Chapter 5 - Education and training pathways
Multiple training pathways are important to cater for the diversity of
individual’s preferences and circumstances and to enable individuals to
maintain lifelong employability, in an environment where jobs, occupations and
workplaces and the associated skill requirements, are continually being
transformed. The development of multiple pathways is one of the five guiding
principles of Australia’s training reform agenda with the broad support of all
stakeholders, including governments of different political persuasions.
Diverse and flexible pathways for skills formation are also vitally
important for industry to be able to develop and maintain a skilled and
adaptable workforce. Many industry sectors now need to adopt a vertically
integrated approach to skills development, drawing on skills from across
This chapter briefly examines the adequacy of some of the current
arrangements for providing individuals and industries with ‘seamless pathways’
for skill formation. The main issues to be considered in this chapter (although
sometimes in a cursory way) are:
- schooling as a preparation for further education and employment
- VET in schools programs;
- career advice for students;
- school to work transition;
- pathways to New Apprenticeships;
- pathways between VET and higher education; and
- pathways for upksilling and reskilling the existing workforce.
School as a foundation for
further learning and employment
A key objective of school education is to provide the foundation
knowledge, skills and attitude that individuals require as the basis for
further learning and employment, and to fully develop their talents and
The Adelaide Declaration on National Goals for Schooling in the
Twenty-First Century agreed by MCEETYA in 1999, sets out a number of
expectations of what students should have achieved by the completion of their
schooling as a means of achieving that overarching objective. These include:
- the capacity for, and skills in, analysis and problem-solving and
the ability to communicate ideas and information, to plan and organise
activities and to collaborate with others;
- employment related skills and an understanding of the work
environment, career options and pathways as a foundation for, and positive
attitudes towards, vocational education and training, further education,
employment and life-long learning, gained in part by participation in programs
of vocational learning; and
- numeracy and English literacy skills.
The role and effectiveness of school education in preparing young people
for further education and training and employment is a major issue, an
assessment of which goes well beyond the scope of this inquiry. However the
committee wishes to acknowledge some specific issues in relation to school
education which were raised during the inquiry and which merit further
Basic skills of literacy and numeracy are, of course, of
fundamental importance and are the focus of significant policy and program
development in Australia. Several
submissions and witnesses argued for better outcomes in this area. The
Dusseldorp Skills Forum pointed out that while Australia’s
overall performance in this area is very good by international standards, there
is a ‘very long tail’ of students who perform very poorly.
Schools are also seen to under-estimate the literacy and numeracy requirements
associated with training for many traditional trades and other practical
vocations, including the importance of an understanding of mathematical and
statistical concepts and interpretation of complex instructions.
This is contributing to the smaller pool of suitable applicants for
apprenticeships and the current non-completion rates for many New
Local organistions in West Melbourne concerned with youth transition
issues maintained that all education, training and vocational programs should
give the highest priority to literacy, and have access to whatever expertise
and resources are needed to achieve sound outcomes. They also pointed to the
need for more attention to meeting diverse learning styles of
individuals, including marginalised students, and for more applied
approaches to numeracy to meet the needs of some students.
According to one witness:
... unless we actually link the maths curriculum to applied
learning, young people are going to fall through gaps there as well.
Witnesses also raised the need for more diversity and flexibility in the
basic framework for school education, including scope to allow an additional
year to complete 12 years of schooling,
the option of senior secondary colleges, which allow for more adult learning
principles and environment,
mentoring of those at risk of early school leaving,
and the option to complete school education through TAFE or community and adult
education avenues, which is not possible in all jurisdictions at present.
Many of these considerations are taken up by current policies relating to VET
in schools and youth transition, which are discussed in a following section.
For a minority of students, the best educational outcome involves
leaving school in years 10 or 11 to pursue a VET qualification. Yet current
school policy appears to emphasise school retention rates (and in some cases,
university entrance scores) as the sole measure of successful youth transition
and school performance. One witness summarised the outcome thus:
We believe one of the major reasons why we have high youth
unemployment rates is because these young people have left the school system
early in frustration and have a very negative perception of future education
and training, and they are inevitably poorly qualified to move into skill
career paths and quite often drift into long-term unemployment... [But] if a
school lost a number of students at, let us say, year 11 into apprenticeships
it would be seen as underperforming because its year 12 retention rates would
drop. So the education system is not sending the correct messages in terms of
what is acceptable.
While much of the evidence to the inquiry pointed to the importance of
twelve years of schooling in laying the foundations for lifelong learning and
employability, and TAFEs are said to be ill-equipped to absorb a large number
of younger students without extra support for the required pastoral care, the
committee believes that school students who are otherwise at risk of early
school leaving should be given the option of entry to a New Apprenticeship in a
field that provides a skilled vocational outcome.
The committee notes
anecdotal evidence that those who start an apprenticeship in the traditional
trades at an earlier age, are also likely to remain committed to their trade as
a long-term career. This may have the added benefit of reducing the current
high attrition rates for the trades, which are also contributing to skills
The committee agrees that school retention rates are not appropriate as
the sole measure of success in achieving target education and training
outcomes for young people. Policy and practice needs ensure that students leaving
before year 12 and gaining an ‘equivalent VET qualification’ are also counted
as successful outcomes. This may require adjustments to current record keeping
systems and is a further case in favour of introducing systems to track
pathways from year 10 through further education and training, as discussed in
the section on a pathways between vocational and higher education. In the
meantime, schools need to ensure that students intending to follow a VET
pathway are properly advised on the range and level of pre-requisite subjects
The committee recommends
that the MCEETYA Task Force on Transition should consult with TAFE about the
particular literacy and numeracy requirements of current vocational training,
including for emerging industries and traditional trades, and how schools could
best provide these to students planning to follow VET pathways on completion of
VET in Schools: a pathway to
further education and employment
Some issues related to VET in schools were discussed in the previous
chapter on the VET framework. This section briefly examines a number of issues
related to VET in schools as a pathway to employment and further education. No
attempt is made to provide a thorough analysis of the VET in schools program,
given the complexity of the issue, the breadth of this inquiry’s terms of
reference and the inquiry by the House of Representatives committee into the
‘VET in schools’ refers to school-based VET programs that provide
students with the opportunity to gain credit towards the senior secondary
certificate while at the same time gaining a national industry recognised
qualification or credit towards this qualification. Under the current policy
framework for VET in schools, programs are commonly based on national Training
Packages and are expected to be delivered to the standards set out in the AQTF.
In addition to programs that meet these criteria, schools usually offer a range
of work experience or ‘taster’ programs that allow students the opportunity to
gain a ‘taste’ or insight into the requirements of working in various careers.
Growth of VET in schools programs has been significant, with DEST
reporting that the number of students participating in VET in schools as part
of their senior secondary certificate grew from 60,000 in 1996 (16 per cent
participation) to 169,809 in 2001 (41 per cent participation).
The ‘VET in schools’ program has multiple objectives. One is to respond
to the education needs of the significant group of students who, while staying
on in Years 11–12, are ill-suited to the traditional senior secondary academic
In the past some of these students may have attended specialist technical high
schools or colleges which previously provided a pathway into careers in the
traditional trades, technician or associate professional levels. These schools
have now closed in most jurisdictions.
More broadly, however, consistent with the national goals of schooling,
VET in schools programs are intended to provide all students with the
opportunity to develop an understanding of the range of available career
opportunities, develop their employability skills and attributes and gain an
understanding of the requirements of the workplace. According to Group Training
Australia, VET in schools programs can help to bridge the gap between school
and work, by exposing young people to the workplace and to the culture of work
and assisting in the development of vocational skills. They can also promote
more effective learning and school retention by providing a context in which
many young people can apply the knowledge they acquire in the classroom.
Witnesses also noted the value of ‘taster’ programs in allowing students to
sample employment options and thus make more informed career choices.
There are indications from the evidence to this inquiry that the VET in
schools program is not yet meeting the objectives of providing a suitable
alternative to an academic program, a pathway further education and employment
or a sound foundation of employability skills.
