VET FUNDING REVIEW ISSUES PAPER RESPONSE

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1 VET FUNDING REVIEW ISSUES PAPER RESPONSE

2 Version: V1.0 Published: August 2015 Ostara Australia. This issues paper has been specifically written to addres the impacts the VET Funding Review may have on people with disability to access VET training. For further information or discussion please contact Tom Baxter, CEO on or Maja Vranjkovic, Learning and Development Manager on

3 TABLE OF CONTENTS Introduction... 4 Better Targeted Funding... 5 Classification System... 5 Appropriate exemptions to upskilling requirement... 6 Targeted funding and/or upskilling... 6 Supoprting and Protecting Students... 7 Minimum student fee... 7 Support to students and regulating market practices... 7 Regulated brokers and aggregators... 9 Online Learning Sustainable and supported TAFEs...10 Supporting jobs and industry...10 Supporting training for vulnerable, disadvantaged and high needs groups...11 Conclusion...11 VET FUNDING REVIEW ISSUES PAPER RESPONSE 3

4 Introduction Ostara Australia is a Disability Employment Services (DES) provider, operating across 5 states and territories, delivering services under both Disability Management Services (DMS) and Employment Support Services (ESS) contracts. Formed in 2001 by a group of specialist mental health service providers, Ostara became the largest DES provider in Australia, specialising in the support of participants experiencing mental illness. Ostara Australia is specifically addressing the impacts of VET Funding in this submission, of people with disability seeking open employment in a consumer driven market of choice and control over the quality of education and training. Objective of DES: to help individuals with disability, injury or health conditions to secure and maintain sustainable employment in the open labour market. The Programme Services will increase the focus on the needs of the most disadvantaged job seekers and will achieve greater social inclusion. The Programme Services will boost employment participation and the productive capacity of the workforce, address Skills Shortage areas and better meet the needs of employers. 1 Ostara Australia is pleased to make a submission to the VET Funding Review to the areas where students with disability may be affected the most. Ostara Australia see this review as an opportunity to ensure VET funding systems meet the skills needs of not only the disability sector, but people with disability. The new VET reforms are anticipated to commence in 2017; this is inline with the reforms of the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS), where there will be an increase in the number of workers needed in the disability sector but also an increase in numbers of people with disability able to access education and training through the assistance of the Insurance Scheme. VET funding must ensure that their system is sustainable enough to support this cohort of students that will be entering the education and training market to further their skills to access open employment opportunities. 1 DES Deed VET FUNDING REVIEW ISSUES PAPER RESPONSE 4

5 Better Targeted Funding Classification System Ostara Australia welcomes the suggested classification system both for capability and financial measures as suggested in the issues paper. As a DES Provider, Ostara Australia work only with trusted RTOs that provide quality outcomes for our job seekers to provide the necessary skills sets to enter the employment market. We work with the most disadvantaged cohort and many of our job seekers are often approached with the promise of free ipads and other goods that they may not necessarily be able to afford otherwise unless signed up to a Diploma course, and many of our disadvantaged job seekers are attracted to the promise only to then incur a substantial VET Fee debt and receive no quality training that will develop their skill sets or capability for employment. OSTARA AUSTRALIA STAFF MEMBER While there is ample evidence of VET providers coercing vulnerable people to sign up for qualifications that may not be suitable, Ostara Australia has specific evidence of this practice in Melbourne and we are willing to provide further information if required. The practice causes confusion to our job seekers, in particular clients with mental health conditions, where our employment consultants have worked for some time to develop their confidence and capability to enter the labour market. We believe a classification system will provide a positive impact for students to make informed decisions about courses and VET providers that will give them the best value. In addition to the suggested classifications in the issues paper, other classifications that we recommend be reported on to better reflect diversity are: Mature Aged students Indigenous students Students with disability CALD students At risk Youth VET FUNDING REVIEW ISSUES PAPER RESPONSE 5

