The road less travelled

I thought it a good opportunity over the next few months to get a fresh perspective on some of the issues and initiatives we are addressing and implementing at the coal face of learning and teaching. I’ve asked our Team Leaders in System Learning to share their insight on bluyonder as a way of providing a lens on some of the work.  My thanks to John Gildea, Team Leader Vocational Educational and Training for his post below on the status of VET in Australian schools.

You may have come across a report released in Britain last year that appeared in the media with headlines such as “Vocational education and training not good enough” (BBC). On first reading this might imply that the commitment of energy, time and money being made in this area is failing. In fact when you read the Wolf Report, one of the key findings is a call to strengthen the quality and range of VET courses to ensure they give students not only solid learning experiences but carry with them realistic opportunities for career in their chosen fields. The British government has pledged to reform the area.

The direction of VET in schools in Australia and in our system in particular is doing exactly that.  In 2004, the National Council for Vocational Education Research (NCVER) published a report on VET in schools. Research included canvassing over 1400 students and 300 teachers and found that:

VET plays an essential role in making the curriculum inclusive of a broader range of needs. VET was also viewed as a useful means of improving learning and giving many students a chance of success at school, some experiencing it for the first time. (NCVER report on VET in Schools, 2004, P.7)

This and other research demonstrates that students completing a VET course as part of their HSC, increase their likelihood of having life long employment to 85%. These same students also demonstrate an improved ATAR and their VET course is most often their first or second best result. This helps to dispel the myth that VET is a less academic pathway and only students who are somehow “not very capable” should be offered or encouraged into VET courses. VET courses are challenging and require a commitment of time and discernment that could be attractive to any student, which is why all students should have an opportunity to engage in VET courses.

VET provides a tremendously effective way of personalizing learning. Key aspects of VET that support this include competency based performance and assessment, where students can proceed at their own pace and capabilities and where assessment is not about just how they perform against a group of other students but fundamentally centered on whether the student can competently demonstrate the skills and understandings necessary for the qualification and success in the workforce. VET courses are founded in real world contexts and experiences and include embedded work placement.

VET courses allow students to pursue a range of pathways into university, work and further training.

Our system has extended its commitment to VET in schools through two key initiatives. The first was established some years ago and is the Cluster VET model where leadership and management of VET resources and delivery is coordinated by school clusters who through their management committees and dedicated Cluster Coordinators have allowed us to be much more flexible and responsive to change and ensure a strategic vision and direction for VET in schools.

The second initiative is the Trade Training Centre program which began in 2010 with our first Trade Training Centre at McCarthy High School and a second in 2011 at Loyola Senior College. These state of the art centres allow school students to achieve an apprenticeship pathway as well as completing their HSC. No other education system in NSW has the provision for high level qualifications and apprenticeship pathways combined with the HSC that our TTC’s provide. The TTC’s provide access to the ‘traditional’ trades such as carpentry, brick and block and hospitality but also are moving into emerging trade areas in technology, engineering, financial services and transport and logistics.

Students have the opportunity to experience some of the best VET in the state and to access  qualifications pathways that very few others can. The question isn’t why VET but why wouldn’t a student consider it as part of their learning pathway.  It shouldn’t be the road less travelled.

2 thoughts on “The road less travelled

  1. Greg, I certainly concur with your thoughts on this topic. Last year at St Agnes we introduced a VET course for Stage 5 students . The students have responded in a very positive manner with the possibility of having two classes of Business Services next year based on their response and interest. The other aspect to the introduction of VET is the upskilling and training of teachers and its flow on effect to their other subject areas. From what I have seen it appears to be a win-win experience for everyone.

  2. Coming from a primary school perspective I’m not overly familiar with how VET operates in our high schools. I found it interesting to think that VET has ever been taken less than seriously as a valid means of learning in the senior school years. I’ve had the pleasure of working with Entertainment students from different schools on some of our school performances. I’ve always been delighted by their professionalism and enthusiasm. Their willingness to go the extra mile speaks volumes about their passion for their chosen area of expertise. As the proverb goes:
    “Tell me and I’ll forget;
    show me and I may remember;
    involve me and I’ll understand.”

    Thanks for sharing John and Greg.

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