Transcript of Skilling Australia's current and future workforce

21 August 2023

Vocational Voices: Season 8, Episode 3

Skilling Australia's current and future workforce

Steve Davis (00:04)
Hello, I'm Steve Davis, and welcome to this special episode of Vocational Voices. The 32nd National Vocational Education and Training Research Conference, No Frills, was held in Melbourne in July 2023. As usual, the event drew together speakers, practitioners, and other stakeholders over three days of intense and inspirational conversation.

The theme of No Frills in 2023 was Skilling Australia's current and future workforce. And this special episode of Vocational Voices shares insights from seven of the event's speakers. You can download more information and papers at the NCVER website. Just go to and search for No Frills 2023.

Hinemoa Priest from the Wellington Institute of Technology has more than 20 years’ experience in the tertiary sector. She's passionate about ensuring the Maori voice is heard and understood and that resulting actions are taken accordingly. In her position as Acting Director, Learner Journey, she's tasked with ensuring academic, pastoral, and appropriate cultural support is provided for all students enrolled at WELTEC and at Whitireia.

Hinemoa, I wonder if we could start by asking you to elaborate on the specific challenges that Māori VET students, particularly young Māori men face when it comes to accessing and succeeding in tertiary education in New Zealand.

Hinemoa Priest (01:47)
Well, historically it hasn't been easy for our young men to enter into tertiary, in particular if they haven't done so well in high school, they often look at our institutions as a foreign place, something that's not welcoming for them, or is not very much in line with the whānau or family environment that they're used to.

So our role is to ensure that we do make it culturally appropriate for them, and that we do have services that encourage them and their families, their whānau, to come in through our doors. I have a team of staff under the Tamaiti Whāngai model, and the Tamaiti Whāngai model of support is an iwi led, a tribal led model that we have, have worked with the iwi to make it more appropriate for our institution. So, in line with that, it means that I have staff members who will go and talk to the families, talk to the young people, pre-enrolment, to ensure that they are coming into the right course for the right reasons, and that they are comfortable knowing that they've met someone before enrolment that they can identify with and feel comfortable with.

Steve Davis (03:17)
You mentioned the concept of cultural contextualisation of the VET learning environment, which sounds absolutely intriguing. Could you explain how this approach has been instrumental in improving Maori pass rates in trade courses at WELTEC?

Hinemoa Priest (03:34)
What we've done is we've put a support mechanism around them, and that's part of the contextualisation. In a normal institution, sorry, we are normal, but normally what happens, people will enrol and off they go to class. What we've done is put a support mechanism around them that is culturally appropriate, which means we welcome them in a way that their families can come in, that they start together as a cohort of, or a group of, of young Māori together.

That we ensure that we, if they are speakers of te reo Māori, that we have the mechanism in place to say you can speak Te Reo and we will encourage that to happen and you can still pass.

Steve Davis (04:27)
A friend told me, who's a doctor in New Zealand, how often when someone's been taken to hospital they come out and they don't just talk to one member of the family, there's actually a cohort around them and that seems to be a parallel with what you're using within the VET sector.

Hinemoa Priest (04:43)
Absolutely, absolutely. It's about identifying and acknowledging what's important and how we can culturally and safely bring them into our institutions, support them while they're here and get them out the other end qualified, ready to go into an apprenticeship or into employment or whatever it is they want to do.

Steve Davis (05:06)
Now one of the case studies you shared involved the Tamaiti Whangai team’s person-centred approach, which seems to have yielded some rather remarkable results. Could you give us some examples of how the approach has been implemented and also how it's contributed to the success of Māori learners?

Hinemoa Priest (05:25)
Right, so the Tamaiti Whangai model of support is a holistic approach, where we take the Tamaiti, the child, or the young person, and the family, and the support mechanisms which could be the extended family, which could be the maraen community, with us on their journey. We work with our iwi, our tribal partners, to ensure that where we can't provide the support, they can.

And that could be financial support, that could be housing support, that could be supporting the wider family. During COVID, a lot of our young people had to go to work to support their families because mum or dad had lost their job because of whatever happened. So we've worked with the families to try and retain our young people in education but work with the families to ensure that they are supported and able to then support their young person through this journey.

So Tamaiti Whangai is a holistic approach. It could mean that, you know, we have to go out of our way to take food or kai to their family home. We provide them with the tools that they need to get through their course.

A number of our Tamaiti Whangai students are a cohort approach. So we have something that the government has put in place, Māori and Pasifika Trades Training, and that approach is to try and improve the numbers of young Māori Pasifika going into a trade and coming out the other end. So to ensure that we get our the pass rates up, and the retention up, we put them into cohorts, some of them, with a Maori tutor.

So straight away, the face is the same. You look like me, I look like you, I'm happy to be here, and I'm attending, I'm achieving. If by any chance they fall over during their time with us, then one of my staff, the Tamaiti Whangai staff, will go and visit them at home, have a kōrero, have a chat to them about what is the problem, and try and re-engage them.

Nine times out of ten that re engagement happens quite quickly and they're back on course. The tutors will work with them to pick up where they've left off and bring them up to speed. So it's a really different approach. It is about the person, and it is about taking that person and putting them through.

So, at the end of the day, if we can get them qualified, their social and economic base for their family is going to improve tenfold.

Steve Davis (08:18)
I must say, for someone who's been brought up in the strictly Anglo, every person is an island model, it's so refreshing to hear. Now, look, over the 15 years of working with young Māori what key insights and strategies have the Tamaiti Whanau team developed to ensure that student success, not only in their studies, but also in gaining employment and life skills along the way?

Hinemoa Priest (08:45)
We have 1.5 FTEs, full time staff, whose roles are to look for employment opportunities. They're job brokers, so they work with employers, they work with industry to engage our young people into work experience and hopefully from there into an apprenticeship or into full time employment.

So that is a strategy that yeah, we put a lot of energy into. Because again, it's one thing to qualify, the next step is to gain employment that is meaningful and that is going to get them qualified. Many of these ones that will come out from here, at level 3, will need to go into a level 4 course to complete their apprenticeship.

And that's normally a three-to-five-year period. So, you know, they've got to be with an employer to get themselves fully qualified. So, just because they leave here at, well, the level three qual doesn't mean they're ready to go. It means step one has been achieved, and it's now step two that we need to support them with.

So our job brokers will put them in, help get them into employment. We will then monitor them through and re-enrol them onto our Level 4 cadetship or apprenticeship, or work with the employer to put them onto the BCITO, which is an industry training organisation, onto their apprenticeship. Whatever way works for the young person and the employer is what we support.

One of the things we did do with our team, sorry, was about seven years ago, we identified that it wasn't appropriate to just use our gut feeling all the time and think we knew what was best for everybody, for these young people. So we all embarked on the journey to undertake the Bachelor of Youth Development.

So, every member of my team is qualified with either their bachelors or their post grad and youth development. And some of the members have also undertaken other courses, you know, to enhance their ability to understand our young people, in particular the cultural area.

Steve Davis (11:13)
Finally, just considering your extensive experience and research, what broad implications do you think your findings and your strategies have for vocational education particularly in creating inclusive and supportive environments for traditionally disadvantaged learner groups globally?

Hinemoa Priest (11:33)
I really do believe that this piece of research that we've undertaken, and there's more research being taken at the moment for this disadvantaged group. But if we look at this in its simplest form, and take away all the barriers, then we've got a model or methodology that can enhance and assist anybody, anywhere.

It's transferable, it's moveable, it's easy. Sometimes we put so many obstacles in our way that we just don't seem to get past step one.

Steve Davis (12:12)
Thank you, Hinemoa, and also thank you for helping me with some of my pronunciations, which I'm sure I still didn't quite nail.

