By Ron Maxwell - CEO
The vocational education and training (VET) sector, like most industries today, is being challenged to keep pace with an ever-changing, digital world. With widespread lockdowns due to COVID-19, this digital transformation has only been accelerated over the last 15 months.
Many providers, VERTO included, rose to the challenge of delivering more courses online, shifting to this model at lightning speed. I am incredibly proud of how our team collaborated to make this possible. As an industry, we now have proof that online learning can and does work, so now need to turn our focus to what’s next.
Online learning will evolve
With so many short courses and even qualifications now all or partially online, the next evolution in my mind is really around more engaging experiences for our students.
Today’s online courses have many interactive elements, but I think we have only seen the tip of the iceberg when it comes to just how engaging these can be. Today, online learning is often chosen by students because it is better suited their physical location or time commitments, but I think we may see a time in the not-too-distant future, when it is chosen entirely on its own merits.
VERTO has invested heavily in online learning architecture, and we are continuing to look to what’s next – so it’s certainly a case of ‘watch this space’.
Back-office processes are ripe for innovation
I recently read a research report about the VET sector that listed digitisation across back-office processes as a priority for many providers. It’s a statement I agree with. While we have already streamlined many of our processes at VERTO, there are other areas we can look to as the next evolution.
From compliance to course management, enrolments and student management, there are many ways technology can support a more efficient process for all. It’s also an important part of encouraging younger generation into a career in the VET sector. These digital native generations expect streamlined, digital processes.
Many of the staff here at VERTO are digital natives and they come up with some excellent innovations that make life easier for the team and, most importantly, the clients and communities we serve. In fact, a team member here at VERTO recently told me he had created an algorithm that meant we didn’t need him for that particular job anymore. This really reinforced to me that up-and-coming generations don’t see technology as a threat to their jobs, but as a huge opportunity.
Accessibility and inclusion are important considerations
While it’s easy to get excited with all the possibilities of today’s technologies, we need to be incredibly mindful that any solutions or learning options are accessible and inclusive.
Just under 10 per cent of the Australian population don’t have access to the internet, due to financial, geographic or digital literacy barriers. This is an overwhelming number of people who could be locked out of support services and educational opportunities if the VET sector was to abolish face-to-face offerings in the future.
Compliance remains critical but should allow for innovation
In the VET sector, regulatory compliance is, of course, critical, and all providers, VERTO included, undergo regular internal and external audit processes to ensure this is maintained. While new technologies and processes need to meet standards, we also need to make sure that we are maintaining the industry’s appetite for innovation.
We are starting to see governing bodies recognising and embracing digital innovation and this is something the industry sorely needs. By welcoming innovation, these governing bodies will play a critical role in ensuring Australia maintains a world-class VET system for years to come.
The future is promising
The Federal Government has an ambitious and exciting digital transformation strategy, and I am excited to see how this will translate to the VET sector. In March, a cabinet reshuffle saw The Hon. Stuart Robert named as Minister for Employment, Workforce, Skills, Small and Family Business. In his previous posting as Government Services Minister, Mr Roberts played a key role in this strategy.
I am keen to see how he will approach digital transformation in his new portfolio and how VET might grow and innovate as a result.
From back-office processes to engaging online learning experiences, there are many exciting opportunities for digital transformation in Australia’s VET sector. With the support of governing bodies, we can innovate and strengthen our industry while making sure we are still able to best serve all the individuals, business and communities who needs us.