Transcript of Best of 2021: highlights from Season 6

9 December 2021

Vocational Voices: Season 6, Episode 5

Best of 2021: highlights from Season 6

Steve Davis (00:04)
Hello, I'm Steve Davis and in 2021, we invited expert vocational voices from the VET sector to share their views, their stories, experiences, and their insights. And we are grateful they found time in their busy schedules to join us. With each episode, kicking off with an interesting short snippet from a guest speaker, we thought it'd be a good idea to go back through the episodes and pull out some more of the research findings for you and pull them together into a best of 2021 episode for some summer listening, so that's what we've done. We've created this for you. We've gone across the four episodes and we've made this one full of short sharp insights from each of our guest speakers. So in this final episode for 2021, we'll cover off the best bits of season six. Enjoy.

Linda Simon (00:54)
Of all the teachers, I'm teaching the teachers these days, I've never heard anyone actually express concerns about the fact that they're doing a higher qualification, even if that's not required by their employer. They feel that they're able to give so much more to their students by having a greater understanding of the pedagogy behind teaching. There is almost a cringe that goes on in the VET sector, that we don't actually have to come up to the same standards as teachers in schools or teachers in higher ed, that somehow we're something different. And as far as I can see, a teacher is a teacher, no matter who it is that you are teaching.

Steve Davis (01:40)
Hello and welcome to Vocational Voices. In episode one of season six, we were asking the question, should we be concerned about the quality of VET teaching? Recent research suggests there are some key issues affecting the quality of VET teaching that need to be addressed. These include entry level requirements, limited career pathways, workforce casualization, and lack of support for professional development. The NCVER report, Building Capability and Quality in VET Teaching: Opportunities and Challenges, reveals that these issues affect the recruitment of capable VET trainers with industry experience in the high demand skills, particularly in regional areas, and impact on the quality of VET teaching. In the episode we spoke with NCVER Managing Director Simon Walker, educationalist and researcher, Linda Simon, whose voice we just heard a moment ago, and VET Development Centre CEO, Martin Powell, about what helps build capability and quality in VET teaching.

Simon Walker (02:49)
Well, I think the first thing I'd say is we have to be careful when we talk quality of teaching. It is an elusive concept and it is one that's based on perception. So the information we have through our surveys is from the student outcome survey, which talks about a range of things and requests a lot of information from students, one of which is about their perception of their training experience, including their perception of the quality of the training and the teacher. And the good news there is that there are extremely high levels of satisfaction and they've been consistently high for many, many years. So when I talk about high, about 85 to 90% of respondents are satisfied with the quality of the teaching experience. We also have a survey of employers called the Survey of Employers Use and Views, a slightly question, but specifically around whether they were satisfied with the trainer's knowledge and experience of the industry. And we're about to talk a little bit about the dual roles that a VET teacher has. Again, high satisfaction levels in that 80 to 90% range.

Martin Powell (03:56)
Yeah, I would follow on from what Simon was just referring too, that in terms of the clients of the sector being the employers and the students, they're obviously quite satisfied with the teaching engager. So it might be unfair, like within any profession, to expect the teacher to be carrying the whole business or organization. So the varying in quality of an employee of a business is probably down to the recruitment and support, perhaps, that they're getting in their organization. I think it's a bit of a generalization. I would think if someone isn't performing well in a teaching role, it wouldn't be because they're grappling with being a teacher and their industry currency, it might be the other supports that are around them.

Linda Simon (04:43)
I guess that comes back to the cringing issue. And with that, if you know this whole idea that the VET teacher is actually a trainer and doesn't need to understand a whole lot of pedagogies in relation to teaching their students, then to me, it's that sort of issue that's half of the problem and that we should be able to turn around in some way. Now the VET sector has been casualized, well, certainly as long as I've been in it and I've been in it for a few years now. The higher education sector is very casualized too, but that doesn't suffer from, I think, the same problems that we think about in the VET sector.

