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How have employers been using the VET system – and are they satisfied with VET?

July 14, 2021

With NCVER’s 2021 Employers Use of the VET System survey currently underway, let’s take a look at the current survey data we have from 2019.

The data collected from the 7007 interviews with Australian employers conducted by NCVER provides valuable insight into the relationship between VET and industry. The survey focuses on information about employers’ engagement and satisfaction with the VET system and the various ways employers use the VET system to meet their skills needs.

Employers can use the VET system in 3 main ways:

  1. Offering jobs that require vocational qualifications
  2. Employing apprentices and trainees
  3. Providing their employees with nationally recognised training

Here’s what NCVER found.

Employers’ use of the nationally accredited VET system declined

Compared to the 2017 survey data, 3.5% less (50.9%) employers made use of the nationally accredited VET system. In fact, use of training by Australian employers in general was down by 7.3%, with 71.4% providing informal training. Use of unaccredited training remained steady at 48.8%, while employers providing no training at all rose to 12.8%.

Offering jobs that require vocational qualifications

NCVER found the main reasons employers offered jobs requiring vocational qualifications were:

  • to ensure employees had the skills they required for the job
  • for legislative, regulatory or licensing requirements.

Employers who had jobs requiring vocational qualifications declined nationally, at 34.2%. In addition to this, employer satisfaction with vocational qualifications providing employees with the skills they need to do their jobs also declined, with 72.1% satisfied in 2019.

Employing apprentices and trainees

The main reasons for employing apprentices and trainees were:

  • to get skilled staff and improve staff skills
  • to fill a specific role in the organisation.

In 2019, the use of apprentices and trainees remained steady at 23.2%, and satisfaction was also similar to 2017 at 77.6%.

Providing their employees with nationally recognised training

Employers’ use of nationally recognised training declined, at 19.9%. However, employers had similar satisfaction levels in 2017, with 78.8% satisfied that the training met their skill needs.  


Interestingly, 48.8% of employers arranged or provided their employees with unaccredited training and 87.4% were satisfied with this training (similar to 2017), with the main reasons for this provision being:

  • to provide the skills required for the job
  • meet and maintain professional or industry standards
  • meet highly specific training needs.

This brings up the increasing popularity of microcredentials. Microcredentials are a shorter form of training or education that is less than a full qualification. They’re typically focused on a discrete skill or a set of skills and knowledge as opposed to a broad-based educational program. Microcredentials can be called skill sets, short courses, nanodegrees, micro certifications, digital badges, and undergraduate certificates. They can be nationally recognised, or unaccredited.

The formal VET system only recognises two forms of microcredentials – training package skill sets and accredited short courses. However, there are also many other (unaccredited) combinations of subjects that are effectively acting as credentials in the marketplace, which NCVER refers to as ‘subject bundles’[3].

In 2019, around 2.6 million VET students were enrolled in subject bundles, with the most commonly studied subjects being providing CPR, first aid and preparing to work safely in the construction industry. The trend seen with subject bundles is that they satisfy bespoke or tailored skills for enterprises, and can also help with being the tipping point to getting a job.  

Employers are using these subject bundles to upskill employees, raising conversations about whether these subject bundles are more popular or perceived as more useful for people wanting to gain employment or upskill compared to accredited VET courses.

The future of employers’ use of VET – our predictions

With work-based learning entering the digital world instead of paper logbooks, and technologies like Virtual Reality (VR) making small but steady waves in the sector, employers’ use of the VET system will be going through more change. Digital logbooks make work placement management, communication and assessment easier and more efficient, making it more attractive for employers to undertake. Similarly, an increase in the use of VR by training organisations means more organisations and corporate clients will be interested in accredited training for skills such as workplace first aid.

Apprentices and trainees in-training increased by 13.9% from December 2019 to December 2020[4]. With new initiatives and more funding for apprenticeships, we’re predicting to see another increase in this year’s results.

Additionally, the Micro-credentialing Pilots Program, implemented in 3 streams over 2019-22, has provided the opportunity to support changing workplaces. This program is enabling the provision of focused training for new or transitioning employees in specific skills to better support businesses and industries to adopt innovations and improve productivity.

Overall, we predict this year’s survey results will see more employers using VET with greater satisfaction than in 2019. Do you agree? Let us know what you think on our social media.


  1. Employers' use and views of the VET system
  2. Employers' use and views of the VET system 2019: infographic
  3. NCVER Vocational Voices podcast: The role of microcredentials
  4. Apprentices and trainees 2020: December quarter - Australia

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