VET in schools options are often currently an ‘add-on’ to the mainstream
academic program, thus failing to address the needs of those students who are
more suited to an applied learning style. An interesting experiment is underway
in Victoria with the introduction of the Victorian Certificate of Applied
Learning (VCAL), where the academic curriculum is integrated with the VET
curriculum, enabling students learn to English, maths and other subjects
through an applied learning program.
The committee was told that such alternative pathways need to be more broadly
promoted, within the VET in schools framework, as an alternative learning style
with a parity of esteem with academically oriented school pathways. The
committee agrees that it will be important to monitor the outcome of this
initiative, as a guide to possible further developments in other jurisdictions.
There was also a view that the focus of many VET in schools
programs is currently too narrow, being concentrated in too few occupations and
that the content of programs may
not always reflect contemporary and changing industry needs. As AiG commented,
‘There is no point providing learning opportunities for young people if the
outcomes of these learning opportunities are not relevant to the workplace by
the time the young person makes the transition from school to work.’
According to AiG, the introduction
of programs outside of the training package framework could broaden the range
of occupations for which schools could provide training. If this were to occur,
there would need to be provision for students completing these courses to gain
credit towards an AQF qualification in a training package, a school certificate
and tertiary entrance score if appropriate.
VET in schools
programs also need to ensure that they give appropriate weight to the
development of students’ employability skills.
There may even be value in making some provision for assessment against
employability skills to articulate into training package qualifications.
Mathematical skills and literacy skills must not be neglected, because of their
fundamental importance as a foundation for further education, including in many
vocational and academic courses.
The AiG and EEASA called for a broader range of program offerings in areas
of skill shortage, including the traditional trades, in place of the current
concentration in areas such as business studies, hospitality and retail. While
the committee believes that the content of VET in schools programs should
primarily be driven by the needs of students rather than immediate and perhaps
localised, industry needs, it agrees that the current range of offerings is too
narrow and often dictated by funding considerations. This limits the scope to
provide pathways to employment for some students. Policy and funding frameworks
need to support the inclusion of a broader range of programs, which will often
require stronger links between schools and the full range of local industries.
The committee observes that there are a number of good VET in schools
models that appear to balance the competing needs for a sound foundation in
general skills, with quality vocational education and direct pathways to
employment and further education and training. These include models such as the
T3 program in the automotive industry, which provides students with the
opportunity to attend school several days a week, attend TAFE for one day and
work in the industry for one day a week, under the framework of a New
Apprenticeship. Positive features of this program, and a number of other
models, include the capacity for the VET studies to provide credit for a school
leaving certificate, articulation into a New Apprenticeship at a higher
qualification level and credit for university entrance in some cases.
Partnerships between local industries and the three education
sectors also provide a valuable means of promoting greater links between VET in
schools and quality and relevant education and pathways to employment. There was much evidence in support of
the key role that learning and education networks of schools, local Chambers of
Commerce and Industry, TAFE and other community and education representatives
could play in identifying skill shortages and needs and integrating this
information into local education and training. While this is occurring under
several frameworks at present, including the Local Learning and Employment
Networks in Victoria and ‘Youth commitment’ or similar groups in New South
Wales and other states, there is no national approach to encouraging and
supporting these partnerships, particularly now that the Enterprise and Career
Education Foundation, which had a specific mission of promoting these partnerships,
has been disbanded.
The committee also
heard much evidence in support of providing students with opportunities to
learn about the nature of industry and the world of work as early as possible,
and at least from years 8 and 9 onwards. Early exposure to the world of work
can help students to make better judgments, on reaching year 11, about their interest
in VET in schools programs and career preferences. It may also help to improve
the motivation and focus of some students: a number of educators report that
engagement with school can often increase dramatically once students begin to
see a purpose for their school studies.
Finally, the committee notes that many witnesses from schools complained
about the high cost of providing quality VET in schools programs and indicated
that current funding levels and arrangements often compromise their capacity to
provide these programs. This was also identified as a major issue by the
Department of Education and Training in WA which noted that ANTA MINCO is due
to consider the future funding arrangements for VET in schools beyond 2004.
Evidence to the inquiry highlighted the important role that VET in
schools can, and sometimes does, play in providing a pathway from school to
work and the many good models, but also variable practice across Australia, as
well as the constraints on improved practice. The committee considers that
there is significant potential for VET in schools to provide a clearer and more
effective pathway to further education and employment, with appropriate
improvements in quality, relevance, flexibility and breadth of programs. The committee
believes that the policy and funding framework for VET in schools must cement
and support it as an important part of the mainstream school experience and the
Commonwealth must provide a lead in promoting the adoption of best practice
across all jurisdictions. Industry also needs to play an active role in
promoting the value of involvement with schools to its members.
The committee recommends that the
MCEETYA Task Force on Transitions should support the funding and development of
mechanisms to help schools provide opportunities for all students, from years 8
and 9 onwards, to learn about the nature of industry and the world of work
through workplaces visits so that they can make informed choices about future
education and careers.
The committee also recommends that the
Commonwealth and states and territories support the establishment of local
networks of schools, industry associations and representatives, the VET sector
and higher education sector and the community, to help link vocational
education and training, both in schools and in the VET sector, with industry
needs and to assist transition between school and employment or further
The committee recommends that the
MCEETYA should examine VET in schools models, such as the T3 model in New
South Wales, and promote their value for traditional apprenticeship and other
vocational training, with state and territory education authorities. Industry
should also take responsibility for promoting the development and
implementation of best practice models.
The committee also
recommends that ANTA develop, in conjunction with TAFE, industry bodies,
schools and universities, programs based on the RMIT/Bosch model which combine school
and apprenticeship training with an option for simultaneous progression to
diploma, and that ANTA provides financial assistance for the national
implementation of those programs.
Careers advice plays an important role in helping students to identify
career opportunities and preferences, and the education and training pathways
that may lead them to their goals. To perform their role effectively, career
advisers should have skills in career counselling, access to up-to-date
information on career paths and opportunities and associated education and
training pathways, and the time to devote to personal guidance and support.
Evidence to the inquiry indicates that there is a long way to go before all
students have access to careers advice that meets these criteria.
While there is a wide range of high quality careers information now
available to schools, students, and more generally the community, particularly
through internet-based products and services provided by the Commonwealth,
complaints persist that students, teachers and career counselors often have
inaccurate or outdated perceptions of career opportunities in the traditional
trades and in industries such as manufacturing and engineering. The need for
improved information on careers in these areas was a finding of many of the
National Industry Skills Initiative (NISI) working groups, including for the
engineering, electrotechnology, automotive and rural industries. Following on
from NISI, these industries have developed interactive, multimedia materials to
promote contemporary careers in their field, highlighting the increasing use of
technology and computerisation within their core occupations.
While it is probably too early to judge the effect of these initiatives
in changing attitudes and perceptions, there appear to be still too many
instances where careers advisers consciously or unconsciously dissuade students
from careers that rely on vocational education and training pathways, including
those in the traditional trades. This may reflect a lack of knowledge or a
general bias in favour of a higher education pathway, which is claimed to be
the case with graduate teachers. A representative of Group Training Australia
told the committee that:
I do not think there is an attitude among careers advisers in
schools that enthusiastically promotes the career offered by an apprenticeship
as being a noble and honourable profession. That has to change not only among
the careers advisers but also in the schools themselves. It also has to change within
governments. If we started a marketing campaign directed at careers advisers
and schools indicating that an apprenticeship in the traditional trades is a
worthy and honourable profession and one that will make you a living for a long
time, we might start to turn the attitude around; but I think we have a long
way to go.
A similar bias was detected by the TAFE Directors Australia, which
claims that schools often convey the impression that vocational pathways are
for low achievers.
Some witnesses attribute this to a lack of teachers with a vocational
background and industry experience.
Direct links between industry and schools were identified as an
important means of improving the currency and relevance of careers information.
This requires a commitment from industry as well as schools. One witness told
the committee that while industry ‘often bleats that the school system is not
providing adequate career advice’ it seldom engages with the school system to
explain career paths and options to students. In contrast, IT companies ‘are
consistently at schools promoting their firms and their industries’.