Linda Simon (05:29)
We can either differentiate between the qualifications and that they're expected of people undertaking different roles within the sector. We can look at ways that we can better support those who are in casual roles because once again, if you're a teacher, you're a teacher. Then we can look at better ways that we can support. We can mentor. We can ensure that they have access to increase qualifications, that they have financial support, that would be nice, and that we can have ways of setting up networks that will continue to support. And I note that the research picked up on some of the wonderful national networks that used to operate in the sector and were ways that people could get together to share their knowledge, to share and build on their professional development. And that would be accessible to casual teachers as accessible as to those who are tenured.

Simon Walker (06:30)
Yeah. I was just wondering, in relation to the issue of the qualification and the level of education to be a teacher, there's probably a distinction in the nature of someone who's being recruited into the training system, particularly for someone from industry, and someone who's been a VET teacher for many years or even decades. And with the training and assessment qualification, one of the requirements was that every five years, you had to update that qualification for a new version. And I think, and I'm actually posing this to both Linda and Martin, is that there's a lot of resentment to someone who's been teaching for 20 or 30 years to have to continue to re-qualify as a mandatory requirement of their teaching credentials when, as far as they're concerned, they've been doing the job, they know what they're doing, and they're having to be forced back into this. And that was one of the reasons, rather than completely replace the previous qualification, it was decided to add two units because of that known resistance and resentment to actually having to do that qualification again.

Martin Powell (07:37)
Yeah. I think that's a great point, Simon, and I know the paper that came out recently by NCVER focuses on capability frameworks versus professional standards. And I think the real strength with capability frameworks is the ones that work well identify beginner, intermediate, and advanced professionals in VET. And that might be a way, if there was some way of monitoring one's career and progress, you mightn't be obliged to go back and do that mandated type of upgrades to your qualifications if, in fact, you'd already been in a CPD or merit recognition system that would demonstrate you had those skills.

Linda Simon (08:18)
Steve, we've always had, well, a long term, I think, view that it would be a very good idea to be able to attract more trades people into VET teaching. And of course, we do. And some stay. Some love it. Some decide that's not for them and some rightly say, "I make more money in a day as a tradesperson than I do as a week as a teacher," so I don't see that really this is any different. I think that we should continue to look at how we attract, not just tradespeople, but people from a whole range of industries. I mean, apprenticeships and trades are only, really when it comes down to it, a relatively small part of the VET sector, albeit the part that often gets some of the most attention. And we should look at how then we offer them opportunities to gain qualifications as a teacher and once again, avoid that cringe of, "Oh no, you might not like to do this qualification so therefore we shouldn't expect it of you." Well, I think that we set the standards high. We set the expectations high and we may find that those people who really do want to be teachers will come and will meet those. So, I don't think we should be concerned about that issue of what we expect of people coming in.

Jo Waugh (09:50)
Kira has touched on a lot of the similarities in terms of the impact on youth in downturns and recessions, so we know that youth are more impacted in terms of employment. And that's been the same in the COVID recession, perhaps a different pattern, as Simon mentioned, because of the way the industries have been affected by shutdowns and dealing with the global pandemic. But what is different for Australia in this recession has been the pre-existing high youth unemployment rate that was been persistent since the GFC.

Steve Davis (10:23)
Hello, and welcome to Vocational Voices. In episode two of season six, we noted that youth unemployment post-COVID is an all hands-on deck challenge. For young people who have lost work or have been looking for work, post-COVID recovery is going to be a fraught time if Australia doesn't take a well-structured pathway to recovery. In the episode, I spoke with Kira Clarke, Senior Research Fellow at the Brotherhood of St. Lawrence, Jo Waugh, Senior Research Officer, NCVER, whom we just heard, and Simon Walker, managing director, NCVER, about the role the VET sector can and should play in the process. They discuss why vocational pathways in schools, work-based training, and career guidance are critical to youth employability, especially for disadvantaged people. This discussion refers to research, What VET Can Offer to COVID-19 Youth Unemployment Recovery, which was published by NCVER on the 13th of May, 2021.

