Sweeping skills overhaul aims to boost vocational training completion rates

Claire Halliday
Claire Halliday

Vocational educators in South Australia risk losing taxpayer funding if students fail to finish training courses. The move is part of sweeping reforms designed to crackdown on rorting by dodgy training providers and lift poor completion rates.

On Monday 4 March, the SA state government is set to unveil a new skills policy to boost investment and address the ballooning statewide shortage crisis. It will be the biggest overhaul to the vocational training sector in more than a decade.

Less than half of apprentices complete their vocational education

Official figures show less than half of SA trainees, or apprentices, complete courses. But with the number of occupations facing worker shortages more than doubling in three years, it’s clear sustainable change is overdue.

The reforms have been developed with feedback from company and student feedback, as well as industry and union input. Cracking down on the integrity of training providers is key, with claims of rorting within the sector, coupled with a lack of appropriate student support and poor treatment of apprentices all leading to higher drop-out rates.

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To tackle the issue, TAFE SA will develop better curriculum and improve its ability to ensure students are ‘funnelled’ into the right courses, as employers and unions are forced to ‘actively engage’.

Biggest reforms in more than a decade

Ministers say the new policy is the first in more than 10 years, and will prioritise training in a range of sectors currently facing worker shortages, including construction, defence, early childhood education, and healthcare, as well as hi-tech industries, such as cybersecurity or IT. In 2021, 149 industries suffered shortages.

SA Education Minister, Blair Boyer, says a “persistent skills shortages” hurts industry and the wider community.

Recent figures show taxpayers fund almost one-third of more than 200,000 SA students undertaking a local VET course.

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“The constant push … for students to attend university, rather than pursuing highly valuable vocational pathways have negatively impacted the reputation and perceived value of VET,” concluded a 41-page strategy report, titled Skilled. Thriving. Connected.

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Claire Halliday has an extensive career as a full-time writer - across book publishing, copywriting, podcasting and feature journalism - for more than 25 years. She lives in Melbourne with children, two border collies and a grumpy Burmese cat. Contact: claire.halliday[at]brandx.live