Skills for Victoria Review: Our ideas to build in equity and innovation through system reform

We recently advised the Skills for Victoria Review on the needs of learners experiencing disadvantage, and how to organise systems for equity and for innovation.

In November 2019, the Victorian Government commissioned the Skills for Victoria Independent Review, a comprehensive investigation into Victoria’s post-secondary education and training system.

The aim of the review was to create radical change in the state’s vocational education system, and ensure it can adapt, grow and remain relevant in Victoria’s fast-moving economy.

Covid-19 put the review in particular focus, especially given the potential of post-secondary education to meet the learning needs of young people whose employment prospects have been affected by Covid and to fuel economic growth in the state.

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Illustration of books and education essentials

The review demonstrates a new way of working

The review is notable because it illustrates a practical way of building in innovation and equity at the point of reform through a number of mechanisms, including:

  • A new central body called FutureSkills Victoria, designed to foster a culture of collaboration and ongoing learning across the network enabled by a ‘FutureSkills Innovation Fund’.

  • The creation of a number of ‘FutureSkills labs’ to spur innovation in teaching and learning in industries that will be the future of economic growth in Victoria, including digital, care and the clean economy. 

  • Co-designing practices with students from diverse backgrounds so that all learners can experience being in positions of power and influence, and ensuring that learners, including young people, are part of the FutureSkills Victoria board. 

  • Increased accountability of the system to learners through an online platform that enables students to compare - and make an informed choice - between providers. 

  • A focus on self-determination of curriculum by local Aboriginal groups and increasing the cultural competency across the system.

  • A commitment to creating cultural safe and welcoming learning environments for Koori learners across the board. 

The review had three principal pillars – relevance, equity and quality – and was undertaken with the help of more than 300 stakeholders, including Victorian TAFEs, universities, private providers, students, community organisations, advocacy groups and post-secondary policy experts.

We were invited into the process to inform the equity aspect of the review through a “topic brief” designed to answer the question:

What would it take to bake equity into the vocational education system in Victoria?

We made three groups of recommendations to the review board:

  1. That post-secondary education should be better at connecting all learners to work first and foremost, and invest in innovation to improve learn-to-work models and digitally enabled learning.

  2. That post-secondary education should engage ALL learners, and that this needs to happen through a combination of raising the bar on inclusivity, and supporting the needs of particular cohorts. We emphasised that this had to be through the journey – from first hearing about post-secondary education, exiting to work, and potential return to learning.

  3. That learners themselves – especially those experiencing disadvantage – should have greater power and voice in the system. This needs to happen through participation in innovation processes, through systems of feedback and accountability, and through participation in governance of the system itself.

What happens next?

On February 4, 2021, the Review board published their final report, which the Victoria government has said will inform future reform of the system.

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