Welcome to the May edition of our Sustainable Skills newsletter!
On Tuesday 9 May, the Australian government handed down the Federal Budget 2017 which includes important changes for the TVET sector. A new $1.5 billion Skilling Australians Fund will be established to support apprenticeships and traineeships, with the aim to deliver 300,000 new apprentices and trainees over the next four years. States and territories will need to match federal funding to access the funds, which may result in an overall increase in money for the sector. The Fund prioritises occupations with the highest demand, especially those that currently rely on foreign labour, in industries deemed important to future growth, or have a focus on regional areas.
The establishment of a body officially appointed to implement the program and to ensure that investments are accountable and aligned to the TVET industry demand reflects the fact that the government is following a sensible process in allocating funding. In the past, we have seen how the lack of a targeted approach to vocational education funding often results in a significant waste of resources, either through the channelling of funds into oversupplied occupations or through the allocation of funding into poor quality training.
A clear example of this is the VET FEE-HELP loans program, which despite some positive outcomes have resulted in at least $2.2 billion in bad loans. In recent years, we assisted to another case of controversial effect due to the deregulation of TVET funds shown by a massive increase in the number of private colleges occurred after they could set their own fees. In 2015, many concerns were raised about price discrepancies between similar TVET courses, and the Australian Skills Quality Authority (ASQA) launched an investigation which found problems with two-thirds of private training providers audited. Consequently, many RTOs ended up having to be shut down, thus damaging the whole Australian TVET sector.
We aren’t necessarily suggesting that this Australian program will be entirely successful, or that it should be viewed as an exemplar of a funding program, but it is useful to consider the thinking that has underpinned its development. In our work with clients and partners, we strongly advocate for a demand-driven, measurable and targeted approach to funding that enables skill outcomes for those individuals and industries that truly need it. It is also important though that, beyond having the correct amount of funding available, the correct amount of resources are dedicated to ensuring the program is managed effectively – neglect in this regard can lead to the failure of even the best-designed funding programs.
We are glad to announce that, over the course of this month, the transition from SkillsDMC to Sustainable Skills has been officially completed and a new not-for- profit organisation has been legally constituted with the aim to provide TVET consultancy worldwide. These changes have better positioned our business to respond to the unique and often challenging issues that international development work often raises and we are excited to help clients and partners new and old to make the connections that matter and maximise the performance of their TVET systems.
On 17-18 May, to continue investigating new opportunities for the organisation, Ben Rawlings, our International Development Services Director, attended Latin America Downunder in Perth to explore the feasibility of expanding Sustainable Skills’ activities into Latin America. The conference and exhibition follow the format of its highly successful African counterpart, providing the opportunity for governments, companies, and other stakeholders of the mining industry to network and share their stories and experiences. The event presented the occasion to meet with representatives from Chile, Paraguay, Mexico, Guyana, Argentina, and Peru. The meetings raised several encouraging ideas that we will continue to explore.
Over the last couple of weeks, Sustainable Skills Chair of the board, Michael Gill, and I have nurtured recently created partnerships in Indonesia and Myanmar and we are confident that they will soon result in important business opportunities for the newborn Sustainable Skills organisation. I attended a meeting in Jakarta with the Human Resources and Capacity Building Strategy team at KPPIP, the Indonesian Committee for Acceleration of Priority Infrastructure Delivery established by the President to facilitate coordination in debottlenecking efforts for National Strategic and Priority Projects. We had a very long meeting which included a visit to Perusahaan Listrik Negara (PLN) University. PLN is an Indonesian state-owned company tasked with supplying the electricity needs of the Indonesian people. During the next few years, Indonesia will need to train over 900,000 skilled Indonesians to construct a number of new power plants. We are working with KPPIP and PLN to develop a plan to ensure local people are skilled.