Recommendations for Australian VET System Reform and VET Workforce Blueprint

Australia’s Vocational Education and Training (VET) system is indeed complex and complicated, with a multitude of providers, qualifications, and funding arrangements.

This blog post and draft towards a paper, is written by Wendy Perry, Managing Director, Workforce BluePrint; Entrepreneurship Facilitator – Switch Start Scale; Facilitator, Sea to Valley Startups; with 28+ years’ experience in VET across Australia, and 30+ countries around the world.

Getting straight to the cutting edge there are 15 recommendations related to:

  1. Industry, employer and entrepreneur engagement; Investment
  2. Job first then competencies, skills and qualifications; validated and assessed by industry
  3. Knowledge – tacit and explicit
  4. Labour market information; Learners; Lessons Learned
  5. Marketing; Microcredentials
  6. National Vision; Non-accredited Training
  7. Opportunities; Outcomes
  8. Partnerships; Priorities; Problems; Purpose
  9. Qualifications; Quality Assurance
  10. Regulator; RTOs; Reform; Research; Resources; Risks
  11. Scaling Up; Self-Employment; Shortages; Skills; Stakeholders; Streamlined; Strengths; Student; Success; Sustainability; System – see a future blog on these topics
  12. Taxonomy; Trainers and Assessors; Training Packages – Renovation and Revival
  13. UNSDGs; User Focused; UX
  14. Values; VET Completion; VET Workforce Blueprint
  15. Way forward; Workforce development planning; Worldwide comparison and benchmarking

Industry alignment and engagement has been a hallmark of Australia’s VET system but there has been misalignment for several years now.

  1. Industry, employer and entrepreneur engagement; investment

Industry, employers, and entrepreneurs should play an active role in Vocational Education and Training (VET) or Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET).

Industry advisory structures have been quite a mess with committees, organisations, peak bodies and associations, stepping over each other, and the model of Industry Clusters hasn’t helped to streamline, but rather confuse the situation.

Replicating national structures at a state and territory level means that Australia’s VET system should be one of those across the globe that has close alignment to employer and industry needs… but we all know that many Training Packages are out of date and old fashioned.

The 10 new Jobs and Skills Councils (JSCs)… are expected to be fully operational between May and mid-2023 [and there is one up].

Workforce planning is expected to be the key function for the JSCs within the first year of being operational. Once JSCs have their strategic direction set on the basis of their workforce planning and stakeholder engagement activities, they will be better positioned to undertake activities to deliver their full range of functions.

When reviewing the budget allocated to JSCs the main thought I had, is that I couldn’t see how organisations could do what is expected of them for that level of investment, but we will see.  And there is a relationship with Jobs and Skills Australia, but I think NCVER has been overlooked in this process and they could be in closer partnership, leading some aspects of the work and supporting other components.


Industry, governments, countries and employers can provide funding and resources to support VET programs where it makes sense, but VET needs to be relevant and future focussed, not out of date and irrelevant.  It is like investing in technologies that are 5-10 years old and expecting them to give a good result.

The current funding arrangements for VET are complex and vary across different states and territories.  Simplifying the funding arrangements could reduce the administrative burden on providers and make it easier for employers, learners, students to access funding.  A key to reinventing funding is to have an evidence-based approach to what it actually costs Registered Training Organisations and industry to train and assess.

  1. Job first then competencies, skills and qualifications, validated and assessed by industry

Jobs, not only current but future must come first in any curriculum or Training Package design process.  The process of Training Package development can be innovated too – by building job skills profiles for current and future jobs then benchmarking against employer and industry job and position descriptions.  This is an approach that we used many years ago undertaking a very efficient process and training package review for a specific sector via IBSA and the process worked incredibly well.

Validated and assessed

Industry and employers can help provide certification and recognition for VET programs and non-accredited training, ensuring that the skills and knowledge gained are recognised and valued by employers.  This may include industry-recognised certifications or microcredentials that indicate a certain level of skill proficiency, and like Germany, Australia could trial external assessment by industry and peak bodies, before qualifications and statements of attainment are issued.

The involvement of industry, employers, economic development and entrepreneurs is critical to ensuring that VET programs are relevant, effective, and responsive to the changing needs of the job market.

  1. Knowledge – tacit and explicit

Both tacit and explicit knowledge forms the capabilities and skills required to do a job.  Writing curriculum and Training Packages takes mostly tacit knowledge and makes it explicit or combines various forms of existing explicit knowledge.