The Australian Business Ltd submission agreed that industry needs to provide
more support to careers advisers in secondary, vocational and tertiary
institutions to assist them to identify and deliver timely resources and
information on career options and post compulsory learning pathways.
The inquiry was advised of several approaches to industry engagement
with schools. The manufacturing industry in the Macarthur region of NSW has
developed an apprenticeship recruitment strategy, including information kits
illustrating career opportunities in the local region, and career progression
and salary opportunities to target students directly, as well as parents, teachers
and career advisers.
Local networks of education and training providers, employers, and the
community sector, such as those established in Victoria under the Local
Learning and Employment Network program and similar networks in Kwinana,
Western Australia, also improve mutual understanding between schools and local
industry, and better matching of students with local employment opportunities.
These developments are all claimed to result in a better understanding among
students of the breadth of career options and a higher take up of opportunities
in local industry.
Even with access to industry advice, inadequate resourcing may limit the
quality of careers advice. A study found that teachers, students and their
parents in north Melbourne are unaware of skill career paths available in the
local manufacturing industry and have little time to develop this knowledge:
Of the 45 secondary schools in the north of Melbourne, whilst
each school had a careers teacher appointed, the reality was that they were
very much part time, ranging from two hours per week to 20 hours per week in
the majority. There was only one that was full time, and only one of the 45
actually had training in career education qualifications.
The situation in South Australia appears similar, although with
variations across schools and school sectors. Few schools have full-time paid
career counsellors, with the responsibility often falling on student counselors
or other teachers with the interest or ‘spare’ time, perhaps amounting to only
for two or three lessons a week.
Northern Territory witnesses also reported a lack of formal training or
professional development for careers advisers and limited opportunities for
teachers to develop an understanding of industry requirements.
There was also a strong message that career advice needs to go beyond
brokering information on career opportunities and training pathways. Students
need to be encouraged to think more broadly about building skills for careers
in an unknown future and to develop the skills and attitudes that underpin life
long learning and active career management.
This implies the need for appropriate professional training and development for
According to Mr Jeff Priday of Group Training Australia, as
alternative, and perhaps more cost effective approach to developing
professional career guidance services in schools is to outsource the function
to industry or other specialists. The Connexions initiative in the UK,
an internet-based service which provides young people aged 13 to 19 years with
access to confidential advice, support and information through the website,
supported by phone contact, text, e-mail, webchat or access to personal
advisers in the region, was suggested as a model.
A thorough assessment of the quality and availability of Australia’s
career services and information was recently undertaken by OECD as part of a
comparative international study of career information guidance and counseling.
The committee was told that the study found that while there were ‘pockets of
excellence’ in career services in Australia, there were few guarantees of
access to effective services, even for young people. Career advisers argued
that this is not good enough:
...if we are to meet the needs for a highly skilled competitive labour
force in Australia we believe that we need to develop a much stronger career
development culture and to make explicit people’s entitlement to career
development services throughout their lives.
While the committee has not undertaken an assessment of the quality and
availability of career advice services for Australian students, the evidence
before it indicates significant gaps in both. The committee believes that all
students are entitled to access to professionally trained and well-informed careers advisers (or teachers trained in
this area). It commends the decisions by MCEETYA and the Commonwealth to
examine ways to improve the quality and availability of career information
services but believes that this work needs to be given high priority. The objective
should be to ensure that all students have access to well resourced, well
trained and well informed careers advisers and up-to-date information on the
full range of career opportunities. The committee also supports the value of
close links between schools and local industries and the community as part of
an effective careers development and youth transition strategy. It calls on
industry and schools to follow some of the excellent models around Australia
and work more closely and collaboratively to develop a better mutual
understanding of needs and opportunities. It also considers that careers
development training should be integrated into the teacher training curriculum
so that all teachers have some skills in providing careers guidance and all students
have access to careers guidance.
The committee recommends that
all students should have access to professionally trained and well informed
careers advisers, whether these are located in schools or are accessible
through rotation, industry partnerships, or outsourcing arrangements. To
facilitate this, MCEETYA
should direct the task force examining career counselling issues to develop a
set of national set of standards for career development services:
- in consultation
with the Australian Association of Careers Counsellors and universities and
TAFE institutes offering awards in career development;
- to require that
all career counsellors are educated about the technical sophistication,
challenges and career opportunities in industry today, and establish contacts
with relevant local industry associations;
- to recommend that
units in career development should be made available as part of the teacher
The committee also calls on employer peak bodies and
industry associations to encourage their members to establish closer links with
schools and career counsellors in particular, to ensure that they have access
to accurate and up-to-date advice on the full range of career opportunities.
Transition between school and
The transition from school to employment or further education and
training has been the focus of policy attention by Commonwealth and state and
territory governments over the past fifteen years. Employers are now seeking
new entrants to the workforce with a broad base of generic skills and
knowledge, relevant personal attributes and attitudes and the capacity to be
quickly productive. To meet these requirements and those of lifelong learning
and employability, ‘twelve years of worthwhile learning is now the core benchmark
society and governments must provide young people to ensure successful entry to
active and responsible citizenship and productive work’ and to economic and
In 1991, the landmark Finn report recommended the following targets for
increasing school and post-school participation rates by 2001, to place
Australia among the best qualified of OECD countries:
- 95 per cent of 19 year old participating in or having completed
year 12 or the equivalent level in vocational education and training; and
- 60 per cent of 22 year olds participating in or having completed
education and training programs leading to the level of a trade certificate or
higher to diploma or degree levels.
However, despite a large number of policies, programs and other
measures to improve youth transition in the intervening years, the committee
was told that only 80 per cent of young Australians are currently
estimated to achieve the goal of either completion of year 12 or equivalent
VET, compared with 84 per cent in France, 88 per cent in Canada and the USA, 91
per cent in Germany, and 94 per cent in Japan.
Those who fail to achieve these targets have significantly less
chance of securing sustainable employment over the long term,
with significant costs both to them personally and to society: while only 7 per
cent of all year 12 leavers are unemployed seven years after leaving school,
the comparable figures for year 9 school leavers are 21 per cent for young men
and 59 per cent for young women.
The submissions from the Business Council of Australia and the
Dusseldorp Skills Forum identified the need to achieve improved youth
transition outcomes as perhaps the most important and pressing of skill
formation challenge, for both equity and economic reasons.
The Dusseldorp Skills Forum argued that early school leaving not only
diminishes the future prospects of the individuals concerned, it:
... has direct flow-on effect for the national economy. It
deprives us of the foundations for skills formation and development necessary
to drive the further productivity growth, increased consumer base and human
capital critical to delivering the next phase of economic transformation...The
impact on Government is evident in the recent assessment of the
intergenerational obligations of taxpayers produced by the Treasurer. That
assessment identifies a potential $87 billion black hole in federal spending by
2041-42. An ageing population, a growing health care and income support bill,
and low fertility rates are “likely to impose a higher tax burden on the next
The Business Council of Australia made a similar argument.
Reasons for early school leaving without entry to a vocational education
or training program or ‘decent’ sustainable employment include inadequate
development of literacy and numeracy skills during the early years of schooling,
poor performance or dislike of school,
an inflexible range of courses and education styles and family or social
problems, particularly for marginalised or disadvantaged youth. A related concern
is that some of those currently completing 12 years of schooling are not
developing their knowledge and skills during the last two years.
Evidence to the inquiry indicated that some young people who are unsuited to
the standard school curriculum or environment, and disengage with school, may
be less employable by the end of year 12, than they were at the end of year 10,
because of poor attitude or behavioural problems.
As previously discussed, this underlines the need to focus on the value of a
VET qualification as an alternative to school completion for some students. The
Dusseldorp Skills Forum also points out that the 12 years of ‘worthwhile
learning’ is not only school education, but can include vocational education
and training or ‘decent work’, defined by the International Labour Organisation
to refer to sustainable, productive work in conditions of freedom, equity,
security and human dignity.
What is being done
A January 2003 study for the Business Council of Australia
acknowledged that policy makers and practitioners in Australia are seriously
grappling with the issues associated with youth transition
and reviewed current initiatives against the criteria established by the OECD
and other relevant criteria.