Hinemoa Priest (12:18)
Oh, no, you did a great job, Steve. And thank you for having me.

Steve Davis (12:29)
Melanie Kyle has worked at RMIT University since 2008 as a vocational education teacher for 14 years and currently as a learning designer in the College of Vocational Education. Welcome to our interview, Melanie.

Melanie Kyle (12:45)
Thank you, Steve. It's great to be here.

Steve Davis (12:49)
Yeah, I'm looking forward to it and I'd like to start with your recently completed International Specialised Skills Institute Fellowship.
What were the main objectives behind that research into blended learning for disadvantaged VET learners?

Melanie Kyle (13:04)
So, main objectives were to investigate some best practice examples of blended learning that had been implemented by two international institutions. I had identified Temasek Polytechnic in Singapore and Mauritius Institute of Training and Development in Mauritius.

They are both members of the UNESCO UNEVOC network of training in vocational education along with RMIT, where I currently work, or where I have also worked for 15 years now. These two institutions were identified as being particularly successful in applying blended learning training principle.

In the case of Temasek Polytechnic, they have a long-standing history of using blended learning and since the 1990s in fact, and they have a well-established Department or in part of their institution called the Learning Academy, which is designed to support staff and students in digital educational technology and staff capability.

They were a particularly exciting model of the blended learning approach and the skills upgrade for staff and students and seeing that in action. I can give some particular examples, but I'm going probably a little bit beyond your initial question.

Steve Davis (14:51)
No, we're intrigued.

Melanie Kyle (14:53)
The aim of the research was to really identify those most successful strategies or approaches from both those institutions and then compare those to RMIT College of Vocational Education, where I was very privileged to do some research prior to the international travel component for the fellowship and really identify the strategies to increase student engagement, participation, and completion.

The studies indicate that in the area of disadvantage or vulnerable VET students, completion rate can be as low as 40%. With the quite rapid shift to online and blended learning, there's been what we would call a digital discrimination occurring in terms of digital skills, access to suitable technology, and these are digital skills across staff and student.

Steve Davis (16:05)
Right, I actually want to come back to the digital aspect in just a moment, but before we get there, the thing I've been looking forward to asking you the most is ‘good practice’ because it's an elusive concept. Could you delve into what you've identified as the characteristics of good practice in blended learning for disadvantaged VET learners?

Melanie Kyle (16:26)
Good practice is setting up the materials or learning management system so that it is consistent. The consistent use of templates, headings, icons, visuals, instructions. This should be consistent across all courses. That the student learning journey is very clear and explicit, what students are expected to do, either before, during, or after a synchronous class, or what students are expected to do for an assessment, for example.

Other factors for successful implementation are that the teachers or instructors are supported with the use of the digital technology, that they are given suitable training and skills upgrade in using the educational technology. That students are also supported with their digital literacy with, for example, explicit training or orientations to using those digital tools. For example, at RMIT College of Vocational Education, there is a digital literacy micro credential that has been developed and that's built into each course in the learning management system so that students can work through that micro credential at the beginning of their semester or their year of study.
Interactive elements are a very important part of it, that students have the opportunity to test their knowledge and skills through short, embedded, sort of self-paced quizzes or surveys, discussion boards. Those quizzes are self-checked, so the feedback is very important. immediate, and that gives the students the ability to measure their own understanding, but it also allows the teachers to check in on the student's understanding.

Steve Davis (18:55)
I do know our conversation was, is within the context of disadvantaged VET learners, but I must say, I think everybody would benefit from this process, which seems to me, or this approach, it seems to me acute awareness of where you are heading, where you are meant to be, and also acute awareness of where you are at this moment.

That seems to be what is manifested in this approach.

Melanie Kyle (19:22)
Absolutely. You're, you're spot on with that. It's that regular communication between the instructor and the student and the course design. The course design really communicates the expectations of the student. Yes.

Steve Davis (19:42)
Actually, you mentioned the word design. I have to ask, real world classroom practice and LMS design, they're crucial components of effective blended learning. Have you got some examples that illustrate how the components have been successfully integrated to enhance learning outcomes?

Melanie Kyle (19:59)
I was fortunate to participate in a project last year called the International Education Resilience Fund, which is a Victorian government funded project, and we were able to implement in that project much of what I had researched in my fellowship and what the literature is consistently saying about blended learning and some concrete examples are that we used a blended learning template to design the courses on the learning management system.

That template steps out the student learning journey for the before, during and after a synchronous session with the teacher. That blended learning template also included all of the student support all in one place, such as the digital literacy micro credential, study support, LLN support, and wellbeing support, such as counselling.

Those resources are up front on this template in the Learning Management System, which means students can find all of the resources they need to support them in one place. They don't need to go anywhere. They don't need to go out anywhere. And that's also an important feature of using this digital technology to really support students.

Also, with stepping the students through that learning journey, they have access to the clear instructions of what to do before a synchronous session, so there would be links to videos, links to self-paced quizzes if they wanted a student to test their understanding of a concept prior to a synchronous class, for example, then it would have clear explanation or resources for what they would be doing in that synchronous class with their teacher.

And again, it's all available in the one place. They're not stepping out. They're not being linked out anywhere. And then of course there would be clear instructions about assessment. So how that particular week's topic is preparing them for the assessment. What the student is required to do for the assessment.

So there's no confusion for the student. And again, this particular design of the learning management system was consistent across every course in one qualification, which again reduces the cognitive load for students. That they're not having to navigate and understand the individual courses, design, or instructions, that they're all consistent.

I was also going to add that there were the interactive elements built in to this design, so the use of H5P interactive activities, which is an accessible digital educational tool to increase engagement, participation, and fun. So, it also allows students to measure their understanding, immediately receive feedback.

It's a bit of a gamification as well, which is an important element of this, which increases that sort of fun element. There's an incredible amount of possibilities with these technologies for teachers. Not just quizzes by no means, there are so many different activities available, such as reflective journals, or branching scenarios.

Steve Davis (23:51)
Further to my initial observation, I see now, the gamification is great, but also, it's like they're stamping out anywhere where assumptions have been made to make clear what is actually being said, which is a wonderful endeavor that we need to do across all aspects of society. But just in closing because time is against us a little if we look ahead, what challenges what opportunities do you foresee when it comes to implementing your recommendations and the integration of these best practices into a broader landscape of vocational education.

Melanie Kyle (24:28)
Well, okay, let's start with the opportunities. The opportunities are for increased digital skills for staff and for students. That's both a challenge and an opportunity, to be honest.

There's been a lot of talk about digital literacy for students, but what I've observed through my research for the fellowship and also the presentations that I've done at conferences this year, it appears that staff are lacking confidence and access to suitable digital technology. They have the will and there's a lot of motivation to implement a lot of these tools and blended learning strategies, but there is seemingly a lack of access to those. And I would probably argue time and support for the staff to learn those. So that's, that's both a challenge and an opportunity. There's a lot of opportunity for learning.

If I can use an example in my fellowship research, I've recommended that institutions provide targeted staff training. And if this institution is not able to provide it, there are other resources available outside an institution to gain targeted staff training in blended learning. And Temasek Polytechnic in Singapore provides an excellent example of that. They have developed certified training or accredited training for their staff which is incredibly comprehensive and it directly shows a positive student outcome.

Also I highly recommend, and this is an opportunity to establish blended learning mentors or champions in institutions. And that is not really a cost to the institution, it's about staff who are keen to put their hand up and be a go to champion or peer to peer supporter. And when I was involved in that project last year we provided that support and training to the teachers involved. And it was particularly successful.

So it's just identifying people who are keen to learn such as myself as a learning designer now and working one on one or in small groups with other teachers. Another opportunity is to just embed the blended learning principles and blended learning design into learning management systems and that all courses follow that.

