The need for community involvement in VET Policy Development


Part One: VET Policy Context

Vocational Education: Purposes, Traditions and Prospects is a book by Stephen Billett (Griffith University). It represents a foundational text about vocational education.

Quote: Page 53 – 54 ” …as noted across history, vocational education and training has been subject to the views and prejudices of socially privileged others whose contributions are often self-serving and ill-informed. In particular, the views of the worth of work, those who conduct different types of work and the educational provisions they require have been serially injurious.

Moreover, because this educational sector is seen to be responsive to and a means to secure the state’s social and economic goals, it is subject to constant intervention and regulation leaving it vulnerable to criticisms from economists, politicians and educators, and blamed for issues that are beyond its possible control and influence. …”This vulnerability has seen it subject to repeated interventions in some countries and decision making increasingly removed from those who have expertise in education, and particularly vocational education. Instead it becomes controlled by those outside the sector.

As this sector is seen as being responsible for, or responsive to powerful interests, it is held as too important a business to be left to teachers and education specialists. Instead, interests and voices from outside are given greater legitimacy and the ability to make decisions….

Yet, often these decision makers lack an understanding of education and educational processes, let alone the knowledge required for work and how it may be developed. However, when the initiatives and reforms proposed by such decision makers fail to secure the kind of outcomes they proposed for them, the blame is rarely directed to the decision makers (i.e., the voice of industry), but towards those who organise and enact what has been mandated (i.e., teachers).

Hence cycles of increased regulation and control easily emerge from such arrangements.

There is an inevitable and ongoing contestation between those who provide and enact vocational education and training programs and the expectations of others.

Part Two: Where to now?

Attribution: Extracts from a Paper by: Clive Chappell, OVAL Research UTS []

What is new about work?
What is new about skill?
What is new about knowledge?
What is new about learning?

It was in this context that OVAL Research in negotiation with ANTA undertook a research program with the title An industry-led VET system; issues for policy, practice and practitioners. The rationale that underpinned the research was that while an industry-led VET system has been central to Australian VET reform for well over a decade, significant changes to work and the organisation of work together with new conceptions of skill, knowledge and learning outlined above had also occurred. What all these changes might mean for an industry-led VET system was therefore seen as an important question in terms of the future development of Australian VET.

Overall the study concludes that VET providers increasingly operate within a world of difference created by the varying needs, expectations and priorities of industries, enterprises, local employers, learners, differences between national, regional and local training needs and finally variations in the goals and purposes set for the Australian VET system.

Nonetheless although VET now operates in a world of difference the study concludes that:

1. The promotion of an industry-led VET system has produced significant gains for Australian VET.


2. Increasingly local /regional relationships based on partnership and collaboration are central elements in VET program planning and delivery.

3. Social policy objectives remain important elements in VET provision.”

… the recognition of the central role of industry is also complicated by the fact that the concept of an industry-led system is understood differently by different players. Moreover these different understandings are in many ways an outcome of the increasingly complex and multifaceted sets of relationships that exist among VET stakeholders.

For example at the local level employers and enterprises often have expectations of providers that move beyond those determined at the national level. These different expectations create different types of relationship that are often more collaborative in nature involving the development of local partnerships between VET, local employers and other stakeholders.

Even here the dynamics of the relationship vary depending on the nature of the collaboration. In some cases for example the provider is delivering a commercial training product to an employer and on another occasion is asking the same employer to provide work placement opportunities for learners undertaking publicly funded courses. As a result of these differences acknowledgement of leadership by industry in the area of specification of vocational outcomes and future training needs does not mean that the majority of stakeholders regard the current Australian VET system as being industry-led.

Indeed many of the stakeholders involved in this research were reluctant to describe the VET system as being industry-led. The reasons given for this reluctance vary considerably but are for the most part dependent on the particular location of the stakeholder in VET and the relative importance given to the various roles and responsibilities given to the VET system.

Part Three: Questions that policy makers need to ask are:

Within the policy context

1. How and in what ways can policy encourage and support local and regional collaborations in VET?

2. What public policy tools can be used to effect these changes?

3. What systemic barriers and constraints inhibit local and regional collaborations and how can they be reduced?”

Within the practitioner and practice context

Questions that VET providers need to ask are:

1. What implications does the changing nature of VET work have for the make-up of the contemporary VET workforce?

2. What kinds of education and training professionals are now needed to undertake contemporary VET work?

3. What kinds of professional qualifications and work experiences reflect the workforce needs of the contemporary VET system?

4. How and in what ways can recruitment, staff development and promotion strategies be used to support the development and maintenance of a contemporary VET workforce.


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