The O’Kane Accord proposes “an aligned tertiary system,” where transitions between VET and HE are “as seamless as possible,” but a huge amount of work lies ahead in the immediate future if that vision is to come close to reality.
The challenge will be to get VET and HE qualifications on the same page. This is not easy, given neither has a standard manual of their own which can be translated across systems.
VET is on to the huge job of updating its own qualification quagmire. According to the Feds, there are 1200 qualifications, 1600 skill sets and 15000 units of competency, many of which overlap, “creating a difficult VET system for learners, employers, and training providers to understand and navigate.”
A new expert group is charged with developing new rules for competencies and qualifications – by the end of the year.
Which seems a stretch, but at least State and Federal VET ministers are having a go. In contrast, the Commonwealth DoE released a regulatory framework for micro-credentials in October ‘21, but there has not been much since on how they articulate to and from degree courses; let alone where corporation-created training sits.
This is where an updated Australian Qualifications Framework, as proposed by the Noonan Review (2019), could come in.
The Accord certainly sees a role for it; “reforms, particularly those to improve the recognition of skills in the AQF architecture and taxonomy, would ensure that both higher education and VET are equally recognised and valued, and that providers are supported in creating innovative and integrated qualifications.”
Updating the AQF, Professor O’Kane and colleagues suggest, should be “a matter of priority.”
But HE interest is not overwhelming. A report on submissions to the Accord states “a small number of submissions“ call for the Commonwealth to implement an updated AQF.
And the VET community is focused on getting its own qualification systems into shape, which will take time. The qualification reform group’s proposal will go to Jobs and Skills councils before “further work” in 2024 to “develop a change programme for transitioning VET qualifications.”
This is not great for the Accord. As Professor O’Kane and colleagues warn, we need “collective action and contributions of the Higher Education and VET sectors.”
Which at this stage seems unlikely. As the Department of Education diplomatically told a Senate Inquiry in March, “although many stakeholders agree with the overall reform intent of the AQF Review, stakeholders have varying perspectives about how some of the more complex review recommendations should be addressed.”