Australia's VET sector to get a new chief regulator

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It has been announced that the Australian government plans to find a new chief regulator for its vocation, education and training (VET) sector. The move for a new chief commissioner of the Australian Skills Quality Authority (ASQA) is part of a wider attempt to restore confidence in the vocational education market.

Concerns have been made about pricing discrepancies between VET FEE-HELP courses and the fee-for-service being offered by numerous registered training organisations, and the fact that taxpayers have been forced to pay out for up to 400% premiums in order to, as writes:

 “Line the pockets of training companies with government loans, many of which will never be repaid.”

Earlier this year, the Committee for Economic Development of Australia (CEDA) called for there to be a national review of the vocational education and training sector. CEDA claimed the industry has been ‘significantly weakened’ by the recent scandals.

CEDA put forward several recommendations designed to strengthen VET in Australia. CEDA’s chief executive, Professor the Hon. Stephen Martin, said there was plenty to do in order to reform the market.

“The government is taking the right approach to cutting off dodgy private operators with poor outcomes from utilising VET FEE-HEP. However, much more needs to be done,” said Martin.

Karen Andrews, assistant minister for vocational education and skills, says the appointment of the new commissioner will be:

“A significant step in reforming the sector and rebuilding confidence.”

The new commissioner will work alongside the government and assist in delivering its program of reforms in the VET industry, with the aim of helping to “restore full confidence in all vocational education and training delivered by Australian registered training organisations.”

The VET sector in Australia has been subjected to a wave of scandals in recent years. Karen Andrews said she wants an outsider to come in as a means of ‘cleaning the sector up’.

In a statement, Ms Andrews spoke of how the unscrupulous practises that have plagued the VET industry in recent years are letting down the many ‘outstanding’ training providers.

"Vocational education and training has not always measured up to community expectations. While there are outstanding registered training providers working hard to successfully skill Australians for real jobs, others have clearly let down students, industry and the sector's overall reputation,” said the VET minister.

The ASAQ is currently led by Chris Robinson. Robinson’s role as the ASAQ commissioner will terminate at the end of the year.

Karen Andrews recognised the important role Robinson has played as leader of the ASAQ for its first five years in operation, including regulating over 4,000 registered VET providers and introducing new standards within the industry last year.