When experienced trainers and assessors teach and assess, they are developing and observing both forms of knowledge through socialisation and externalisation.  These processes are happening for the learner too and this is why practical, work-based tasks are so important.

We need to modernise the way that evidence is being captured applying AI tools and technologies beyond video such as AR, VR, MR, robotics, innovative EdTech, HRTech and SkillsTech platforms.

If you’d like to know more about tacit and explicit knowledge, and knowledge transformation processes, consider Nonaka and Takeuchi’s model.

  1. Labour market information; Learners; Lessons Learned

With a hot labour market, where is there latent capacity in the workforce?  One way to look at this question is by considering where improvements to engagement in the labour market could be made such as:

– Carers

– First Nations people

– Parents particularly those with young children

– People from Culturally and Linguistically Diverse background, including migrants and refugees

– People with disabilities

– Retirees and pensioners

– Underemployed people including those who are self-employed

– Veterans and defence families

– Women

Consideration of strategic workforce planning and development should incorporate strategies that attract, develop, and retain these cohorts with consultation and communication that fits the purpose, and attraction strategies into the VET sector as learners, trainers and assessors.


Sophisticated customers means that the whole VET system needs to step up.  Policy makers, Ministers and public servants need to get out of their bubble, with a heads up on what is happening internationally, nationally and locally on the very best practices.

Learners are demanding premium user experiences, flexibility in how they learn, the adoption of new technologies, price competitiveness, and recognition beyond Australia.

Lessons Learned

From the age of 21 years (I’m 49 years now) I began teaching trainees in the VET system at Adelaide and Onkaparinga Institute of TAFE, as well as several private and ACE providers.

There are phrases and complaints that we need to drop, you and everyone in the VET sector should be over things like:

“VET is the poor cousin”

“There are too many acronyms”

“It is hard to find out information on courses and providers”

“Why don’t we do more with schools?”

Just stop it, take the lessons learned of not saying those lame things, be honest about what is not working, and if you care about the sector, contribute towards a National Vision that is aspirational, imaginative, and world-class.

There is a vision statement and guiding principles for longer-term vocational education and training (VET) reform under a new National Skills Agreement which has been agreed by Skills Ministers and endorsed by the National Cabinet on 31 August 2022, but I’m not sure this is owned by all stakeholders.

  1. Marketing; Microcredentials


VET marketing by Government leaves a fair bit to be desired and we should be looking for those examples of excellent marketing in a similar or related field, such as education and development.

Examples here would be The University of Adelaide with Make History; and the 2023 Rotary International Convention in Melbourne, and 2024 in Singapore.


For Info on, “Where are Microcredentials Being Implemented?  And Where are Examples of Innovation?”, please read this blog.

  1. National Vision, Non-accredited Training

The Hon Brendan O’Connor MP, Minister for Skills and Training, met with federal, state and territory skills ministers on 7 October 2022 considering outcomes of the Jobs and Skills Summit, establishment of Jobs and Skills Australia, a 12-month Skills Agreement, Standards for Registered Training Organisations (RTOs), and VET Workforce Capability Blueprint.

Outlining a long-term National Vision and Agreement say for 5-10 years (not just the term of the National Agreement) for Australia’s workforce and VET system, should be a priority for Skills Ministers.  This is a feature of many countries VET/TVET system including developing countries that aim to incorporate outstanding practice from around the world.

Non-accredited Training

Non-accredited training smashes VET and it is a waste of time, energy, and effort to try and complete here as it will be a red sea.  A blue ocean approach would be to make more of this if you are a provider or government, see the market as a smorgasbord to choose from, complimenting your programs and courses, and developing partnerships that are extraordinary.

  1. Opportunities, Outcomes


There is an opportunity with Australia’s VET system to do something remarkable.  Never before have we had so much emphasis on the workforce, upskilling and reskilling, working together with AI, technologies, and the importance of human connection.

But I worry that this gravitas is lost on some in leadership or influential roles, going back to the same old conversations, problems and suggestions rather than taking a giant leap towards an amazing, future orientated system full of opportunities.


There can be a lack of transparency in the VET system, particularly around the quality of training and the outcomes achieved by students, with media stories that highlight the worst cases.  Providing more information to students and employers about the quality of training and the outcomes achieved could improve confidence in the VET system, especially in relation to the #1 reason that students engage i.e. to get a job.

  1. Partnerships; Priorities; Problems; Processes; Purpose


The VET system involves many different stakeholders, including Australian, State and Territory governments and Ministers, employers, industry and training providers, but how are well all working together?  And what is the purpose that people are working towards?

