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Social Policy Section
This quick guide provides an overview of
the vocational education and training (VET) sector including:
Links are also provided to further
the sector covers
an estimated 4.2 million students were enrolled in VET with an Australian
training provider, representing almost a quarter of the Australian population
aged 15–64 years.
In comparison, in the same year, there were 1.5 million higher education students
enrolled with an Australian higher education provider, and 3.8 million school students enrolled
Of those VET students for whom the relevant information is recorded:
- 52.0% were male
- 3.8% identified as Indigenous
- 5.0% reported having a disability and
- 4.4% were international students.
For domestic students, 65.7% reside in major cities, 31.5% in
regional areas, and 2.9% in remote areas. Australian
Bureau of Statistics population figures for 2017 showed that 71.8% of the
population lived in major cities, 26.2% in regional areas and 2.0% in remote
Qualification levels and courses
Accredited VET programs cover a wide range of activities,
including part-day employer-specific training, general use courses such as first
aid training, year-long employment-related certificates, apprenticeships, and
postgraduate diplomas. Courses include those provided at Australian Qualifications
Framework (AQF) levels 1 to 8, as well as non-award courses. The proportion
of program enrolments at each level in 2017 is shown in Table 1 below.
Table 1: the proportion of program enrolments at each
Australian Quality Framework level, 2017
|Australian Quality Framework level
||Proportion of program
|Level 1—Certificate I
|Level 2—Certificate II
|Level 3—Certificate III
|Level 4—Certificate IV
|Level 6—Advanced Diploma/Associate Degree
|Level 7—Bachelor Degree (honours and pass)
|Level 8—Graduate Certificate/Graduate Diploma
|Other recognised and non-award courses
Centre for Vocational Education Research (NCVER), Total VET students and
courses 2017, NCVER, Adelaide, 2018, p. 15.
Of these program enrolments, most (74.0%) were in national
training package qualifications, while 10.9% were in nationally recognised
accredited courses, 7.5% in locally recognised courses, 7.5% in nationally and
locally recognised skill sets, and the remaining 0.1% in higher-level
The three fields of study with the largest number of program
enrolments were management and commerce (19.4%), engineering and related
technologies (14.0%), and society and culture (13.8%).
In addition to program enrolments, there were some 5.2
million subject-only enrolments. These are where students enrol in a single unit,
rather than a course.
VET courses were provided by:
- 3,156 private training providers
- 442 community education providers
- 398 schools
- 143 enterprise providers
41 TAFE institutes and
- 13 universities.
Of the total 4,193 providers, 240 were not registered
training organisations (RTOs). Providers must be registered in order to
deliver nationally recognised courses and AQF-accredited VET qualifications, or
to receive government funding for the provision of VET courses. Those providers
who are not RTOs would typically be delivering non-award courses.
The majority of students (60.2%) were enrolled with a
private training provider only, while the next largest group were enrolled with
a TAFE institution only (16.1%).
and regulatory responsibilities
The VET sector is a joint responsibility of the Australian
and state and territory governments. The National
Agreement for Skills and Workforce Development (NASWD), formulated as part
of the Intergovernmental
Agreement on Federal Financial Relations (IGA
FFR), defines the objectives, outcomes, outputs and performance measures, and
the roles and responsibilities of governments in the delivery of services
across the skills and workforce development sector.
Specific measures can also be progressed through National
Partnership arrangements under the IGA FFR, placing obligations on both levels
of government. There are currently two National Partnerships relating to the
of Australian Governments (COAG) Industry and Skills Council (CISC) has
responsibility for intergovernmental arrangements regarding:
industry competitiveness, productivity and labour
market pressures and
- skills development and national training
The Australian Industry and Skills Committee
(AISC) was established by the CISC to give industry a formal role in developing
and approving national training packages. The AISC receives
advice from industry-specific Industry Reference Committees (IRCs), which
have representation from large and small businesses, and peak bodies and
unions, to ensure that industry skill requirements are reflected in the national
Federal government VET policy and programs are primarily the
responsibility of the Department
of Education and Training. However, the Department of Industry, Innovation and
Science advises on industry policy, including through input into the CISC
and the NASWD, which can shape investment in VET.
State and territory policy responsibility generally rests with
the relevant Department of Education, but in some cases it rests with economic-focused
agencies such as the South Australian Department of State Development. The Parliamentary
Library publication Tertiary
Education: a Quick Guide to Key Internet Links lists the
relevant agency for each state and territory. In addition, states and
territories are also VET providers, through TAFE and some Adult Migrant English
The Australian Skills Quality Authority (ASQA) is
the national regulator for Australia’s VET sector, with responsibility for the registration
of training providers and accreditation of courses. It also manages the
registration of VET and English language course providers who wish to offer
courses to overseas students studying in Australia (CRISCOS).
