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Insight issue #57   ·  16 March 2016

Shedding light: the role of private training providers in delivering training to young early school leavers

Private for-profit providers are becoming significant in the delivery of VET in Australia due to the marketisation of the sector to encourage a more competitive training environment. Coinciding with this growth in private providers is the increasing emphasis on student entitlement models of funding VET provision with the aim of supporting people to attain initial VET qualifications.

New research undertaken by George Myconos from the Brotherhood of St Laurence, and research partners Kira Clarke from Melbourne University and Kitty Te Riele from Victoria University, examines the role of private providers in delivering training to young learners who have left school early.  

The researchers surveyed 130 private, for-profit registered training organisations (RTOs) to find out their perspectives on teaching and learning practices, engaging with early school leavers and educational and wellbeing support services.

The findings indicate that these young learners face a range of barriers to participating in education and completing their qualifications, including:

  • disengagement, lack of commitment, lack of motivation
  • lack of support from family and friends
  • health, drug, alcohol problems
  • employment conditions
  • learning difficulties
  • lack of access to child care.

These challenges and barriers to participation can be exacerbated by individuals’ previous fragmented education experience, poor referral practices from employment agencies, and poor quality education and training from RTOs.

When it comes to working with these learners, the researchers found that the size of private RTOs is important, with private RTOs claiming their small scale nature appeals to early school leavers who may have struggled in larger institutional settings. Small RTOs can engage learners in small groups and individually in informal settings. However, the size of many private RTOs can also cause problems when they may be too small to provide adequate infrastructure and support services to the learners.

The types of support most commonly provided by private RTOs include:

  • mentoring and pathways staff
  • foundation skills alongside industry training.

Another strength of private RTOs is that they are perceived to have close partnerships with employers and an ability to facilitate training in a workplace context. They considered this to be of benefit to early school leavers who may prefer practical and hands-on work-based learning over classroom learning.

The private RTOs in the study were eager to show a commitment to early school leavers and a willingness to support these learners in completing their qualifications. However, unsurprisingly, this is limited by the commercial realities of running a business in the ever-changing VET landscape and funding regimes. The authors conclude that private RTOs and the trainers who work for them need to be better equipped and better supported to continue to provide training to this high-needs group of young learners.    

With the introduction of the total VET activity (TVA) data collection, more information will be available in the coming years which will hopefully shed more light on private RTOs and the training they provide to all learners.      

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This work was produced by NCVER under the National Vocational Education and Training Research (NVETR) Program on behalf of the Australian Government and state and territory governments. Funding is provided through the Australian Government Department of Education and Training.

Image: Getty images/iStock