For those of you who are regular readers of this blog, you will know that for the most part I have been a supporter of the Queensland Governments VET investment plan both under the previous and current governments. I also think it is necessary for me to indicate at this point that the organisation that I work for is a PQS under both VET investment and User Choice before I go any further however. So with the end of the 2015-16 financial year approaching, yes it is almost the end of February folks, this means that the current plan is set for review. I therefore thought that it might be a worthwhile time to have a look at the program and what possible changes might be useful and not useful in the next version of the plan.
My first thought is a simple one. The PQS system, where providers are required to meet and adhere to additional guidelines and regulations in order to be able to access funding under VET investment is a great one. Access to entitlement style funding, should have additional requirements attached to it, over and above simply being an ASQA registered provider.
My second thought is also a simple one. Please don’t break something that is working. I would appeal to the government not to follow the route of South Australia in thinking that portioning off a large amount of the available funding and earmarking it as TAFE only funding is a good idea. We need to support TAFE and we need to have a vibrant and effective public provider, but cordoning off large portions of a funding program and making it TAFE exclusive is not the way to go. Neither is I think putting in place quota systems, unless we are very very sure of the numbers of people we are going to need in particular areas over the coming years. The system that we currently have is not broken, it is working and with a few modifications could be even more effective. Throwing it out and trying to start over, or trying to massively overhaul the program is I think a recipe for disaster.
I guess what I am saying, is something that I have said before, I think Queensland has got there funding initiative pretty right, particularly if we look at the whole picture.
- Skilling Queenslanders for Work – While only just starting up will really help to assist that segment of learners that are extremely disadvantaged, through programs supported by community services organisations.
- User Choice – Apprenticeships and Traineeships are important, in fact vital to business and industry and need to be continued to be funded
- Certificate III Guarantee – This is a fantastic program which needs to be continued both for public and private providers, as with the SQFW program, this program really assists to get jobs and to change their circumstances. Prioritised funding for those courses where there is high need and good employment outcomes continues to be the way to go and currently for the most part I think the government has the mix right. The only tweak that could be made would be where a person has an extremely old qualification in a different field of education and wants to move into a new vocational area. Being able to support this move for people who are not currently employed would make the program stronger.
- Higher Skills – I am a fan of this program, the ability for people who are currently working and who only possess entry level qualifications to receive a subsidy to gain a higher level qualification or skill set is fantastic and has at least in our sector (community services) enabled significant numbers of people to improve their employment outcomes.
- Funding for TAFE – TAFE needs to be funded, even if that funding is simply support to maintain their infrastructure and resources. But keep it separate from the other funding and subsidy programs however, provide them with what they need to be strong and competitive, but also keep choice in the system. Choice is actually vital to producing a vibrant public system.
On a side note with regards to the Certificate III and Higher Skills programs, having a mandatory student contribution is vital, however I would caution against setting what that contribution should be.
Therefore please @ and the Queensland Department of Education, lets keep what we have and keep it working. Lets not go the way of some of the other states and throw the baby out with the bathwater.
Anyway that’s just my opinion.