Vocational education and traning in Australia

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Vocational Education and Training (VET) in Australia


A VET system that is well-functioning and capable of delivering the required skills is fundamental to a prosperous and strong economy that delivers the jobs desired by Australian industry and families. According to Department of Education and Training, the Australian Government has initiated a major reform of the VET system with the goal of improving the status, job outcomes and quality of VET that are needed for the system to acclimatise to the required future skills. Basically, vocational learning programs have remarkably grown and as a result, the Australian education systems are facing almost the same issues as their North American and European counterparts. As mentioned by Barnett and Ryan (90), the European position that education pathways should preferably result both in tertiary education entry as well as in employment has been accepted widely. The VET system involves all relatively structured or organised activities regardless of whether they result in an acknowledged qualification. The qualification according to Dempsey (22) intends to offer people with competencies, skills and knowledge that are sufficient and necessary so as to carry out a job. Trainees in continuing or initial training thus embark on the preparation of work or adapt their skills to varying requirements. This essay seeks to briefly outline the recent history of VET in Australia and critically examines the factors crucial to the adoption of VET System. Furthermore, the essay will discuss the change in a national unified vocational education and training system in Australia.

Historical Background

The VET system in Australia according to Lakes and Carter (153) dates back to the 1800s, the time when the colonies started replicating Britain’s training apprenticeships system. The first involvement of Commonwealth into the VET system as mentioned by Bowman and McKenna (12) was during the World War I when temporary technical education institutions were introduced with the goal of supporting the war effort. In the course of the Second World War, the Commonwealth primarily declined requests from the State for financial help in offering technical education. For a considerable growth in Commonwealth funding, the Commonwealth in 1992 proposed to fund the VET system for the States (Evans, Haughey and Murphy 186). Although some supported the proposal, it was eventually declined by a number of States, leading to a compromise that is still the foundation of the present national VET agreements. In 1996, the National Commission of Audit saw the need for the States and Commonwealth to negotiate the education roles delineation, with the role of Commonwealth being higher education and VET while the States taking responsibility for pre-schooling and schools. Still, this recommendation was not implemented (National Commission of Audit).

In the 1990s, VET and Australian Apprenticeships were introduced and the National Training Framework was established (Fyffe 29). Besides that, the early 1990s saw the development of standards for workplace assessors and trainers and there was the implementation of the award with the objective of complementing formal training accessible for VET instructors. In 1994, the ‘Workplace Trainer Category 2 award’ was endorsed nationally but was substituted by Training Package for Assessment and Workplace Training in 1999 (Guthrie 10). Furthermore, the Certificate IV level qualification framework was espoused as the minimum requirement for Vocational Education and Training teachers. In Assessment and Workplace Training, Simons, Smith and Harris (6) mentions that the Certificate IV failed to focus on the unique learning demands in certain industries and how to embrace the learners’ diversity in VET. Because of this criticism, the Training and Assessment Training Package replaced this qualification in 2004 (Maclean and Wilson 1212).

National Unified VET System

Vocational education according to Lee (4) has progressively lost its competitiveness, and as a result, the expert groups, academic society, industry, as well as parents are calling for its reform. For continued existence, vocational high schools have tried to convert themselves into general high schools, changing the names of their school, but without success. Besides that, vocational colleges are experiencing challenges in recruiting students, and this puts their very existence into a risk. Therefore, there was a need to prepare another action in order to ensure that the vocational education does not collapse. Generally, companies are not contented with their new workers, regardless of whether they are graduates from vocational high schools or colleges; therefore, they are forced to bear the cost and responsibility of retraining the new employees. Normally, this leads to increased companies’ distrust of VET system. In 1995, the Australian Qualifications Framework (AQF) was introduced partially as a unified system of VET (McInnis 143). The unified VET system has since 2000 been implemented across Australia and are associated with every Australian qualification.

