Messages from ‘vocational voices’

This post was originally published on this site

These insights can be captured either by listening to the podcast or reading the transcript from this session at NCVER’s No frills conference. However, you access it we hope you find it interesting.

NCVER’s Steve Davis interviewed VET stalwarts Professor John Buchanan from Sydney University, Megan Lilly from the Australian industry Group, Michael Hartman from Skills Impact, Professor Stephen Billett from Griffith University, Dr Martha Kinsman from ANU and finally Dr Kaye Bowman from the Callan Consulting Group.

What were some of the messages that resonated with us?

First, John pointed out the esteem in which vocational education is held in some societies, particularly Northern Europe. Maybe not here? But, in his view we also need to be dealing with issues of unemployment and underemployment. So, he thinks “it’s time to devote more attention to the problem of job scarcity and not [rabbit] on about skills shortages.”

On the other hand, Megan points to industry’s issues with the need for workers to up-skill and re-skill. For most employers, she suggests, that involves working with and investing in the workers they already have. It may also require a better focus on soft skills and a neurodiverse workforce, maybe?

John asked whether there has ever been a ‘golden education age’. He suggested Scotland in the 17th and 18th centuries, with a lot of education and high levels of literacy. In summary, though, he feels it’s about investing in education, as parents in South Korea do for their children at present.

They turned their attention to micro-credentials. John is not opposed to them 100%. Rather, he suggests they may meet immediate problems, but ignore longer standing ones and not address the need to enable opportunities in the longer term. However, Megan pointed to the need to have ‘macro qualifications’ that provide the very important foundations “needed for someone on their journey in life” balanced with these shorter and more immediately relevant study options. In John’s view this means that we have to think about “the underlying capabilities that you’ve got to develop a stack of as you move into the future.” We need to think about the concept of occupations and their underlying capabilities more broadly, he believes.

Kaye Bowman talked about big and small ‘s’ skill sets, and she also pointed out that “if we want nationally recognized VET to be used by employers, then we need to be clear about how it relates to [their] specific needs.” My thought is that if that skill sets and training package qualifications don’t meet employer needs they will not stay in the ‘recognised training tent’ and move more forcefully towards non-accredited fee-for-service training. She suggests, though, that this less formal training “might need to be brought into the nationally recognized VET system” and [in my view] the proposed revisions to the AQF are likely to make this easier to do? She also suggests that employers that are also RTOs find ways to ‘retro-fit’ the training they actually need to provide recognised training because they see the value of that for their staff.

Michael Hartman pointed out that “units of competency have turned into a Swiss army knife for VET, making the point that units are skill standards and not training standards.” He points out that:

“They’re trying to do too many things and they’re not doing any of those things very well. They started off as being occupational standards, as I talked about in the presentation, and then they ended up with a whole range of things being shoehorned into them.”

Context of application, he suggests, is the key and that contextualisation comes through effective employer-provider partnerships. However, we need to distinguish between industry and training standards he suggests: the first of which are written by industry and the latter by providers. There is an opportunity for change right now, he reckons!

Martha Kinsman is suggesting that a “skill system which might continue in part to follow the principles of CBT would be just one component of a broader further education sector, within which it would coexist with a range of other educational purposes and curriculum approaches consistent with the broad objectives and standards set out in the Australian Qualifications Framework.” She suggests that, maybe, CBT is no longer fit for purpose, “and [that] the idea of compliance is the minimum necessary, the minimum costs necessary, what one person [has] called speed to market.” We need a greater scope to embrace ‘the complex’, she suggests.

Stephen Billett talks about the importance of personal curricula (We have looked at this before in VDC News too). He suggests “a need to think about changing the AQF rather than a hierarchical arrangement, knock it down, have it horizontal and see how people progress across there.” In his view, personal curricula are “our own personal yellow brick roads.” He points out that the Dutch system “is far more horizontal than hierarchical and there’s lots of movements across and you can progress across different levels of tertiary education from early levels of education through to the academic programs within the academic universities, they have applied and academic universities. They have pathways that are very horizontal, you can move across whereas ours are hierarchical.”

The podcast and transcript from this session at NCVER’s No frills conference can be accessed here.

Messages from ‘vocational voices’ | VDC