And then start to implement or embed the interactive elements, such as those quizzes or discussion boards, those sorts of things. And if possible, start to measure your student engagement and understanding with surveys embedded into that learning management system as well. So what we're really saying is there's a lot of opportunities because we can see that the research indicates blended learning and digital technology increases participation. It increases engagement, but we have the challenges of digital literacy and access to technology. Which is, at the moment, one of those barriers.

Steve Davis (28:06)
Melanie Kyle, thank you for taking some time out to have this chat.

Melanie Kyle (28:10)
Oh, thank you, Steve.

Steve Davis (28:17)
Erica Smith is a professor of education at Federation University Australia. Among many other roles throughout her career, she's led dozens of research projects, which have been funded by the Australian Research Council, state governments, international organisations and many other industry bodies. Erica, welcome to our podcast.

Erica Smith (28:37)
Thank you very much. Very nice to talk to you again, Steve.

Steve Davis (28:39)
Yes. Now Erica, your research delves into the governance of VET teacher education in Australia as part of a broader European Union project. Could you give us some context on the goals and significance of the project, particularly in relation to policy and practice development in Ukraine?

Erica Smith (29:00)
Okay, so I was invited to take part in this project in a fairly minor role, along with a number of other international experts in VET teacher education. I was asked to write a chapter about VET teacher education in my own country. The project as a whole was led by Professor Thomas Deissinger, who's a well-known VET academic in Germany, and it was to assist Ukraine.

Now this was way before the Ukraine war. In fact, I think maybe it even started in the early days of the pandemic, so it was quite a long time ago. Funded by Erasmus+ which is an EU funding program which funds a lot of interesting vet research and also development and although I wasn't involved with the project as a whole, I obviously had a look at the website and talked to Thomas briefly and found that it was basically about improving the arrangements for VET teacher education in the Ukraine.

So, they were using the international inputs to perhaps give them ideas or ways in which they might improve it. And when I had a look at what the problems were, I found that the major problem in the Ukraine was identified as being insufficient or inadequate partnerships between the universities that deliver VET teacher education and the colleges that deliver VET or vocational schools, as they call them in many European countries.

So that was identified as being what they wanted to improve in this project. Reading between the lines, they were finding that the universities that deliver the VET teacher education were not, as it were, producing graduates that had the skills that they wanted in the vocational schools. Which is a very, as I've said to a few people since, a very interesting problem to have.

Because obviously we have very little in Australia, very little university VET teacher education, although there is some. There used to be a very big VET teacher education program at many universities. There's only a handful of us left because my own university delivers one. And I thought, well, if that's the only problem you've got, that's not much of a problem.

But clearly, it has been identified as a major problem. And that's why they undertook the project. So yeah, in a nutshell, that's what the project is about. Now, obviously the project's been delayed because of the war but I understand that the final report will be released before the end of the year.

So, if anybody wants to find out more about it, the project is called PAGOSTE and I actually don't know what the acronym stands for P A G O S T E. So I'm sure if you google PAGOSTE Ukraine anybody would be able to have a look for the report later in the year. And I'm sure the NCVER will put it on the VOCEDplus website.

Steve Davis (32:17)
In particular, the concept of a governance framework for VET teacher training is an intriguing one that came up in your presentation. Could you explain how this framework was applied in your research and also how it sheds light on the Australian VET education landscape?

Erica Smith (32:34)
Yeah, so I was asked to write about VET teacher education or VET teacher training, I don't mind calling it either, but focusing on governance aspects, and I thought, oh, okay, because I'd never thought of it like that before. So I sat down with myself, because I wasn't working with anybody else, and thought, well, Erica, how are we going to look at the governance of VET teacher education? And so I developed my own framework, because as writers of the various chapters for the project as a whole, we're ones provided without any guidance about governance frameworks, which is probably a wise thing because we had to figure it out for ourselves. And so, I came up with a framework using four governance factors. So, the four governance factors that I came up with were the way in which qualifications are developed and reviewed in VET teacher education; the regulatory framework or frameworks; initiatives that groups of VET teacher educators themselves have developed to, as it were, self-govern; and partnerships between the providers of VET teacher education and the receivers, i.e. e. registered training organisations, which obviously was the focus of the PAGOSTE project as a whole. But for me that was one of four factors. So I thought that's ways in which VET teacher education is governed.

And as it happens, I've basically worked and also researched and worked in all of those aspects of VET teacher training. Maybe not researched in all of them, but I have both in the VET sector and in higher education. So basically we have three levels of VET teacher training in Australia, putting aside professional development because that's not what the project was about. So, we have in the VET sector we have the Certificate IV in Training and Assessment, we have the Diploma of VET, and then at universities we have degree or above qualifications in VET teaching and I regard them as one group, although some of them are undergraduate, some are postgraduate level depending on the university and the student's prior qualifications.

So, we've got three levels Cert IV, Diploma, and Degree or above, and then we've got the two sectors. So I've worked in the delivery of all of those qualifications. So, what I did in my presentations, was I put the VET qualifications together and the university qualifications and then went through each of the four governance factors for each of the sectors and found some very interesting deficiencies.

Steve Davis (35:43)
Well, I do encourage people to have a look at that presentation through the No Frills 2023 website and materials with NCVER, but you just touched on there and I want to pick up your findings highlighted a lack of oversight of the quality of vet teacher training, particularly beyond the regulatory mechanisms.

Can you discuss some of the implications of the gap and how it might affect, you know, overall quality in VET education?

Erica Smith (36:13)
Yeah, so in Australia we have regulatory frameworks. We have ASQA for the VET sector and we have TECSA for the higher ed sector. ASQA is sort of sort of looks after the quality of the VET sector, but what it doesn't look at is the quality of delivery of qualifications, so ASQA their job is to, and I don't envy them, their job is to enforce the RTO standards and the RTO standards don't really look at the quality of delivery. So in an ASQA audit, nobody is going in and looking at how well a qualification is taught.

So a Cert IV and a diploma in VET teaching, the Cert IV TA and the Diploma of VET, when they're audited, nobody is going into classrooms or watching on Zoom and seeing how well the qualifications are taught. So the content is laid down to some extent, but only in units of competency. The curriculum isn't inspected, the teaching delivery isn't inspected. Now people often compare that with, for example, in the UK where Ofsted (Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Services and Skills), which inspect schools and also VET providers or FE colleges as they're called there, actually watches teaching. Inspectors watch teaching. Doesn't happen in Australia. Now in the university sector, same thing. In fact, there's even less governance in a way. Curriculum is approved but not detailed lesson plans. Teaching isn't inspected by TECSA. Academic boards oversee the quality of curriculum to some extent.

It's pretty similar in a way to the development of training packages. It's what's written down that's inspected. The quality of teaching isn't inspected. Now, in the case of, I'm going to go off a bit of a tangent, but I think it'll make sense. In the case of VET teacher education, nobody inspects for university courses what we put into our programs either.

And in fact, the group of VET teacher educators from universities has from time to time said, please will somebody look at our curriculum? And this happens in individual universities when programs are reviewed, but for the initial deciding what goes into a curriculum, there isn't any input from the industry.

Now, that compares very unfavourably with many other professions that are trained through university courses, so engineering, social work, nursing, and so on, where professional bodies get really interested and involved in the nitty gritty of what goes into qualifications, and they're not accredited until the professional bodies are happy, and/or the employer bodies.

That doesn't happen in university led teacher education. It only happens in VET sector. Sorry, this gets a bit meta, but VET sector VET teacher education through the development and review of the training package doesn't happen beyond then. The VET industry doesn't get involved in how well the qualifications for teaching and delivered and what is actually in the day-to-day curriculum of those qualifications.

