NCVER’s ‘Total VET students and courses 2019’ Report: A Breakdown

Claudia Reiners
August 26, 2020

NCVER’s ‘Total VET students and courses 2019’ Report: A Breakdown

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

Every year, the National Centre for Vocational Education Research (NCVER) releases extensive data and analysis into the vocational education and training (VET) sector in Australia, delivered by Australian registered training organisations (RTOs).

The ‘Total VET students and courses’ Report is released annually, and provides a detailed examination of ‘total VET activity’ of the previous year.

The data refers to students who have participated in nationally recognised VET; specifically those who have undertaken study on a government funded or fee-for-service basis.

Similar to our report on the 2018 data set, we’ve taken a look at the high level insights, and broken them down for you.

Key Takeaways:

  • An estimated 23.4% of the Australian resident population aged 15 – 64 years took part in nationally recognised VET in 2019
  • Compared to 2018, student numbers increased by 3.2% in 2019 to 4.2 million
  • There was an increase in students enrolled in nationally recognised programs by 3.0% to 2.1 million in 2019


In 2019, we saw a 4.2% increase in government funded students to 1.2 million, which reversed a downwards trend that we had seen over the previous two years.

In our review of the NCVER 2018 data set, we reflected on how the demise of the VET FEE HELP scheme could have played a role in driving down enrolments in government funded courses across the 2015-2018 period. It’s difficult, however, to draw any conclusions after just one year of positive growth, and what this will mean in the future.

Compared to last year, domestic fee-for-service students increased to their highest level (increase of 2.8% compared to 2018) since the NCVER VET data set was consolidated in 2015.

Interestingly, government funded student numbers increased across all of the Australian states in 2019 compared to 2018, but dipped slightly across the territories. With popular initiatives such as FREE TAFE in Victoria, Smart and Skilled in NSW and the Certificate III Guarantee in Queensland, we will continue to observe whether these numbers are sustained over the next couple of years.

The introduction of JobTrainer, and other post COVID-19 reform packages will also have a lasting impact on these numbers in the years to come.

NCVER 2020 3 scaled

Types of Providers

According to the NCVER, there has been a 11.4% increase in students enrolling in private training providers since 2015, and an uplift of 4.3% compared to last year. In 2019, 3.0 million students, 72.1% of the overall total, were enrolled in nationally recognised training at private training providers.

In 2019, there was an increase in student numbers across every single provider type:

  • In 2019, 3.0 million students (72.1%) were enrolled in nationally recognised training at a private training provider
  • 779,200 (18.6%) were enrolled at a TAFE institute
  • 489,100 (11.6%) at a community education provider
  • 124,400 (3.0%) at an enterprise provider
  • 108,000 (2.6%) at a school
  • 77,600 (1.8%) at a university

NCVER 2020 4 scaled

Other Trends

In 2018, the number of students enrolled in nationally recognised training programs continued its downwards trend, while subjects not delivered as part of a nationally recognised program continued to increase (54.6% increase since 2015).

In 2019, enrolments in nationally recognised programs actually reversed this trend, and increased by a total of 3.0%.

The NCVER data does note that the increase in subjects that are not part of a nationally recognised program is due to both better reporting and increase in activity. However, commentary from last year’s data has pointed to a general upwards trend in enrolments in short courses and broader skill-sets across the entire VET/Higher Education sector, such as the rise of micro-credentials.

How this trend will affect VET enrolment numbers in the future is still unknown. However, the recommendations in the recent Australian Qualifications Framework Review suggests that perhaps micro-credentials and shorter form courses might form part of the VET landscape very soon.

Top 5 subjects not delivered as part of a nationally recognised program in 2019 (‘000)

HLTAID001 - Provide cardiopulmonary resuscitation
1 501
HLTAID003 - Provide first aid
HLTAID002 - Provide basic emergency life support
CPCCWHS1001 - Prepare to work safely in the construction industry
SITHFAB002 - Provide responsible service of alcohol

Training Packages

The most popular training packages (by enrolments) tend to remain fairly consistent YoY, unless there are significant changes in the training packages themselves.

In 2019, 84.8% of all enrolments in nationally recognised programs were in training package qualifications.

CPP40307 Certificate IV in Property Services (Real Estate) was the only qualification to drop out of the Top 20 in 2019 (down 15%) to 28th on the list.

The FNS40217 – Certificate IV in Accounting and Bookkeeping qualification came in at 19th in its first full year as combined qualification (previously, Accounting and Bookkeeping were separate qualifications).

Other notable figures include a 69% increase in enrolments for the TAE40116 – Certificate IV in Training and Assessment compared to 2018, and a 27% decrease in enrolments for BSB51918 – Diploma of Leadership and Management.