Kira Clarke (11:30)
Yes, that's right. Steve, heading into the COVID pandemic, the educational marginalization of young people was shaped by several long-term and concerning trends, I think. There's been several years of stagnation in post-school education and training participation. We've seen declining training enrolment rates amongst 15- to 19-year-olds who aren't at school. And despite some more recent increases in participation by that 20- to 24-year-old age group, there's been overall declining participation amongst the most disadvantaged young people, so those young people from the low socioeconomic backgrounds. Another dimension of the educational marginalization already present as we headed into the pandemic was the social stratification of school completion. So despite several years of increasing diversification of the offerings and what's available to young people in the senior years of schooling, we've seen school completion patterns be still very strongly tied to social backgrounds and location. There's actually a 10% variation in school completion between those from high and low socioeconomic backgrounds.

Kira Clarke (12:35)
A longer term trend that was very much shaping how young people were positioned heading into the pandemic is that over the last 30 years, we've seen much stronger employment growth in high-skilled occupations. For example, occupations that require a bachelor degree or higher accounted for 45% of total employment growth over the last 30 years, compared to only 9.4% employment growth for those jobs that require a certificate one or secondary education. So because of these trends, we know that young people staying on in education training post-school is crucial. But what we actually saw coming into the pandemic when it comes to those young people who have turned to VET, completion rates have remained quite stubbornly low, sitting at or around 50% for 15 to 19 and 20- to 24-year-olds. And there's also a concerning misalignment between young people's training participation, so the types of jobs they're training for, the types of courses they're doing, and the job opportunities and demand in their local labour markets. We actually see around one in four VET graduates employed in the occupation associated with their qualification.

Kira Clarke (13:46)
So, where I think these patterns of educational marginalization really start to bite is how this positions young people in the labour market. While some young people were better placed than others heading into the pandemic, young people actually represent almost two-thirds of workers in many of those really low-skill service occupations. This meant that for young people with low skills, limited experience, and often precariously employed, when the pandemic hit, they were already vulnerable to that economic disruption and didn't have the education training foundation and skills to be mobile into other sectors.

Kira Clarke (14:23)
The shift to online access to services has definitely been a mixed bag for young people. For some, I think the shift to online has enabled them to stay engaged with service providers and with education and training. Speaking with a number of disadvantaged VET learners in Victoria at the height of the pandemic in July last year, it was clear that for many of them who had lost jobs and were otherwise isolated at home, their connection to training online was acting as a bit of an anchor, but for others the shift online created new barriers. For young people who only have access to the internet through mobile phone data, accessing materials, engaging in video-based sessions can be prohibitive.

Simon Walker (15:03)
I will comment a little bit on the online delivery and update you on some data that we've just been analysing recently. So, clearly the impact of COVID on the population in general was profound in terms of employment, but it did, as Kira's report has shown, disproportionately affected young people. And what is a consistent theme in all this and is somewhat idiosyncratic to the COVID-induced economic downturn is the nature of the industries and occupations that were more impacted. So clearly the accommodation food services, hospitality and retail sectors, because of their customer-facing nature were more impacted than others. And then certainly in some sectors, they actually grew. So, it is quite uneven and quite different from a general risk like the GFC. So that's probably worth saying, and of course, young people are overly represented, as the report shows, in some of those occupational areas.

Simon Walker (16:00)
In terms of online delivery, we've just done some analysis on what happened in 2020. And we only have data for government funded activity, but it showed a dramatic rise and response, if you like, from the VET sector to move to online because it had to. But I think we need to differentiate between those people who already have a disadvantage and the online learning doesn't necessarily suit those people. So in the broad, the assistance that needs to be provided, whether it's education or other assistance for people from a disadvantaged background, tends to have to be more personalized. And I think that everyone would intuitively understand that.

Jo Waugh (16:46)
Yeah. I think that Kira has touched on a lot of the similarities in terms of the impact on youth in downturns and recessions, so we know that youth are more impacted in terms of employment. And that's been the same in the COVID recession, perhaps a different pattern, as Simon mentioned, because of the way the industries have been affected by shutdowns and dealing with the global pandemic. But what is different for Australia in this recession has been the pre-existing high youth unemployment rate that was been persistent since the GFC. Coming into COVID we had, if you might call it, a pre-existing youth unemployment issue. In doing this research I started to look at the VET approaches and policies that have worked to address those who are vulnerable to youth unemployment.

