is repaid from a tax surcharge once the student earns greater than $54,000 a year.
Slick operators set up colleges specifically to rort Fee Help, and strangely the government let it happen. While running Julius Events College I attended V.E.T. Fee Help briefings in 2009 and 2010, and I remember the eyeballs of some college owners rolling and their tongues lolling in drooling anticipation.
Amazingly established colleges like mine would not be granted V.E.T. Fee Help unless we were profitable, however a new college would get it by default!
I’d had exposure to the funded training arena, and realized the difference between an ‘invested’ student paying their own money and someone off the street without commitment would degrade my courses.
I got out, and the shysters got moving. Some have accumulated huge profits since, and the scheme blew out to cost the government $1.4 billion this year, triple the estimate.
EVERY V.E.T. STUDENT IS EQUAL
Most new students don’t realize the Certificate III course or Diploma they undertake requires a 100% pass rate. V.E.T. courses are ‘competency based’, meaning each and every competency must be achieved.
Conversely a Higher Education (H.E.) course like a Bachelor Degree has components that only require a 51% exam mark to pass. Higher Education rewards excellence with distinctions and high distinctions in the award schema. V.E.T. courses contain no incentives for brilliance. A barely competent student has exactly the same award as a genius.
But these differences are minor when you look at the substance of both types of education. V.E.T. is a ‘one size fits all’ system where every Registered Training Organization (RTO) must meet the criteria contained within the relevant training package.
It means a student can be assessed on a complex competency any way the RTO likes and the regulator will only focus on the methodology of the reporting paperwork.
The more basic V.E.T. course is the Certificate III, targeted at trainees. Certificate IV is for working professionals, Diploma is for entry level management and Advanced Diploma for experienced management.
Confusingly H.E. often also offer Diploma courses, but taught and assessed to University criteria without competencies.
Each V.E.T. qualification contains ‘Units of Competency’ (Units), typically designed to suit the level of the qualification. While there is a difference between most of the Units in a Certificate III compared to an Advanced Diploma, the only difference between Certificate IV and Diploma is the number of Units required.
An example is the Certificate III unit called CUALGT302 – Repair and maintain lighting equipment. One would hope this unit teaches a student to fix things. If you can train and assess this in the allocated 25 hours (Victorian Education Dept Guideline), good luck.
NO INDUSTRY TESTING
The RTOs are required to collaborate with industry, but they chose soft targets. The live production industry doesn’t understand the V.E.T. system, or the courses, so any ‘collaboration’ is usually limited to a chat over tea and biscuits, or a student tour of a venue. The RTO collects a letter from the venue or production company.
Everyone feels good, and the RTO has ticked one of the thousands of boxes on the forests of paperwork that infect the V.E.T. system.
The V.E.T. regulators don’t know or care about course content. You could have complete nonsense in your course guides and teach gibberish and so long as the Units are assessed and the results recorded in the proper format, you are compliant.
When a Training Package is devised for an industry, a Skills Council is charged with the responsibility of bringing all the stakeholders together. Having sat on a committee for the CUA Live Performance and Entertainment Training Package in 2010 and 2011, I can assure you the diversity of the stakeholders is breathtaking. But not the way you’d hope – there were three of us ‘from’ the industry. I don’t think I am very representative of venues and production firms, but I was the only person in the room full of people with a vague idea about coal face issues. My two colleagues were also removed from the daily grind of live production.
Actual industry representation? The Skills Council will huff and puff about how well they canvassed the industry but the reality was that meetings they convened around the country were mostly attended by educator stakeholders.
A V.E.T. novice would assume that a training package is a ready to roll set of courses but it isn’t, it is a framework under which an RTO must then design their course, tailoring it with elective units to become a marketable commodity.
Higher Education providers, operating at University level and standards, are much freer to design a course. This is not to say they do a better job, but generally a Bachelor Degree spans three years – long enough for a good student to become immersed in the trade or industry.
V.E.T. is broken, H.E. is the future and we need a new dialogue to get training right for the future.