Nick Johnson Cabinetmaking Skillaroo: Photos and footage by WorldSkills Australia. All rights reserved. Used by permission.
VET trainers and teachers across Australia claim that the negative image VET had as a choice for non-academic students has been transformed, with new opportunities for males and females to excel on a national or world stage.
A fresh approach was taken on January 1 this year, with minister for Education and Training Simon Birmingham stating that the Turnbull Government’s new VET student loans program protected students and restored the reputation of vocational education.
“It was clear that a completely new program is essential to weed out the rorters and restore credibility to vet,” Mr Birmingham said.
“There is a need for providers to go through a rigorous application process, extensive monitoring and evaluation to ensure that they are delivering education that students and employers value.”
VET coordinator Sue Holland, from Willetton senior high school in WA, said that she and other teachers conducted detailed research into recognised training providers, using schools’ networks and examining hard evidence to protect students.
“VET was seen as an alternative program for students that were disengaged or not achieving, but we have students in our courses that are high achievers,” Ms Holland said.
One of the school’s highest achievers for 2017 was Mia Allsop who completed a pre-apprenticeship in electrical in 2016 and was completing a pre-apprenticeship in plumbing this year.
Ms Holland said that girls were challenging stereotypes of what they could do, with six of the school’s awards in VET going to girls and two to boys in courses that were traditionally for boys.
She said that the school offered flexible learning programs that were a hybrid of in-school and off-campus programs, while other qualifications could be studied at school and catered for different career goals.
She said that, in 2017, about 416 students enrolled in some form of VET program, with about 52 percent of students studying at least one VET course in years 11 and 12.
“A fair proportion of tertiary-bound students see VET as a program that they can study and apply it in an interest-based field after school,” Ms Holland said.
She found growing interest in staff at Willetton senior high school to take VET qualifications, with 44 staff having certificate iv qualifications representing about 25 per cent of the staff. About 25 staff delivered vocational programs in 2017.
“All our staff must demonstrate vocational currency and recent industry experience,” Ms Holland said.
She said that her staff attended training in industry placement (TIP) programs that were short, intensive courses where they gained on-the-job training.
One of her staff had experience in hospitality as a chef, while others worked in industry over weekends.
Students continually distinguish themselves by being invited to apply for apprenticeships, were offered positions in mining as high achievers or returned for a ‘second chance’ to receive training.
“Students find that if they do a certificate ii in sport and recreation, they can gain entry into TAFE to do a certificate iv in the same industry area as part of a transition pathway,” she said.
Opportunities for students to showcase their talents is evident from the WorldSkills Australia program of running skills competitions in 34 different regions nationally across 60 trade and skills areas with over 1000 education institutes, industry and employer groups participating, according to a press statement from WorldSkills representative Emma Clark.
The Victorian Government supported the 2016 national competition organised by WorldSkills, with 27 medals won by WA and 23 by Victoria from 155 medalists, with schools participating on a national basis.
From the national competition the skills squad was created to compete for the 2017 Skillaroos, which would represent Australia at the 2017 WorldSkills international competition to be held in Abu Dhabi in October 2017.
Skills squad member Nick Johnson, a cabinet maker from WA and member of the 21 member skills squad, said he encouraged more young people into learning a trade.
“You get to learn while you work and also earn some money if you get an apprenticeship,” he said.
The Victorian State Government website for education and training states that the State Government has engaged the VET development centre to hold a series of courses for Government school teachers that are industry themed, immersion or structured workplace forums.
The website for education and training has information for school leaders to use the e5 instructional model to develop a deeper understanding of what constitutes high quality teaching practice.
However, Ms Holland said that the focus on national quality standards of teachers was a good guide but that she did not advocate any particular strategy.