How VET Works

Australia's vocational education and training (VET) system

Vocational Educational and Training (VET) forms an integral piece of the Australian Education system and is designed to deliver workplace specific skills and knowledge based competencies. VET is a sophisticated system governed by interconnected government and independent bodies functioning within a strict National Skills Framework of qualifications defined by industry Training Packages and explicit quality delivery standards, the Australian Quality Training Framework (AQTF). Our national VET system is informed by industry and is client focused to deliver flexible, relevant and responsive education and training.

The importance of the VET system is highlighted by the fact that more than 1.2 million workers are represented in the technical and trade sector, which represents more than 13 per cent of the entire Australian workforce. (Source: ABS ‘employee earnings, benefits and trade union membership’, 6310.0, August 2009)

VET - The Fundamentals

  • Australian Qualifications Framework (AQF): defines all nationally recognised qualifications. It provides a single framework for all qualifications from Senior Secondary Certification to PhD. Under the AQF, the achievement of a group of competencies leads to the attainment of a VET qualification. The following qualifications can be issued within the VET sector: Certificate I; Certificate II; Certificate III; Certificate IV; Diploma and Advanced Diploma.
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  • Australian Quality Training Framework (AQTF): is the national set of agreed standards and conditions for training providers to assure nationally consistent, high-quality training and assessment services for the clients of the VET system. Registered Training Providers (RTOs) must comply with the:
    - AQTF Essential Conditions and Standards for Initial Registration or
    - AQTF Essential Conditions and Standards for Continuing Registration
    National Recognition is the cornerstone of the AQTF, whereby all states and territories must recognise RTOs registered by other states and territories and all RTOs must recognise AQF qualifications and statements of attainment issued by other RTOs.

  • National Training Information Service (NTIS), is the database on vocational education and training in Australia. NTIS is the official national register of information on Training Packages, Qualifications, Courses, Units of Competency and Registered Training Organisations (RTOs) and has been developed for experienced training sector users.

  • Industry Training Packages: define the qualifications available by industry sector; developed by Industry Skills Councils; endorsed by the National Quality Council; and listed on the National Training Information Service.
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  • Training providers or Registered Training Organisations (RTOs): is a vocational education organisation that provides students with training that results in qualifications and statements of attainment that are recognised and accepted by industry and other educational institutions throughout Australia. Only RTOs can deliver accredited training and assessment and issue AQF qualifications. Their ongoing compliance with the AQTF is audited by either the national or their state VET Regulator. RTOs are registered to deliver qualifications in nominated Training Packages. The register of RTOs and the qualifications each is accredited to deliver is found on the National Training Information Service (NTIS).

Key Strategic Players

  • Council of Australian Governments (COAG): the peak intergovernmental forum in Australia where policy reforms of national significance requiring cooperative action by Australian governments are initiated, developed and monitored. More >>

  • Ministerial Council of Tertiary Education and Employment (MCTEE) has overall responsibility for the national training system. This includes strategic policy, priority setting, planning and performance, and key cross sectoral issues impacting on the national training system, such as skills forecasting, workforce planning (including skills needs) and articulation between higher education and vocational education and training.Communiqués More >>

  • The National Quality Council is a Committee of the Ministerial Council for Tertiary Education and Employment (MCTEE), and oversees quality assurance and ensures national consistency in the application of the Australian Quality Training Framework standards for the audit and registration of training providers. It has specific decision-making powers in relation to the endorsement of Training Packages and other aspects of the quality assurance under the National Skills Framework.

  • State Training Authorities. Each Australian state and territory government has a training authority that administers vocational education and training (VET) – allocating funds, registering training organisations and accrediting courses. The state and territory training authorities (STAs) are accountable to their minister, who is a member of the Ministerial Council for Tertiary Education and Employment (MCTEE).

  • Commonwealth and state government education departments provide VET policy, advice and management services.
    Government Directory

  • Skills Australia: is an independent statutory body, providing advice to the Minister for Tertiary Education, Skills, Jobs and Workplace Relations on Australia’s current, emerging and future workforce skills needs and workforce development needs.

  • Industry Skills Councils (ISCs) work as pivotal change agents within the national training system, the mandate of Australia’s Industry Skills Councils is to bring together industry, educators and governments and unite them on a common industry-led agenda for action on skills and workforce development. Industry Skills Councils collect information on training needs from industry employers, unions and industry professional associations in order to provide advice to government on what training is required within their industry. ISCs are the main source of information about the development of training packages, their status and packaging rules.
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  • Industry Training Advisory Bodies (ITABs) are autonomous, industry based bodies that are able to speak on behalf of their state industry sectors on training and related matters to support the vocational education and training (VET) system.They work in tandem with national Industry Skills Councils to assist industry with workforce development needs,assisting industry to achieve and maintain a workforce with the right levels and mix of skills to meet business goals. ITABs also provide a range of advisory and consultancy services to government employers and RTOs on the vocational training, skills and workforce development needs their specific industry sectors. Itab Directory

VET in Action - Apprenticeships and Traineeships

"The term 'Australian Apprenticeships' incorporates both apprenticeships and traineeships. Australian Apprenticeships are now a very well‐established component of the vocational education and training (VET) system.

The Apprenticeships model has been a mechanism for skills formation in Australia for over a century. The Australian Traineeship System was created in 1985 on the recommendation of the 1984 Committee of Inquiry into Labour Market Programs, known as the Kirby Inquiry. The Kirby Inquiry sought to address supply and demand issues for training and to address youth unemployment, which was hovering at nearly 20% for 15‐19 year olds in 1983, up from 7% in 1970. This situation was exacerbated by low school retention rates, with only 46% of young people finishing year 12 in 1985 and low participation in post compulsory vocational education programs.

Traineeships were introduced as an extension of the Australian Apprenticeship model with the aim of acting as a ‘stepping stone’ into primary labour market jobs in order to improve and increase broad based work related training. Kirby considered that the target group for traineeships were those who had left school before competing Year 12 and in the longer term assist others such as those returning to the workforce, especially women. It was also hoped that by extending the Australian Apprenticeship model to a wider range of occupations that the gender imbalance in the training model at the time could be corrected to some extent.

Traineeships have continued to evolve following the introduction of a range of measures, including the National Training Wage in 1994, the Modern Apprenticeship and Traineeship System policy in 1996‐97 and the New Apprenticeships system in 1998. While traineeships were introduced in the 1980s, numbers did not grow significantly until the second half of the 1990s. Cully and Karmel argue that the growth in traineeships reflected the:

  • introduction of a national training wage
  • extension of traineeships to older workers, part time workers, existing‐workers and school
  • restructuring of Australian Government employer incentives associated with apprentices and trainees.

It is important to recognise that traineeships, especially in areas such as health services, community services, aged care and child care, have contributed enormously to the professionalisation of these industries and improvement in both quality and consistency of service delivery. The improvement of occupational qualification through traineeship pathways continues to contribute to higher quality transferable skills across the economy." (Source: A Shared Responsibility: Apprenticeships for the 21st Century - Final Report of the Expert Panel, 31 January 2011)
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