Updated 24 June 2021
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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, 3.9 million students were
enrolled in Australian schools
and 1.6 million students were enrolled at higher
Of those VET students for whom the relevant information is
- 52.5% were male
- 3.9% identified as Indigenous
- 4.7% reported having a disability and
- 5.3% were international students.
For domestic students, where remoteness region was
recorded, 66.8% came from major cities, 30.5% from regional areas and 2.7% from
remote areas. Australian
Bureau of Statistics population figures for 2019 showed that 72.2% of the
population lived in major cities, 25.8% in regional areas and 1.9% 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 6, and level 8, as well as non-award courses.
The proportion of program enrolments at each level in 2019 is shown in Table 1
Table 1: the proportion of program enrolments at each
Australian Quality Framework level, 2019
|Australian Quality Framework level
|Proportion of program enrolments
|Level 1—Certificate I
|Level 2—Certificate II
|Level 3—Certificate III
|Level 4—Certificate IV
|Level 6—Advanced Diploma
|Level 8—Graduate Certificate/Graduate Diploma
|Other recognised and non-award courses
calculations from National Centre for Vocational Education Research (NCVER), ‘Databuilder’, Total VET students and courses:
program enrolments, NCVER website.
Of these program enrolments, most
(85.5%) were in training
package qualifications, while 6.9% were in accredited qualifications, 3.6%
in training package skill sets, and 4.1% in accredited courses.
The three fields of study with the largest number of program
enrolments were management and commerce (20.9%), society and culture (17.2%),
and engineering and related technologies (15.1%).
In addition to program enrolments, there were some 2.6
million students studying subjects
not delivered as part of a nationally recognised program. These are subjects
which were not delivered as part of a nationally recognised program, for
example, first aid courses or responsible service of alcohol accreditation.
There are some 4,000 registered
training organisations (RTOs) in Australia. 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
of the students enrolled in nationally recognised training:
- 3.0 million (72.1%) were enrolled at private training providers
- 779,200 (18.6%) at Technical and Further Education (TAFE)
- 489,100 (11.6%) at community education providers
- 124,400 (3.0%) at enterprise providers
- 108,000 (2.6%) at schools and
- 77,600 (1.8%) at universities.
Note that these percentages add up to more than 100% as
students may have enrolled in training with multiple provider types.
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 and performance measures, and the roles and
responsibilities of governments in the delivery of services across the skills
and workforce development sector.
Payments to the states are facilitated through the Federation
Funding Agreement—Education and Skills, which is part of the new Federation
Funding Agreements (FFA) framework established in August 2020. This Framework
replaces the former Council of Australian Government (COAG) arrangements. The
FFA—Education and Skills consolidates a range of existing funding agreements
including the National
Partnership on the Skilling Australians Fund and Project Agreements for:
In addition, the JobTrainer
Fund has been established under the National
Partnership for Streamlined Agreements.
June 2020, the Council
of Australian Governments (COAG) Skills Council was replaced by the Skills
National Cabinet Reform Committee (Skills Committee), as part of the
cessation of COAG, and its replacement with a new National Cabinet and the National Federation
The Skills Committee was established to support ongoing
reform to VET including:
- simplifying, rationalising and streamlining national VET
- strengthening quality standards and
- developing a new National Skills
Agreement to replace the NASWD from 1 January 2022.
The Skills Minister’s Meeting (SMM) was also created
at that time, with responsibility for the ongoing management of VET
system. Both the Skills Committee and the SMM consist of ministers from each
state and territory with portfolio responsibility for skills issues.
The Australian Industry and Skills Committee
(AISC) was established by the former COAG
Industry and Skills Council (the precursor to the COAG Skills
Council) to give industry a formal, expanded role in policy direction
and decision-making for the VET sector. One of the main functions of the AISC
is to provide advice to SMM on new or amended training products, which must be
endorsed by SMM before they can be listed on the National Register for
implementation by RTOs.
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 training system.
Federal government VET policy and programs are primarily
the responsibility of the Department
of Education, Skills and Employment. However, the Department of Industry, Innovation and
Science advises on industry policy, 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 employment
or economic-focused agencies such as the Queensland Department of Employment, Small Business and
Training and the Tasmanian Department
of State Growth. The Parliamentary Library publication Tertiary
education: a quick guide to key internet links lists the
relevant agency for each state and territory.
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 (CRICOS). 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
Registration and Qualifications Authority and the Western Australian Training Accreditation
Skills Commission was established in July 2020 to provide advice and
national leadership on the Australian labour market and current, emerging and
future workforce skills needs. It has three long-term outcomes:
- to make an enduring and relevant contribution to labour market
- to improve the quality, accessibility and relevance of VET, and
- to contribute to a labour market that effectively aligns skills
needs with education and training.
Unlike the 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. Of the 4.2 million students
undertaking VET activity in 2019, only 1.2
million were enrolled in courses outside the school system that were
directly government funded (that is, were ‘government-funded students’).
Federal and state/territory government funding is provided
through multiple channels, including:
- Commonwealth funding to the states and territories targeted to
particular outcomes, such as through the NASWD and National Partnerships, often
spent on 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
Student Loans, which are paid by the Australian Government to providers on
behalf of students in designated courses.
government funding provided through VET appropriations and VET
intergovernmental funding agreements in 2019 was $6.4 billion, of which the
Australian Government contributed $2.6 billion (41.6%).
In addition, the Australian Government provided $275.9
million for VET Student Loans (including grandfathered VET FEE-HELP loans).
As can be seen in Figure 1 below, about 50% of Australian
Government direct VET expenditure is on employer incentives, whereas most state
and territory expenditure is directed to VET delivery.
Figure 1: government expenditure on VET by activity,
Government funding of VET 2019: data
tables, Table 4.
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
operated by private providers and directly contract fee-for-service provision
In 2019, public providers received 72.3%
of total government VET delivery and capital funding, and 61.8%
of VET Student Loan distributions.
In addition, some federal government funding is provided
directly to students, such as through Trade
Support Loans (some $222.4
million in 2019) and Living
Away From Home Allowance for apprentices, and student
income support arrangements. There are also incentive
payments available to employers of apprentices.
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 $84,000 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
In most states, 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 $21,850 ($5,900 for eligible Skills First students, that is, ‘government
funded students’), while for the same course South Metropolitan TAFE charges $3,689.
Different course costs can reflect a range of factors. The Productivity
Commission (p. 5.7) 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 cost drivers,
but these are not always easily compared between providers. The National Skills
Price Benchmarking Report (2021) provides an overview of the
variability in VET qualification pricing nationally, with a view to developing
more nationally consistent prices for VET.
For government-subsidised training, there are a range of
approaches to subsidies. For example, a maximum student contribution may be set
(such as in New
South Wales), or an 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 more sophisticated data users to produce their own
- The ‘Vocational
education and training’ chapter of the Productivity Commission’s Report on Government Services 2021 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 then 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.
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 publication, Tertiary
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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