Provision of foundation programs by community education providers in regional and remote Australia and its implications for VET

August 2018
Estimated publish date
September 2020
Principal researcher(s)
Lisel O'Dwyer, Team Leader, NCVER
Mandy Mihelic, Research Officer, NCVER
Research sponsor - Community Colleges Australia
Lisel O'Dwyer, Team Leader, NCVER 08 8230 8678
Project code

Project purpose

The Adult Community Education (ACE) sector is a key provider of foundation skills courses, also known as adult basic education. ACE providers are defined as community-owned and -operated, not-for-profit organisations that provide organised learning opportunities for adults in community settings. The sector traditionally provided personal interest learning activities but began to offer specific vocational education and training courses in the 1980s. Little recent research has addressed the role of enabling and foundation skills offered by ACE and Vocational Education and Training (VET) providers in developing human capital in regional and rural areas.

This project will extend existing knowledge on:

  • How higher education and VET mobilises social, human and built capital in regional Australia.
  • Previous research which has focused on individual transformation and achievement and impacts on social capital, rather than the implications for human capital and economic development.
  • Recognition of the importance of ‘place’ based development for regional economic and community development. While ‘community’ (a connected group of people or resident with similar interests) can be attached to a place, the concept of ‘place’ involves the characteristics of the local environment as well as the community.
  • The continuing need to improve the labour force’s foundation skills and other skills to match the demands for workers better and enable them to participate effectively in the workforce. The geographic distribution of these skills is also likely to vary between urban and regional areas and between different regional areas.
  • Limitations of competitive tendering for the provision of government-funded enabling services and programs in regional areas. Local knowledge and existing community connections are not involved in tenders which are increasingly submitted by organisations based outside the region. Often the winning organisation is not necessarily the best placed to provide the services, particularly in the short term.

This project aims to characterise good practice in the provision of enabling and foundation skills courses and how these practices contribute to building human and social capital in regional and rural areas. The focus is on the delivery of core language, literacy and numeracy (LLN) skills and vocational training supporting community economic development, by all types of providers.

Research questions

  1. What works in the delivery of foundations skill courses in regional and rural areas?
    1. What models or approaches are most effective?
    2. Is there a relationship between delivery models and types of communities and places?
    3. Apart from direct funding, what other policy settings influence delivery? (e.g. health programs/hospitals, housing support, employment/economic development, location of government operations or services (e.g. defence, correctional services, aged care, carer support), volunteer-based services, childcare, disability support)
  2. Who (which provider types and size) is delivering foundation skills courses in regional and rural Australia and how do they vary between different communities and places?
  3. How does successful completion of foundation skills courses delivered by all provider types influence the development of human and social capital within a community and place?


The project will involve:

  • A background review of what is known about the delivery of foundation skills and enabling courses in regional and rural areas;
  • analysis of the National VET Provider Collection of identified foundation skills and enabling courses, complemented with data from the National Reading Writing Hotline on current need and provision of these types of courses;
  • an online survey of providers of foundation skills courses nationwide;
  • expert views (along the lines of a Delphi process or similar) to establish a baseline for ‘good practice’ program delivery and outcomes across a variety of different circumstances; and
  • case studies of providers across models of delivery, and of various types, size and locations.