With the Australian Government’s recent and welcome focus on Vocational Education and Training (VET), some stakeholders have seen this as a pitch against the value of the higher education system. When the Prime Minister said “VET is as good as uni” he was simply saying what is self-evident, that for different people, for different employers and at different stages in our economic cycle, VET and higher education are of equal importance.
It was with this understanding that we transitioned to the Independent Tertiary Education Council Australia (ITECA) back in May 2019. It was a move that allows quality independent providers to take a leadership role, to highlight their important function in providing the education and skills that students and their employers are looking for. Whether it be in manufacturing, human services, business administration, construction, agriculture, aviation and a great many other sectors, ITECA members have a track record of delivering in-demand qualifications across both VET and higher education.
The Australian Financial Review carries an editorial under the heading “Uni growth must no longer come at the cost of trades training”. It argues that universities provide a wonderful and fulfilling education for many people. But, that should not come at the expense of the funding and administration of trades training. It, by implication, questions the fundamental approach of many secondary school careers advisors that pushes students to the university and often places a VET education as the second-best option. Immediately after the article was published, some academics posted on social media comments that the editorial was an attack on the higher education system, a rather unfortunate manifestation of the ‘if you’re not with us you’re against us’ principle. What the editorial simply highlighted is that VET and higher education can sit comfortably side by side.
As ITECA works with the Australian government and its state/territory counterparts, it argues for the reforms that will break-down the separation of Australia’s tertiary education system. ITECA’s view is that it should operate as one system with two pillars – VET and higher education – that retain their separate identities. This requires us to look as a nation as to whether VET and higher education genuinely need their own regulator and their own funding system. An integrated tertiary education system will put students at the centre, realising that in the twenty-first century many workers will alternate between VET and higher education throughout their careers.
Some key stakeholders have wondered whether an integrated tertiary education system is possible, arguing that providers simply couldn’t straddle both VET and higher education comfortably. It’s here that ITECA members have provided leadership to show what can be achieved. The greatest number of dual-sector institutions are independent providers with a strong track record of providing students and their employers with the quality outcomes they are looking for.
ITECA’s task in this debate is clear. With the support of our members, we’ll showcase the excellence of independent providers and the exceptional students that graduate from the system. Importantly, using the experience of our members we’ll advocate for the reforms that will reduce the red tape that plagues the system.
As the Prime Minister said, VET is as good as uni, and it’s ITECA’s members in both the VET and higher education sector that show the nation why this is the case.
ITECA Chief Executive
Note: the article has been published with permission from the ITECA Chief Executive. The article was first published at https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/vet-higher-education-two-pillars-one-tertiary-system-troy-williams/