This is the gap that I identified. When I started comparing this profession, the VET teaching profession, with training for other professions, I thought there's a big gap here it's just not inspected for quality which is surprising because you would think the VET sector would be intensely interested in how well training for its teachers is delivered, but it hasn't set up mechanisms.

Steve Davis (40:29)
Absolutely, and look, just to bring our taster interview to a close, I wonder if you could think about the broad implications of your findings and what they have for the governance and the improvement of VET teacher education, not only in Australia, but in other countries that are striving to enhance their vocational education systems.

Erica Smith (40:52)
Well, I think from the Australian point of view, I think it does point to a quality gap that could be fairly readily addressed. More interest could be taken in the way in which the Cert IV diploma and university qualifications are delivered. There could be some sort of national body set up, as there used to be in Australia that would look at matters like this.

So I think it could be fairly readily addressed without too much difficulty. I think issues such as teacher registration for the VET sector have been discussed at length but never implemented and I think probably that's going a bit too far, so I think some sort of national body that looks at these matters would be good So in the school sector, for example, there's AITSL, the Australian Institute of Teaching and School Leadership, I think I've got that acronym right which the federal government set up to look at matters such as this, so why not do that for VET?

And in the early childhood centre sector, there's ACECQA (The Australian Children’s Education & Care Quality Authority) which does that among other issues. So clearly the Commonwealth government has said the education of teachers for early childhood and for schools needs to be looked at more closely, but for some reason hasn't done that for VET. Now internationally, actually, I'm not going to say much about that, Steve, because the more international, there isn't much time, but the more international work I do, the more I realise that it's very hard to compare VET systems. So, there's sort of bits that people could pick up from the Australian experience, but, but I can't claim to say I've got the solutions for other countries. That's for them to develop.

Steve Davis (42:45)
Well, that does resonate with previous podcasts of Vocational Voices where we've touched on that. There is great variety and difference out there.

Erica Smith (42:54)

Steve Davis (42:55)
Erica Smith, thank you for joining us yet again.

Erica Smith (42:58)
Okay.Thank you, Steve.

Steve Davis (43:05)
Olivija Komadina has been working in education and the VET sector over the last 20 years. She has particular interest in I.T, and the ways it can enhance and support teaching and assessment practices, especially in light of the popular release of the ChatGPT platform. Olivia, welcome to Vocational Voices.

Olivija Komadina (43:26)
Thank you. Very nice to be here with you.

Steve Davis (43:29)
Olivija, your literature review focuses on four key areas related to teaching and learning with CHATGPT. I wonder if you could just expand on each of these areas a little and how CHATGPT is being used in explicit teaching and in feedback and assessment within the educational context.

Olivija Komadina (43:48)
I have to say that when I was preparing for the NCVER conference that happened in July, the preparation and the thinking about artificial intelligence really was, in terms of time, was actually taking place in February and March. And why is that important is because the rapid development and the speed that artificial intelligence has been you know, has been I suppose, living through the last couple of months has been, you know, blowing our minds.

So, I'm saying this because what was in February and March, probably it's not all that accurate and all that relevant, if you like, in those precise terms in July or now. So really, my attempt was to say let's see what's going on with artificial intelligence. Let's see how education sector, both VET and academic, will actually you know, embrace or what kind of relationship we are going to develop with AI.

And I thought that literature review approach is probably the safest one. Because it was just like, let's see what's out there and give it a bit of taxonomy, try to organise it in some sort of way and present it to people who in July may not even know much about it, because that was unknown as well.

So in that sense, and in that space, I thought that the framework that will sit on four major concepts, being teaching artificial intelligence and teaching ChatGPT, use of it, putting it in some sort of frame that it can provide the feedback because it was clear from a very early days that ChatGPT is like and can be your best friend.

So there are a lot of things that can be done in that sense and done well, may I point out. And also the assessment and obviously now in in August, I can actually say with a bit more certainty that perhaps assessment is the trickiest one of all four because others can be somewhat organised in you know, in a quicker and more professional manners, if you like, whereas assessment has always been a bit of, if you like, philosophical and etc etc issue that not many people even within the same organisation may necessarily agree.

And now AI just, you know I suppose lift that complexity to a whole new level. So in short, it was really the attempt to sort of give some sort of introduction, if you like you know, browse through what is available, and try to put it in some sort of, you know I suppose, organised way that people can start thinking about where to start and, and where to put effort and more energy and resources if you like and where you know, it can be done easily.

Steve Davis (46:55)
Yes, and I know you use the term can be your friend at one point, but there's also some complexity. There's nuance here and it's actually intriguing that you emphasise using ChatGPT as a tool rather than attempting to control it, because as you've pointed out, the change in its development is exponential.

How can educators strike the balance between using ChatGPT's capabilities and being mindful of not only its limitations, but potential biases?

Olivija Komadina (47:28)
There is a number of, you know, a number of I suppose, things that, that can you know, that can, that can be part of it. The first thing is educators need to educate themselves, so and that is, that is also, you know, it sounds simple, but it's a big task, because, as I said before, the record is so significant that it's probably hard to ever feel, oh, I'm actually okay now to make some sort of decisions. So we also need to have a self-discipline to say, I actually know about, you know, CHATGPT, I know about Tomi, and I know about Canva, for example, which would be text and presentation and visual artificial intelligence platforms.

This is enough for me to master and to actually keep going and keep working in a better way what I'm doing. So that's one component of it. Another component is space and context where teachers work. What is available, what is not, what are the teams that people work in. So, it's really contextualised in a way because you may have teams that will actually take you with them on their journey or you may be in an environment where it's not all that, you know, important or popular at that stage.

And I would emphasise the most, the leadership. This is the time, I mean, it's always been a time when leadership in education is important. But there are some sort of moments as well, which are more pivotal than the others.

And I believe we are now in one of those with a leadership that will actually nurture, you know, artificial intelligence in all of those senses, being a tool, being your friend, being whatever you want it to be, will be determined by the leadership in, you know, in some extent. So all of those together and in a different shapes and form, you can see now a variety of different situations we may be in will actually determine how's that going to look like. I have heard about places that ban them at some stage, you know because they are not really sure what to do and how to deal with it. Obviously the plagiarism and, you know, bias, there are, there are dangers there by, by all means but we need to understand them and we need to work around them rather than, you know, using them as a reason to abolish the whole AI. Because it's there, it's going to be there, it's going to grow, it's not going to go away.

Steve Davis (50:04)
Yeah, and grow is the word because of the rapid development of ChatGPT and all the updates that keep coming through.
I mean, in the light of that, how do you foresee its role evolving in vocational education?

Olivija Komadina (50:19)
I have to say that I know it sounds maybe a little bit of a big statement, but you know, even lately I noticed that some extensions are actually repetitious in a sense if you like. So, it will go in the realm of business so different platforms will develop different things for different amount of money with different amount of, you know, a percentage of that and the other. My point is the core business, I think, very soon for people who are using it, I'm talking education sector, I'm not talking financing and others because they have their own complexities but in education centre sense, I like to think that the concepts will be clear and probably are clarifying themselves even now.
In other words, we actually can use those and use them well without constantly being you know, challenged with the development. Because the development at some point will just mean a variety, rather than bringing, you know, necessarily new concepts that we will have to think about and we will have to then, you know, design, you know, different kinds of approaches in what we do. So I think that people need to be, you know, absolutely on board with what's going on but knowing certain things is probably enough to bring that concept of AI and that quantum leap in education, if you like, possible without being perfect and knowing everything at any given day because to be honest, it's probably not possible anyway.

Steve Davis (51:53)
No, look, it has been fascinating watching reactions within the education sector to the likes of CHATGPT and having students do whole exam papers with CHATGPT and so rethinking the whole model of that.

