Research Raves

Let’s get the discussion going.  Please post details of any research activities you are now working on – or you may have worked on in the past and you think are still really important to the VET sector.  Go on:  spruik a little.

 

 

Industry Engagement Research

TAFE NSW Transport and Logistics Industry Liaison Unit recently undertook a significant research project.  Driven by anecdotal evidence of the need for new pathways and attraction strategies for the Heavy Vehicle industry, the research included surveying 350+ organisations, with 87 responses being received.  This, together with other qualitative data from focus groups and one-to-one discussions, and review of existing literature, informed the Transport Operator Apprenticeship Report.  We hope you find this interesting as a documented result of the research, as well as a valuable example of assisting industry with workforce needs.  The Info Pack will tell you about the background to the project, as well as the results of the survey and recommendations made to appropriate bodies

Transport Operator Apprenticeship Info Pack

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8 thoughts on “Research Raves

    1. I agree Francesca, it is important as researchers that we support the maintenance of the collection of data. This Federal Government also had its sights on the Workplace Gender Equality Agency. I’m sure the AVETRA Executive will support putting our thoughts into a letter re the ABS data collection.

      On another issue, Elaine Butler, formerly University SA, and I, are looking at a piece of research to see whether the VET landscape has changed for women and girls. In 1999, Butler and Ferrier wrote a landmark report for NCVER entitled ‘Don’t be too polite girls’. They noted that there were continuing problems, including women “… clustering in fields of study and at lower levels, less employer support for external training, under-representation and low completion rates in apprenticeships in non-traditional areas …”. (1999:vii) They also observed that the diminishing commitment to equity in a marketised VET system would present even greater challenges for many women. (Butler and Ferrier, 1999)

      Sixteen years have passed and VET is now a highly complex public/private industry firmly located with/in a competitive market place. What has this meant for women and girls engaging in VET? We think this will be an interesting study to see whether we have moved on, or whether women and girls are facing the same problems today. Very relevant given that International Women’s Day is just around the corner.

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  1. I penned this to try to engage the academy in a discussion that goes beyond dollars. I don’t think they are interested but I do hope this rave will be food for thought for those interested in VET and research and will encourage you to get involved in the deregulation debate. This rave is based on an historical piece I did in 2013/14, and published by NCVER: A differentiated model for tertiary education: past ideas, contemporary policy and future possibilities (see: http://www.voced.edu.au/content/ngv64563)

    Never have we heard so much about the virtues of higher education. It’s not only Christopher Pyne’s mantra; the importance of post-secondary education was also a central message in President Obama’s 2015 state-of-the-union address. The burning political question is how to fund a mass tertiary education system. Here Obama is taking a different tack from Pyne’s focus on fee deregulation. The President wants the first two years’ tuition to be ‘free for responsible students, whether they are completing the first half of a bachelor’s degree or earning skills to go directly into the workforce’.
    It is doubtful the community college system is up to the job of lifting more Americans into the middle class. These 1,000-plus institutions are akin to Australia’s TAFEs or the old Colleges of Advanced Education (CAEs). Like the public vocational education and training system here, the community colleges have been losing funding from their state governments at the same time as being overburdened with multiple missions. They are asked to provide not only cost-effective pathways to a bachelor’s degree but also remedial and technical education. These things incur costs not covered by fees: student support, teacher development and infrastructure for example.
    The colleges are supposed to be stepping stones to more advanced education or to good jobs. That depends on two things: effective credit transfer arrangements and course completion. These goals are not always met in the American community college system, in part because of the very strong emphasis on providing access, without enough attention to students’ potential to stay the distance. And while transfer systems are in place, as in Australia, these do not always overcome the cultural divide between colleges and universities.
    The principle behind waiving fees, however, points to a philosophical issue that needs more attention in Australia. Why do more and more people need tertiary education in 2015? The evidence has been mounting for years: without a post-school qualification (a trade certificate at least for boys and a university degree for girls) young people will suffer in the labour market. And without a sound education and a good job, they are also at risk of social exclusion and intergenerational poverty. These problems cost the state a great deal of money.
    Don’t these facts amount to an argument that compulsory education in Australia no longer stops at Year 12? Isn’t that why we see schemes around the country delivering entitlements to people who do not have adequate entry-level vocational qualifications? And why the current debate about higher education is not principally about demand but about fees? Isn’t this why Obama thinks college fees should be free to individuals – because post-secondary education is becoming an integral part of his nation’s economic competitiveness and citizen engagement?
    Australian universities can’t afford to meet increased demand under the current regime. But are universities the only answer? Is it time to examine whether the institutional structures of our educational system match today’s labour market? What about a staged approach to tertiary education, with the years 13 and 14 devoted to adapting students to learning at the tertiary level and offering them a pathway into employment or onto higher academic learning? That learning could take place at institutions with a strong focus on educating people for the professions and doing applied research in their areas of industry expertise. The elite research-intensive tier would be defined not by its sandstone or its wealthy students but its international record in excellence and well-funded scholarship schemes.