Jo Waugh (17:40)
Yeah, so vocational pathways in schools can provide young people with a taste of different careers and open their eyes up to the possibilities. Often, if we are talking about disadvantaged youth, they can have very narrow views of what's possible and what's out there for them. So having the opportunity to do some vocational training while they're at school just gives them a broader sense of what's out there for them, raises their aspirations, and instils in them the intrinsic drive to seek something new.

Kira Clarke (18:23)
We didn't see a lot of immediate labour market benefit from some of the VET in schools or vocation pathway in secondary school participation, so I think it's really interesting in the way that it's framed as more about giving young people a chance to be exposed to the different types of job pathways that are available to get a taste, as Jo said before, rather than as a direct ticket for entry to a specific occupation. We know that a lot of the qualifications undertaken by young people at school are still towards the lower level of the qualification framework. So positioning it as a stepping stone to further education training post-school, I think we see a lot more success when it's used in that way than when it's set up as an expectation for young people and their families as a ticket directly to a job.

Jo Waugh (19:17)
Yeah, so apprenticeships and traineeships is one type of work-based training but it's not the only model that works. So we know that trade apprenticeships in particular have really strong employment outcomes and that's excellent, but not all occupations and not all workplaces and organizations are suited to that particular model. So things like internships, work placements, and even work experience can also lead to higher employment outcomes for young people. One of my colleagues, Kristen Osborne, recently published a report on work-based education in VET. And that report goes through all the many benefits for young people who can do a taster of, apply what they're learning while they're learning it. And that includes things like building a work history, building a sense of their occupation or identity, and building the skills and knowledge in context and getting an understanding of what employers expect from them. And all those things, even if it doesn't lead immediately to an employment outcome, it makes them more employable as they're looking for work going forward.

Bryan Palmer (20:29)
I'm very conscious that governments think about what they fund and don't often think about the rest of the system that's operating. And I suspect that we do need to make sure that we are thinking about all aspects of the vocational education and training system, including the bits of the system that aren't funded by governments.

Steve Davis (20:49)
Hello and welcome to Vocational Voices, the official podcast of the National Centre For... In episode three of season six, we looked at short course training, often referred to as micro-credentials and the way it's seen as an increasingly important form of training, particularly governments respond to the social and economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. In the episode, I spoke with Bryan Palmer, private consultant and author of An Analysis of Micro-Credentials in VET, we just heard from Bryan a moment ago, and Simon Walker, managing director, NCVER, about the different interpretations and definitions of a micro-credential, why so many students pursue enrolments in subjects not part of a nationally recognized program, and why a majority of activity in this space is privately funded. The discussion largely draws from An Analysis of Micro-Credentials in VET, which was published by NCVER on the 3rd of June, 2021.

Simon Walker (21:51)
Yes, a very good question, Steve, and I think, yes, there are some areas of different interpretations but at one level, a micro-credential is really just a contemporary name for something that's always been around. So other names include skill set, short courses, nano degrees, micro certifications, digital budgets, et cetera. And perhaps, tonight that there is one new form of micro-credential that came into existence if you like. Last year, which was the introduction of micro-credentials at undergraduate level, and they've referred to as undergraduate certificates. Otherwise, shorter forms of training have been around for a long time.

Bryan Palmer (22:32)
What I looked at was students who were doing one or more subjects, and that's what became the bundle, at a single registered training organization, where every subject in that bundle was not taken as part of a nationally recognized program of study or an accredited course. And in 2019, there were some 2.6 million VET students enrolled in the subject bundles. This was the largest cohort of students. 62.7% of the RTO student pairs that I looked at were undertaking a subject bundle. The most common bundle or the most commonly studied subject was providing CPR, cardiopulmonary resuscitation.

Bryan Palmer (23:24)
So in the analysis I looked at, there was about 50,000 different subject bundles that I looked at, but just 600 of them accounted for 90% of the students. Just 100 of them accounted for 80% of the students. And a very large proportion of these were driven by regulatory requirements, requirements to ensure that people, for example, were safe in the workplace, or for example, that they're able to respond to an emergency, should it occur, or that they were able to operate a dangerous piece of equipment or work in a dangerous location. And so work place safety, emergency preparedness, and authority to operate a piece of equipment and the regulatory requirements that sit behind that, were a large driver for these subjects.