But I do want to come back to assessment, which we talked about at the beginning, assessment methods. How do you envision educators effectively combining AI driven assessment with any traditional methods they use. You talked about it being a philosophical practice at one point. Just to ensure comprehensive evaluation of the student's learning which is what assessment is all about.

Olivija Komadina (52:37)
I was afraid you would ask me that. It's the most difficult one. Well, if we are talking about the VET sector, I like to think that we are a little bit in a safer space because vocational education and training is about skills. So therefore, the observations of, you know, doing certain things under certain circumstances where we actually assess the competency is forever going to be the most powerful way to assess.
So in that sense, that hasn't changed from the very beginnings of, you know, the times when people were actually learning everything through apprenticeship model in, in sense of you are doing stuff with a master and then you are practicing and then you are showing that you can do certain things and then you move on.

So I like to think that observations, as much as they are present, you know, these days will probably be more prevalent in the future. We have also talked you know, the colleagues of mine, you know, in our meetings about the methodology and which assessment tools to use. We also like portfolio as assessment method because portfolio of work actually shows the engagement over a longer period of time.
And if there are knowledge questions as a component in portfolio work, then there is nothing wrong with that. There is actually nothing wrong if we ask students certain knowledge type of answers. If they actually did look and you know, ask CHATGPT to help for that, there is nothing wrong with that. They are still constructing their knowledge themselves. So the fact that somebody helped them in that sense you know, we don't necessarily feel there is anything wrong with that. However, somewhere further in portfolio there should be an evidence of that knowledge being applied to do certain things or to demonstrate certain skills.

So, I actually am very positive about it. I think that we are going to spend less time on traditional knowledge, underpinning knowledge, learning and testing. And we would actually be able to focus more on skills and on practical components, which that is renowned for.

Steve Davis (54:56)
All right, just finally, Olivija, looking ahead, what are your thoughts on the potential long-term impact of AI tools like CHATGPT on vocational education and how do you see those tools shaping the future of teaching and learning in this domain?

Olivija Komadina (55:15)
I'm very optimistic. I think we are going to go through a couple, we'll have to go through a couple of hurdles in embracing it. And that's probably going to take a while, but once we do that, or during the journey of, you know developing the positive and, you know, a nice relationship with the artificial intelligence, I think it's, we are going to do things better, we are going to do things faster, we are going to be more efficient and we are going to spend time, we'll have more time for innovation and creativity. And all the repetitiveness in our jobs and everything that actually takes time, but it's not necessarily all that rewarding on the other end will actually be done by AI and for example, lesson plans or developing the presentations for your classes or all those things that were traditionally very time consuming in a time poor industry, I can't see, you know, going wrong. I really can't. I think that we are having time of a lot of enjoyment in education sector with the appropriate use of AI.

Steve Davis (56:27)
Olivija Komadina, thank you.

Olivija Komadina (56:30)
Thank you. Thank you.

Steve Davis (56:37)
David Longley is a Senior Research Officer with the Brotherhood of St Lawrence's Education, Skills and Training Team within the organisation's Social Policy and Research Centre. His current work addresses vocational education reform with a specific focus on improving apprenticeship outcomes for disadvantaged young people and the implications of the response to the climatic and environmental crises on skills and training.

David, welcome to Vocational Voices.

David Longley (57:07)
Thank you very much for having me.

Steve Davis (57:09)
Now, David, your work, it highlights the dual measure of success for Australia's response to climate and environmental issues, mitigating their effects and ensuring the long-term career growth of those involved. Could you perhaps start by elaborating on the interplay between these two measures and how vocational education fits into the equation?

David Longley (57:31)
Yeah, thank you. I think first and foremost is that and what we sort of see as the cause for concern in this current moment is that there is a potential scenario facing us where there is no interplay between these two measures. So when we speak about them, we usually generally use the term meaningful, a meaningful transition and a just transition. So, you know, meaningful being one which sort of the impact of the work underway is maximised in order to prevent and alleviate the climatic and environmental damage which can be prevented and then adapt to that which is already inevitable. And then I think the one people will be less familiar with is this concept of the just and that is a transition which addresses existing inequalities and systems of disadvantage and does not create new inequalities or systems of disadvantage when it comes to this large scale workforce change that will be necessary to enable these transitions.
So when I say that, you know, there's a situation where there is no interplay, it's quite foreseeable that we could meet the challenge of the climate crisis, we could meet our targets, we could halt what can be halted, but do so in a way that doesn't really address those systems of disadvantage that lead to inequitable job outcomes, to sort of long term churn and insecurity in the workforce.

Similarly, we could go about this process of workforce development and build new sustainable long term careers for individuals and build stronger career mobility and agency for those who do the work of these transitions, but do so in a way that doesn't actually meet our targets or really meet the challenge of the climate crisis.

So, when we say we fear that there may be no interplay, that's where we're coming from is kind of the worst-case scenario. I think, however, from our position in the Brotherhood as a social justice organisation, we see no reason that we cannot pursue these two simultaneously and that they can be linked.

You know, we know that the vocational education will play a massive role in this workforce development need of the work that is underway, whether that's in the development and training up of those of the new occupations that are on the way, whether it's the reskilling of current workforces, or whether it's just the sort of the changes to foundational training that will be required as certain occupations change and adapt in the face of new technology, new evidence, new circumstances.

The current reform efforts that are underway in the vocational education system are recognition, I think, that we are perhaps not doing as good a job as we can of equipping learners for long term career growth, career agency, and to sort of, you know, continue that lifelong learning that's so, so common an ambition amongst VET practitioners at the moment.

So I think there's a really strong opportunity to align this, that if we're building and changing the workforce to meet the climate crisis, so too can we align that with the, you know, coexisting ambition of better, stronger access and outcomes for those who pass through the system.

Steve Davis (01:00:55)
Wow. Now this whole alignment of VET reform efforts with climatic and environmental challenges, I must say, it's an intriguing proposition.

Even the use of the term "just" in this conversation is not something we normally hear here in Australia. But I wonder, David, if we could look at the long term planning, the wider scope for action emphasised in your paper. Are there some examples of how a longer planning horizon, a broader scope, could yield more effective and sustainable outcomes in addressing climate, environmental issues through vocational education?

David Longley (01:01:30)
Yeah, it's a great question. And I think, you know, also a very, you know, interesting point that you pick up on this language of just is perhaps new to us, you know, this is a problem that's being faced the world over, and in other contexts, that language of justice and justness is much stronger, and there's already strong alignment between them.

But to go to your question about sort of this idea of long term planning, but also breadth of scope, I think perhaps best to sort of compartmentalise it a little bit, if we look at that long term planning as a real way to build that career agency, I think from our perspective and from the consultation we've done with practitioners, with those who work in the social services, with particularly young people in regions across the country who are sort of experiencing a measure of disadvantage by the systems as they exist currently, quite often they point to the short term and quite transactional relationship between education providers and the wider workforce development system.

In many cases, people don't feel comfortable engaging with vocational education providers in a meaningful way because they feel at arm's length from the process. So, I think longer term planning and building those relationships and partnerships to sort of co-design that longer term planning will go a long way to address some of these concerns that come with this very short term and transactional utilisation of the VET space.

For me, one of the more interesting things when we go to that breadth, sort of the breadth of scope, there's a lot of work underway across the country at the moment. We obviously all know sort of the move towards net zero as the most high profile of the action underway, and it's definitely the one which makes the front pages, particularly when it comes to vocational education.

You know, when we think about VET and we think about climate action, we think about wind turbines, electrification you know, mechanics working on electric vehicles, things like that. But there's so much work that is underway at Commonwealth level, state level, local level, and community level that builds on other things.

