The annual wrap of new knowledge generated by the NCVER

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NCVER does peerless service for Australia in research programs and statistical work focussed on VET – the country’s largest tertiary education sector.

At the beginning of every year the NCVER recaps the learnings from the VET research it has supported in the previous 12 months. Right on cue, Research messages 2016 (59 pages) is now available.

This important glance over the shoulder gathers together the key themes that have emerged from the investigations of researchers who know VET well. There’s a one page summary of the main findings from each research project completed in 2016. This makes Research messages a terrific one stop shop to catch up on NCVER’s research activity, and it’s the perfect way to assist in narrowing down which reports you need to read.

Among the many matters that merit attention in the research summaries are student training entitlements, and the influence of VET on social inclusion and equity.

A nationally consistent approach to student entitlements

On student entitlements, there are several summaries that point to the need for a consistent national approach to training entitlements. That’s not an easy get when every state and territory has the power to design its own entitlement models. Nevertheless, it’s a get we need.

The summary of a paper written by Kaye Bowman and Suzy McKenna (page 43) bundles up a number of suggestions on this front, including:

National coherence should be enhanced wherever possible, in particular by better alignment across all jurisdictions, of student eligibility criteria and the logic underpinning the allocation of subsidies. This is necessary to avoid unreasonable differential treatment of students across Australia.

To make an informed choice, students and others paying for training must be able to compare training options. More needs to be done to help them to understand their entitlements, know how to judge quality and have a good idea of the outcomes they can expect from their training.

Keeping watch on VET’s social inclusion mission

Social inclusion has long been a distinctive VET mission, and several summaries in Research messages 2016 demonstrate VET is doing this job well. As always, there is room for improvement and research is good for pointing to areas needing a lift.

The summary of Bridget Wibrow and Michelle Circelli’s report, When one door closes: VET’s role in helping displaced workers find jobs, notes that computerisation will significantly influence the shape of the job market and the skills required. Indeed, they reflect on that influence expressing itself already in job declines in a range of industries, including manufacturing, information media and telecommunications, wholesale and retail trade. They make the important point that we need a systematic approach to, and greater emphasis on, assisting displaced workers ‘identify and understand their transferable skills in order to find alternative employment.’

Underlining the challenges in improving social inclusion and equity is Duncan McVicar’s and Domenico Tabasso’s research report, The impact of disadvantage on VET completion and employment gaps (see summary on page 31). They bring us the hard news that:

Learners from disadvantaged backgrounds who enrol in VET are less likely to complete by comparison with their non-disadvantaged peers. The completion gap is as much as ten percentage points for Indigenous students and those experiencing multiple disadvantage.

There’s a critical message for policy makers, VET professionals and realists generally. VET can be a player in the equity stakes, but it can’t play alone. The authors found a key indicator of whether you would complete a VET course is whether you had a job before you started study. As they note, ‘policies or measures aimed at closing the completion gap may not, in themselves, be effective in closing employment gaps.’

The annual wrap of new knowledge generated by the NCVER | VDC