Vocational Education and Training (VET) provides skills and knowledge for work through a national training system, which provides for Australians: entering the workforce for the first time or re-entering the workforce; retraining for a new job; or upgrading skills for an existing job in accordance with the Government’s social and economic policy.
VET is generally practical, hands-on and industry focused. Courses range from certificate I to advanced diploma level and are taught by registered training organisations (RTOs), who are authorised to issue VET qualifications for training that they are registered to deliver. VET is offered not only in the public TAFE system (in Tasmania the Tasmanian Polytechnic and the Tasmanian Skills Institute are the two primary public providers), but also through private and community training providers, and in secondary schools. A list of RTOs registered to deliver training in each State and Territory is maintained on the Training.gov.au (TGA) website.
Australia's national system of VET training provides high quality, work-based training with qualifications that meet national standards. Underpinning this system is a framework consisting of the Australian Quality Training Framework, Australian Qualifications Framework and Industry Training Packages (which define the assessment standards for the different vocational qualifications). Since the States and Territories are responsible for most public delivery and all regulation of providers, a central concept of the system is "national recognition" whereby the assessments and qualifications of any one RTO must be recognised by all others and the decisions of any State or Territory training authority must be recognised by the other States and Territories. This allows portability of qualifications and units of competency.
Training.gov.au (TGA) is the official national register, not only of training providers registered to deliver training, but of information on units of competency as well as training packages and qualifications. Training packages, which are made up of a number of qualifications, are sets of nationally endorsed standards for recognising and assessing people's skills in a particular industry. Qualifications on the other hand make up a training package and can be anything from a Certificate 1 through to an advanced diploma. Likewise, units of competency make up a qualification.
Traditionally, VET training was largely for males working full time in traditional trade related industries. In today's Australia, VET allows for training in a diverse range of industries, equally available to males and females, with a choice of outcomes that combine work with structured training over 3-4 years (apprenticeships and traineeships) or short-term for those simply wanting to gain some new skills.
An apprentice is trained in a skilled trade (i.e. electrical, plumbing, cabinet-making and automotive mechanics) and upon successful completion will become a qualified tradesperson. A trainee is someone who is being trained in a vocational area, who, upon completion of their traineeship, will be eligible to receive a minimum of a certificate II in their chosen vocational area. Typically these may include areas such as office administration, information technology and hospitality.
Apprentices and trainees aim to complete a qualification as part of their apprenticeship or traineeship, whereas someone wishing to gain new skills (i.e. existing worker) may only wish to complete only one or more units of competency.
Training may take place in classrooms, in the workplace, off-the-job, online and through other flexible delivery methods.