6 Students will be better informed on their career pathways and transition to work and informed of the VET providers success. Ostara Australia believes student choice would be enhanced by a public rating system considering all these factors. Appropriate exemptions to upskilling requirement Disability Employment Services (DES) provides Job in Jeopardy (JiJ) assistance and Ongoing Support (OGS) programs to workers with disability to maintain and sustain employment. To ensure sustainable and ongoing employment, DES providers can support the upskilling of workers to develop their skills and capabilities to maintain their job. The Government should make available appropriate funding where upskilling is required for workers with disability to sustain their employment in instances where funding is not available to workers who may already have qualifications. The general cost of courses and overheads can outweigh DES participant funding received. This can be limiting for DES Participants in seeking opportunities that provide them with growth and labour market opportunities for sustainable employment. Many companies invest significantly into diversity programs with the support from DES to ensure continued workforce participation of workers with disability. Targeted funding and/or upskilling Many people may acquire a disability or health condition through life circumstances over time. As a result, this prevents many of them from taking advantage of current labour market opportunities. For example, a construction worker who has all the required qualifications can no longer work in this field due to the physical demands of employment will require retraining in a new job. As the person has acquired a physical disability and has qualifications, they may not be eligible for VET funding to be retrained as a WHS Officer. Consideration for people with disability to be given access to the appropriate funding where insurance is not available to purchase a course should be approved. This will allow people with disability to continue working in meaningful employment and gain the necessary training and support. Through Government research we know that major skill shortage priorities will be in the disability services and aged care sectors in coming years. The National Disability Services reports that the workforce in these industries will grow to 60,000 workers by 2021, yet funding for courses in disability has dropped by up to 37%. VET should consider the labour market growth trends and apply funding to support employment and economic growth in priority areas to ensure a sustainable and well trained workforce. VET FUNDING REVIEW ISSUES PAPER RESPONSE 6

7 Supporting and Protecting Students Ostara Australia welcomes the opportunity of appropriate support to be provided to students to make better choices and consideration to their training. Minimum student fee Setting a minimum student contribution fee will need to be considered carefully. In particular, the vulnerable cohorts who have been on income support benefits for long periods of time may not be able to afford the contribution fee. Ostara Australia believes that VET Providers should make correct assessments of students and correct pathways to ensure that they are supported in their learning outcomes. Students of disadvantaged cohorts, in particular those with disability, should be provided with the opportunity to have longer cooling off periods to decide whether a course is suitable to their career pathway. Longer cooling off periods will allow the student to withdraw from any VET FEE help or funded courses by the Government and provide an opportunity to further discuss their options with career advisors of other suitable courses. Support to students and regulating market practices To further protect and support students with disability, Ostara Australia recommends that all VET Providers seeking to deliver VET programs should comply with the minimum standards for disability which are addressed in the National Standards for Disability Services (NSDS): Rights Participation and Inclusion Individual Outcomes Feedback and Complaints Service Access Service Management These principles should also be incorporated into the areas of, but not limited too: Flexible Learning Disability Discrimination Facility access Privacy principles VET FUNDING REVIEW ISSUES PAPER RESPONSE 7

8 Inherent requirements Proven outcomes on encouraging students to take up higher qualifications Ostara Australia believes with these mechanisms of control in place, all VET providers will be encouraged to deliver quality services and training and some of the more perverse behaviours currently in place will be discouraged. More often, the definition of inherent requirements in education and employment are substantially different and the VET system will need to consider this should the outcomes of employment be the target. Inherent Requirements - Education Inherent requirements are the essential components of a course or unit that demonstrate the abilities, knowledge and skills to achieve the core learning outcomes of the course or unit. Students with a disability or chronic health condition may be able to have reasonable adjustments made to enable them to meet these requirements. 2 Inherent Requirements - Employment Inherent requirements are the core activities, tasks or skills that are essential to a workplace in general, and to a specific position 3 Consideration should be given to students with disability to be able to meet the inherent requirements of both training and employment. The JobAccess program allows workers with disability to access workplace modifications and other assistance required to allow a worker with disability to meet the inherent requirements of a particular position. The VET system, although it has a requirement to make reasonable adjustments through the Disability Standards of Education 2005, lacks the appropriate funding to properly assess students with disability to meet the inherent requirements of a particular industry or job. Thus, whilst a student with disability may meet the inherent requirements through flexible learning and assessment processes in VET, it fails to test their suitability for employment. The Government provides a program to VET FUNDING REVIEW ISSUES PAPER RESPONSE 8