Industry, employers, and entrepreneurs can collaborate with education and training providers to ensure that VET programs are relevant and responsive to the needs of the job market.  This can include establishing partnerships between schools and businesses, regional agencies or industry associations and training providers to promote the sharing of knowledge and expertise.  There are networks that exist in some parts towards this aim, but a structure like in the USA of Workforce Boards across the country, with pros and cons should be explored.


In the past there has been clear priorities of industry sectors, regions and types of learners.  But aside from traineeships and apprenticeships, some specific cohorts, where is the common ground?  Three to five clear and shared priorities would fit, be manageable and add weight to the National Vision and National Workforce and Skills Development Plan.


Governments and the VET sector is not always clear on the problems it is solving, and this is where we need to apply an entrepreneurial mindset.  Going back to problems such as:

  • Lack of skilled potential employees
  • People skilled in areas that are not in demand
  • Skills that are out of date
  • High unemployment in places (still) and low unemployment in other areas
  • Specific cohorts that are underrepresented and underkilled
  • Lack of relevance of competencies and qualifications
  • People that are underemployed

The benefits of VET include increased employability, higher earning potential, better engaged employees and greater job satisfaction for students, but only where competencies and qualifications are relevant and future focussed.  VET can also play a crucial role in addressing skills shortages and promoting economic growth by ensuring that individuals have the skills needed to contribute to the workforce, but it is not only the task of VET to address these gaps.  Equally higher education, microcredentials, non-accredited training, informal learning, industry certifications, and broader forms of learning that can be accessed worldwide, are needed in the mix, especially where formal education is too slow to respond.


The purpose of Vocational Education and Training (VET), also known as Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET), is to provide individuals, employees and employers with the knowledge and practical skills required for specific occupations or trades.  The aim is to equip learners with the technical, interpersonal, and problem-solving skills necessary to perform effectively in the workplace.

Australia needs a purpose statement for VET that goes hand in hand with the National Vision.

  1. Qualifications; Quality Assurance


The current VET system has numerous qualifications, which can be confusing for both students and employers.  Streamlining the qualifications to a smaller number of units of competency forming current and industry relevant qualifications could simplify the system.

Quality Assurance

Quality assurance is critical in ensuring that students receive high-quality training that meets industry needs.  A simplified quality assurance framework with 1 Australian VET regulator could make it easier for providers to understand and comply with quality requirements.

  1. Regulator; RTOs; Reform; Research; Resources; Risks


Australia should have 1 regulator, and this doesn’t necessarily mean ASQA.  I believe it is wasteful of resources to have three regulators and with so many RTOs, a small percentage being audited and reviewed, the risk of low quality is higher than ever.

Time spent on the worse performing RTOs should be addressed and the most efficient way to do this is to remove them from the VET system.  I’ve said publicly before that this would be around 25% (5% being ghost RTOs and 20% of the poor performers).  This will improve quality, our international reputation which is at risk of being tarnished and enable the provider market to be refreshed.

Registered Training Organisations (RTOs)

On RTOs, there are remarkable examples of RTOs that everyone in the sector can learn from including:

  • AIE – industry alignment and engagement is outstanding
  • CIT – with barbering, club DJ skills, cyber security, renewable energy skills and partnerships withy the likes of Tesla
  • TAFE QLD – especially at the Robina Campus with their commitment to UNSDGs
  • Strategix (change the course of your life) – for driving operations, supply chain operations, vehicle licences at their Broadbeach site

And we need more RTOs to be at this standard with a training needs analysis as a next step for the VET workforce, as well as innovative professional development so you can see people in action.  If you’d like to suggest RTOs that should be on this list, please email, thanks.


On Skills Reform Consultations who really knows what needs to be done?  Whilst these processes can provide ideas and suggestions it can be difficult to consolidate an approach that outlines exactly what needs to be changed in very practical ways, and often people repeat the same old stuff.

Staring reform from January 2024 is unacceptable and will leave the country even further behind – National Skills Agreement meeting talks national reforms, funding (

  1. Taxonomy; Trainers and Assessors; Training Packages – Renovation and Revival


The fact that some people consider that Australia should have its own skills taxonomy that is not interoperable with other countries system is arrogant and naïve.

There are several platforms and systems, such as Lightcast that has, “An open-source library of 32,000+ skills gathered from hundreds of millions of online job postings, profiles, and resumes—updated every two weeks.”

Trainers and assessors

Often the unsung heroes, I remember back in the day when the trainers from hospitality where award winning chefs and the fashion trainers went to Paris and Milan for industry currency and inspiration.  And perhaps this happens in small pockets, but trainers and assessors should represent the best of their industry sectors.