So the example is this growing presence of circularity as both workplace approach, circularity as an industry, circularity as just a sustainable mindset in the way that people engage in workplace practices. And the VET system has a very strong role to play in enabling this, both again, building a workforce for growing industry, but also in workforce adaptation.

But at the moment, the focus, that strong focus, and it must be said, the strong sort of supports from government have been geared towards that net zero ambition, and I think if we're really, you know, setting ourselves up to have that meaningful response to climatic and environmental crises, the VET system needs to be enabled to really go forge ahead across the whole breadth of action that is already underway in our communities and across our country.

Steve Davis (01:04:04)
Wow. As you were talking, the coin finally dropped for me of just the significance of so much aspect of society that VET sector is engaged in and its direct link to the climate response, etc. So, this is such a fascinating paper, but looking forward though, what are the main hurdles?

And even the opportunities in implementing the proposed changes and ensuring that vocational education truly does become a pivotal force in our response to climate and environmental challenge.

David Longley (01:05:18)
I'll speak to the opportunity first, because that's the one I prefer speaking to, because I think this is a moment for optimism.
As we can see, there is glowing momentum in climate and environmental action in Australia and across the globe. I think none of us thought we would be moving with the speed and enthusiasm we are now if we were to be asked this question, you know, four or five years ago. I think there's been a massive shift in action at government level, industry level, communities, everyone's really now on the front foot. I think also speaking to the VET space, this reform window we have within vocational education really lends us an opportunity for this alignment.

As I said a bit earlier, we are speaking about how can we improve how the VET system enables those who pass through it long term, secure mobile employment with a degree of agency.

So not mobility enforced by the market or enforced by trends that the individual has no power over, but mobility enforced by someone's aspirations and someone's goals. Then I think from again, bringing in our perspective as a social justice organisation who works a lot, particularly with young people in the next generation, there's a real ambition for this to be a key part of who they are and how they work.
More than any other previous generation, the young people of today see the green credentials of an industry, of an employer, and of their workplace as a key factor in what determines for them meaningful employment. So I think they are going to be strong drivers of the change that's going to happen at the system level as the system has to react to this ambition of the generation to come.

In terms of hurdles, it's an interesting question. I think if you would ask me this twelve months ago, I would have said that assumptions that sort of business-as-usual workforce development practices are sufficient would be the major hurdle. But I think the tide has turned on this one.

The recent conference, the recent NCVER conference shows that there's a strong ambition to make vocational education stronger, to improve, to develop new systems, new practices for this ambition of justness of outcomes and access.

That means I think the two, for me, the two largest remaining challenges are this need for immediate action. You know, we have acted globally too late on this. We know that there is some degree of change, which is now inevitable. So there is a rush to catch up to where we should be. Obviously, we don't want the perfect to be the enemy of the good, but we also don't want to entrench and solidify ineffective practices for the sake of expediency. So I think it's really the challenge is balancing that need to act quickly with the need for that long term planning to be thoughtful, to take the time to reflect on what could be done better.

I think the second one, and this again I think I'm optimistic about their discussion is happening is what is the role of vocational education? Is vocational education just a tool for workforce development? Is it just there to produce the workers to serve the industries which address climate? Or is it to develop a new generation of those with the skills to take on the work themselves to enable every person who enters the workforce to know how their work either contributes to mitigation or adaptation. Is it to build a sort of climate literate workforce where much as we're seeing in primary, secondary and tertiary education where this sort of sustainability mindset and thinking is built into the very fabric of how we train people, much as, you know occupational health and safety is.

So I think those are the two main hurdles, the need for speed, but also what is the role of vocational education in workforce development? And I think, you know, speaking personally, this is a time for bold ambition in that respect.

Steve Davis (01:09:34)
David Longley, thank you.

David Longley (01:09:35)
Thank you very much.

Steve Davis (01:09:42)
Dr Christina Scott Young, Associate Professor, School of Property, Construction and Project Management, RMIT University, has a strong interest in the creation of healthy, high performance workplaces where workers thrive. At No Frills 2023, she presented insights based on her team's most recent research on attracting more female trades apprentices.

Christina, welcome to Vocational Voices.

Dr Christina Scott-Young (01:10:10)
Thank you, Steve. Lovely to be here.

Steve Davis (01:10:14)
Christina, your research, it addresses the gender disparity in trades where women occupy only 2% of construction trades roles. Could you perhaps discuss the broad implications of the gender gap and why it's important to attract more young girls to trades in the current landscape?

Dr Christina Scott-Young (01:10:31)
Yes, well, there's probably two points of view, one from a social point of view, from a social justice and economic point of view, and another one from the point of view of providing industry with a workforce.

So, from the social justice point of view, construction is a very good industry to be in. It pays extremely well. The jobs are secure, ongoing, we probably all know tradies who are very well off, much better off than academics.

Now eight out of ten jobs in construction are in trades roles. So at the moment, the door, the house door or the building door is firmly shut to women. They're on the outside and that shuts women out of secure, well-paying outdoor work.

So as from a social justice point of view, it's important to open up jobs that are well paying and secure to half the workforce who happen to be women or half the population. So that argument is often not put. The argument that you'll commonly hear, and I subscribe to, is there is a skill shortage in trades.

Now, we could bring in more migrants to fill that skill shortage, but often my, I teach international students, often they tell me construction methods are quite different in their countries. Also, we then have the overcrowding problem. We also have youth unemployment problem. So why not focus on filling the skills gap with people who are already here. They may be children of migrants, but there's a lot of upcoming people that need jobs. So it makes good sense, I think to include that half the population at the moment who are excluded and marginalised. So from an industry point of view, it doubles your talent pool immediately.

Steve Davis (01:12:38)
Christina, the study focuses on the lived experiences of young female carpentry, electrical and plumbing apprentices. What are some of the key insights into how these young women made their career choices and the factors that influenced their decisions?

Dr Christina Scott-Young (01:12:54)
Yes, well this is really interesting and I suspect that the number one influence was their own personal interest and passion or perhaps a calling.

I suspect that's the same for males who enter the trades. But they have always, from a young age, loved doing things with their hands, loved building things using lego, meccano sets, whatever. Hammering and nailing, painting, some of the girls were very interested and went into house painting. So it often it's just a passion and a vocation and a calling, and the child just has that leaning towards, I myself, know as a child, I had a leaning towards teaching that just sometimes at a young age, you know what you're suited for.

Now the second thing could be part of this calling and passion could be that they often had family, particularly the schoolgirls, had family who worked in construction. We had older women in our sample as well. We call mature age apprentices those who are age 21 and over. And school leavers, the school leavers tended to have families who were in the construction trade who influenced them. They loved hearing about it at the dinner table. They loved going on site with dad or their brother. And so they just felt this is where I want to be. Whereas the older women often had friends who worked in construction and they would talk about their daily life. And the women were very drawn to it. But they had also been drawn at a young age, but they had possibly been shut out from it by parents or schools.

Now, the number three thing was exposure to trade subjects at schools. Now, not all of our women were lucky enough to go to schools where they taught trades. So, they often did jewellery making or art and design, but they gravitated towards those manual trades. Some of the girls were very lucky to have woodwork or metalwork teachers who praised them and said, you'd be wonderful in the trades.
They were the rarity. But that kind of exposure, either through building sites, or family renovations was very important. They have to know what it is to see that they could be doing it.

Steve Davis (01:15:13)
I want to pick up on schools. You've mentioned schools a couple of times because the role of schools in shaping career choices is significant.

And you've touched on it, but could you elaborate a bit more on the types of messaging that these young women receive as school students regarding their, their trade careers, both the positive, but there's also probably some negative messaging too.