Initiatives reviewed by the study include:
- the May 2001 report of the Prime Minister’s Youth Pathways Action
Plan Taskforce Footprints to the Future, proposing a policy framework to
support young people through school, and to further education, training, work
and active citizenship;
- the July 2002 declaration by MCEETYA members, Stepping Forward
– Improving Pathways for All Young People, acknowledging a shared
commitment and a joint responsibility and agreed to work in partnership towards
implementing a shared vision for all young people and a set of principles and key
areas for action;
- Commonwealth funding of programs with a transitions focus, some
of which are in response to Footprints to the Future, including the Career
and Transition (CAT) pilots of innovative career information and advice for young
and the Partnership Outreach Education Model (POEM) pilots for young people
disconnected from mainstream schooling, as well as the Jobs Pathway Programme
(JPP); the New Apprenticeships Access Programme (NAAP) and Indigenous
- the VET in schools program;
- the availability in most jurisdictions of some transition
programs and a focus on broadening the purpose of post-compulsory years of
education and training for those in the fifteen to nineteen year old age group.
What is still needed
The BCA study found current programs, while generally worthwhile,
fail to address the need for more effective cross-government collaboration,
genuine local community accountability, meeting the resource-intensive needs of
early school leavers and improved engagement with schooling in the early
Many current arrangements also rely too heavily on pilots or programs outside
mainstream arrangements, ‘thus putting their sustainability and funding at
The BCA developed a proposal for a continuing and systematic
effort to identifying and assisting young people at risk of leaving school
early, lifting the literacy and numeracy skills of those in the early years of
school and ensuring that half of all school leavers are able to participate in
education and training to year 12 equivalent. Economic
modelling reportedly indicates that the proposal, if implemented, would reduce
GDP initially but lead to increases of 28 per cent of GDP ($1.8 billion) by
committee was told that the BCA raised this proposal with the Commonwealth
during the recent budget consultations.
The Dusseldorp Skills Forum also put a proposal for an improved
transition framework to the committee, and to the Commonwealth in the budget
context. The Forum urges the Commonwealth government to commit to increasing
the ‘year 12 or equivalent’ completion rate from the current 80 per cent to 90
per cent, over the next five years, through a combination of policies to
encourage early leavers to stay on at school, assisted by alternative learning
programs within and alongside school, and support those who leave school early.
The proposal is for a shared Commonwealth-state support for:
- a first chance strategy to achieve a Year 12 or equivalent
qualification through school or a VET based pathway such as TAFE, Adult & Community Education (ACE) or an apprenticeship;
- a second chance strategy to re-engage early leavers in
learning to achieve a Year 12 or equivalent qualification, generally through
school or VET;
- personal advice and support for each and every early school
leaver to enable them to make a successful transition;
- co-ordinated local community partnerships to maximise and better
use existing resources; and
- introduction of targeted labour market assistance, mainly
employer subsidies, job creation and relevant training, to provide a better
start in the labour market for the smaller number of young people remaining
outside education or training.
The Forum acknowledges that this will require a commitment by
Commonwealth, state and territory governments to a national strategy backed by
the necessary resources and will involve schools, training providers, higher
education, employers and employment assistance providers. Bilateral framework
agreements will be needed between the Commonwealth and those state or territory
governments willing to collaborate in delivering this ‘youth commitment’.
Oversight of the agreements could be provided by an independent agency with an
appropriate mandate and responsibilities.
The estimated cost of this proposal over 6 years, with all jurisdictions
participating, would be $2296 million to be shared on a 60:40 basis between the
Commonwealth and the states.
According to modelling done for the Forum, the benefits to individuals,
employers and the rest of society are estimated as being in the range of $4.6 billion
to $8.2 billion, with the proposal being cost-neutral to governments if 25 per
cent of these benefits are captured through taxation.
In a public hearing, Forum representatives explained why the current
government strategies fall short of meeting the required outcomes and why a
more structured, systematic and integrated approach, as in their proposal, is
needed. First, the current arrangements do not address the jurisdictional
problems associated with conflicting or overlapping state/territory and Commonwealth
responsibilities. A more joined-up system is required to link Job Network with
schools, career counseling, job search training and the Job Pathways program
and the Commonwealth needs to provide the policy leadership, negotiation and
coordination of the on the ground effort required to achieve outcomes.
Second, the Forum estimates a shortfall of around $2.3 billion between
current levels of investment and those required to provide the education and
training, apprenticeship incentives, intensive support for young people and
labour market support that will be required to achieve a 90 per cent target.
Third, they argue that the current programs and policies do not provide
the intensive, structured long term support through and beyond schooling that some
young people need to make a successful transition.
The since disbanded Commonwealth funded Enterprise and Career Education
Foundation (ECEF) also advised the committee that, while many of the key
elements of an effective career transition system are in place, ‘there is still
more to be done to integrate currently disconnected components into a more
Overlap and duplication across the ‘myriad of youth related programs addressing
education, social and economic development and justice issues’ is a key issue.
In response to questions from the committee, DEST advised that the
Dusseldorp proposal was drawn to the attention of government in the recent
budget context, but the Government decided to revisit the issues in that
proposal ‘in the broader context of considerations of what the government’s
arrangements for transitions are at the moment.’
In DEST’s view, the current policy framework and initiatives represent a
coherent strategy for dealing with youth in transition and assisting young people
to complete year 12 or an equivalent qualification.
The committee acknowledges the efforts of the Commonwealth and other
jurisdictions to improve youth transitions. However the evidence put before it
indicates the need to go further and adopt a more systematic and integrated
approach if further progress is to be made in increasing the number of young
people completing 12 years of school or equivalent vocational education and
training within the next five years. The development of some specific strategies
and structures, such as those set out in the work of the Dusseldorp Skills
Forum and the Business Council of Australia, is urgently needed. The committee
also believes that an entitlement to 12 years of schooling or equivalent
vocational education and training should extend to people who have left school,
including unemployed young people under the age of 21. In place of a
requirement for participation in Work for the Dole or other programs, these
young people must have access to education and training programs that will lead
to a basic or higher vocational education qualification, or full-time ‘decent’
employment. The evidence to the committee indicates that this will lead to
better outcomes for those individuals, and generate significant economic benefits
in the longer term.
committee recommends that the Commonwealth and the state and territory
governments make a joint commitment to significantly increase the proportion of
young people completing year 12 or equivalent vocational education and
training, within the next five years. This will require them to adopt formal
agreements to implementing a more systematic, integrated and comprehensive
approach to youth transition, featuring more intensive support and stronger
safety nets and backed up by significantly increased resources.
DEST should report each year on the
proportion of young people achieving these outcomes.
Consistent with its view
that all young people should have a right to 12 years of school education or equivalent VET or decent full-time
employment, the committee recommends that all young people under 21 who have not achieved
this outcome, should have access to transition arrangements including career
counselling to reconnect them with education or into full-time employment
consistent with their needs and interests. The entitlement to this form of
assistance should over-ride any other policy frameworks relating to
unemployment assistance, such as Work for the Dole, or other requirements for
certain unemployed people.
Pathways to New Apprenticeships
New Apprenticeships potentially provide a valuable pathway between
school and sustainable employment, via a combination of vocational education
and training and employment. However, some studies have shown that employers
consider up to 75 per cent of applicants for New Apprenticeships in the
traditional trades as unsuitable,
because they lack the employability skills or the capacity to be immediately
Pre-apprenticeships and pre-vocational programs can help to overcome
this barrier by providing a pathway between school and a New Apprenticeship.
The AiG and EEASA advised the committee that many of its members in the
manufacturing sector support the idea of pre-apprenticeship training, as an
effective way of providing a technical and general preparation for work.
Pre-apprenticeship training ‘would assist in establishing another pathway to
The Tiwi Islands Training and Employment Board also identified the value
of accredited training which enhances skills and creates pathways to
apprenticeships, in a broad range of fields from child care, health care to
welding and small engine mechanics and computer operations. The Northern
Territory Government’s Flexible Response Fund has funded this type of training
in the past but the committee was told that the program has been frozen for
several months and ‘it is unclear when it will be available again’. As a
result, no courses of the type required have been conducted in 2003.