9 employers and people with disability called JobAccess. JobAccess funds employers to assist with: Workplace modifications AUSLan interpreters Disability awareness training JobAccess should extend to education and training services to allow students with disability to access certain equipment and modifications that will allow them to better develop skill sets and training for employment and provide them an opportunity to test the labour market through their work placement with the equipment purchased through JobAccess. At present, the VET system has very limited funds to support modifications to assessment and work placement. Many students with disability miss out on quality training that will assist them to enter the labour market, therefore making them more disadvantaged. Given that the NDIS will be in full implementation in 2018, more people with disability are expected to enter education and training through the provision of being able to purchase a number of goods and services. Australia ranks 21 out of 29 in comparison to other countries in the employment of people with disabilities. The employment outcomes of students with disabilities still seeking employment after 6 months of graduation is 16% compared to 8.5% of students without disabilities. 4 Ready for Work Graduates with Disability findings report states that there is a lack of cooperation between Careers Services and Disability Liaison Units to provide the required support into career transition and employment for students with disability. Regulated brokers and aggregators Ostara Australia welcomes the regulation of brokers. Whilst again, there is much anecdotal evidence, one manager reports having documented evidence for: Many false job advertisements online. Our job seekers apply for the job that they have the necessary skills and experience to do. Later they realise that it is an RTO who has falsely advertised the job requiring the job seeker to attend an information session to sign up to a course that may lead to a job. ESA MANAGER, PRESTON 4 _Graduates_With_Disabilities_Final_Report_0913.pdf VET FUNDING REVIEW ISSUES PAPER RESPONSE 9

10 Whilst the RTOs are working within the current VET framework and attracting students to courses, the practice is considered to be unethical and particularly for the most disadvantaged who are already struggling to find suitable employment who are most at risk of incurring debts related to VET courses. By being on the databases of these brokers and RTOs puts the students at risk of being disadvantaged further from the labour market and many with hidden conditions are less inclined to disclose for fear of not being able to get a job. Ostara Australia believes where there are strong compliance measures and classification system; this can contribute to addressing the perverse practices by some brokers and aggregators. Online Learning Online learning provides flexible delivery of education to many students including those with disability and language and literacy issues. Ostara Australia welcomes a better protocol as to what type of training should be delivered through these means, and consideration of a blended learning approach allowing students the opportunity to test their new skill sets and capabilities more effectively in the specific labour market. Sustainable and supported TAFEs Ostara Australia understands that accredited TAFEs are extremely community focused and always have staff to represent the disability standards within the education sector among other student support services. However, it is known that many VET providers do not provide services meeting disability standards or basic student support standards that accredited TAFEs provide. This is the issue in the VET sector, that accredited TAFEs are considered the same as the smaller VET providers. All providers in the VET industry should provide the same standards to students with disability to training and education. Supporting jobs and industry Ostara Australia welcomes the workforce training innovation fund. Ostara Australia believe workforce innovation funds should consider students from various diverse backgrounds allowing employers opportunity to gain access to a diverse workforce where presently they may not be achieving these targets. VET FUNDING REVIEW ISSUES PAPER RESPONSE 10

11 Supporting training for vulnerable, disadvantaged and high needs groups Whilst Ostara Australia has raised many concerns in this submission to support vulnerable groups, we believe that Students with disability should be considered as any other member of the general population, and gain employment through merit. Conclusion Ostara Australia believes that all VET providers should adopt the same practices and be measured against the same compliance and classification system. The future of VET should consider all cohorts of students, including those with disability to provide quality training that is directly related to sustainable employment outcomes. An adequately funded VET system will be critical to the future to enable growth and development of individuals who have been traditionally left out of the mainstream education and employment systems. Ostara Australia have taken this opportunity to provide feedback into the impacts VET have on people with disability and the importance that quality training and education will have as a pathway to open employment opportunities. Further discussion about the information in this submission, please contact: Tom Baxter, CEO, or Maja Vranjkovic, Learning & Development Manager, or VET FUNDING REVIEW ISSUES PAPER RESPONSE 11

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