Skills Tasmania
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Equity in VET

Addressing Disadvantage through VET

The Socio-Economic Indexes for Areas (SEIFA) can indicate aspects of disadvantage that relate to income and wealth, living conditions, education and engagement in skilled occupations. Of all jurisdictions, Tasmania has the greatest proportion of the population in the most disadvantaged quintile of the SEIFA index.  

Individuals who fall within these categories are those that typically experience poor outcomes in education and, as a result, typically experience poor employment opportunities. This collective gap is referred to as the ‘equity gap’.

Skills Tasmania can contribute to growth through the investment in targeted training to these cohorts, as ABS data shows that Tasmania has a workforce participation rate of 60.8% (July 2015) – a gap of 4.1% compared to the national average – and an unemployment rate of 6.7% compared with 5.8% nationally.

Considerable value will be added to the training system by focusing on increasing the base skill level of entrants, improving LLN outcomes and lifting the participation rate, through the re-alignment of skills towards growth and emergent sectors and preparing long-term unemployed and disadvantaged community members for work generally. These points are a key focus for the Training and Work Pathways Program.

To achieve this, Skills Tasmania encourages and supports approaches that support partnerships between the business, community and training sectors, in concert with those Tasmanian government agencies or government business entities that support Tasmanians facing disadvantage.

Skills Tasmania’s shift in approach reflects a greater sense of the complexity of disadvantage. Reasons for this include:

  • An understanding that disadvantage is wider than under-representation.
  • A desire to move away from a simplistic ‘box-ticking’ approach that disregards overlap between groups, and the reality of multiple and compounded disadvantage.
  • The way in which target group approaches can stigmatise learners.
  • An unproductive focus on changing individuals, rather than addressing system failures or systematic barriers.
  • Increased evidence that disadvantage is not even across geographical location, sectors and industries.

While the projects that are supported by the Training and Work Pathways Program continue to target ‘equity groups’ (e.g., Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders; people with a disability or mental illness; migrants; prisoners and offenders; women; the long-term unemployed and so on), evaluations of past programs have demonstrated that the most effective interventions are those that address the crosscutting themes of disadvantage and focus on addressing barriers rather than cohorts.

Common themes that emerge as barriers to effective engagement in VET and employment include, but are not limited to:

  • low levels of education and skill development;
  • low literacy and numeracy skills, including lack of information technology knowledge and skills;
  • a history of family violence;
  • disability;
  • mental ill health;
  • age, especially being older;
  • gender and caring responsibilities;
  • low income and poverty;
  • cross-generational under/ unemployment;
  • people living in communities with concentrations of disadvantage, including historical marginalisation/ discrimination;
  • isolation due to rural or remote location with inadequate transport and services;
  • economic downturn and industry restructure;
  • lack of English language fluency and minority culture background (humanitarian entrants especially); and,
  • a history of offending and imprisonment.

This new approach is rooted in aligning skills development and training with business and employment growth. It supports the Tasmanian Investing in Skills for Growth policy by supporting innovation in the design of pathways to better VET engagement and employment for Tasmanians facing disadvantage.  

The Training and Work Pathways Program supports projects and training activity that address disadvantage and barriers to both VET engagement and employment.