A recent NCVER study found that pre-apprenticeships can be an important
component in a range of policies designed to encourage greater participation in
traditional trade training. In particular it found that they have:
the potential to act as quasi-labour market programs for young
people who lack educational direction in the academic environment and who are
in danger of leaving education and training at too early a stage. Such an
approach could be equally effective if applied on a regional basis, targeting
areas identified as having persistent youth unemployment problems.
The study found that there is currently no reliable method of reporting
on the number of pre-apprenticeship programs and that they are not widely known
in the community or among career advisers, with very limited financial support
options for most participants.
It also recommended improved national level coordination, consistent
definitions and data collection as part of the overall New Apprenticeship
strategy and better information for schools and others advising potential
The committee notes that evidence cited in the chapter on funding and
above, indicating that these sorts of programs have been wound back in recent
years, mainly due to funding pressures. Other factors contributing to the demise
of pre-apprenticeships are the priority given to funding New Apprenticeships
and the introduction of alternative ‘bridging’ or preparatory programs such as
VET in schools. The committee reiterates its view on the importance of
additional funding and more diverse accountability measures, which would enable
states and territories to increase the range of pre-apprenticeship programs.
The committee also considers that states and territories should give
appropriate priority to funding pre-apprenticeship training programs.
The committee recommends
that the Commonwealth and states and territories recognise the special role
that pre-apprenticeship training can play as another pathway between school and
further education and training, and employment for young people and make
funding available to support such training. The committee also recommends that the Commonwealth and
states and territories should consider the availability of pre-apprenticeship
training as part of a VET in schools program.
Pathways between VET and higher
education – and back again
Improving the pathways between schools, VET and higher education is a
priority for the national strategy for VET for 2004. It also emerged as an
important issue during the inquiry from a range of perspectives and for a range
of reasons. These include:
- enhancing the appeal of VET by providing greater opportunities to
gain credit for skills and qualifications gained in that sector, towards higher
- recognition that an increasing number of careers or occupations
require a mixture of ‘head and hand’ or vocational, academic and general
- expanding access to higher education in recognition of the
significant benefits that it can confer on graduates and the projected increase
in demand for higher level skills in a knowledge economy;
- providing the skills continuum that many occupations, industries
and professions require;
- providing better outcomes for the significant number of
university students that do not complete their courses; and
- providing a foundation for lifelong learning consistent with the
rhetoric of seamless pathways and the scope inherent in the Australian
Evidence to the inquiry suggests that the current prevailing emphasis on
higher education, combined with limited articulation arrangements between VET
and higher education, is adversely affecting interest in careers with
vocational pathways, including some careers in the traditional trades. There is
a perception that choosing a vocational pathway effectively closes off a higher
education pathway at a later date because of the limited credit given for VET
Thus in high school, students who
are interested in a VET pathway but also wish to retain the option a higher
education pathway may be forced to make a ‘fork in the road’ choice: to either
focus on subjects with the best chance of securing university entry
or to follow a VET pathway and possibly compromise their chances of gaining
university entrance. Those who pursue the academic pathway but are unsuccessful
in gaining entry to university, often lose the opportunity for an
accelerated pathway to VET qualifications.
The committee considers
that the lack of clear pathways between VET and higher education is helping to
drive many capable students away from the traditional trades (along with
outdated images of the trades as ‘dirty and dangerous’). DEST’s view,
however, is that the strong representation of teenagers in VET (362,500 people
or 21.4 per cent of all students in 2002) is evidence that young people are not
being deterred from a VET pathway because of limited articulation options.
DEST also argued that students’ post-secondary education choices are influenced
more by available subjects and courses than by sectoral considerations.
More generally, ANTA representatives acknowledge that limited and patchy
articulation arrangements act as a barrier to lifelong learning,
leading to a view within ANTA that the absence of seamless articulation across
the sectors is ‘holding us back as a country’.
ANTA representatives have, however, subsequently qualified this statement by
indicating that the problem is only ‘at the margins’.
Ms Kaye Schofield, while supporting the need for improved articulation,
also considers that the need for this is ‘deeply exaggerated’ because only a
very small proportion of TAFE students wish to move into higher education.
Employers are not particularly concerned with whether a person’s qualifications
are from the VET or higher education sectors. Their focus is on the person’s
set of skills with an increasing requirement for a combination of practical and
other skills. According to Ms Schofield, the problem is better framed as
one of ‘dual sector qualifications’ rather than articulation:
Instead of TAFE VET level qualifications being viewed as five
years of VET equalling seven days of university—that sort of articulation
debate—it is much more useful to say, ‘These do different things and both are
needed.’ Increasingly, VET has to stop imagining itself as the industrial
model, the manual labouring entity, and to develop critical thinking. Equally,
universities have to understand why it is that so many university graduates are
now going in postgraduation. It is because the hand and the head are connected.
More seamless pathways between VET and higher education and back again
are important for industry as well as individuals, because the skill
development strategies of many industries depend on a mixture of vocational,
generic and academic skills and the scope for employees to build a portfolio of
these skills over their career. This is a particular issue in the engineering
profession. The Institution of Engineers Australia told the committee that
industry has a regular need for trade qualified people with practical experience
to move into professional engineering design and supervision functions. However
there is a declining pool of people with trade qualifications willing and able
to undertake higher education because the great majority of those with the
interest and ability are being ‘pushed’ to go direct into higher education from
school. The lack of engineers with a trade background will become a problem
when many of the current senior engineers with practical experience retire over
the next ten years.
The transport, distribution and logistics industry has also identified a
growing need for skills sets which combine vocational and higher education but
argues that a lack of both career planning and clear pathways between the VET
and higher education sector is limiting the scope for this development.
Some companies are tackling this issue through partnerships with RTOs
and the development of career and training pathways, which can be used as a
recruitment and development tool. Bosch and RMIT have jointly developed a
career and training pathways model to meet Bosch’s needs to develop a corps of
managers through a pathway that stems from the trades.
The Cast Metals CRC
advised the committee about a national integrated light metals education model
that it has developed, embracing both VET and higher education programs. The
program involves dovetailing courses from both post-school education sectors to
meet the small, but critically important, demand for metallurgical training. A
national approach and funding model is needed to allow this program to be
implemented. The CAST CRC suggests that, once developed for light metals, this
model could be extended to other areas of low student numbers.
Joint VET/HE qualifications including nested or embedded courses which
proceed from vocational or para-professional to professional qualifications,
with multiple entry and exit points were also promoted as providing more
seamless pathways and more efficient outcomes. Early certification of students
allows them to work in their field while continuing to study and can also
minimise the waste associated with high attrition rates in early years of
university study. Ms Leesa Wheelahan referred the committee to the example of
the paramedic course at Victoria University, where students begin with patient
care attendance and can then progress through the full range of skills, with
four exit points along the pathway.
Another model or
approach which can maximise the opportunities for articulation, is co-location
of VET and higher education, and sometimes schools, in the one campus. Physical
co-location can help to break down the mystique attaching to further education
in communities with limited past experience of it (as the committee was told by
representatives of schools, TAFE and the University of Western Sydney in
Blacktown) and assist students to follow dual sector pathway by eliminating the
need for travel. To obtain maximum benefit from co-location, the management of
each institution needs to have a strong commitment to developing flexible pathways,
joint programs and recognizing skills learnt in each sector, and sharing
infrastructure and resources. Financial support for matters such as development
of joint programs can help to ensure that the full potential is realised.
Questions of articulation and joint programs raise the issue of the
different missions or roles of VET and higher education. In Australia,
particularly since the training reform agenda, the main mission of VET is seen
to be vocational, skills-based education and training (although it also
provides a level of general post-secondary education) with higher education
more concerned with theoretical understanding, the mastery of a body of
knowledge and the development of cognitive skills and critical thinking. In
practice, these distinctions have become blurred over recent years, with the
introduction of courses with a significant practical component, such as nursing
and teaching, into higher education. The provision under the Australian
Qualification Framework (AQF) for award of diplomas and advanced diplomas in
either the VET sector or the higher education sector is another instance. The
recent decision to include associate degrees, as a Higher Education
qualification under the Australian Qualification Framework, complicates the
issue further, as does the Victorian government decision to allow TAFEs to
offer technical degrees in niche areas.
