The upcoming jobs and skills summit is a great opportunity for the spotlight to be put on the performance of the Vocational Education and Training (VET) sector. With funding levels, completion rates, and suitability of qualifications key issues to be addressed.
From 2019-20 to 2020-21, Federal spending on vocational education was significantly less than higher education. According to the Final Budget Outcome for 2020-21 the Federal Government spent $11.3 billion on higher education and $2.1 billion on vocational and other education. The funding on vocational and other education included $386.4 million spent as part of the temporary JobTrainer Fund.
In June 2022 the ACT had 7,702 construction job vacancies, 54.4% higher than the 10 year average of 4,988. With many construction jobs being trade based apprenticeships, requiring a vocational education qualification, the case for an increase in funding for the vocational education sector is clear.
Low completion rates have plagued the VET sector for many years. According to data released by the National Centre for Vocational Education Research (NCVER) completion rates for nationally recognised VET qualifications commencing in 2016 were:
Construction trade workers have slightly higher completion rates, however, are still less than 60%. In 2016 (finished by 2021) 56.1% of students completed. In 2017 (finished by 2021) 52.1% of students completed their VET course. Completion rates in the ACT are appallingly lower than the national average at 39.9% (started in 2016) and 34.4% (started in 2017), respectively.
Given that jobs requiring a VET qualification to progress to a qualified or licensed trade (e.g., plumbers or electricians) require a completed qualification, the ACT’s completion rates means that less than 2 in every 5 people starting a trade qualification can progress to a qualified job in the construction industry.
Put another way, for every dollar invested in the VET sector in the ACT, only 40 cents contributed to a qualified employment outcome.
So why do RTO’s like MBA Group Training have completion rates above 90%?
MBA Group Training is an industry-based RTO run by Master Builders ACT. As part of our apprenticeship program, apprentices go through more rigorous screening before signing-up to an apprenticeship. This tests their interest, suitability, and attitude towards an apprenticeship.
Apprentices also receive support throughout the term of their apprenticeship from field staff, trainers (who have recent and relevant industry experience), learning support from qualified support teachers, and receive mental health and wellbeing support provided by the OzHelp Foundation. Additionally, apprentices have the option of joining a structured mentoring program which taps into support from the MBA’s membership network.
This form of support leads to higher completion rates, greater employment outcomes, and more satisfied employers.
Analysing initiatives such as that provided by the MBA would be a valuable contribution to this weeks Jobs and Skills Summit. If these results could be replicated across all construction apprentices, the number of qualified tradies would increase, allowing more investment for skills and training infrastructure.