The Andrews Labor government’s investment of $383.8 million, announced in the state budget, will put skills and vocational education at the heart of Victoria’s economic and social recovery. This funding will go some way towards establishing reforms to help people develop the skills and education they need to thrive in the community. In turn, this will lead to more people having access to meaningful employment, which will contribute to the rebuilding of a robust economy.
The Victorian government has reset the state’s approach to skills and training by restructuring the various parts of the sector, drawing together knowledge to better understand Victoria’s needs.
As a result, students, industry and communities will be well placed to work together to rebuild the economy after the pandemic so that Victoria’s businesses survive and thrive into the future.
Even before COVID-19 hit, the skills needed for work were evolving at an unprecedented rate. Those involved in the sector agreed that we needed a more coordinated, purposeful way of working to meet Victoria’s dynamic needs, and this was confirmed in the final report of the Skills for Victoria’s Growing Economy Review, led by Jenny Macklin (also referred to as the Macklin review).
The reforms are aimed at reducing the competition between TAFEs – a position the AEU has been pushing – and creating a united TAFE system with joint development of curriculum and more consistency of course delivery and fees. This would help students find the right course in the right location, and allow regional industries to find qualified employees from within their local community.
The Victorian Vocational Education reforms will be achieved by the establishment of the Victorian Skills Authority (VSA), a key recommendation of the Macklin review, and the establishment of the Office of TAFE coordination and delivery (OTCD), as well as new investment in TAFE and continued investment in Adult and Community Further Education (ACFE).
The VSA is part of a strategy to ensure quality teaching and learning, affordable accredited training, and improved pathways. The VSA will replace the skills commissioner and lead the development of an annual Victorian Skills Plan. It will provide an integrated approach to teaching and learning, promoting collaboration between TAFEs and decreasing the sense of competition.
The VSA is an independent entity with a CEO, Craig Robertson, who will commence his role on 23 August, and an advisory board of approximately 15 independent board members with high levels of VET skills and experience.
Craig Robertson has vast experience in the field and has been working as CEO of TAFE Directors Australia – an organisation that promotes the role of TAFEs. The VSA will report to the Minister for Training and Skills.
The Office of TAFE Coordination and Delivery has responsibility for improving collaboration and coordination across Victorian TAFEs. The aim is to coordinate the sharing of resources, and assist with governance, performance and accountability. It will also oversee the Victorian TAFE system’s finances, guide the TAFE network, and institute responses to the Victorian Skills Plan.
The OTCD will support the Minister for Training and Skills to set expectations and priorities through new plans and legislative reform, and guide TAFEs responses to the Victorian Skills Plan.
The Higher Education and Skills Group (HESG) forms the final part of the strategy. The OTCD will report to HESG, while HESG and the CEO of the VSA will report to the Department of Education. However, the VSA Advisory Board, initially recommended to be an independent body, will report to the Minister for Training and Skills.
This restructure is a positive step, with TAFE given a central role. The challenge will be for all the component parts to work effectively together to ensure that the strength of TAFE continues to grow.