Dr Christina Scott-Young (01:15:33)
Well, unfortunately, this was a rather a shock to me. There's more negative than positive. Now, the positive messaging is the trades teachers. If they're lucky enough to have trades subjects at their schools, not all of them were. So that is, they get the exposure, they get the confidence, they know they can do it. What we found a little bit distressing when talking to our participants, and there were 20 women doing the apprenticeships that we interviewed, we found that a lot of times they heard nothing about trades pathways. Trades were not mentioned at all, particularly for girls. Because girls are often very studious, they do well at school. And so it was recommended that they go for a proper job and to go and do their higher school certificate and go on to university.

Now, a number of our girls, a number of our women had done that. They were physiotherapists, they were environmental scientists, and yet they came back at over 21 to do an apprenticeship. So they were streamed often into university. University was held up as the goal for everyone, not just women. And some of them were told if they expressed an interest in trades, no, trades are only for boys.

So that was a little bit of surprise to me in this day in age, because when I went to school, which is not very recently, girls were being encouraged to go into trades then. So what has happened in this period? Probably nothing.

Steve Davis (01:17:11)
Right, so I'm going to hold some of those teachers responsible for when you try to get a tradie and there's too much scarcity in the marketplace.

Dr Christina Scott-Young (01:17:19)
Don't hold the teachers and, and in defence of teachers, I used to be in one of my lifetimes, I was a guidance officer and you're under resourced and you have to pull the material to you. You really need industry to take a role and government and give the careers counsellors those resources that they need.

And so I think the industry has a lot of work in going and educating the careers counsellors, the teachers and the parents. I really think schools, the vital link, I mean, it is the educational area, and I think that's, that's where a lot of our focus needs to be targeted on, supporting the schools, not punishing them, but supporting them.

Steve Davis (01:18:03)
Well, picking up on the positive influences, in your research highlights the various influences that attracted young girls to trades. There's exposure to family renovations that were going on. Trades videos on social media, gee and that gets into just about everybody's lifestyle, and apprenticeship advertising.

Could you discuss perhaps how these influences can be harnessed to create more effective outreach strategies.

Dr Christina Scott-Young (01:18:30)
Well, I want to say the government should be funding more of those family renovation projects that they funded during COVID, but that's very flippant. But look we do have a lot of building going on.

I think that it means that offering girls, taking girls out on site, that means employers coming into the schools and offering days on site, I think the unions are doing some really good work on bringing women, try a trade for a day. So there is a lot, I don't want to give the impression there's not a lot of good work going on, particularly here in Victoria, which is only where I know.

So that it's giving them exposure. So that's the industry stepping up and, and the union stepping up and bringing the girls into days where they can experience it on site. Now, the interesting thing with social media, it was not, I would have thought the schoolgirls would have been influenced by this, it wasn't, it was the older women.

Now, I have to make a point here, there are more older women doing construction trades than there are school leavers. So, but that doesn't mean we couldn't use social media. Basically, what they said, they accidentally came across it. They might have been doing their own home renovation. And as the internet is likely to do, it pushes things that you're interested in. So, they sometimes were pushed a TikTok video on a girl doing bricklaying. That particular woman, after watching that, she gave up her job and went and applied for an apprenticeship in bricklaying. It was very spontaneous, but it's a day in the life of, so social media is very important and I really think we need to be attracting older women who've missed out as well, because not every school leaver is going to want to go into a trades apprenticeship. So it gives a good opportunity for older women too, if we say over 21 is old.

Also I think the government's advertising. I have seen it myself. I'm not a big television watcher, but I have seen some fabulous advertisements for attracting more women into trades. And the opportunities of, the government is doing fantastic. The government in Victoria, and I think in New South Wales, and possibly in South Australia, are doing great work in trying to create that equity and bring more women in.

So the more the government focuses on it and gets that out into social media, and into the mass media, news, advertisements, I think it will be seen as an option because really, some of the messages they were getting was, trades aren't for women. You'll get hot, you're not strong enough. That was the predominant message they got. It's not a place for women. So if, if there's that counter movement, yes it is, and here are women doing it, and loving it, I think that will go a long way. And it's got more potential to be used.

Steve Davis (01:21:47)
I tell you, those naysayers haven't met my daughters. Just one quick observation. It's very reminiscent of the messaging, as I can recall from having read about it, during times of war, where suddenly society realizes that women can do all sorts of things and the plea goes out to please come and roll your sleeves up and do different types of work in inverted commas it's, there seems to be some sort of loose parallel there with the messaging coming through now to say oh heck yes women should be involved in this sector.

Dr Christina Scott-Young (01:22:23)
Yes, that could be a rather cynical view, but I do think it's probably majorly economically driven.

But I think with the UN Sustainability Goals, I think society is becoming a little bit more open towards social justice for all, so I'm hoping that that's part of the motivation.

Steve Davis (01:22:44)
The dominant motivation, yes.

Dr Christina Scott-Young (01:22:47)
Of course, we're all driven by the hip pocket nerve, as they say.

Steve Davis (01:22:52)
Just finally, could you share any specific strategies that vocational education institutions could implement that could create a more welcoming and supportive environment for female apprentices?

Dr Christina Scott-Young (01:23:05)
Yes, this is a really important one. A lot of research in the STEM, which is the science and maths which the trades fit into. There's a lot of research that says girls face a rather chilly and hostile environment because it's male dominated, they're usually male teachers, the trades teachers. They're mainly, predominantly males, if you think only two percent of the trades are women. And there's very few girls in apprenticeships, so they're the isolated ones, and I've heard some rather grim stories of the teachers making fun of them, which of course encourages the boys to make fun of them, so part of, I think, the foundational thing is training for teachers and students in TAFE.
So some sort of, we all need it everywhere, as a woman I can say, we still need this kind of training, but training about respect and about diversity and inclusion and about the impact, the negative impact of exclusion. So, fostering that inclusivity and respect in the classroom, improving the classroom culture, and that starts at the top with the teachers, because what the boys see will be modelled.

Also, I'm a teacher myself, but at university. And there is often bad behaviour in class. So training the teachers on how to deal with this because I'm a psychologist, but even I sometimes get challenged with, how do I respond to this behaviour? So I think that education and support.

I think zero tolerance of bad behaviour. And that's not always easy, but I think it has to be called out. And I've found when I have tried to respectfully call out misbehaviour, the females in the class afterwards have come up and thanked me because clearly it's a rare occurrence that the males get called out for being discriminatory and sometimes downright rude and offensive to women.

The other thing I think TAFE needs to do is to put some mentoring or peer support, other women or tradeswomen, to mentor the girls going through apprenticeships, so they have some support. Now that might only be connecting them up to Build Like a Girl or Tradie Ladies, the organisations that already exist.

But one of the things I think that pop well, from our experience we found 55% of our apprentices had had bad exclusionary, or sometimes even worse, experiences at work. So my feeling is the TAFE system, and maybe the government, needs to monitor the workplaces that are taking on apprentices, and that may just be with debriefing with the girls and finding out if things are going badly or if there's inappropriate behaviour, then actually not turning a blind eye to it, but trying to address that through education of the employer.

Because a lot of this is about education and trying to change attitudes, but basically it boils down to respect for human beings, whether they're male or female, nonbinary, blue, pink, yellow, green, rainbow. It's basically about respecting the other person as a human being and hopefully that's not too hard to get across and sometimes maybe we've never been taught that.

Steve Davis (01:26:46)
And yet, at the same time, it's a bit of a theme that's come through the interviews in this particular podcast starting with Hinemoa Priest from New Zealand early on that inclusionary support of a cohort, all of us could benefit from, no matter what segment we're in, even some of these boys we referred to, to keep their heads in line and to be respectful of diversity, which is all for the greater good.

Dr Christina Scott-Young (01:27:13)
And it will benefit them, because when I do other research the men on site with more women in construction sites tell me it's safer. It's a much nicer place to be in. So it's a, we're moving to humanise society, hopefully.

