The 2021-22 federal budget saw the Commonwealth government announcing new industry engagement arrangements to strengthen the role of industry in the Vocational Education and Training (VET) system.
Ahead of possible broader reforms, and as part of this, a series of Skills Organisation (SO) Pilots were created covering the areas of mining, digital and human services. An evaluation of these pilots, the first of two project reports, has recently been released: Skills Organisation Pilots Evaluation Project 1 – Implementation Review Report.
This first phase of the SO pilot review was undertaken for the Department of Education, Skills and Employment (DESE) by a consortium comprising Urbis Pty Ltd and ARTD Ltd and provides an assessment of the establishment phase of these pilots. Its aims were to, amongst other things, look at the early impact of the SO Pilots’ engagement with industry and the opportunities to improve the speed and effectiveness of establishing new SO Pilots, or similar organisations, in the future.
A second project “will explore early outcomes, including in relation to the program-level impact of the SO Pilot model and achievement of policy objectives.”
The SO concept was developed through a co-design process, and the discussion paper that underpinned the process can be found here.
What are Skills Organisations supposed to be doing?
The scope of work for the SOs is seen as “flexible to suit different industry contexts, and includes identifying skills needs, developing qualifications and improving the quality of training delivery and assessment.” Potentially, this gives them a pretty broad and influential remit. More information about them, including a series of updates on their activities and factsheets can be found here. The SOs are seen to be “operating with small, agile teams, who work with sub-contractors and through partnership arrangements to deliver their work programs.” This allows them to “leverage partnerships and contracting arrangements to deliver much of their work program.”
Importantly, the report goes on to provide details about each of the three pilots. These sections of the evaluation report are worth a look if you teach and work in those areas.
What did the evaluation find?
First, overall, DESE were seen to have done a good job in the establishment process. However, the evaluators found that “earlier and clearer definition of the role and long-term goals of the SOs would have provided greater strategic clarity to support a faster start.” In addition, and according to the review report, the emerging broader direction for VET reform meant that they were forced to operate without clarity about their long-term role in the VET system.
Second, SO boards and their appointed CEOs were found to be well networked with employers but had fewer in-built linkages with the VET system. The report pointed out that “executive team appointments with specialist expertise in the VET system was a substantial boost to each organisation’s core capability.”
However, in terms of engaging stakeholders, the evaluators noted that: “Stakeholder uncertainty about the longer-term role of SOs, and concerns about the changing balance of influence from those with vested interests have been inhibitors to SO engagement.
Third, the evaluation reported that:
“Each of the SOs showcases a different way to define the industry from which they require both formal and informal authority to operate effectively.”
Finally, the various SOs’ workplans “encompass strategic research and knowledge transfer, stakeholder engagement and facilitation, and applied projects focused on pathways, qualification or specific skillsets.”