Being prepared for the changes under the new VET Student Loans scheme may be the difference between sink or swim.

With the Christmas and New Year festivities well and truly over, the luxury of slowly easing back into your regular work routine cannot afford to be taken by any Vocational Education Training Provider (Provider). So shake off that holiday hangover and read up because the VET Sector is getting an overhaul.

The VET Student Loans Act 2016 (the Act) commenced on the first of January this year, and has wide-ranging reforms for all aspects of the VET Sector. The Act was unsurprisingly a response to the previous VET FEE-HELP Scheme which was described by the National Audit Office as having ‘poor design and a lack of monitoring’.

This article is the first of a series that will help Providers understand and adapt to the different design and increased monitoring under the new scheme. Along with increased requirements upon Providers, competition will become more pronounced as new loan caps and restrictions on course availability kick in.

Becoming an Approved Course Provider is the most urgent aspect of the new changes and will be addressed in this article. The application date is drawing near and the process is rigorous, so be across the new requirements and send your application in by the deadline or wave goodbye to government funding.

How to become an Approved Course Provider

Regardless of whether you are a provisional Provider or not, come 1 July 2017 only Approved Course Providers will be eligible to receive VET Student Loans. Applications to become an Approved Course Provider close at 11:59pm on 19 February 2017. Missing this deadline will lock Providers out until an annual application process has been developed and approved by the Department of Education of Education and Training.

And remember, just completing the form may not cut it as only ‘high quality providers offering courses with positive outcomes for students gain approval’ (The Department of Education and Training).

Along with the usual information you would expect to be included in the application (such as key personnel, Provider and course details) the most important section is the Provider Suitability Requirement (PSR) criteria. The PSR criteria require evidence of five key Provider characteristics:

  1. Financial Performance: This means you need professionally prepared financial documents showing you that your ‘organisation has sound financial management structures in place’.
  2. Strong Management and Governance: You need to demonstrate a ’strong commitment to good governance, accountability and data integrity’.
  3. Experience in Providing Quality Vocational Education: The Department is looking for Provider’s to demonstrate that they have a strong history of quality education services.
  4. Student Outcomes: You need to sell to the Department that your Provider has a commitment to ‘genuine student engagement’ and substantiate it through course completion rates and student employment outcomes.
  5. Workplace Relevance: The Department is limiting funding to course with a ‘high national priority’. Linking your courses to state subsidy/skill lists or science, technology, engineering and mathematics is vital for funding. After this you also need to demonstrate involvement with the industry that your courses relate to.

The application process may be daunting for prospective Providers seeking entry to the VET Sector, but will be equally challenging for existing Providers (even if they have a dedicated compliance team). If the above requirements haven’t snapped you out of holiday mode then you are either already prepared or looking for work in a different industry.

Stay tuned for the rest of our VET Sector series in the months to come!