Powering up Queensland’s skills base

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powering up queensland's skills base

The Chamber of Commerce and Industry Queensland has added its voice to calls for reform of the VET system.

It seems we are hearing more voices more often proposing substantial change to the national VET system. They are becoming more insistent at a national level and in states and territories.

Our last newsletter delved into a new report from the Committee for Economic Development of Australia that seeks a national VET review, noting we haven’t had one of those since 1974. A few weeks before that the newsletter surveyed a Mitchell Institute paper that suggested we can no longer persist with different funding models for VET and higher education. Now we can add Queensland voice the Chamber of Commerce and Industry Queensland (CCIQ), Transitioning Queensland’s workforce: Developing the skills needed to power our future economy (40 pages).

The report isn’t solely concerned with VET by any means. It considers the school and higher education sectors too. CCIQ puts out an alert to all educators that there’s a need to reorient learning across the education system to ensure that 21st century skills are embedded in the curriculum. The report acknowledges that this isn’t a simple matter. It’s a step change:

As more and more countries around the world move towards a knowledge economy, ‘21st century skills’ will be required by individuals in order to succeed in this current business environment beyond just literacy, numeracy and digital literacy skills.
Such skills include collaboration, creativity, problem-solving, persistence, curiosity and initiative – skills which are difficult to embed in curriculum.

Pressing for sweeping reform of the VET system

The report makes a case for revising objectives and some renewing teaching and learning practices across the education system. CCQI goes further with VET, recommending what it calls ‘sweeping reforms to the VET system’, including that:

VET funding and policy development should be the responsibility of the Federal Government rather than the current inefficient approach of shared responsibility with the States.

That recommendation is a reflection of the views of businesses surveyed as part of the research project that led to the report. When asked who they saw as responsible for addressing skills shortages and increasing skill levels, the Commonwealth government was selected most often from a pick list that also included state government, education and training providers, employers and industry associations.

In addition to that fundamental change in VET policy and funding arrangements, CCIQ also proposes a suite of changes to apprenticeships and traineeships. The report suggests that:

… greater efforts are required so businesses can continue to embrace apprenticeships and traineeships. Without such reform, the decline and irregularity in the number of those entering apprenticeships and traineeships will continue to occur. This would provide significant concern for some industries, particularly those where doing an apprenticeship is the only way workers can become licensed.

Employment outlook for Queensland’s education and training sector

CCIQ’s report also looks at average yearly employment growth by industry from 2015 to 2020, which provides an upbeat point on which to finish. Over this period for Australia as whole, employment growth in education training is expected to run third of 19 industry sectors. Health care and social assistance comes in at number 1. Professional, scientific and technical services registers at number 2.

Third is pretty healthy, but in Queensland the forecast is rudely healthy. By a good margin, education and training is the strongest sector for employment growth in Queensland. The report comments that:

The strong growth in the ‘Education and Training’ industry will be led mainly by population growth and the need for more school teachers, but an increase in international education and higher skill needs of the economy will also contribute to the 3% plus growth rate. It is also expected that the VET sector will continue to grow and provide more employment opportunities for both TAFE and private providers.

Powering up Queensland’s skills base | VDC