Representation needed: trainees/learners and trainers/educators in Voc. Ed. & Training

education (1)

Some professional people query “who and how” would students/learners and trainers/educationists/educators be included in the VET System Boards and Committees at the strategic level. It is an excuse not to consult.

Arrangements were made and implemented for ASQA to consult on VET Reform.

Possible sources of representatives:

  1. TAFE Teachers’ Awardees
  2. TAFE Apprentice of the Year Awardees
  3. VET Teacher/Trainer of the Year Awardees
  4. VET Trainee/Student Awardees
  5. VET Training Provider of the Year Awardees.
  6. AUSTAFE Awardees

Methodologies for consultation

  1. Online meetings
  2. Video conferencing
  3. Web conferencing
  4. Webinars

VET Trainee/Learner Representation and Advocacy



This study examines effective models of learner representation and advocacy in vocational education and training (VET) that shape and support the inclusion of the learner voice. The key focus of this study is on whether and how learner representation and advocacy have been implemented in the VET sector, and the degree to which these account for disadvantaged learners. ……..There is growing recognition that the VET learner experience is vitally important to an increasingly competitive VET marketplace.

Providers cannot afford to ignore the learner voice, they have to understand and respond to learner needs in a way that translates to positive learner experience and outcomes- both from an educational and social aspect point of view. In spite of this, and in the context of entitlement based funding approaches, concerns are raised by stakeholders about the potential impact of VET reforms for learners with more intensively and costly learning needs. Concerns range from compromised access for disadvantaged learners on the one hand and the impact on the quality of training and supports available to them on the other.

‘Learner voice’ lens approach

The study approaches learner representation and advocacy through the ‘learner voice’ lens, which has attracted considerable attention and research in recent years1. The learner voice directly articulates the experience, interests and rights of learners, signalling an active, influential role for learners in shaping their learning contexts. This position is based on the understanding that learner engagement and outcomes stand to benefit from more direct input into, and influence over, all facets of their learning environment. This extends beyond their immediate learning context and influence over curriculum and course content, to exerting influence in higher level, governance settings.

An effective learner voice injects learner perspectives into key decision-making processes, alongside those of other stakeholders such as policy makers, providers, industry, and the broader community. Potential exists for the learner voice to have an impact across a range of decision-making contexts, from the classroom through to program, faculty and institutional governance levels, and beyond to community and policy debates.


This study finds that in the absence of mandatory requirements, legislation and targeted funding prioritising learner representation and advocacy, the most influential determinant in the design and implementation of an effective model is the perception of its benefit to the provider and the value the provider places on the rights, entitlements and interests of learners, and in turn, the resources and independence it is willing to afford to these services.

VET Trainee (Not industry) Needs

In recent years COAG has embarked on reforms in the VET sector aimed at improving skills and better aligning skills to labour market demand. The reform agenda recognises that the VET sector must be responsive to changes in the labour market. Market based reforms are being introduced to develop an entitlement based system with greater contestability. This includes strategies to ensure TAFE’s operate effectively in an environment of greater competition and improving information for students and employers about training options, training providers and provider quality.

The “Review of Training Packages and Accredited Courses – Discussion Paper” says, “National training packages define the range of knowledge and skills (known as competencies) required by different occupations and industries and, in some cases, the circumstances under which competency can be assessed. They also describe how these competencies can be packaged into nationally recognised qualifications that are aligned to the Australian Qualifications Framework (AQF).”

“The purpose of VET is to provide Australians with work-ready skills for the labour market – skills that businesses and industries need to be productive and internationally competitive. A highly capable workforce will help place Australia’s economy in a position of strength in the global market and secure Australia’s economic prosperity and increase job opportunities for individuals.”

I am always uncomfortable when the trainees’ needs don’t rate a consideration.

Trainee Needs – discussion starters

We might consider a broader conception of trainee needs (discussion starters):

  1. structured support to ensure all “six success factors” are addressed:
  2. encouraged how to succeed in the post-secondary environment
  3. fostering of trainees’ motivation
  4. Directed: trainees have a goal and know how to achieve it
  5. Focused: trainees stay on track—keeping their eyes on the prize
  6. Nurtured: trainees feel somebody wants and helps them to succeed
  7. Engaged: trainees actively participate in training sessions and extracurricular activities
  8. Connected: trainees feel like they are part of the Public or Private RTO community
  9. Valued: trainees’ skills, talents, abilities and experiences are recognized; they have opportunities to contribute at the Public or Private RTO and feel their contributions are appreciated
  10. comprehensive support to under-served trainees to prevent the equity gap from growing
  11. supported trainee achievement, RTOs must take the lead

Practical exercises:


When thinking about the need to continuously foster trainees’ motivation, when and where does your trainees’ focus begin to fade?

Based on what evidence?

How do you currently intervene to stoke their motivation?

What more can you do either individually or as an organisation?

Are there policies, processes or practices at your Public or Private RTO and/or interactions the Public or Private RTO has with trainees that may be inadvertently eroding trainees’ motivation?


What policies and practices currently exist at your Public or Private RTO to ensure trainees know how to succeed in the post-secondary setting (e.g., mandatory orientation or trainee success courses)?

What more could your Public or Private RTO do to ensure all trainees have the skills to navigate and achieve at your Public or Private RTO?

