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The big business of short courses is only getting bigger

Shorter, non-accredited forms of learning have always been a part of the vocational education landscape. With the advantage of doing smaller packets of learning to meet discreet knowledge or skill requirements, employers and students could gain what they needed to operate - fast.


NCVER data shows how large this slice of VET business has become. In it’s An analysis of micro-credentials in VET report, it found 2.6 million students were enrolled in a course that does not form part of nationally recognised course in 2019, which it calls ‘subject bundles’ or micro-credentials.


What do VET providers need to take away from the report?


Short-form training is big business


Shorter non-accredited forms of learning are big business. With more than half of the 4.2 million students enrolled in the sector doing subject bundles, they dwarfed student enrolments in training package skill sets and accredited short courses (76,565 and 93,555 enrolments respectively).


The business is also very concentrated. About 600 of the 50,000 bundles account for 90% of student activity, while 456 RTOs report 90% of the activity in these bundles. When comparing public and private providers, 93% of subject bundles were provided on a ‘private’ fee-for-service basis.


Regulation is a key driver of activity


Students enrol in a subject bundle not because it is accredited. As it turns out, the most popular bundles are pulled from longer training packages and fall into the ‘regulation and skill maintenance’ category, including workplace safety, emergency preparedness and authority to operate.


These enrolments are driven primarily by regulatory requirements or implied responsibilities under regulation. However, NCVER argues the report also shows that micro-credentials also have an inherent value beyond meeting the demands of regulation or their accreditation status.


The future could be even bigger


NCVER argues there could be a greater emphasis (including from Government) on encouraging enrolments into micro-credentials or subject bundles that are aligned with the skills that are seen to be required for the modern workforce, rather than just to meet regulatory responsibilities.


Including new technology and digital literacy skills, as well as soft skills, NCVER says these could form a part of a focus for the industry into the future – potentially supported by the $1bn JobTrainer fund for accredited courses and short courses being allocated by the National Skills Commission.