29/08/2014 - 15:25

Education leaders call for reform

29/08/2014 - 15:25

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Vocational education and training needs more funding and recognition according to business leaders in the sector, who met in Perth this week.

Education leaders call for reform
Navitas chief Rod Jones.

Vocational education and training needs more funding and recognition, according to business leaders in the sector who met in Perth this week.

Backing the federal government’s move to reform higher education, chief executive of Mount Pleasant-based Navitas, Rod Jones, and  Study Group International managing director (Australiasia) Warren Jacobsen said there were more parts of the post-secondary sector that needed attention.

Mr Jones said the industry was increasingly needed to reskill workers as industries restructured.

“At the moment the focus is very much on higher education, the poor cousin is vocational education, and it’s not being funded to the level it needs to be, nor is it getting the recognition that it needs to get,” Mr Jones told the Australian Council for Private Education and Training conference in Fremantle yesterday.

“As careers develop and as things change, people will need to be able to move through the education spectrum.

“Not everybody is going to start at the university level … but it’s the ability to provide to them, through whatever their doing, the opportunity to continue move upwards.

“The better educated a country, the greater opportunities that country has in terms of its future development.”

The head of the $2 billion Perth-based company also offered support to the federal government’s higher education reform package, which was tabled in the House of Representatives yesterday.

“I strongly support what they’re doing – in terms of trying to open up higher education, and opening up funding Commonwealth Supported Places beyond just universities,’’ Mr Jones said.

“It’s bringing the education system on a level playing field.

“At the moment university students have got the benefit of a significant part of their education being paid for.’’

Yet those who choose alternative pathways were not receiving the same support, he said.

“But they may be getting a qualification that is equally good,” Mr Jones said.

Mr Jacobsen echoed Mr Jones’s sentiments about the reforms.

“Different students have different needs and requirements, so there are some students for whom the public sector just doesn’t work,” Mr Jacobsen said.

“For them to be in a position where if they choose a private provider and are disadvantaged for that choice is an unconscionable position.

“For students, really what it will do is it will promote choice.

“Students will be in a better position to choose those providers that more effectively resonate with what it is that they need.”

Mr Jacobsen agreed that vocational education had suffered from the absence of a suitably coherent structure nationally.

“I’m always for simplicity – to the extent that you can take a simplistic and wholesome approach to governance or regulation, it promotes more certainty for participants in the market and it promotes efficiency,” he said.

Mr Jacobsen said providers were seeing a disaggregation of their value chain, through the rise of domestic student recruitment agents and third party delivery agreements between private providers.

These changes could creat friction between recruitment channels for providers, but would also present an opportunity to expand to broader demographics, he said.

Meanwhile, Rod Camm was appointed the new chief executive of ACPET, which represents almost 1,200 private providers nationwide.

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