Public comment

Productivity Green Paper urges VET reforms

Despite a decade of reviewing the Vocational Education and Training (VET), the educational system still lags in its modernised learning modes, career pathways and relationships with industry.

This premise is highlighted by the NSW Productivity Commission in its Continuing the Productivity Conversation Green Paper. Among other draft policy recommendations, the Commission is calling for reforms to the State’s VET system in a post-COVID economy.

The paper says that chronic skills shortages show that the VET system is unresponsive to industry and unattractive to students.

“Chronic skills shortages in trades are the result of unsuitable and limited training pathways beyond apprenticeships. Low wages and a lengthy, inflexible training structure deter potential trades workers,” says the paper.

“Bias against VET is still strong, with universities seen as the default pathway, especially for HSC graduates.”

COVID-19 has accelerated structural changes to the economy and depleted the job market. Addressing the huge skills challenge that the pandemic poses, the paper points to certification-style qualifications as a possible training route to reskill or upskill workers who have lost their jobs.

“There is growing interest in micro-credentials from industry, students and government,” says the paper.

“Micro-credentials are a highly targeted and efficient method of skills delivery and are well suited to life-long learning.”

It also highlights a misalignment between VET training and industry needs.

“Poorly targeted subsidies have encouraged many students to enrol in courses of low value to employers and students,” says the paper.

“The mismatch between skills delivered by VET and industry needs has further contributed to poor employment outcomes.”

The Productivity Commission lays out several key VET reforms that NSW can advance.

  • Respond to the COVID-19 skills challenge with an “earn or learn” strategy
  • Introduce new pathways to trade qualifications aimed at HSC graduates and mature-aged workers
  • Target Smart and Skilled subsidies more effectively by refining the NSW Skills List
  • Promote the development and recognition of micro-credentials.

The Green Paper follows up on the Commission’s first Discussion Paper – “Kickstarting the productivity conversation”, released in October 2019 – which did not reflect the impact of COVID-19 on the state’s economy and health.

The NSW Productivity Commission offers an opportunity to provide comments and feedback on specific draft recommendations of the Green Paper. The feedback will be reviewed by the Commission prior to finalising recommendations supporting a productivity reform agenda for consideration by the NSW Government.

You can download the Green Paper and provide your comments or feedback here by Friday, September 18, 2020.

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