Simon Walker (24:19)
Well, I think that's absolutely true. What I think you'll find in the Bryan's study is because some of these combinations are not specified as skill sets, they are bespoke or tailored to particular enterprises. So, an enterprise just wants a particular set of skills. The private market, arguably, is a bit more nimble and agile at being able to provide those to workplaces. And I think those two things combined have just, as Bryan has pointed out, has created a market which is self-serving and working beautifully. And in many respects, particularly in this regulatory space, government doesn't need to intervene.

Bryan Palmer (25:03)
I'd like to draw a distinction and suggest that there may be a number of markets operating here, rather than a single market. I think there's a market that's operating around this regulatory requirement that you'd either need a ticket to enter a workplace or some safety training before you're allowed in a workplace. And then I think there is a range of jobs in the labour market that only require one or two VET competency programs before you can do that job in the labour market. And I think there's less of a role for government in what's industry is currently privately providing, but there's a range of people who have a marginal connection to the labour market, where these one or two competencies much less than a qualification, would make a tremendous difference in the employment outcomes for a range of individuals, who otherwise would have marginal connection to the labour market. And so I think there is an opportunity for governments to fund programs or fund small subject bundles that can just be the tipping point for an individual to get a job and to get lifelong employment.

Simon Walker (26:27)
Yeah, and I'll just add to that what happened last year through the disruption due to COVID. There was an enormous amount of effort and policy and funding going towards micro-credentials. And this is probably the first time there's ever been a concerted national effort. For some of the reasons that Bryan's just outlined and because of the disruption in the labour market and the changing skills needs, being able to quickly adapt future workers with the skills they need for jobs as they have changed as a result of the pandemic... And I'm just going to quote you a couple of statistics from our government-funded September collection, so that's the nine months last year from January to September.

Bryan Palmer (27:14)
I think governments can do that, but I think there's also a risk of... At the moment 93% of the subject bundles I looked at were privately funded. I think that's the number. There's a risk that if government becomes increasingly involved, it ends up having a cost shift to government. And so I think if it does something, it needs to think about targeted intervention, particularly where it would have the most impact. And that's why I think people with marginal connections to the labour market might be the place or in the context that Simon was just talking about, the very unusual, when very unusual circumstances such as the pandemic occur, there may be points in time when very different interventions are needed because things are so different to the usual.

Bryan Palmer (28:06)
It was the one thing that intrigued me was, as I saying before, those people who have marginal connection to the labour market, possibly a qualification might be beyond them at this point in their life. But there are job opportunities where just one skill, one subject from vocational education and training would make the world of difference in their capacity to engage with the labour market. And I think there's a real opportunity there to increase labour market participation through targeted interventions.

Simon Walker (28:42)
Yeah, and I'd like to just add to that another cohort, which are people are already in the workforce and look, I'll take a fairly crude illustration, but if we have people who are already in the IT industry in particular, which is fast moving, and maybe they're currently a network administrator and we have this emerging issue, which everyone's aware of, around cybersecurity, for example. They may already be qualified and they've had however many years of work experience, but because of the fast moving nature and the disruption that can be caused through new technologies and the like, getting sharp, quick form of training around cybersecurity in this instance is also another area that I think governments could pump prime through funding arrangements.

John Buchanan (29:33)
You cannot win the education argument on its own politically. It's got to be part of a broader mix and there's very interesting insights you can get from looking at those societies which are more equal compared to those which are more unequal. And in those societies which are more equal like Denmark and Norway, there is a huge valuation for education, but all sorts of education. It's not just academic learning. Vocational learning is respected in Norway and Denmark. And so if we are keen to elevate the status of education, it's got to be part of a broader strategy of equality. Education on its own can't do it but equally, a strategy of equality without a strong education agenda wouldn't really be worth pursuing.

