Thank you for the opportunity to comment on the proposed VET Student Loan proposal. This submission is made on behalf of the industries and training partners represented by FutureNow, the Creative and Leisure Industries Training Council. FutureNow has within its industry scope, the Cultural and Creative Arts, Information and Communication Technologies (ICT), Print, Sport, Recreation, Racing and Wagering, Hospitality, Tourism and Events. Many of these sectors have occupations linked to qualifications at the Diploma and Advanced Diploma level and in some instances they will be negatively affected by the removal of qualifications, the level of capping now to be applied and the rapid implementation of the VET Student loan scheme.
- the lack of consultation about the scheme with both TAFE Directors Australia and ACPET and the fact that high quality training providers are being penalised with a ‘one size fits all’ model that is a response to policy and regulatory failure,
- skills shortages in projected growth areas and areas that make a significant contribution to economic and social capital, that will ensue from the proposed model
- the loss of much needed higher level skills as delivered through Diploma and Advanced level courses within knowledge and service occupations and the subsequent opportunity for graduates to progress to Higher Education pathways. This is linked to concern that there will be student attrition across both Diplomas and Advanced Diplomas and that students may not be able to afford to progress to the Advanced Diploma year if they cannot afford to meet the gap. This could lead to a loss of expertise and professionalism in the sectors if graduates exit at Certificate IV or Diploma and attempt to enter the workforce with diminished knowledge and skill level.
- The possibility that providers may need to shorten courses to make them economically viable for example a 12 month Diploma may be delivered over 6 months. Abbreviation of courses by profit driven training providers has been an issue in the past and it would be ironic if these reforms forced high quality providers to adopt a similar model. Industry is concerned that time for the application of learning and industry engagement would be lost if this was to occur.
- inconsistencies between the capping levels applied to analogous industry areas for example the capping for fashion courses at $15000 while other creative sector courses, also linked to significant industry sectors such as manufacturing or building and construction fall within the $10000 cap.
- the metric of ‘strong employment results’ being applied to the inclusion of qualifications on the list in sectors such as the cultural industries where employment models frequently include project based, self employed freelance practitioners or embedded creative practitioners within other organisations
- access and equity considerations as less wealthy students are unable to meet course fee gaps or source funds to undertake qualifications not eligible for VET Student Loans. While FutureNow is aware that students may still be able to undertake these studies is they are able to meet the fees from other lending sources, it would be disturbing to think that training in the creative or leisure industries might be limited to only those who can afford it rather than as a result of motivation and merit selection.
- the inclusion and high levels of capping applied to qualifications that are not skills shortage areas and that have no or very minimal enrolments
- a perception of inequity in policy decision making between the loans models as applied to the VET and the Higher Education sector in which fee capping is not applied,
FutureNow’s Industry stakeholder concerns are situated in the Cultural, ICT and Hospitality sectors.
The reduction of qualifications eligible for VET Student Loans from 70 to 13 will have a significant impact on the ability of the sector to contribute vital skills and expertise to Australia’s creative industry sector. This will negatively impact Australia’s economic and social development and will impact on other industries such as Tourism which is highly dependent on a sophisticated performing and visual arts and design workforce. No rationale has been provided as to why performing arts qualifications such as dance, acting, outdoor broadcast, musical theatre and screen performance will not be eligible for student loans.
Other courses that have been removed include jewellery and object design courses, ceramics, and product design. These are not ‘lifestyle courses’ as described by Minister Birmingham but contributors to the ‘making economy’ which is experiencing a great resurgence in many parts of the world notably England, Europe and the USA. The opportunity for this to occur in Australia has been documented in recent reports and studies such as Victoria’s 2015 Creative State, Global City taskforce report . Skilled practitioners who are able to work across hand made bespoke and advanced manufacturing processes will be lost if high level training does not remain through these qualifications. The exclusion of the Advanced Diploma of Photography and Live Production Design and Animation qualifications is also of concern at a time when high quality visual content particularly in the digital realm is being sought by all enterprises and by government.
Information, Communications Technology
Information Technology industry stakeholders have expressed support for the inclusion of all ICT qualifications currently included on the VET Student Loan eligibility list but are concerned that the capping of the Diploma of Information and Communications Technology at $10000 is insufficient. They believe that if the course currently delivered over a 12 month period was to be reduced to 6 months to make it economically viable the quality of training could be impacted.
Tourism, Travel and Hospitality
Industry concerns relate to the categorising of the Diploma and Advanced Diploma courses in the SIT Travel, Tourism and Hospitality Training Package under the Management and Commerce capping band of $5000. This contradicts the VET Student Loans Fact Sheet information that indicates that Food, Hospitality and Personal Services fall into the $10,000 band. Feedback received from Training Stakeholders is that the contextualisation of these qualifications to the Travel and Tourism sector means that the courses are resource heavy in terms of licensing of specialised software, equipment and consumables. The large gap that students will have to fund is likely to be a disincentive to the pursuit of higher level training at a time when the burgeoning hospitality and tourism sectors continue to experience skills shortages in much needed managerial and supervisory roles.
We encourage the Commonwealth to continue to engage more fully with industry, peak bodies and the training sector before finalising both the list of qualifications and the final assessment about capping levels.