Working collaboratively

In what ways do Public and Private RTO offices, programs and departments work together to ensure trainees have the opportunity to establish a goal, create a plan of action and continuously connect not only with needed resources but other trainees at the Public or Private RTO?

How might your Public and Private RTO scale these efforts to reach more trainees?

Under-served groups

Which populations at your Public or Private RTO need the most comprehensive support to persist and complete?

When and where is support needed?

Given what evidence?

How does or how can your Public or Private RTO strategically invest in supporting these trainee groups?


How does your Public or Private RTO develop a culture where all people— trainers, staff and administrators—feel responsible for trainees’ success and are aware of how their individual work at the Public or Private RTO links directly and/or indirectly to trainees’ achievement?


What policies and practices does your Public or Private RTO embrace to empower trainers as primary supporters of trainee success?

What support do trainers need to more fully inhabit this role as the primary champion for trainees’ success?

How the VET System Impacts on Trainers / Educators / Educationists

“What has not been given the attention it deserves is how the trainers, educators and systems are placed to cope with the onslaught.”

Extracts from: Impacts of the Changing Nature of the Vocational Education and Training (VET) System on Educators within the VET System in Australia, Mairead Dempsey, DEd (Thesis 2013) – 20 years in the Vocational Education and Training sector in Australia

An important conclusion was that the benchmark qualification for training and assessment within the VET sector does not provide sufficient skills and knowledge to enable trainers to confidently adjust to the speed of evolution within the VET sector. The findings led to recommendations that may help to inform government and policy makers who hold responsibility for the VET sector in Australia of possible future considerations in relation to trainers of VET.

The link between trainer competency and compliance

This study considered the impact of the changing nature VET policy on trainers of VET. The study explored the proposition that there is a link between VET trainer competency and a high level of non-compliance in the delivery and assessment aspects of the Australian regulatory standards.

Vocational Education and Training (VET) in Australia has experienced an unprecedented rate of change in recent times dominated by economic discourses that point to the need for the VET system to contribute to economic development. This discourse includes increasing the competence of the present and future workforce to meet the emerging needs of the economy so Australia can compete in the global market. The VET sector in Australia operates within a National Training Framework that has been constantly changing over the past decade.

Methodology summary

This study includes an environmental scan, a review of key literature, interviews, a survey and findings from focus groups that relate to the VET trainer profile, impacts of sector changes and benchmarks for trainers of VET. The study draws on both quantitative and qualitative data to determine some of the impacts of policy changes on trainers operating within the system, from regulatory to operational perspectives.

Strain on VET providers and trainers

This study identifies a basic profile of VET trainers in Australia. It found the pace of change of government policy, regulatory changes, expectations of industry and changes in learners had placed considerable strain on VET providers and their trainers. Some of the challenges identified by trainers included the capacity to reflect the requirements of National Training Packages and meets the needs of the diverse learner’s, and the use of new technology. They identified increased stress levels and pressure of time constraints to produce results.

The evidence indicated the disparity of content, delivery and assessment and modes of the benchmark Certificate IV in Training and Assessment was not conducive to consistency in trainer competency and ability to meet the changing needs of the VET.

An important conclusion was that the benchmark qualification for training and assessment within the VET sector does not provide sufficient skills and knowledge to enable trainers to confidently adjust to the speed of evolution within the VET sector. The findings led to recommendations that may help to inform government and policy makers who hold responsibility for the VET sector in Australia of possible future considerations in relation to trainers of VET.

Policy recommendations

Based on the findings that emerged from the study some recommendations as a way to move forward for government and policy development in Australia include:

1. Review the benchmark qualification Certificate IV in Training and Assessment as a regulatory requirement for trainers in the VET sector.

2. Further study on the link between VET performance requirements and competency and qualification of trainers

3. Place greater emphasis on advanced pedagogical skills for trainers focusing attention on the importance of reflective practice and strategic enquiry for VET trainers.

4. Develop formal programs to educate trainers how to engage and manage different VET learning cohorts, such as those from different cultural background, generational differences and those with specialised learning challenges.

5. Support quality teaching learning and assessment outcomes by focusing on a way of giving recognition for trainer’s ongoing personal and professional development.

A final word

The VET workforce is in some respects unique. It is highly diverse and rapidly changing, particularly in the nature of work, not only job responsibilities but also where and how people work. It is not only a workforce that develops and delivers products and services to customers; it is also a workforce that is charged with training and developing the workforces of many of Australia’s vital service and production industries. As such, VET can’t settle for being adequate; it needs a workforce that can lead, create new knowledge that in turn creates value across economic and social sectors.

The constant state of turbulence in the VET sector and the world of work in general, mean that education systems such as VET cannot educate and train people in the expectation that their work activities will remain stable or that trainers will remain in the one job throughout their working life. As this study illustrates with a mature age and aging workforce the sustainability of VET trainers needs some serious consideration.

A primary challenge for government in Australia is to find ways to improve access to VET, particularly for those who are already in the workforce, are unemployed or seeking a first job for example. A closely related challenge for policy makers and providers is to improve the quality of training to engage different learners and meet changing and rising demands for skilled and technical workers. What has not been given the attention it deserves is how the trainers, educators and systems are placed to cope with the onslaught.


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