About VET professional associations – some exist in name and narrow focus only

escape

I’m going to risk biting one hand that feeds me to explore why the professionalisation, beyond Certificate IV, of vocation education and training, produces such passionate negative views and, therefore, whether or not there is any merit in VET trainers signing up to VET professional associations. [Bruce D. Watson, 2015]

There should be broad discussion about why this could be one of many options to bring the vocational education and training community closer together and find a way to provide better engagement with vocational education and training, beyond Government and industry-led VET rhetoric, within the wider community.

Maybe as a result we can move a little further  towards normalising the idea of vocational education and training and designing for trainees with diverse needs as a core skill, not as a specialism. However, there will always be a professional place for education specialists if they are allowed to be part of the crew. [Bruce D. Watson, 2015]

We arrive in the vocational education and training content creation world from many different educational pathways, and it’s an enormous challenge to ensure that all of these routes are quality-assured for professionalism.

It would, however, be a terrific start if VET professional association organisations were to raise the bar in terms of required coverage of vocational education and training beyond the Certificate IV in Assessment and Workplace Training and in their accreditation approach.

Purpose of a professional organisation

There is value in some kind of formal association of people who spend at least some of their professional activity providing relevant knowledge and experience to people as part of a professional and social inclusion drive; as part of better product and service design and delivery; as part of good business; as part of community and societal development.. Connection and exchange of informed knowledge, ideas and opposing informed opinion is extremely important. To the outside world, a professional society may give some kind of confirmation that a profession in a specialist area of vocational education and training, and inclusion,exists.

I understand that for people who have invested a lot of time and money in building up relevant skills, knowledge and reputation, it’s extremely frustrating to lose work to less capable people who manage to persuade clients of their capability but can’t deliver on their promises. It is also damaging to trainers, RTO managers and, most importantly, trainees.

Hoping to demonstrate that you’re better than the snake-oil VET profiteers.

Hoping to demonstrate that you are on the boat, rather than swallowed in the rising floodwater.

There are challenges and complexities of managing membership and accreditation. We should be raising standards, but we should also be raising awareness and spreading knowledge about vocational education and training. Helping people understand the context of the vocational educational education and training movement, the importance of inclusive course design and its key principles. Helping developers recognise and avoid introducing curriculum errors into courses. Helping project managers think about vocational education and training in procurement and evaluation of assessment methods.

Encouraging Government bureaucrats to more effectively involve educationist professionals with different expertise in trainee and trainer experience, research and design activities.

Accredit learning not learners

I think a VET professional association should, above all else, be working hard to improve the quality and accessibility vocational education and training, beyond what the original Government bureaucrats who erroneously tried to create an education market of the future. Government bureaucrats who likely won’t ever consider themselves       education professionals or experts , but who can  make life more difficult for trainees, trainers and RTO managers.

There may be considerable continuing professional development of new members, however, the entertainment on the boat, if you like, but I don’t believe it is the primary goal. Educationists and education researchers can do pretty well as a professional community in discovering problems; in identifying, discussing, and refining solutions; in publicising and promoting best practice. However, not all of the privatised VET System is open to such revelations. The primary goal is often maximising profit – at any cost. I observe far less public  focus on sharing informed knowledge more widely; and specifically on working to improve the quality of education in vocational education and training per se.

Efforts need to focus on increasing depth and breadth of coverage of digital accessibility; and on existing accreditation systems to set a higher benchmark for what should be expected by curricula. Maybe as a result we can move a little further towards normalising the idea of vocational education and training and designing for trainees with diverse needs as a core skill, not as a specialism. However, there will always be a professional place for education specialists if they are allowed to be part of the crew.

Professional societies and education programmes

We arrive in the vocational education and training content creation world from many different educational pathways, and it’s an enormous challenge to ensure that all of these routes are quality-assured for professionalism. It would, however, be a terrific start if VET professional association organisations were to raise the bar in terms of required coverage of vocational education and training beyond the Certificate IV in Assessment and Workplace Training and in their accreditation approach. We should be draining the floodwaters, not pulling up the gangway and sailing our boat away from those left behind.

Building a body of knowledge

There is a continuing need to create a set of resources that would be reliable, comprehensive and easy to consume for users of all levels of proficiency in vocational education and training. And the Web space is an obvious resource. This is an issue beautifully explained in Oliver Nourry’s article ‘How we build a body of knowledge for web accessibility’. While the article doesn’t particularly focus on the creation of a VET professional association, there should be broad discussion about why this could be one of many options to bring the vocational education and training community closer together and find a way to provide better engagement with vocational education and training, beyond Government and industry-led VET rhetoric, within the wider community.

I anticipate divisions regarding the creation of such an association  influenced by the Private and Public divide in vocational education and training. Attempts have been made for separating Public and Private RTO organsiations, which begs the question: What is so different about the Public and Private Providers in the VET System. The rhetoric will say, Private is more efficient and flexible – however, there is still no independent, empirical evidence for that.

While some Private VET professional association initiatives have tried to address the above, the highly pointed views they expressed about Public VET RTO Providers and the recycling of non-evidenced Government rhetoric most likely caused potential members to think again – there is still a need for something more.

Enter a broad VET Professional association

The merits were that such an association would instantly raise the profile of vocational education andtraining and assist the wider community and industry in knowing where to go and who to talk to when it came to making vocational education and training happen in a professional way.

If an appropriate accreditation process were established, such an organisation could potentially become a shining beacon to the vocational education and training development community, connecting specialists with developers and translating the technical vocational education and training standards into easy, practical steps for VET professionals to incorporate into their work practices.

From my current point of view, an Australian not-for-profit organisation with such goals makes a lot of sense. Especially if linked to educationists and research in the University sector.

What puts potential members off?

There is no ‘real’ rigorous accreditation process

A high not-for-profit membership fee

Membership narrowly geographically-centric with the usual suspects

Membership including large corporations and assistive technology providers which raise questions about how much opportunity there would actually be to be involved in making positive change at an national level.

So much web accessibility for resources, so little time…

I observe little useful public vocational education and training focus on sharing VET knowledge more widely; and specifically on working to improve the quality of vocational education and training. Efforts need to focus on increasing depth and breadth of coverage of vocational education and training; and on existing accreditation systems to set a higher benchmark for what should be expected from VET professionals.

Returning to the purpose of a VET professional association: Is it contributing to the body of knowledge?  Is it making access to resources easier? At this point the answer is no, and that needs to change.

I hope that in a few years I can  reflect on this Post and on how much the Vocational Education and Training System  has grown, but in the meantime I would encourage VET thinkers, which could include all of us, not just Government bureaucrats  — to continue looking for ways to address the issues I continue to raise in my Posts.

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