The MCEETYA decision to approve the inclusion of an Associate Degree
under the AQF occurred during the life of the inquiry and the implications of
this decision for pathways between VET and higher education and the separate
missions of VET and higher education are unclear. One possibility is that
Associate Degrees can play a role in providing a combination of general and
practical or vocational education and act as a stepping stone to higher
education for those who do not qualify for university entry based on school
This could have significant equity benefits and contribute to meeting the
increasing demand for higher level skills, while in the meantime meeting the
need for more intermediate skills. Access to higher education will be further
increased if VET sector institutions are able to offer these degrees, because
more TAFE campuses than universities are located outside metropolitan areas.
However at the time of thus report the role that Associate Degrees will play in
Australian post-secondary education is still emerging.
The introduction of joint and embedded programs and other arrangements
that provide combinations of vocational and higher education or appear to
straddle the boundaries between the two, raises the issue of the different
funding arrangements applying to higher education and VET courses, with HECS
available at the university level, but upfront fees (albeit often minimal and with
options for needs-based concessions) at the VET level.
In this context, some private providers
and commentators have suggested the need to consider a HECS-type arrangement
for VET courses. Private providers and some commentators see a HECS system as expanding
access to VET by providing an alternative to upfront fees, which may be a
barrier for some eligible applicants. The committee observes that the HECS
proposal raises a number of complex issues, including valid concerns based on
experience with the higher education sector, that an income-contingent loan
scheme will inevitably provide the scope for significant fee increases and
cost-shifting from the public sector to the individual student. Notwithstanding
the possible benefits of an alternative to upfront fees for some VET
applicants, the possibility, or indeed, probability of this cost shifting
occurring, is a significant concern given VET’s key role in providing education
and training for equity groups. Nevertheless, the TAFE Association of Victoria
considers that the state government’s decision allow TAFE Institutes to offer
degree courses, while facilitating pathways to new skills for new and existing
workers, will increase the pressure to resolve anomalies between the two
The committee notes that the Government has failed to include in its Backing
Australia’s Future package any reference to the inter-relationship between
VET and higher education and this has provoked criticism in some quarters.
The committee also observes that there are a number of important issues
relating to the pathway between VET and higher education and that the pressure
to consider these will mount over the next few years. Many of these issues were
raised in the Government’s document on the interface between VET and Higher
Education, Varieties of Learning. The committee agrees that the absence
of a coordinated policy framework for dealing with cross-sectoral
makes consideration of these issues more difficult. In the meantime there are a
number of specific issues and proposals that are worth further consideration in
terms of reducing the barriers to articulation.
Barriers to articulation
There are a number of barriers to overcome before the current recorded
rate of entry to higher education on the basis of VET qualifications of 7 per
is increased (although the committee recognises that the official transfer rate
probably under-states actual transfers).
The current training package emphasis on assessment of competency as
demonstrated in the workplace, was identified as perhaps the single greatest
barrier to more widespread articulation arrangements. According to a number of
witnesses, the assessments based on performance in the workplace lack
information on outcomes in terms of underpinning knowledge, cognitive skills
and the capacity to learn how to learn.
This creates problems for universities attempting to form judgements about
students’ capacity for higher education, because:
Performance in workplace skills is not at all relevant to the ability
to study in higher education. What we want to know about is the study skills:
literacy, numeracy. [But] it is not in the transcript. It is not in the
syllabus statement. It is not in the training package. We can only infer it
from ... one-to-one relations...[between institutions].
Ms Kaye Schofield also contends that while universities have been
‘recalcitrant, pompous and elitist in their treatment of vocational education
and training’, their suspicion of VET qualifications may be partly justified by
the removal of much critical thinking from VET programs in recent years.
ANTA advised the committee that it is expected that the next
‘generation’ of training packages will consider the need for greater
articulation from VET qualifications to university qualifications,
and presumably address concerns such as training and assessment practices which
restrict the scope for articulation. The committee considers that this review
must address the concerns raised during this inquiry about the need for a
greater emphasis on, and assessment of, underpinning knowledge, the development
of cognitive skills, critical thinking, learning skills and literacy and numeracy skills.
This would not only address one of the barriers to articulation, it would also
provide VET graduates with a base of skills and knowledge that will enhance
their capacity for lifelong employability and lifelong learning.
As noted in the previous chapter’s consideration of training packages,
graded assessment may help to promote articulation, by providing more
information than the current VET assessment practices.
Although there were some strong perceptions that VET authorities have
seen graded assessment as incompatible with the competency-based approach to
VET, the committee observes a growing recognition that graded assessment can
help to improve the standing of VET qualifications and further education and
employment prospects for VET graduates:
- Southbank Institute in Brisbane is beginning to use graded
assessment to promote articulation with local universities, but supplements
this with information on the assessing authority’s standards;
- The Australian Aviation Centre in Brisbane uses graded assessment
where students agree, again as an aid to articulation to university; and
- The Western Australian authorities are trialling a system of
graded assessment in response to demands from Registered Training
Organisations, employers, industry and learners for greater recognition of
More information on VET graduates’ underpinning knowledge and capacity
for higher education could also be provided through greater use of support
materials in training packages. Mr Gavin Moodie suggested that materials which
provide a brief statement of course content and context, and outline knowledge
and study skills as well as workplace skills, could maximise VET student’s
scope for credit transfer.
The committee observes that there are more general reasons in favour of such a
development, discussed in the previous chapter on Training Packages.
The different assessment practices in VET and higher education can also
be a roadblock on the pathway from higher education to VET. Under current
arrangements, the 30 to 40 per cent of students who do not complete their
university degrees do not obtain any recognition or credit towards a VET award.
The VET sector insistence on competency as assessed in the workplace is blamed
for this poor record, notwithstanding the fact that not all institutions adhere
to this requirement.
The University of Newcastle together with the Hunter Institute,
and Southbank Institute in Brisbane together with local Queensland universities
are working on ways to overcome this problem.
Attitudinal barriers in the form of elitism, are also said to be
significant. The committee was told that the rate of entry on the basis of VET
qualifications for the Group of Eight universities is only half that of other
Funding and regulatory requirements may act as a disincentive to
‘one-off’ articulation arrangements, whereby individual students are granted
credit for their TAFE qualifications outside of an institution-institution
arrangement. An academic at the University of Central Queensland claims that
universities might be more willing to grant credit for VET qualifications if
they are able to charge for the cost of the time involved in assessing
qualifications, but current DEST regulations prevent them from applying such
charges. According to Professor Prater of Central Queensland University,
transfer rates from VET to higher education are higher in New Zealand than
Australia, partly because New Zealand universities are able to charge for the
costs associated with assessing VET qualifications as a basis for university
While the committee was told of many instances where the VET sector and
universities in a region are negotiating bilateral arrangements for
articulation, there are no systemic pathways. Most arrangements are one-off,
negotiated bilaterally between institutions or, more often, between individual
departments or faculties within institutions and are very labour intensive.
As a result, arrangements are ‘inconsistent, patchy and lack certainty for the
This suggests the need to consider the benefits of more systemic approaches.
from Southbank Institute were, however, sceptical about the need for, or
feasibility of, a systemic approach to improving articulation, given the likely
timeframes and numerous obstacles. They took the view that locally developed
educational partnerships could meet much of the need, within the current policy
framework, given the right commitment. They noted that, while initial models
may be labour intensive, once fundamental issues have been resolved subsequent
models can be developed more quickly, although they may need regular review as
training packages change.