    We need innovation in the system. With one minister now responsible for schools, VET and higher education, it’s time for reforms to venture across the education divides between school and vocational and higher education. Only then will we be able to break the logjam in the debate about how we afford the mass tertiary education system Australia needs.
    Fifty years ago Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States were immersed in a similar debate about how to expand tertiary education. In all three countries, the Robbins principle guided decisions. Lord Robbins argued that higher education places should be ‘available to all who are qualified by ability and attainment to pursue them and who wish to’. We would do well to embrace that principle again, in order to make sure that people embarking on a tertiary education pathway have a good chance of finishing the journey. Non-completion is a problem in both higher and vocational education.
    In the mid-1960s Australia’s solution to growing demand was the binary policy of higher education, out of which the CAES emerged. The CAEs were to cater to those wanting a more practical professional education. Universities were to take more academically inclined students and do research. These two sets of institutions were to be equal but different but the CAEs became more and more like (less well funded) universities. The experiment was swept away in 1988 with the introduction of the unified national system.
    There are lessons to be learned both from the community colleges in the United States and the CAEs. One is the imperative of achieving widespread support for structural reform. Without this, cultural legacies, internal politics and poor public understanding will work against the goal of more affordable and diverse tertiary education. That’s why Nick Xenophon’s call for a proper review of the system (not just its funding) is a good idea.

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    1. Thank you for this thought-provoking entry Francesca. You raise some very compelling arguments. Two of the countries which I have briefly investigated and think have better practice in post-compulsory education are Germany and Wales. Although Wales is not included, a recent valuable publication on Hybrid Qualifications is Deissinger, Thomas, 2013. Hybrid qualifications : structures and problems in the context of European VET policy. Switzerland. The table of contents can be found at http://www.ub.unibas.ch/tox/IDSBB/006163490/PDF and the authors include our own Erica Smith.

      During a recent review of my organisation’s mission and visibility to the world, I made a suggestion that we should highlight the term ‘further education’ in our brand. This did not receive a strong response. I acknowledge that a large part of the challenge is community perception of what TAFE’s (and the VET sector more broadly) are doing in the post-compulsory landscape.

      For the sake of social justice, and economic development in Australia, I think this is a really important discussion. Whilst I endorse the need for a proper review of the system I believe most of the necessary ‘ingredients’ exist in the current system. It may be a process of acknowledging (and funding) all parts of the sector to get community and political buy-in.

      Again, thanks for your contribution.

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      1. Dear Anne Thanks for the references. I’ll certainly look at those. I think you may well be right about the ingredients being in the mix but not yet properly acknowledged and certainly not properly funded. A redistribution of funds underlies my thesis. I have to say I rather like the term ‘advanced’ education, even if it didn’t gain permanent traction in the 70s/80s.

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  2. Third International Conference on Technical and Vocational Education and Training in Bandung, Indonesia (13-14 November 2014)
    2015 will be a big year for Southeast Asia. Francesca Beddie attended this event, and has provided an overview for us here.

    Efforts are intensifying to realise the goal of ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) integration by the end of the year. The ASEAN Economic Community is to become a single market, with a free flow of goods, services, investment and skilled labour across the region. As an integrated economy, it will be the seventh largest in the world with a combined gross domestic product of around $2.5 trillion and a population of over 600 million people.
    ASEAN integration was one of the main preoccupations of the third International Conference on Technical and Vocational Education and Training at the Indonesian University of Education in Bandung. No wonder: for integration to work ASEAN will need a skilled and mobile workforce, and one that speaks English, the lingua franca of the community. A related theme of the conference was the question of how to define and shape ‘21st century’ skills. And, reflecting the institutionalised nature of much vocational education in the region, the question continued to be asked: what is vocational pedagogy, a question also tackled earlier this year by UNESCO-UNEVOC?
    For an Australian participant, the conference underlined both common challenges and clear differences. Facilitating learning that equips young people for the world of work in a globalised, networked labour market is a shared goal. And while there is pervasive view that without industry engagement this is difficult to achieve, the links between formal TVET programs and the workplace is much lower in many parts of Asia than in Australia. This disconnect is embedded in the approach to training, with teachers starting out after an academic program in teaching rather than emerging from the industries they will be teaching about. Turning this around faces a major impediment: teachers’ salaries. Click here for a useful paper on TVET in the region.
    In Australia we have what might be described as the opposite problem, namely the need to upgrade the academic qualifications of TVET teachers – or at least equip them with the time and resources to become scholarly practitioners. And while this stems from the mandating of the Certificate IV as the minimum qualification, it seems to me that Indonesia, and possibly other countries in the region, would do well to encourage industry experts to become engaged in training by offering a qualification (well taught and properly regulated) at a sub-degree level.
    The conference was conducted in English. For the keynote presenters this posed no difficulty; many in the audience, however, were disengaged, in part perhaps because of their level of English understanding. In the parallel sessions, the combination of giving a paper at an international level and in English was a daunting task and one that limited the exchange of ideas. Nevertheless the conference offered plenty of stimulus, with the proceedings to be published in due course and the book of abstracts available here.

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  3. Melinda Waters and I have been working for some time now (with others) on activity-based research (scholarly practice), what it looks like and how we should value it. We have an article being published soon and are looking to further develop the economic value of research/scholarly practice in the VET sector.

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    1. That sounds very interesting Linda. I was discussing this very topic with my faculty director at Sydney TAFE just yesterday: what does it look like and how do you encourage teachers to incorporate research into their teaching practice? It is also important to acknowledge that sholarly practice is undervalued by people at the coalface in VET, because by acknowledging this, we can explore ways to change it.

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