Steve Davis (01:27:29)
On that note, thank you, Dr. Christina Scott Young.

Dr Christina Scott-Young (01:27:32)
Thank you, Steve. Lovely to talk to you this morning.

Steve Davis (01:27:41)
Michael Bassham, TAFE SA, has extensive experience managing education and training-based projects that impact positively in industry and communities across Australia. And for No Frills 2023, he co-presented with TAFE colleagues on the hidden workforce of veterans in our community. Michael, welcome to Vocational Voices.

Michael Bassham (01:28:04)
Thank you very much, Steve. Pleasure to be here.

Steve Davis (01:28:06)
Michael, the concept of veterans as a hidden workforce is actually intriguing. How do you perceive the extent of the issue? And what are the potential consequences of overlooking these skilled individuals for the job market?

Michael Bassham (01:28:21)
Very good question, Steve. Look Australia's military is among some of the most highly skilled in the world, and the Australian Defence Force and its members receive world class training.

So when veterans leave the Defence Force, they take with them a unique combination of qualifications, training, experience and skills. So, to me, this is a two-way issue. On one hand, you've got industry who may not understand the extent of the ADF member's professional history, their training, and how this could be a benefit to their company and then you also have the ADF member who may not know how their skills can be applied in the civilian context. And so the consequences of both may be that a company misses out on having someone who is very structured, quick thinking, a fantastic problem solver, someone who displays leadership and is resilient with an amazing work ethic who can add a lot of value.

In my opinion, many employees are missing out on this great talent due to a lack of knowledge about the Australian Defence Force. And unless you're a company or business that's part of a defence related industry or you're facing a specific skills shortage, they're unlikely to have considered veterans as a potential source of talent.

Steve Davis (01:29:29)
And TAFE institutes in particular, they play a crucial role in facilitating pathways within vocational education and training program for veterans. I wonder if you could discuss some specific examples of how TAFE programs like the Veterans Program, STEP by TAFE SA, designed to address the skilling and upskilling needs of veterans.

Michael Bassham (01:29:51)
Yes, certainly. So one thing we know is that defence only train for capability. And a real simple analogy that that we can use is defence mechanics who typically know diesel, diesel and diesel fuel. So the upskilling need, if you will, if they want to continue in that field in the civilian world, would be training in vehicles that use unleaded fuel, LPG gas, and perhaps electric battery vehicles as an example.

Now, if the veteran's looking to do something completely different than the field they've been working in within the ADF, we can still consider recognition of prior learning processes that recognises the experience and training the member may have already. And I guess an example of this in you know, like a business or a BSB training package area could be that the member has worked within teams they can communicate with influence, manage team effectiveness, or even manage a project or components of work health and safety. So all of which can contribute to their study pathway through to civilian employment.

Steve Davis (01:30:52)
I love that analogy about defence training to capability because I guess in that scenario you just need a specific job done, don't you?

Michael Bassham (01:31:01)
Absolutely. There's a myriad of examples we can use, but that one's a commonly used one that we can paint the difference, particularly with I guess other RTOs and people that are looking to also get into this field.

Steve Davis (01:31:13)
There's a theme that's run through the interviews in this particular episode of Vocational Voices.

And it's one that looks beyond just the individual as the core focus because I know that there are frequent postings, there are career breaks that veterans face throughout their career, but also their families. So I wonder if you can just discuss how TAFE programs take into account the unique challenges faced by the partners and the families of ADF members.

Michael Bassham (01:31:42)
It's a very real issue and we've had a fair bit of experience in attending you know, transition seminars facilitated by the Joint Transition Authority and military families relocate roughly every two years on average. So you can imagine having to re-establish yourself in a new community every second year which might mean a new job new medical providers, new routines, finding new schools for children, you know the list is extensive.

So some of the challenges we've encountered along the way have included spouses who have commenced studies, which may have been started but not finished due to relocating. And, you know, depending on where they relocate, they may have no option to continue their course or transfer to another provider.

Some have even entered into qualifications and have been impacted by a training package upgrade whilst they've had to pause their studies while they move. So I guess, you know, when we get to the point where we're talking to members and their families about it a pleasing thing is if they're thinking about transitioning or they've made that decision to transition, it's likely that they'll be concreted where they're transitioning whichever state that is.

So at that point we've got a real good opportunity to unpack what the spouse or family member has actually done to date and take that into consideration and undertaken or what experience they've had in jobs and really try and package that up into a similar either recognition of prior learning or just look at, you know, what career pathway that they want to choose and want to pursue now that they'll have their feet firmly on the ground without the need to relocate. So it's really just a matter of considering what they've done, what they're wanting to do and provide some recommendations, guidance and advice and wraparound services to support their study journey into employment.

Steve Davis (01:33:34)
I suppose if we completely ignored the partners and families, then we wouldn't be able to realise fully that hidden workforce of the ADF members themselves. It's a holistic approach.

Michael Bassham (01:33:47)
Absolutely, absolutely agree. You know, some are lucky that they can that they've joined let's say, a national organisation and they have the luxury of moving states or moving offices and they can retain their job.

More often than not though, we find that there is an interruption and it is a, I guess, a new workplace or a new position that the spouse or family member has to do. So yeah, it is a real issue, but we're really glad to be able to talk to some of these members, unpack some of their experience and what their needs are and develop a solution for them.

Steve Davis (01:34:19)
Yeah, now the lessons learned through the development of the Veterans Program, I'm sensing they're valuable. They're going to help with us with informing future initiatives. Michael, could you perhaps share some of the key lessons and insights that have emerged along the way with this program?

Michael Bassham (01:34:36)
Engage early and consult widely are the two that I commonly refer to.

But we certainly thought in the beginning we had a plan that was going to work but it wasn't until we started attending some transition events and speaking to, you know, 100 plus members and their families that we really understood their requirements on a deeper level and I guess when you're also working with you know, such a large department like the Department of Defence, you realise that some of your internal processes or you know, things that you have in place may have to be adapted to suit such a large department who already have very well embedded processes, rules, regulations, things that have to be done. And particularly with a member that is transitioning, it's not a quick process, it's very involved, and we have to find, or did have to find the best way that we can seamlessly integrate with that process to not only support the member, but ensure that we, as TAFE SA, also got what we needed as part of our processes and due diligence, etc.

So, yeah, that would probably be my biggest two is to is to engage early and consult widely.

Steve Davis (01:35:45)
And just one final personal reflection though, being able to harness this resource of the hidden workforce of ADF personnel. Like there's a sense where these people who have put their lives on the line for the country and now, thanks to the work that you're doing within the TAFE system, we're able to help them expand the reach of impact they have in society for their own needs as well as those around us.
That's got to, I imagine, that's got to be fulfilling at the end of the day.

Michael Bassham (01:36:15)
It absolutely is, it is certainly something that puts a smile on my face. I'm very proud to have worked on this initiative and, you know, even in the period of time that it's taken us to get to where we are today I feel like we're only scratching the surface in terms of what we can potentially do.

And I'm really pleased to also advise that through working on this this important project, we've been able to open our doors and we've got a transitioning member who has done some work experience with TAFE SA. He's completing his training and assessment qualification and actually would like to come and work for TAFE SA.

So we would absolutely love more of that to happen. And we encourage any organisation, whether you're an RTO, or whether you're an industry employer to consider veterans as a potential you know avenue to seek employment if you're looking for certainly qualified people.

They're absolutely amazing and you know, I couldn't speak highly enough from the members I've been privileged to work with to date.

Steve Davis (01:37:21)
Thank you, Michael Bassham.

Michael Bassham (01:37:23)
Thank you, Steve.

Steve Davis (01:37:25)
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