The Australian government is favouring universities and neglecting the vocational training sector. This is according to recent reports issued by the Australian Industry Group (AI Group). They charge the government with funding bias.

The AI Group says that tertiary education is “seriously unbalanced, has no coherent policy and lacks a universal funding framework”.

Source: AI Group

AI Group chief executive Innes Willox indicated that funding for qualifications heavily favours universities. He says that the vocational educational training funding has “fallen off a cliff”.

AI Group reported that spending on universities ‘went from $17 billion in 2006 to $25.9 billion in 2016’, whereas spending on vocational training has been reduced from ‘$5.9 billion to $5.7 billion’. Willox has previously said:

“It’s a case of different but unequal. There is a perception that the training sector is ‘lower’ than the university system because of the status of the jobs the sector serves. If the Australian economy is to prosper and remain internationally competitive, it is vital to have access to a highly skilled and qualified workforce. With the rapid advance of technology and digitalisation, a higher level of skills for the workforce is more important than ever.”

And despite the funding inequity he told media:

“The higher education system is not fit for purpose. There’s a real concern among employers that we’re reaching a crisis point in having an available stock of students with knowledge they need.”

The lack of funding seems to be related to the declining perception of the sector and has resulted in what the AI Group feels are low numbers: 1.6 million vocational training students in Australia.

The Australian Industry Group also put out their CEO Business Prospects Survey. They surveyed national CEOs, finding that optimism was hard to find for 2019.

The 2019 Australian federal election is coming up and the hope is that the incoming government will prioritize what is best for education and training institutions across Australia. The AI Group says that the tertiary education system ‘requires comprehensive policy overhaul’. Willox concludes:

“The VET sector is in need of immediate attention in this area. In this context, demand-driven funding models need to be retained but improved to be more equitable than existing practice.”

Furthermore, the report clamours for workplace learning to be recognized as a component of tertiary education in future. Universities are filling their classes with students, and teaching the appropriate amount of theory, but once graduates are produced, their workplace skills and ability is highly questionable. AI Group says the qualifications’ structure in Australia ‘needs to be reviewed’ in order to welcome micro-degrees and the kinds of vocational training courses that teach skills.

 

Works Cited

“'Seriously Unbalanced': AiGroup Slams University Bias in Training.” Financial Review, Financial Review, 31 Jan. 2019, www.afr.com/news/policy/education/seriously-unbalanced-aigroup-slams-university-bias-in-training-20190131-h1aofz.

“Media Releases.” Australian Industry Group, www.aigroup.com.au/policy-and-research/mediacentre/releases/.

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