The latest report of the National Centre for Vocational Education Research (NCVER) on government-funded students and courses, for the March 2018 quarter, recorded a 3.7 per cent fall compared with the same period last year.
An angry James Pearson, CEO of the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, used the figures to attack politicians for failing to build the skills needed by the businesses of today and tomorrow.
“How much longer do we have to witness the decline in VET before governments act?” he asked.
“Particularly worrying is the drop of 33 per cent in advanced diploma and 26 per cent in VET diploma students from three years ago. Shifts over the last three years show the impact of inconsistent policy and funding approaches largely at state level.”
Mr Pearson noted that the biggest fall in VET places was in South Australia, where numbers halved year-on-year. Victoria and Western Australia also recorded sizeable falls.
“These figures reinforce the strong view of business that our governments collectively have dropped the ball on VET investment,” Mr Pearson said.
“Although some states have performed better than others, the overall figures reflect a lost opportunity to develop the skills needed for our modern economy.”
He also called for “a holistic approach to post-secondary education” and urged governments to support the creation of new apprenticeships.
“Governments need to urgently implement the apprenticeship projects from the Skilling Australians Fund (SAF) National Partnership Agreements. Not a single apprentice has been employed under the SAF since its announcement 15 months ago,” he said.
Ironically, the figures came just days after federal assistant minister for Vocational Education and Skills, Karen Andrews, met with Cairns business leader Elsa Comino of Eat Real Cafe to spruik the value of vocational training.
In December last year, the chamber suggested the situation was “in crisis” as the number of apprenticeships almost halved in the five years to June 2017.
“The numbers are continuing to fall, unchecked by any recent action,” its director of employment, education and training, Jenny Lambert, said at the time.