One jurisdiction, Western Australia, is tackling the need for a more
consistent and transparent approach to articulation through a formal agreement
between all Vice Chancellors and the Minister for Education. This commits the
parties to a phased program, starting with documentation and publication of the
existing qualification linkages, articulation and credit transfer arrangements
within the state. The next stage is state-wide guidelines for credit transfer
and articulation arrangements between universities and TAFE colleges,
consistent with the national guidelines for cross sectoral linkages. Progress
appears to have stalled, however, due to two impediments. One is the ultimate
need to address national issues relating to policy and funding for the two
The other is the expected shortage of university places and the uncertainty
about funding in the current environment.
Another way of promoting articulation is by tackling some of the
current barriers and providing a policy and reporting framework that encourages
higher transfer rates. Measures
which could be considered in consultation with stakeholders include greater use
of support materials, graded assessments in relevant cases and measures for
tracking student’s education progress from year 7 onwards, as well as financial
incentives for the development of joint VET/Higher Education programs,
articulation arrangements and recognition of prior learning.
As noted, increased pathways between VET and higher education is now a
priority under the national strategy. The committee was therefore interested to
hear how the Commonwealth is progressing with this issue. ANTA reported that
there is a ‘substantial amount of work being done with the AVCC through the
Australian Quality Framework Advisory Board’ to promote a more systemic
approach to articulation.
Similarly, DEST told the committee that the Commonwealth is making progress in
this area, if not as quickly as hoped. The need to take account of the views of
independent Vice-Chancellors can lead to some delays.
However, the committee was also told that while the AVCC and ANTA have agreed
on joint guidelines for credit transfer, the guidelines are ‘honoured more in
the breach than they are in the implementation’.
The issue of articulation between VET and higher education has been on
the public policy agenda for the past few years and, as noted, features as a
priority in the current national strategy for VET. It does not appear to have
the same priority for the higher education sector. Nevertheless the committee
notes many initiatives at the level of individual institutions provide models
which could be adopted more widely. The Commonwealth could play a role in
collecting information on these various models, identifying best practice
principles and disseminating the information them more broadly throughout the
VET and higher education sectors.
The committee also notes the labour-intensive nature of such
arrangements and the need for them to be supported by a framework that
facilitates articulation in both directions. It also recognises the obstacles
to developing a more systemic approach, including the lack of a policy
framework beyond MCEETYA for considering cross-sectoral issues and financial
pressures in both VET and higher education. The committee considers that ANTA,
in the meantime, should therefore give consideration to proposals which may be
more easily implemented.
The committee also considers that the Commonwealth should consider the
development of a policy framework for considering cross-sectoral post-secondary
education issues once the higher education funding arrangements have been
committee recommends that ANTA undertake extensive consultation and research
towards developing a model that allows for graded assessments to be provided
within the competency-based system, where students require this for
articulation to higher education.
The committee recommends that ANTA
should require that all training packages include support materials which
outline basic content and knowledge as well as competencies; include study
skills as well as workplace skills; and accept the classroom as well as the
workplace as a legitimate site for assessment.
The committee recommends that ANTA, in
conjunction with the AVCC, evaluate the Cast CRC model for a national
integrated education program, as a possible model for other disciplines or
industry areas with low student numbers and a need for skill sets from both VET
and higher education. The committee also recommends that ANTA and the AVCC
consider possible funding arrangements to promote the development and
implementation of such models.
The committee also considers that
MCEETYA should examine the feasibility and merits of introducing a system for
tracking students’ education and training from year 7 onwards. This examination
should include consideration of the skills passport concept for recording the
full range of VET outcomes.
Pathways for skills development
for existing workers
The need for a new policy focus on the skills development needs of
existing workers was one of the dominant themes of the inquiry,
although a number of submissions and witnesses also cautioned the need to
retain a strong focus on the training needs of new entrants and young people in
particular. There were also divergent views on whether there is a case for
public support for training of existing workers and any conditions or
requirements that should attach to such support.
According to DEST, the debate about the need for more government support
for existing workers is not new and:
...has been a fascinating issue to track over the years because
the opinion that we do too much for existing workers and the opinion that we do
too little seem to be equally held. I have heard the same people expressing
opposite views within a fairly short period of time.
The current wave of interest in training of the existing workforce is
prompted by a number of factors. The National Industry Skills Initiative (NISI)
working groups investigating skill shortages identified training of the
existing workforce as a key strategy for overcoming skill shortages and skill
Australian Business Ltd cited research by Access Economics estimating that the
total number of new entrants into the workplace during the decade 2010 to 2020
will be the same as in a single year in the early 2000s.
Employers will thus need to rely more heavily on existing workers for new
skills, implying the need for continued skills development as technology,
business processes and knowledge change.
The ACTU asserted that training of the existing workforce and retention
of existing skills is an imperative if Australia is not to miss the next
innovation cycle because of a widespread skills deficit:
Over half of the population will be 45 and over by 2010. We need
to recognise that, in terms of the innovation cycles I referred to, it takes
from four to seven years to train trades and professional workers. Then there
are the ongoing skills shortages in trades professions emerging now in some
service sector jobs—the growth sector of the economy.
There were also numerous examples cited, from the trucking industry,
to the health and community care sector, including the child care area, where
regulatory changes and/or industry’s professionalisation are generating an
increased requirement for skilled and qualified staff.
The overarching message is that there are fewer and fewer areas of industry or
public service which can operate effectively without a skilled workforce, which
is also engaged in regular skills development. The ‘cliché’ of lifelong
learning will need to become a reality.
Professor Sue Richardson of National Institute of Labour Studies at
Flinders University argued that lifelong learning is already being realised in
Australia where the level of participation of mature age people in further
education is higher than in almost any other country.
But according to ACCI, participation levels in VET can create a misleading
impression because many existing workers studying at TAFE are undertaking
individual modules of training which may not lead to a qualification.
A threshold issue is whether the government has any responsibility for
training existing workers, and, if so, the nature of that responsibility. Ms Kaye
Schofield argued that training of the existing workforce is the responsibility
of employers, rather than government.
However a number of other witnesses argue that government must have a role and
As long as the Commonwealth government promotes public policy
around lifelong learning, education for all and improving the qualifications
and skill base of the country, then it has a responsibility to contribute to
that in the same way that industry and individuals have a responsibility to
contribute... the Commonwealth government should not resile from some form of
injecting funds into the system to encourage training, because that supports
its own public policy and a broader public benefit.
One of the major barriers to lifelong learning is the lack of initial
formal training and qualifications: those without formal qualifications are
seen to be less willing to engage in structured learning. Recognition of Prior
Learning (RPL), or the Recognition of Current Competence (RCC), can therefore
provide the necessary platform and catalyst for further skills development.
This is a particular issue in industries where many people entered as
semi-skilled or unskilled and now need either certification or top-up of
skills; in other cases re-skilling is needed to meet the changing requirements
of the industry. The expectation that acquisition of formal qualifications will
promote subsequent learning has been borne out by the experience in the
transport industry, which has undergone a major phase of training of the
Yet expenditure on RPL currently accounts for only 2 per cent of national
The health and community care sector also identified the need for
publicly-funded support for RPL and subsequent upskilling. Up to 50 per cent of
the workforce in some areas of the sector lack qualifications,
yet recent regulatory changes in areas such as child care tie accreditation to
the availability of qualified staff.
Health and community care, as a poorly-funded sector, is almost completely
reliant on government-funded training programs to recognise and develop the
skills of the workforce. For those with disabilities, RPL and subsequent skills
development can also be the key to improving their labour market prospects, by
providing formal certification and supplementation of skills developed on the
job. Representatives of the health and community care sector are therefore
opposed to state government policies and practices which limit their support
for training existing workers, whether through New Apprenticeships or other
While most submissions and witnesses support increased government
assistance to training of the existing workforce, opinions differ on the most
appropriate form of support. While some submissions, and evidence from the
Commonwealth, favour the New Apprenticeships program for this purpose, a
greater number argued the need for a different approach.
The ACTU argues for a dual system of structured training, with the New
Apprenticeship system to focus only on entry level training, in particular for
young people, and ‘a second training strategy for the development of skills for
the existing workforce within the context of national Training Packages and
workplace training strategies.’
A key aim is to increase the current low proportion of employer investment in
structured training leading to national qualifications.