Providers who only offer courses in Victoria or Western Australia, and who do
not intend to enrol overseas students, can register with their relevant state
regulator instead (the Victorian Registration
and Qualifications Authority and the Western Australian Training Accreditation
Unlike school and higher education sectors, a significant
proportion of VET activity is undertaken by non-government providers on a
fee-for-service basis without any government funding. The cost for this
activity is borne by the student or their employer. For example, of the 4.2
million students undertaking VET activity in 2017, only 1.2
million were enrolled in courses outside the school system that were
directly government funded (that is, were ‘government-funded
Federal and state/territory government funding is provided
through multiple channels, including:
- targeted funding, such as through the NASWD, National
Partnerships and specific programs, often through training subsidies
- general funding of government-supported providers such as TAFE
institutes, schools and universities, including capital funding
- fee-for-service arrangements for the provision of designated
programs (such as the Adult Migrant English Program) and
FEE-HELP and VET
Student Loans, which are paid to providers on behalf of students in
The complexity of these arrangements is illustrated in
Figure 1. The state and territory governments directly operate some VET providers,
such as the TAFE institutes and government schools, while both levels of
government subsidise certain courses or programs and directly contract
fee-for-service provision of others.
Figure 1: the reporting scope of
VET financial information, 2017
Fee-for-service funding in total VET activity is defined as training that has received
no government support; the cost therefore is met by the individual.
Centre for Vocational Education Research (NCVER), Australian vocational education and
training statistics: financial information 2017, NCVER, Adelaide, 2018, p. 5.
Of the $6.1 billion in government
recurrent funding provided to the VET sector in 2017,
the largest contribution (51.9%) was from state and territory direct funding,
as shown in Figure 2 below. Funding under the NASWD was the second largest
source (24.5%). Government funding via VET student loans to non-government
providers was only $275,000 in 2017, compared to nearly $2.5 million in
2015. This change in the level of loan funding is largely due to the stricter
eligibility requirements introduced when the VET Student Loans
scheme replaced VET FEE-HELP from 1 January 2017, in
response to concerns about the administration and fiscal sustainability of
Figure 2: VET government funding by
type, 2013 to 2017
Note: Does not
include capital revenue. Fee-for-service government agencies—includes revenues
received directly from federal and state and territory government departments,
generally on a tendering/bidding basis. Tendering/bidding would generally
involve shorter term, individual project/course-specific contracts,
arrangements and payments.
Source: NCVER, op. cit., p. 8.
In addition, some federal government
funding is provided directly to students, such as through Trade
Support Loans and Living
Away From Home Allowance for apprentices, and student
income support arrangements. There is also a range of incentive payments
available to employers of apprentices through the Australian Government Australian Apprenticeships Incentives Programme.
In general, providers set their own fees for each course or
unit. This can vary from less than $100 for a part-day course or unit (for
example, $65 for a three-hour First Aid Management of Anaphylaxis course conducted
by the Red Cross) up to thousands of dollars for multi-year technical
training (for example, over $81,000 for the Diploma
of Aviation (Commercial Pilot Licence - Aeroplane)Diploma of Aviation (Commercial Pilot Licence - Aeroplane) Diploma of Aviation (Commercial
Pilot Licence - Aeroplane)Diploma of Aeroskills (Mechanical)conducted by Australian Wings AcademyAustralian
Different providers may charge different fees for the same
course, even within the same state TAFE system. For example, in Victoria, the
fee for the Certificate III in Electrical Fitting Diploma of Aeroskills (Mechanical)Diploma of Aeroskills
(Mechanical)course at Melbourne Polytechnic (also known as Northern
Melbourne Institute of TAFE) is $19,200 ($4,750 for eligible Skills First students), while for the same
course South Metropolitan TAFE charges $3,682.
Different course costs can reflect a range of
factors. The Productivity Commission cites differences in
training-related factors (such as class sizes, contact hours, and teaching
salaries), jurisdictional factors (such as the characteristics of students and
scale of delivery), and policy factors (such as the level of fees allowed to be
charged to students), as well as building and land costs, as cost drivers, but
these are not always easily compared between providers.
For government-subsidised training, maximum student
contributions may be set (such as in New
South Wales) or the hourly rate of subsidy may be set (as in Victoria).
Fees for specific courses can be obtained through the My Skills website.
- The National Centre for
Vocational Education Research (NCVER) provides a wide range of research and
relating to VET, as well as VOCSTATS,
a product that allows sophisticated data users to produce their own statistical
- The ‘Vocational
education and training’ chapter of the Productivity Commission’s Report on Government Services 2018 provides
information on government-funded VET, including a range of performance information.
- For a comprehensive history of the development of the VET sector,
see K Bowman and S McKenna, The
Development of Australia’s National Training System: a Dynamic Tension between Consistency
and Flexibility, a report prepared for the Department of Education
and Training in 2016.
- The My Skills website is designed for training consumers and
provides a national directory of VET training courses and providers, as well as
information on careers and industries.
- Training.gov.au is the national register for training in Australia and contains
the authoritative information about RTOs and nationally recognised training.
- The Australian Apprenticeships website provides a range of
information and support for apprentices and employers. It also includes the National
Skills Needs List, which is a list of traditional trades that are
identified as experiencing a national skills shortage.
In addition to the links provided above, the Parliamentary Library
Education: a Quick Guide to Key Internet Links includes links to TAFE
providers and to state and territory government agencies with responsibility
For copyright reasons some linked items are only available to members of Parliament.
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