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Structures and Systems for Skilling and Learning - NCVER Research 2019

April 25, 2020

As skills and jobs in Australia continue to evolve, our methods of education and training must adapt to suit the modern world of work.

The National Centre for Vocational Education Research (NCVER) recently released some interesting insights in a 53-page paper of the most recent VET year, covering contemporary skilling and learning systems. 

This is the second of three articles aimed to provide a palatable read for RTOs who are time-poor, summarising the key points. 

Skill sets

Skills sets are defined as units of competency which form a training package. They equip students with training for their respective industry, serving various purposes: upskilling, compliance and licensing, meeting defined industry needs and carving entry pathways to further training. 

The number of skill sets in training packages have grown significantly, from 20 in 2008 to a little under 1,500 existing skill sets by 2019. 

Training package skill sets over time[1]


The number of skill sets also vary among training packages, with over 200 skill sets in the Aeroskills Training Package, and seven current training packages with no skill sets at all.

Many of the skill sets with high numbers of enrolments were compliance-related or safety-related. In 2018, ‘Responsible service of alcohol’ had the most enrolments, followed by ‘Work zone traffic control’.

Research finds that training package skill sets could be better utilised. Currently, only about 16% of them have any enrolments for each of the years 2015 to 2018. Despite the definition of skill sets referring to licensing or regulatory requirements, only 4 of the 29 units designated as high-risk work licences are incorporated as skill sets in training packages.

Overall however, it appears that skill sets are on the rise, and will only continue to grow. 

Small VET Providers

The emergence of small Australian VET providers (less than 100 students enrolled) provide diversity in student choice. In every state and territory in 2017, all stable small providers combined delivered more national training package qualifications and accredited courses than any single stable large provider with a comparable number of enrolments.

Small providers account for almost one-third of all VET providers. In 2017, 1130 out of 3573 non-school RTOs had fewer than 100 students.

Small providers tend to deliver higher-level and more specialised programs than medium and large providers, with a higher proportion of enrolments at Certificate IV level and above. For example, in 2017, most enrolments in qualifications in the Funeral Services Training Package, the Diploma of Aviation (Instrument Rating) and the Advanced Diploma of Dance (Elite Performance) were with small providers. 

Small providers usually offer highly specialised courses on a fee-for-service basis in areas where there is little government funding, such as the performing arts, theology, religious ministry and yoga. In many cases, the providers themselves had applied to have them nationally recognised as accredited courses.

The dynamics of qualifications

Over the past decade, the proportion of workers with VET or higher education qualifications has increased while those without post-school qualifications has decreased.

VET qualifications are frequently held in many occupations which previously required no post-school qualification. Conversely, many which previously required VET now require higher education. There’s a general mismatch between the relevance of the highest qualifications held by workers and skills required for the job, with many more workers holding qualifications which exceed the skill requirements for their occupation. 

VET certificate holders reported the closest match between their qualification and relevance to their job (90.3%). 

Technical and trades workers with VET certificates and professional workers with diplomas were more likely than other occupational groups to be working in the same field of study as their highest qualification level (82.4% and 72.6% respectively).

Flexible reskilling and upskilling means VET will increase in demand, as VET provides efficient and cost-effective training.

Group Training Organisations: Completion rates

While traditional employers tend to directly employ an apprentice or trainee, group training organisations (GTOs) select and recruit apprentices and trainees to match them with host businesses. They’re responsible for meeting all employer obligations: paying wages and entitlements, arranging formal assessment and providing pastoral care throughout the contract.

Group training is particularly beneficial to smaller businesses which lack the resources to manage apprenticeships or cannot provide comprehensive on-the-job training they require.

Overall, completion rates with GTOs are similar to, or slightly better than, those of direct employers.

Apprentice and trainee completion rates by employer type[2]


This is the second of three articles summarising NCVER's 2019 research messages. You can read part one here.

Read more:

  1. NCVER Skill Set Research Report (https://www.ncver.edu.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0033/7863144/Are-skill-sets-booming.pdf)
  2. NCVER GTO Research Report (https://www.ncver.edu.au/research-and-statistics/publications/all-publications/completion-rates-for-group-training-organisations-and-direct-employers-how-do-they-compare)
  3. NCVER Research Messages 2019 https://www.ncver.edu.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0043/9659536/Research-messages-2019_A5_Digital.pdf

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