Why the VET Sector is Crucial in Supporting Disadvantaged Australians
In 1974, the Australian Committee on Technical and Further Education (ACOTAFE) published the ‘Kangan report’, which carried out a complete review of the VET sector. They made some recommendations, as well as outlining an agenda for the future of the vocational education system, and emphasised the importance of education and social inclusion in work as crucial to the sector. However, as time has gone by, the focus of social inclusion and education has been passed over, prioritising ensuring employment outcomes.
It is imperative that VET providers are creating and teaching courses that mean graduates have solid employment options, and this is why training providers need to have strong relationships with industries, but that doesn’t mean that the original aims of education and social inclusion should be forgotten.
Social inclusion principles set out in 2010 by the federal government were created specifically to ensure that disadvantaged groups have the opportunities need to not only work, but also to learn and to have a voice.
The TAFE system and more generally VET courses are crucial in allowing this to happen in the education sector. Higher education is often not only expensive but also requires students to devote time to study that may not be suitable for those who already need to work.
Disadvantaged students may include:
Typically, a person is considered to be disadvantaged if they require extra support to succeed in education and work because of personal or familial circumstances.
In 2011, this need to support disadvantaged groups was recognised in an equity blueprint by the national VET equity advisory council (NVEAC), which outlined what reforms were required for the VET system to be able to support students achieve their best potential regardless of background.
However, with the change in government, the equity blueprint wasn’t implemented. Over time, the government cut funding, and Australia’s VET system became more marketised.
This marketisation means that programs like outreach or community services are being cut from further education providers because they’re expensive to run. The schools no longer have the funding to ensure that those from remote areas or Aboriginal students have the extra support they need.
Since the decline in funding and support, the national centre for vocational education research has found a decrease in the participation of several equity groups. In other words, lack of funding leads to a lack of outreach, which leads to the vulnerable in our society missing out on further education.
Beyond the clear unfairness of denying further education because of circumstances out of a person’s control, this also means problems for our economy. If we want higher levels of foundation skills, and a larger labour force, we need to ensure that every person, whether they’re Victorian, from NSW or territory, has the support necessary to attain the qualification they need to be able to contribute both financially and socially through their community.
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