Synthesising VET in Schools research

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There is a new paper, just recently out, by NCVER’s Michele Circelli and Gitta Siekmann. In its 25 pages it seeks to synthesise the extensive research on school-based VET.

The paper’s focus “is on nationally recognised VET qualifications delivered to secondary school students, those that contribute to their Senior Secondary Certificate of Education (SSCE) rather than the more general career education and work experience activities that constitute vocational learning.”

What it is

‘VET in schools’ is known by a number of names in various jurisdictions. However, in essence, it is about offering vocational experiences to a wide range of students in their senior secondary years, and these may even include school-based apprenticeships and traineeships.

There are some highlights

The paper notes that participation in VET programs in school has remained relatively stable over the last 10 years but measuring the full extent of participation is difficult. However, “undertaking a school-based apprenticeship or traineeship has been found to lead to higher rates of apprentice and traineeships or other types of employment post-school.”

In addition, “the short-term outcomes from VET programs delivered in schools are positive, with about 75% of students employed or in further education and training six to 12 months after completing their training.” (However, “the effectiveness of these programs in facilitating access to higher-level qualifications post-school is questioned.”) Nevertheless, “these positive outcomes continue in the medium-term, with about 80% of those who undertook VET programs at school employed, including working and studying, four to five years post-school completion.”

Reviews and reforms have been on the agenda

The paper draws attention to a range of reviews that have happened in various jurisdictions. Some of the review reports have been published and others not. However, the paper highlights reviews in South Australia, Tasmania, Victoria, New South Wales and the Northern Territory. A review has also been conducted in the ACT that is not highlighted in the present paper.

Why VET in schools?

Essentially, these programs have a range of purposes, including:

  • enabling “all secondary students experience quality vocational learning and have access to quality VET courses”
  • providing a diversity of offerings to meet diverse students’ needs,
  • enabling a range of alternative pathways to post-school study and work options, and
  • helping ensure retention of students of all ability levels and interests in senior secondary education.

Essentially, VET in schools aims to increase engagement and retention of young people in education and training and provide transitions to employment, including further studies leading to employment.

But there can be problems

And these are that “personalised student support and career advice is hampered by curriculum delivery, assessment, work practices and the structural environments in which schools operate” and “there is insufficient employer engagement to support senior secondary students to gain an understanding of the world of work, undertake effective career planning, and access opportunities for employment and training.”

In addition: “there is a weak integration of VET programs into the school curriculum” and VET programs can be assessed differently (non-graded) from other school subjects (graded). Employers may also be suspicious of the quality of their education and training outcomes.

Finally, while the quality of VET programs delivered as part of senior school studies is generally good, “persistent concerns remain about the quality of some programs, particularly those undertaken through third-party or auspicing arrangements.” And there are similar concerns about the quality of career advice.

Synthesising VET in Schools research | VDC