Skip to main content

Vocational Education and Training (VET) or continuing education is a vital sector facing challenges in areas such as funding, retention & digital transformation.

Vocational Education and Training (VET) is a vital sector that is facing significant challenges such as funding cuts, staff and student turnover, and digital transformation.

In this blog, we will dive into some of the most critical issues facing continuing education and share some possible solutions.

Vocational Education and Training

The vocational education and training sector is crucial to economic development and social inclusion.

Vocational Education and Training (VET) helps learners acquire skills and qualifications that can enhance their employability and personal development, as well as boost the economy and address skill shortages. However, the continuing education sector is currently facing a number of challenges.

These challenges will require further education colleges and trade schools to embrace new technologies and learning modes, meet the diverse needs and expectations of learners and employers, ensure the quality and relevance of education provision, and enhance collaboration and innovation within and across sectors. 

Let’s explore these challenges in more detail. 

The Challenges facing Vocational Education and Training

Financial Constraints for Continuing Education

The Vocational Education and Training (VET) sector is struggling financially. A survey by the Education and Training Foundation found that 31% of further education staff cited lack of funding as the biggest challenge facing the sector. Reduced public funding, increased competition, rising costs and low retention rates of staff and students are some of the factors that contribute to this challenging situation for continuing education institutions. 

Moreover, poor admin systems are frustrating and time-consuming for further education workers.

For example, in Australia a full-time continuing education or TAFE teacher spends as much time on administrative work as on teaching.

To remain financially sustainable, further education colleges need to optimize their resources and processes, and invest in the satisfaction and retention of staff and students. Systems that can streamline admin processes such as compliance and student management, and reduce costs by identifying wasted energy consumption and optimising space utilisation, can help ease the financial burden for the further education sector. 

Digital Transformation in Vocational Education and Training 

Digital transformation is a high priority for continuing education institutions, as there are many new technologies and innovations that can improve vocational education and training provision. Virtual reality and artificial intelligence are examples of technologies that can enhance learning outcomes for students.

For example, virtual reality can simulate realistic scenarios for hands-on training in fields such as healthcare, manufacturing, and public service, while artificial intelligence can personalise the student experience and identify students at-risk of dropping out of continuing education.

Further education colleges also need to update their offerings and systems to meet the demand for micro-credentials, online learning, sustainable practices, and data analytics skills. Many institutions are looking to implement systems that focus on improving the student experience and digitising various aspects such as compliance management and student management.

VET student

To reduce expenditure and avoid costly data silos, vocational education and training (VET) institutions should prioritise systems that can deliver on multiple institutional goals in one platform. 

Staff Retention in Vocational Education and Training

The Vocational Education and Training sector is facing a serious challenge of staff retention. Many continuing education teachers are dissatisfied with their working conditions. According to recent research, the main concerns included recruitment difficulties, mental health and stress, excessive paperwork, lack of funding, and insufficient focus on teaching quality and CPD. These factors have made the further education sector unattractive for both current and potential teachers and staff.  

For example, in Australia over a third of qualified further education or TAFE teachers were not teaching in their area of expertise in 2022.  

This shortage is having a significant impact on institutional sustainability, as the 2023 State of Continuing Education report found that 57% of staff said their units were too understaffed to deliver on institutional goals. The highlights an urgent need for further education colleges to improve the working conditions of staff, including the environment, pay and workload. 

Increasing Competition in Vocational Education and Training

One of the challenges that continuing education institutions face is the increasing competition from other providers of short courses, certificates and industry recognised accreditations. These types of qualifications are in high demand, especially those that can be accessed online, as they offer a quick, affordable and flexible way to upskill or reskill. The vocational education and training sector has an advantage in this market, as they can offer a wide range of options and solutions to meet the diverse needs of learners.  

However, this also means that they have to compete with other further education providers, who can offer similar courses. As a result, students have more choice than ever before, and they can decide where to study based on their preferences, goals and opportunities. In addition, further education colleges continue to compete with the job market, as some students may quit their courses if they find a job or a better alternative elsewhere.

For example, low apprentice wages have caused a significant number of student dropouts from further education in recent years.  

Further education colleges and continuing education students

Students who engage in vocational education and training or continuing education often come from disadvantaged backgrounds.

Student Retention in Vocational Education and Training

Student retention is a major challenge for continuing education. Further education, VET and TAFE students often require additional support to complete their studies and achieve their goals. This is especially true for students from disadvantaged backgrounds. Further education colleges play a vital role in providing access and opportunities for learners from disadvantaged backgrounds such as low-income, minority, disabled or rural learners. 

Recently the demand for student support services has increased dramatically in vocational education and training. This has come at a time when student services budgets have been cut and as a result, more students are dropping out. It is clear the further education sector is struggling with low completion rates.  

For example, in the UK one-in-three students dropped out of their T-Levels in 2022, the Vocational Education and Training qualifications for England.

Recent research from Australia also shows poor retention rates, where one-in-two trade apprentices drop out of their course before completion. Therefore, further education colleges need to find more effective ways to support their students and improve their retention outcomes. Learning analytics and student retention software can have a significant impact on poor completion rates, giving trade schools the insights they need to identify struggling students and offer support before it is too late.  

Keeping up with VET Industry Demands 

One of the main challenges that continuing education faces is keeping up with the industry demands for relevant and high-quality skills. The vocational education and training system aims to provide students with the practical and accredited skills they need to enter the labour market and address skill shortages. However, many employers are dissatisfied with the VET system, as they find that the graduates lack the skills that are needed for their businesses to grow and compete.   

For example, one survey indicated that employer satisfaction with further education has dropped nearly 10 points, from 86.3% in 2009 to 78.7% in 2021. 

Therefore, the vocational education and training system must be more responsive to the emerging and changing needs of the industry and ensure that qualifications and training delivery is sufficient. As industries continue to embrace automation and digital transformation, continuing education will need to provide students with the skills they need to succeed in the new digital economy.

To do this, continuing education institutions also need to collaborate with employers, industry bodies and other stakeholders to design and deliver courses that meet the current and future skills needs of the labour market.   



Further education and continuing education colleges have a vital role to play in enhancing lifelong learning opportunities, promoting social inclusion, and contributing to economic development and sustainability. To fulfill this role, they need to overcome these challenges and embrace the opportunities that lie ahead.