NCVER’s ‘Total VET students and courses 2018’ Report: A Breakdown

Claudia Reiners
September 4, 2019

NCVER’s ‘Total VET students and courses 2018’ Report: A Breakdown

4bf428ed6af9ff680b7ac8b24b046f3d?s=50&d=mm&r=g Claudia Reiners
Head of Strategy

The ‘Total VET students and courses 2018’ report by the National Centre for Vocational Education Research (NCVER) offers extensive data and analysis of nationally recognised vocational education and training (VET), delivered by Australian registered training organisations (RTOs).

The examination of this particular sector of the education industry is described as ‘total VET activity’; a collation of informational data and observations on students who have participated in nationally recognised VET – specifically those undertaking study on a government funded or fee-for-service basis.

This publication only offers data on nationally recognised VET delivered by RTOs.

Key Takeaways:

  • An estimated 22.7% of the Australian resident population aged 15 – 64 years took part in nationally recognised VET in 2018
  • Compared to 2017, student numbers decreased by 1.5% to 4.1 million in 2018
  • There was a decrease in students enrolled in nationally recognised programs by 5.9% to 2 million in 2018
  • In 2018, there were 4,675 RTOs listed on the National Training Register; a 4.4% drop from 4,892 providers in 2017.


There has been a substantial decrease in government funded students from 2015 to 2018, with the number dropping by 7.3% to 1.2 million.

The end of the VET FEE HELP Scheme has played an important role in the downwards trend of students enrolled in government funded courses.

Over the same time period, domestic fee-for-service students have increased (13.7% to 3 million), as well as international enrolments.

NCVER Student by Funding Source 2015 – 2018 (‘000)

Types of Providers

According to the NCVER, there has been a 6.6% uplift in the number of students enrolling in private training providers since 2015, with the number increasing to approximately 2.9 million students.

  • In 2018, almost 2.9 million students (71.3%) were enrolled in nationally recognised training at a private training provider
  • 777 100 (19.1%) were enrolled at a TAFE institute
  • 481,200 (11.8%) at a community education provider
  • 116,600 (2.9%) at an enterprise provider
  • 105,100 (2.6%) at a school
  • 69,200 (1.7%) at a university

Students by Provider Type 2015-2018 (‘000)

Training Packages

The most popular training packages (by enrolments) have remained largely unchanged from 2017 to 2018.

In 2018, 84.5% of all enrolments in nationally recognised programs were in training package qualifications.

There is still a very high demand for Business Services (15.5% of all training package qualification enrolments) and Community Services training packages (15.0% of all training package qualification enrolments). Business Services and Community Services remain the most popular training packages.

In order of popularity, in 2018 the highest number of qualification enrolments were in Certificate III level qualifications (38.4%), followed by Certificate II (19.9%), Certificate IV (18.1%) and Diploma and above (17.4%).

The top 20 enrolments by Training Package qualifications:

  • CHC33015 – Certificate III in Individual Support
  • CHC30113 – Certificate III in Early Childhood Education and Care
  • CHC50113 – Diploma of Early Childhood Education and Care
  • BSB30115 – Certificate III in Business
  • FSK20113 – Certificate II in Skills for Work and Vocational Pathways
  • TAE40116 – Certificate IV Training and Assessment
  • BSB51915 – Diploma of Leadership and Management
  • BSB20115 – Certificate II in Business
  • SIT20316 – Certificate II in Hospitality
  • SIS30315 – Certificate III in Fitness
  • UEE30811 – Certificate III in Electrotechnology Electrician
  • CPC30211 – Certificate III in Carpentry
  • SIR30216 – Certificate III in Retail
  • SIR30616 – Certificate III in Hospitality
  • CPC10111 – Certificate I in Construction
  • SIT20416 – Certificate II in Kitchen Operations
  • CPP40307 – Certificate IV in Property Services (Real Estate)
  • HLT54115 – Diploma of Nursing
  • SIT30816 – Certificate III in Commercial Cookery
  • BSB50215 – Diploma of Business

‘Life at 24: Then and Now’

The NCVER has also released some accompanying commentary recently about the Longitudinal Surveys of Australian Youth (LSAY) report: ‘Life at 24: Then & Now’.

This report draws attention to how study and work have drastically changed for Aussies aged 24, from 2008 to 2018. Following young Australians from their mid-teens to mid-twenties, the study provides a ‘snapshot’ of the study/work situation at age 24, overlaying the data from 2018 with the 2008 cohort.

To sum up the findings, it is predicted that the latest cohort will have a remarkable 17 job changes in five different industry areas within their working life.

The VET sector is uniquely placed to serve the needs of the coming generations of workers.

Scott Murchie
Head of Technologies and Design/Vocational Education Coordinator at Northside Christian College

This massive uplift in career changes suggests the importance of a future-proof skill set for both existing workers and students, as employers are looking for an adaptable professional toolkit that can be moulded to a variety of different areas of employment.

Over the last 10 years, unemployment in young people is on the increase when it comes to full time work, with higher rates of 24 year olds working part time compared to the 2008 cohort’s results.

The report also highlights the increase of level of qualification between the two cohorts (32% in 2008 vs 40% in 2018 for a Bachelor degree). Young people now are becoming more qualified than ever before, with higher percentages gaining a bachelor or postgraduate qualification.

The Impact of Free TAFE

The NCVER’s ‘VET qualification completion rates’ report has also revealed that approximately 2/3 of Victorian students who enrolled in a government funded TAFE course between 2015 and 2017 dropped out before completing their studies and gaining a qualification – only 29.6% of these enrolled students actually gained their qualification.

This data draws attention to the concept of ‘Free TAFE’ in Victoria and its anticipated impact on enrolment and completion rates.

Fixing TAFE requires more than just enrolling more students.

Mary Wooldridge
Shadow Minister for Training and Skills

The initiative was created to help with Victoria’s skills shortages and began at the beginning of 2019, with 40 courses deemed as priority.

NCVER’s 2018 report has not included the completion rates for individual courses, but the combined data for government-funded and private education show that education areas such as engineering, agriculture, environmental studies, food and hospitality demonstrate poor completion rates. These industry areas have also been identified as skills shortage areas, with corresponding qualifications making the list of 40 priority courses within the ‘Free TAFE Initiative.’

Ongoing, it will be interesting to see how the funding landscape will impact enrolments year on year, and the impact of federal and state government initiatives.


The decline in enrolments in government funded courses is an interesting trend, and one to keep an eye on as both industry and government aim to tackle the nation’s skills shortages.

How funding arrangements across the country will affect the ability for students to answer these skills shortages is yet to be seen.

As many have noted, VET courses play a fundamental role in upskilling and equipping Australia’s workforce for the future.

It is also important to consider the rise of micro-credentials and broader skills sets that sit outside the qualifications framework, and how they will affect the sector in the future.

Since 2015, there has been a decline in enrolments across all qualification levels, and a long term outlook towards the VET sector is crucial to understand these trends.

Overall, the most recent NCVER data has demonstrated a clear decrease in many areas, such as student numbers and enrolments in national training programs. In saying this, there has also been an evident uplift in the number of students enrolling in private training providers since the 2015 report; projecting a steady increase according to data trends.

We are keen to see how the implementation of such initiatives as the ‘Free TAFE Scheme’, the rise of microcredentials and the like will have an impact on student enrolments and completion rates, as the NCVER continues to release its reports in years to come.

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Claudia Reiners
Head of Strategy
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