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The new VET Student Loans Program, recently announced to replace the VET-FEE-HELP, shows a perception that is hurting the VET sector: training is a cost.

The debate around funding training and education is focused on cost. The actions taken by the government demonstrate that VET is considered as a cost and not as an investment. The rhetorical political speech talks about connecting training with industry needs, including statements such as: "Restoring Integrity to Vocational Education" or "... a win-win for students and taxpayers".

It is not clear how the VET Student Loans Program will ensure a return on investment (ROI) for taxpayers, and seems to be more about controlling expenditures, and not focused on producing an ROI.

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During the last 10 years, the vocational education and training sector has been presented with a set of so called "reforms". Instead of them promoting improvements in the system, they have contributed to a weaker delivery of education and training. A long list of government agencies and bureaucrats have consistently missed the point when trying to apply new regulatory frameworks.

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betaChanges in VET regulation, funding models, training packages, stakeholder's expectations, the current landscape of volatility and accelerating change means it is imperative that we adopt fresh skills and embrace new learning. In fact, our environment of constant disruption has made the ability to learn, unlearn, and relearn the difference between success and failure.

VET policy makers have adopted a culture of perpetual beta – a phrase commonly used to describe the development of new technology in an open environment. They believe this idea of "never finished" could encourage innovation and provide an appropriate environment for agility in leadership and modern business practices.

Are we using the perpetual beta culture as a strategy in the VET sector? The short answer is no.

A central aspect of this perpetual beta mindset is the shift from a closed environment to one that is open and collaborative. This is one aspect where VET authorities have failed since implementing the AQTF 2001. Consultation with RTOs and industry has been rather limited to players selected from the authorities and not proposed by the different sectors. Consultation outcomes have failed to go beyond meeting minutes, and final decisions have not been responsive to feedback provided by RTOs and industry.

The use of a perpetual beta approach has been accidental, definitively not planned by VET authorities, and it's not enabling us to continually and successfully reinvent ourselves, and our business model year-after-year, as the workplace and VET landscapes evolve.

To work successfully in VET, we need to understand the world of work. With the advent of social networking, crowdsourcing, crowdfunding and open-sourced innovation, we are seeing a move from top-down "command and control" business to more power being placed in the hands of individuals. Our regulatory framework is not fit for purpose, it's centralised, and gives the "command and control" of RTOs' operations to a National Regulator that struggles to understand and value the diversity of VET stakeholders.

Australia's VET sector should use the power of a perpetual beta mindset, instead of suffer the challenge of continuous changes in the world of work. We need better leadership in all VET sectors including policy makers, regulators, content developers, and RTOs. Leaders that understand that people are reframing the entire meaning of work, exploring careers across different disciplines and functional areas, embracing their creative and entrepreneurial spirits, and developing passion-based lifestyles. Our current VET sector no longer has space for Vocational, Education, or relevant Training, and has become a static and irrelevant compliance benchmark.

Vocational Education and Training organisations have exciting opportunities for growth, but only those organisations that are flexible enough to adapt to the needs of industry and learners, and are ready to show relevant results, but unfortunately our "formal" VET sector seems to be going in a different direction.

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