Steve Davis (30:16)
Hello, I'm Steve Davis and welcome to Vocational Voices, the... In the final episode of the year, episode four of season six, we looked at the 30th annual No Frills conference. It was held in July, but for the second year running, it was delivered as a virtual online event due to COVID-19 restrictions. Along with a series of standalone presentations, three live Q&A sessions were held. And in this episode, we'll share a sampling of these three events. The VET landscape has changed a lot over the past 30 years. More recently, COVID-19 has radically affected not just our conference, but how we learn, work, and live. Topics covered in the lively discussion included the future focused education and training delivered with and in industry, the futures of work, understanding employers' training choices, and what is a VET system fit for the future?

Steve Davis (31:14)
And just before we play the final clips, please note the transcripts and recordings of this podcast and all four podcast episodes we've drawn from can be found on the NCVER portal at Just look under News & Events, Podcast tab. We look forward to bringing you more topics and more informed discussion in 2022, so thanks for listening thus far. The speakers you're about to hear from are professor John Buchanan, The University of Sydney, we actually heard him just a moment ago, Ms Megan Lilly, Australian Industry Group, Dr Kaye Bowman, Callan Consulting Group, Mr Michael Hartman, Skills Impact, Dr Martha Kinsman, Australian National University, and Professor Stephen Billett, Griffith University.

John Buchanan (32:03)
We think if we're thinking about that question, what's the key labour market problem needs to be overcome, it's a shortage of jobs. We've got high levels of unemployment and underemployment. We've had the mantra rammed down our throats by the financial sector and the political class for the last 20 years that we've had, what is it, 20 or 30 years of uninterrupted growth, the envy of the Western world. Well, if you look at Australia's unemployment rate and its underemployment rate over the last three decades, you'll notice that around 12 to 15% of the population has been either unemployed or underemployed, looking for more hours at work. So, it's time to devote more attention to the problem of job scarcity and not ravel on about skills shortages.

Megan Lilly (32:53)
Skills shortages had been emerging as an issue, and it's a very, very significant issue now, but skill gaps isn't just not being able to get the right person. You actually might have the right number of people in your company. You might not have the right skill combination, so how do we actually up-skill, re-skill, fill those gaps and develop solutions and strategies around that? That, I actually think is going to be an enduring issue that we need to pretty much tackle quite urgently and frankly, over the next decade.

Megan Lilly (33:24)
In a way I think you've already pointed to the answer of that question, is that I think people are very conscious that the workers they've got are part of the workforce they'll have going into the future. And so the most sensible thing to do is to keep developing that workforce, building the capability of that workforce in multiple ways.

Megan Lilly (33:46)
And I think that the imperative around that is not that it just continues to increase. And most employers that I talk to openly talk about if you don't invest in the people you've got, their skills will become redundant or out-of-date that you need this continuous up-skilling type thing. Now bear in mind that we are in extreme skills shortages at the moment, so there is a great premier on bringing young people or recent graduates into the workplace. I think this survey results points to that there's more effort required there to help on that transition.

John Buchanan (34:23)
Yeah, I've done a lot of work on workforce planning and I think the big thing that's paralysing the way we do this in Australia is that there's a deep attachment to linear thinking and gap analysis, where we say, "This is what we expect the projected demand to be. This is what we've got on the supply side. What's the gap? How do we fill it?" The history of workforce planning is the history of the failure of that way of thinking. Let's be quite clear. You can do it okay in the short run. You might be able to predict stuff out for 6 months, 12 months or so. I think if we're interested in taking these ideas forward in the workforce planning space, I think it's better to think about planning for workforce development. It's about building up the institutions that give you the capacity to adapt.

Kaye Bowman (35:23)
Now there's a lot of vocational educational and training reform going on in the national recognized work system. I'm very aware of most of this. I have yet to read and digest it all in detail. We know that skill sets, I prefer that term in VET, skill sets. But then we know that within that there's capital S skill sets, those that are identified in training packages, and then there's small S skill sets as we have come to call them, which are combinations of units of competency, which individuals put together and decide to do. Both the small S and the capital S skill sets, of course, lead to a statement of attainment, a clear certification that we've had in the VET system for some time, which is naturally recognized because they're doing parts of, if not a full, nationally recognized qualification.