It is this level of mastery that we should be aiming for the in the VET Workforce Blueprint.

Training Packages – Renovation and Revival

Qualifications Reform is exploring potential changes to the current VET qualifications model to ensure the national training system has ongoing relevance to labour market needs.

There is an easy way to think about streamlining units of competency that creates qualifications by having a structure of core skills, functional skills, industry essential and industry/job specific (technical) skills.  Tagging units in this way would identify many areas of duplication where the same type of skill has been developed across many different industry sectors and Training Packages.

This structure would look like a 4 layered cake:

  1. Core skills – 21st Century literacies (building upon foundation skills)
  2. Functional skills
  3. Industry essential skills
  4. Industry/job specific skills

Industry must help design the curriculum to ensure that the skills taught in VET programs are aligned with the needs of the job market now and into the future.  Employers can provide input on the skills and knowledge that are most relevant to their industry and the changing demands of the workforce via practical job skills profiles.

Like Germany, Australia could design job profiles and qualifications with these 4 layers and with a future window of 3-5 years, so they are not out of date so quickly, applying AI enhanced workforce planning.  Note that 3 levels of skills standards will see a model doing what we’ve always done in the past and I believe this wont be fit for purpose, neither is a job only fitting to one qualification – it is likely that there will be multiple qualification matches to cover the depth and breath of the current to future job role.

  1. UNSDGs; User Focused and UX for VET


The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UNSDGs) can be integrated into Vocational Education and Training (VET) in Australia through various ways including Curriculum Design and Development; Teaching and Learning Methods’; Workplace Training; Research and Development; Community Engagement; Policy Making; Staff Training and Development; Performance Metrics; Training Facilities and Building Design.

User Focused and UX for VET

User Experience (UX) design plays a critical role in all forms of education, including Vocational Education and Training (VET) for Improved Learning Experience; Increased Engagement; Accessibility and Inclusion; Enhanced Assessment and Feedback; Supports Practical Skill Acquisition; Scalability and Consistency; Promotes Retention and Success.

  1. Values; VET Completion; VET Workforce Blueprint


Alongside a National Vision the VET sector needs values that all parties aim to demonstrate.

For example, Client (employer, student/learner, industry, entrepreneur) Focus, Collaboration, GEDSI (Gender, Equity, Disability, Social Inclusion), UNSDG – Education and Work.

VET Completion

Recently I went to a forum in South Australia with a theme of VET completion, opened by Blair Boyer MP.  And I was struck by the following:

  • Same old chat
  • Different people but some who have depth and breadth of experience
  • Others who don’t understand basic terms and concepts
  • Why focus on completion when we know that the product is not right and out of date

VET Workforce Blueprint

In examples of Registered Training Organisations that are outstanding, the VET workforce has capability well beyond the minimum requirements, taking required qualifications and units of competency as the baseline, non-accredited and ongoing professional and personal development to be cutting edge.

  1. Way forward; Workforce development planning; Worldwide comparison and benchmarking

The way forward is to learn from those countries have long-term national skills development plans to address the changing needs of their economies and workforce.

And to design a plan for Australia’s workforce and VET system, connected to educational, industry, global and regional goals.

Workforce development planning – AI enhanced

AI can enhance strategic workforce planning and development in a variety of ways, offering significant benefits to organisations, industry sectors, countries, and regions. This happens through a process of workforce analytics, talent sourcing, and enhanced skill development. AI tools can also assist in visualising the future workforce by predicting trends and forecasting the needs and skills of the workforce.

Worldwide comparison and benchmarking

Read these blogs for further examples of worldwide comparisons and benchmarking:

Simplifying and streamlining the VET system will require a coordinated effort from all stakeholders involved. However, the benefits of a simplified and streamlined VET system, including improved access and outcomes for students, employers, industry and communities with a more productive and skilled workforce, making it a worthwhile goal to pursue.

DEWR Announcements and Articles are fairly old and out of date so skip these pages for Brendan O’Connor’s press releases, and let’s not rely upon colleagues who are public servants to do this work either – it needs VET and industry experts to take a lead.

Out of everything recommended I’d start with the products, because it is easy to take Training Packages and competencies and tag with the 4 layers straight away – you need to have someone, or a team do this who has experience with this task for jobs, organisations, regions, cities and countries.

Appreciate that in this blog and paper there might be some points of differing opinion and the aim here is like when you are working with people one on one – to see the system and stakeholders better off than when you first met them so over to you.

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