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Major reforms to the Australian Vocational education and Training 1/7/2015

By: Jeff Mazzini| Tags:

I am pleased to let you know that the next phase of the Australian Government’s major reforms to Australia’s vocational education and training system comes into effect from 1 July 2015, through the introduction of the new Apprenticeship Network, changes to VET FEE-HELP, and funding for the Australian Skills Quality Authority.

These significant measures continue my focus on ensuring the VET system focuses on improving job outcomes from training, lifting the quality of skills training, and raising the status of skills training as a pathway to a rewarding and highly-valued career.

The new Apprenticeship Network is one the biggest reforms to the Australian Apprenticeships system in almost two decades. The Government’s $200 million annual investment in the Apprenticeship Network will help employers to recruit, train and retain apprentices and trainees.

Eleven Apprenticeship Network providers, servicing more than 420 locations nationwide, will target support services to the specific needs of employers and apprentices, including:

new pre-commencement services that will help get apprentices into the right apprenticeship with the right employer;
new in-training assistance that will help apprentices and employers at-risk of non-completion to work through obstacles; and
assistance for those who may be unsuited to an apprenticeship to identify an alternative pathway.
Changes to the VET FEE-HELP Guidelines from 1 July continue the reforms I have introduced, in partnership with students, employers, consumer protection authorities and small and larger training providers, to protect vulnerable students, taxpayers and the reputation of the wider training sector from the unethical actions of a small minority of unscrupulous providers and their agents. The revised VET Guidelines introduce amendments commencing in two phases – 1 July 2015 and 1 January 2016.

The 1 July 2015 amendments tighten VET FEE-HELP marketing, recruitment and administrative practices to provide better protection for students, through:
banning withdrawal fees or any other barriers, including administrative, in the way of a student who wants to withdraw from training;
requiring providers to have a written agreement with their agents, being responsible for agent conduct, listing agents on their website and requiring agents to disclose to prospective students who they represent and that they receive a commission for enrolments; and
banning providers and their agents from engaging in misleading marketing, including not being able to market VET-FEE-HELP supported training as “free” or “government-funded”.
From 1 January 2016, VET providers will:
not be allowed to charge a student the total course tuition fees in one up-front hit – this will result in students only incurring a debt as they progress through a course;
have to issue a student with a VET FEE-HELP Invoice Notice at least 14 days prior to each census date for the VET unit study – this will ensure students are fully aware of the debts they may incur after the census date; and
not accept a VET-FEE-HELP loan request from a student until a two-day ‘cooling off’ period has elapsed after enrolment.
As I announced in my last letter to you regarding the 2015-16 Budget, the Australian Government has committed $68 million of funding to reform the Australian Skills Quality Authority (ASQA), enabling it to implement a more modern, responsive regulatory approach that focuses on high risk providers, and lifts the red tape burden on consistently highly compliant providers. For the first time, ASQA is being properly funded to bolster its regulatory powers, remove excessive paperwork and red tape for training providers and focus its attention on serious breaches of standards.

This additional government funding means that ASQA will no longer move to full cost recovery in 2015-16, a move, which would have seen training providers paying around 120 percent more in annual fees from 1 July 2015. Instead, fees will not increase beyond their current level with an annual CPI increase.

The skills provided by VET are critical to Australia’s competitiveness and productivity. In an increasingly competitive, globalised and technologically-advanced economy, Australian industry needs skills training that meets the demands of modern workplaces. That is why I have placed a priority on establishing a new model of training package development, which has Australian industry at the heart of this process, because it is employers who best know what skills and competencies they need in their current and future employees.

As flagged in my previous letter, the new model will support Industry Reference Committees (IRCs) as the conduit for industry intelligence into training policy and practice and to guide the development of industry-based training products (including training packages and support materials). The IRCs will be supported by Skills Service Organisations (SSOs) which will be funded by the Australian Government to provide administrative, technical and operational support to assist IRCs in their engagement with industries. The Department of Education and Training will shortly invite Expressions of Interest from bodies capable of being Skills Service Organisations in the new training model.

Further information on VET Reform and media releases on each of these reforms is available at www.vetreform.education.gov.au.

If you have any queries, please do not hesitate to contact the Department of Education and Training at tsenquiries@education.gov.au, or my office.

Yours sincerely

Simon Birmingham


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