South Australia’s Training and Skills Commission has showcased the value of the Adult and Community Education sector in that state in a recent report.
Here is what they found.
The role and benefits of ACE
As they suggest: “ACE is the fourth sector of education in Australia, comprised of community based, owned and managed not-for-profit organisations.” While what the VET sector does overlaps with and compliments the work of ACE providers, the Training and Skills Commission (TASC) sees ACE as:
“…on the frontline of reaching out to and developing people that are most vulnerable, and therefore has much to contribute. By first engaging the vulnerable or disenfranchised, building confidence, and developing the literacy, numeracy, digital skills and employability skills that are necessary to enjoy life and work in a modern economy, ACE offers a valuable platform to leverage engagement, participation and opportunity.”
In essence, ACE is seen as able to reach people who often find more ‘conventional’ approaches and places of education and training too confronting. ACE helps workers and the unemployed re-engage with learning and helps them on their pathway to retraining and reskilling. The sector also helps migrants to participate more fully in Australian society and to gain the skills that will enable them to gain productive work. In sum, TASC sees the sector’s mission as enabling greater participation and enhancing social inclusion.
They see its economic benefits too. TASC reports that research it commissioned found a 6:1 return on investment: being cost effective, having positive effects on employment and in communities and other social benefits – including improved wellbeing.
Providing and opening pathways within and beyond ACE is another key role for the sector that TASC’s work identified. These pathways may not be linear: they can be more like ‘crazy paving’. People move into and out of the sector, and their progress may not be as quick as some policy makers might hope. Those studying through ACE need to “find their feet and to gain the confidence and skills required to take the next step.” Engagement and gaining personal confidence in themselves and their ability to learn are key.
So, what will help?
TASC sees the immense value the ACE sector brings to South Australia. However, the paper points out that:
“ACE providers also report there is a severe lack of support to assist students in progressing to higher level study or employment. This is further complicated by inadequate collaboration between Government agencies and other support providers.”
The Commission also felt that the ACE sector’s profile needed raising. This includes better data about the sector and its impact – including longitudinal data, greater recognition of “of the economic, social, community and individual benefits of ACE”, coupled with a greater understanding and utilisation of ACE and taking a hard look at the funding arrangements.
In relation to funding TASC recommends the following be considered: first, multi-year funding. Second, enabling ACE providers to respond to community demand and need with greater flexibility. Third, being able to provide better post-delivery support, and finally improved opportunities for ACE workforce development and capability. Interestingly, the Victorian Department of Education and Training commissioned a project to develop an adult, community and further education workforce development plan. We hope to tell you about that after the report has been considered late this year by Victoria’s Adult, Community and Further Education Board and then hopefully released. So, stay tuned!