One rationale for a separate strategy for existing workers is to enable
better targeting of government support within the framework of an industry or
enterprise skills development strategy. The ACTU proposes a program of
government grants to assist with the cost of training the current workforce,
provided the following criteria are met:
- matched or greater funding by the employer;
- training to be delivered by registered training organisations;
- training is structured and leads national qualifications;
recognition of current competencies and prior learning is
- investment is in agreed target areas, that is, in important areas
of the economy where identified skills shortages exist; and
- training is undertaken in accordance with an agreed workplace
According to the ACTU, the $357 million currently allocated towards
training of existing workers under the New Apprenticeship program should be
channelled into a separate program for this purpose.
The AMWU also argues for a separate program to support training of the
existing workforce, with a focus on the development of portable skills and
It agrees that RPL must be a key element of any such strategy and supports
additional public funding for this purpose. The ideal arrangement, from the
AMWU perspective, is for government funding for RPL to be contingent upon
further employer-funded training leading to nationally recognised qualifications.
The AMWU also identifies the need for a new approach to RPL, with greater
emphasis on a thorough skills analysis in the workplace, undertaken in a
partnership between the training provider and enterprise.
This would have the added benefit of updating the industry experience and
understanding of RTOs.
There were a range
of other suggestions for encouraging and supporting additional employer
investment in training. The AiG and EEASA suggested tax credits; others
suggested some weighting or requirement in government tenders to support
training, whether in general or for special categories of people such as
Indigenous people or people from local communities.
Like the ACTU and AMWU, the ACCI advocates separate programs of
government support for new and existing workers. Mr Steve Balzary of ACCI
...governments need two clear strategies to tackle workplace
issues. The first is an entry-level training strategy, which I think New
Apprenticeships meets very well. The next strategy is a strategy for existing
workers, and I think that is where we need to do a lot more work right across
governments on the training system.
ACCI and Australian Business Ltd suggested a learning bonus or incentive
payment for employers, to be used flexibly to offset some of the costs of RPL
or other training interventions for the existing workforce. Relevant
interventions could include mentorship training to enable mature workers
provide more support to new entrants.
The proposed bonus is seen to be particularly useful in industries which have
previously lacked a commitment to formal training, but need not be linked to
training relevant to the current workplace, provided the training contributes
to workers’ employability skills.
Implicit in the ACCI/ABL proposal, and the comments cited above, is that
upskilling the existing workforce requires support for a greater diversity of
activities than can be catered for under the New Apprenticeship program.
The Victorian Government also argues against the use of the New Apprenticeships
program for existing workers. According to Victoria, the administrative
overheads and costs associated with New Apprenticeships, including
fee-for-service payments to New Apprenticeship Centres and audit and monitoring
costs, are an unnecessary impost when training is for those who are already
employed, or transferring from one job to another.
A major theme in these submissions was the need for specific funding and
support for RPL, which is a neglected element of the training system. One
barrier to greater use of RPL is the high cost, due to its labour-intensive,
one-on-one nature. For this reason, the Commonwealth and ANTA have been
investigating options to streamline the process, such ‘group classes,’ where
individuals are trained to collecting evidence about their prior learning and
Notwithstanding the high costs of one-on-one RPL, the committee notes that it
is still likely to be more cost-effective than the use of a New Apprenticeship
arrangement for this purpose.
ANTA advised the committee that it has been tasked with developing an action
plan for implementing strategies to promote greater use of RPL, in line with
the emphasis in the new national strategy.
DEST acknowledged the arguments in favour of a dual system of support
for training new and existing workers. However it questioned the proposition
that alternative mechanisms would provide a better outcome. Any new scheme
would require the establishment of an administrative and legal framework for
allocation of funds and audit and monitoring of outcomes, with attendant
The ACTU also identifies the need for an accountability framework for training
existing workers but suggests that this could involve industry or enterprise
DEST also reported that the recent review of the Commonwealth incentives
for New Apprenticeships revealed broad (although presumably not unanimous)
support for maintaining the current level of support for existing workers.
ANTA also provided the committee subsequently with information indicating that
the great majority of existing workers on New Apprenticeships trained at
Certificate 3 (79 per cent) or Certificate 4 (16 per cent) levels,
and the majority of these also had no previous post-school qualifications.
In this context DEST questioned that whether the proposal for the learning
bonus would deliver substantially better outcomes. 
The level of the qualification is not, however, necessarily a guarantee
of quality and relevance of the training: ACPET submitted that its members
report instances of employers engaging existing workers as trainees under ‘two
year’ Certificate 3 programs, with a ‘limited correlation’ between the
traineeship and the skill requirements of the person’s job.
ACPET therefore also favours other approaches to supporting the skills
development of existing workers and the re-skilling of older workers, including
the provision of targeted tax relief measures.
Measures that promote
upskilling and cross-skilling
While many elements of the current training framework, including
competency-based assessment and training packages arguably provide the platform
for upksilling, retraining and cross-training of the existing workforce, this
potential is not yet fully realised.
One issue is the need for RTOs to be more responsive in meeting
industry’s needs for training existing workers. According to one witness:
The No. 1 issues are improving access to the training system,
from the small business point of view, and also flexibility and workplace based
delivery. That means two things: firstly, a more responsive training system in
terms of flexible delivery and workplace delivery; and, secondly, different
funding models to those that are in place now, to allow for thin markets...
Mr David Graham made a similar point, arguing the need for TAFEs to work
with enterprises to develop more targeted short courses tailored to the needs
of a workplace, for delivery in the workplace. However this is a
labour-intensive, and therefore expensive, approach and not able to be absorbed
within current TAFE funding levels and arrangements. On the other hand, few
small firms are able to pay the full costs of this service.
The implication is that an increase in small business investment in the skills
development of its existing workforce will require the public sector to
subsidise this investment in some form.
The argument that ‘a standard training service will no longer suffice’
to meet the training needs associated with the existing workforce was made in
many submissions. In many cases this will require long-term partnerships
between VET providers and industry, with a particular focus on innovative
companies and industry sectors. Once again, the main constraint is funding.
As indicated in the previous section, an important mechanism to promote
lifelong learning is the capacity to record and monitor in the one database (or
linked databases) and report on the full range of learning and qualifications
gained in all of the post-compulsory school sectors. This is commonly known as
a ‘skills passport’, and should have the capacity to record education and
training outcomes that do not result in grant of a qualification, for example
the completion of VET modules or university units. As well as being an aid to
further education and training, skills passports can also be an aid to
employment in the rural and construction industries characterised by contract
or seasonal work and multi-skilling,
by providing employers with a record of the skills obtained in related
industries or occupations.
ANTA reports that a skills passport has been under consideration over
the last decade and remains on its agenda.
Other measures that would facilitate cross-skilling and upskilling
include training packages that facilitate the combination of skills sets across
An important principle identified during the course of the inquiry is
the need to ensure equitable access to training opportunities for casual and
contract staff and staff without post-secondary education.
The committee considers that a good case has been made for a separate
government program to assist enterprises with the training of the existing
workforce. It acknowledges the points made by DEST about the administrative
advantages associated with the use of existing mechanisms such as New
Apprenticeships for this purpose, but considers that the problems associated
with this approach outweigh the benefits. It therefore believes that DEST
should examine the merits and feasibility of undertaking introducing a separate
scheme to promote employer investment in training the existing workforce, in
place of continued use of the New Apprenticeship scheme. In examining this
issue, DEST should consider the appropriate eligibility criteria including: any
priority areas of industry development; equitable access to training for casual
and contract staff and for those without post-secondary education; provision
for RPL; and the need for employers to match or exceed any government
The committee recommends that the Commonwealth
consider introducing a separate scheme to support the training of existing
workers, in place of the incentives under the New Apprenticeship scheme. The
National Industry Skills Forum should provide advice on the key features of a
new scheme which would better focus on the career development needs of workers,
including casual employees, and on training which supports enterprise and
industry skills development strategies and national skill priorities.
The committee also recommends that the Commonwealth
provide funding to enable mature workers who are unemployed or at risk of being
retrenched, to have a formal Recognition of Prior Learning, career counselling
and access to training to develop new skill sets which will enhance their future
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