Kaye Bowman (36:19)
If we want nationally recognized VET to be used by employers, then we need to be clear about how it relates to their specific needs. And we need to provide them carefully individualized training information. They do not want to hear about the complexities of the terminology inside VET or any of those things. And they generally are not very agreeable to having a RTO come along and try to sell them a product, even if it's nationally recognized training. They would prefer for the promotions to be responsive to their needs. And they're looking first to see whether that provider understands their needs.

Michael Hartman (37:12)
Well, at the moment we are in a reform environment and if you go into the Department of Education Skills and Employment website and click on Skills and Training, click on Reform, there are the proposals there right now for qualifications reform. So, the minister's state and federal ministers have agreed that we need to reform the way qualifications actually operate in Australia, so we've got an environment now and we've got an opportunity. And in that opportunity, the website also states that one of the ambitions of this reform, a priority, is to streamline and simplify and reduce duplication. And I've worked with industry and I've experienced their resistance to duplication, because they say, "Someone communicating in a hospital and deemed competent cannot communicate on a building site, so we want our own unit."

Michael Hartman (38:04)
So what I'm actually proposing is an existing role for industry, but a new role for training providers in coming up with national statements that say, "This is what a training provider should do. And the regulator to regulate against those training standards, not against occupational standards," because one of the realities in the real world is a training provider... There are some things that can be trained and there are some things that can only be learnt in the workplace. And when a training provider's been asked to deliver an outcome of something that can only be done in a real life working environment, that results in some very significant challenges.

Kaye Bowman (38:43)
An open knowledge-based curriculum paradigm cannot exist as a subset of the national skill system, however configured. Rather, that skill system, which might continued in part to follow the principles of CBT, would be just one component of a broader, further education sector, within which it would coexist with a range of other educational purposes and curriculum approaches consistent with broad objectives and standards set out in the Australian qualifications framework.

Stephen Billett (39:16)
Personal curriculums then, are essentially pathways of experiences individuals have across their lives, including, and perhaps centrally, their working lives. These are shaped by the educative experiences I've mentioned in schools, workplaces, and community, and how individuals elect to engage with these experiences and learn from them. It's important to always remember that educational experiences are nothing, more or less, than an opportunity, an invitation to change. And it's how people take up that invitation, which is central to the learning outcomes.

Stephen Billett (39:54)
So we might, for instance, think about changing the AQF, rather than a hierarchical arrangement, knock it down, have it horizontal and see how people progress across there. So what we're trying to do is, I mean, because I think it's important because so much of the data that's gathered, for instance, when we had this organization called Skills Australia, their remit was only to look at the learning that occurred within AQF recognized programs.

Stephen Billett (40:22)
All of the learning that you've had, Stephen, across your work life and people listening, would sit outside of that. So what we're trying to do is capture that and a way of explaining it, I think, is this concept of the personal curriculum, our own personal yellow brick roads. And just like Dorothy, we meet interesting characters along the way, but unfortunately Emerald City changes and it's maybe we don't get there, maybe we do for some.

Stephen Billett (40:53)
The Dutch system, for instance, is far more horizontal than hierarchical and there's lots of movements across and you can progress across different levels of tertiary education from early levels of vocational education through to the academic programs within the academic universities they have applied and academic universities. They have pathways that are so very horizontal you can move across, whereas ours are hierarchical.

Stephen Billett (41:21)
So it's some of these structures which allow movement and mobility but also, as you're saying, recognition of prior learning is important. However, we often find that the recognition of prior learning is problematic because there's very rarely a good fit between people's experience and the requirements, of course. It's never quite a meet like that, but there can be an openness to how some of these arrangements can be undertaken. And I think one of the ways in which we achieve that is having more locally based decision making, so less top down, more decisions made at a local level to support it.

Steve Davis (42:04)
Vocational Voices is produced by NCVER on behalf of the Australian government and state and territory governments with funding through the Australian Government Department of Education, Skills and Employment. Transcripts and recordings of all podcast episodes can be found on the NCVER Portal at Just look under the News & Events, Podcasts tab.