Top 20 enrolments by Training Package qualifications in 2019

  • CHC33015 – Certificate III in Individual Support
  • TAE40116 – Certificate IV in Training and Assessment
  • CHC30113 – Certificate III in Early Childhood Education and Care
  • BSB30115 – Certificate III in Business
  • CHC50113 – Diploma of Early Childhood Education and Care
  • FSK20113 – Certificate II in Skills for Work and Vocational Pathways
  • SIT20316 – Certificate II in Hospitality
  • BSB20115 – Certificate II in Business
  • SIT30616 – Certificate III in Hospitality
  • UEE30811 – Certificate III in Electrotechnology Electrician
  • CPC30211 – Certificate III in Carpentry
  • SIR30216 – Certificate III in Retail
  • SIS30315 – Certificate III in Fitness
  • BSB51918 – Diploma of Leadership and Management
  • CPC10111 – Certificate I in Construction
  • SIT30816 – Certificate III in Commercial Cookery
  • HLT54115 – Diploma of Nursing
  • SIT20416 – Certificate II in Kitchen Operations
  • FNS40217 – Certificate IV in Accounting and Bookkeeping
  • BSB50215 – Diploma of Business

Level of Education Enrolments 2019

  • Certificate IV (957,230 enrolments)
  • Certificate III (513,465 enrolments)
  • Advanced Diploma (350,965 enrolments)
  • Certificate I (208,090 enrolments)
  • Certificate II (142,330 enrolments)
  • Graduate Diploma (3,630 enrolments)
  • Graduate Certificate (2,755 enrolments)

Training Package Popularity

The 5 most popular training packages in 2019 were the same as 2018, and each of these training packages saw an increase in enrolments compared to 2018.

  • Business Services (BSA, BSB)
  • Community Services (CHC)
  • Tourism, Travel and Hospitality (SIT, THH, THT)
  • Construction, Plumbing & Services Integrated Framework (BCF, BCG, BCP, CPC)
  • Sport, Fitness and Recreation (SIS, SRC, SRF, SRO, SRS)
  • Health (HLT)

There was a significantly higher number of government funding enrolments in Community Services training packages compared to Business Services (85.7% higher) in 2019 (233,705 compared to 126,475 enrolments).

However, when looking at domestic fee for services enrolments, BSB training packages had a much higher proportion of enrolments compared to CHC training packages (21.6% higher); 127,555 enrolments to 104,606 respectively.

Overall, however, Business Services has much higher enrolment numbers as a result of the high proportion of international fee for service enrolments.

Of all the international VET fee for service enrolments in 2019, 41.7% were in BSB training packages, representing 113,225 of overall enrolments.

It will be interesting to see how these enrolment numbers develop in 12 months’ time across these two training packages, as a result of the drop in international student numbers in 2020.


In 2018, we reflected on the decline in enrolments in government funded courses as something to keep an eye on, as both industry and government looked to tackle the nation’s skills shortages.

While we’ve seen a slight increase in government funded course enrolments, the different funding arrangements across the states and territories will continue to influence student enrolment numbers and affect our ability to answer skills shortages.

Since last year, however, we’ve also seen the release of the landmark Joyce Review and the Australian government’s commitment to ‘strengthening the vocational education and training (VET) sector’ via its $585.3 million Skills Package.

With a slew of reforms including the AQF Review, ASQA Review as well as an ongoing Review into VET Student Loans, the government released a draft ‘VET Reform Roadmap’ in February this year, a five year plan that looks to address the future of VET and its continued importance.

As Australia’s economy continues to rapidly restructure, so too must the VET system to meet the changing needs of 21st century learners.

The VET Reform Roadmap has come at a challenging time. The industry is grappling with the long lasting effects of COVID-19, universities are shifting their focus due to a sudden drop in international enrolments, together with the adjusting needs of the workforce and skills during a period of peak unemployment.

Last year, we identified the decline in enrolments across training package qualifications as something to monitor, as an increasing number of students look towards skill sets, single subjects and micro-credentials that sit outside the qualifications framework. We expect to see the evolution of this trend through the progression of this yearly data set.

While 2019 did see a slight increase in enrolments across the VET sector in national training programs, the jury is out on how the 2020 pandemic will influence the data.

What is still clear is that private training providers will and continue to play a huge role in VET enrolments, and any policy making decisions will need to take this into account. It is predicted that the $500 million JobTrainer funding package will lean on private training providers that are already delivering government funded training, as well as TAFEs.

Future funding arrangements will have a significant impact on this data set for the years to come. While slowing wage growth may have been a concern in 2018 and a motivator for students to commence studying, answering skills shortages and boosting economic productivity will be key factors in the next couple of years as we recover from the current crisis.

Continued support of VET across the private and public sector will be needed in order to sustain the economy.

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Claudia Reiners
Head of Strategy
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