Australia’s small business ombudsman has urged educational professionals to consult with small businesses when designing courses. 

Kate Carnell told the Independent Tertiary Education Conference that while small businesses employ the greatest number of people in Australia, they find it hard to recruit skilled workers.

“Small businesses need VET [vocational education and training] providers to be more flexible in their approaches to training workers, including tailoring courses to match the skills needed by employers,” she said.

“Instead of concentrating on whole qualifications, they should provide a variety of short courses that build a skills profile that makes workers more employable to the small businesses in their community. 

“If training organisations genuinely engage with small employers, new markets will open and enrolments will grow.”

The past decade has seen a shift in employment towards services industries, with this trend expected to continue, according to Ms Carnell.

There has been considerable growth in sectors where the main source of skills is VET, but only 22% of people who start a qualification finish it, she added.