The current skills councils are to be abolished and aged care providers could play a driving role in new arrangements governing training development for aged care workers.
Industry groups and employers will lead the development of vocational education and training as part of an overhaul of the VET system announced by the Federal Government.
Assistant Minister for Education and Training Simon Birmingham said industry would take a central role in the development of national training packages to ensure training was more flexible and responsive to employer needs.
“We need to revitalise industry engagement in the national training system,” he said. “To do this we will put industry at the centre of the new arrangements and support a dynamic approach to industry engagement.”
Senator Birmingham, who announced the changes at the Australian Industry Group in Melbourne on Tuesday, said industry advice must drive the training system, particularly the development and review of training packages.
“It is employers who best know what skills and competencies they need in their current and future employees,” he said.
The move will be welcomed by aged care providers in the face of long-standing concerns about the quality of Certificate III and IV graduates and whether aged care training meets industry expectations and standards, especially ahead of significant growth in VET-qualified aged care workers.
In January, a South Australian Government review found almost 50 per cent of aged care providers believed less than half of cert III graduates held the required skills to be employed, while an earlier review by the Australian Skills Quality Authority was similarly scathing of aged care training.
Under the government’s changes, a newly created Australian Industry and Skills Committee will prioritise training development based on industry demand and government priority.
Significantly, responsibility for developing training packages will transfer from the current industry skills councils to new Industry Reference Committees (IRCs) supported by government-funded Skills Service Organisations (SSOs).
The changes mean that industry, through the IRCs, will be clearly responsible for VET curriculum and training outcomes. It is unclear at this stage how many IRCs will be created.
The new model will commence in full from 1 January 2016, the government said.
The Community Services & Health Industry Skills Council (CS&HISC), which covers the aged care sector, is one of 12 industry skills councils currently funded by the Federal Government.
The CS&HISC has partnered with aged care peak bodies LASA and ACSA and industry employers on a number of key projects such as the Aged Care Leadership Development project and the Aged Care WIN program.
While not clarifying whether the skills council would tender to become an SSO under the new model, CS&HISC chair Rob Bonner said he welcomed the minister’s announcement and the prioritising of the role of industry in the new approach.
The changes have earned the backing of a number of industry groups including the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ACCI), which said the new model was employer-driven and responsive, and would benefit both employers and graduates.
Jenny Lambert, the ACCI director of employment, education and training, said some of the current industry skills councils were also likely to have a role to play under the new system.
Patrick Reid, CEO of Leading Age Services Australia, welcomed the significant changes as a positive step towards meeting changing industry training requirements.
“It is vital that industry is empowered to determine the skills required for safe, effective practice at entry level through to which skills are best developed over time,” he said.
In addition to these reforms, he said greater attention also had to be paid to selecting ‘right fit’ candidates to undertake aged care training.
However, the federal Opposition said the new model to be dominated by employers would be to the detriment of other stakeholders including professional groups, unions and students.
The Australian Council of Trade Unions said the work of the tripartite industry skills councils have been recognised internationally as a successful model for industry engagement in VET including by the OECD, and it was disappointed to see the current arrangements scrapped.
ACTU president Ged Kearney said the new model should include genuine representation from all sides of industry including fair representation of the interests of workers.
Read the full policy: New arrangements for training product development for Australian industry