The factors that drive the reform efforts of Australian Government for VET system include demographical changes, globalisation, changes within the labour market, and spread of communication and information technologies. Such changes as asserted by Castejon (129) led to a number of VET reforms such as the changing the training and assessment into a competency-based one, National Training Framework renovation, training market liberalisation; flexible training delivery; acknowledging prior experiences and learning; as well as upgrading of the AQF. Currently, the VET system works on work-based learning (WBL) as well as competency-based training/learning (CBT/CBL). The students’ skills and competencies according to the national unified VET system has to be identified immediately they start the education. Therefore, training and development programmes are designed according to the skills and competencies of that student.

The Underpinning Philosophy/Philosophies

In order to effectively understand the adoption of VET system by the Australian government, there is the need to examine a number of philosophies. For instance, the philosophy of behaviourism has enormously influenced the general approach and development of the VET system. The focuses in VET on the competencies’ expression in ‘behavioural’ terms, as well as the emphasis in VET assessment on the learner’s observable behaviours, are the noticeable bequests of behavioural philosophy (Hodge 182). According to Spurgeon and Moore (15), in terms of the Behaviourist as well as Progressive philosophies, most leaders and professors preferred Progressivism more than the Behaviourism, while the practitioners prefer Behaviourism more than Progressivism. This does not connote that the two philosophies are competing; instead it implies that both philosophies are important in the VET system. The behavioural philosophy is normally typified by its methodology, which involves the utilisation of behavioural practice, objectives, reinforcement as well as feedback.

On the other hand, progressivism is typified by its purposes, diffusion of societal and culture structure in addition to practical skills and knowledge. It is logical that practitioners, who regularly instruct students and focus every day on performance issues, have placed emphasis on philosophy that focuses on behavioural change and methods. On the other hand, it is sensible that professors guiding the field are more worried about the broader issues; therefore, they prefer the philosophy that emphasises on societal and utilitarian values and purposes (Spurgeon and Moore 15). Behaviourism philosophy has supported the adoption of the VET system by the Australian government. The philosophy puts forth the practices and behaviour that people can undertake as the education and knowledge reflection is availed by those individuals. The behaviour philosophy focuses on controlled and modified learning environment. According to this philosophy, the human behaviour is controlled by the external forces, which controls and predicts the desired behaviour and learning outcomes. In view of this philosophy, the espousal of VET system in Australia can be justified.

Adoption of VET system can be justified by the progressive philosophy, which places emphasis on the students’’ experiential and expeditionary learning. The philosophy points out that the effective and important approach of educating a student is learning by doing. In view of this philosophy, the adoption of the VET system is justified since the system place emphasis on the non-conventional and practical learning with the goal of enhancing the productivity of a person in the country’s economy. The progressive philosophy emphasises on the problem-solving, experiential approach to learning stresses that the learners’ experience is the main defining factor while looking for change and solutions; therefore, the philosophy believes on the education’s social reform role (Wang 28). Another philosophy that justifies the adoption of the VET system is the philosophy, which believes that a meaning is collectively created by people themselves and that knowledge results in the comprehension of reality and, eventually, facilitates in creating the needed change. According to this philosophy, the main purpose or role of education is to create radical changes in the society by means of education and training. The philosophy emphasises on the critical pedagogy, which according to Schreiner, Banev and Oxley (155) is learning and the teaching approach that tried to help learner challenge and question domination, as well as the practices and beliefs that dominate. In other words, it is a theory and practice of helping learners achieve critical consciousness.

Competency Based Training/Learning

Currently, the Competency-based training/learning (CBT/CBL) is established firmly in the Australian VET system and is characterised by pre-specified assessment and training outcomes, accompanied by their manifestation in industry-related, competency-based, standards whereupon the diverse system of credentials and training programmes are founded. Even though standardisation of pedagogy and curriculum by means of CBT is crucial across all industrial sectors, training personnel in a number of enterprises, are, certainly, turning out to be ‘practitioner researchers’, taking part in the action research and reflective practice in their enterprises, and in utilising the CBT standards different ways. Mulcahy and James (517) posit that opportunities for engaging in this work are still limited and rely on the industry culture and the nature of the existing enterprise, in addition to the professional individualities accorded to and acquired by the practitioners. Even though observable and measurable outcomes still appear to be integral to CBT, there a more holistic approach and understanding that seems to prevail now. In this regard, cognitive skills seem to be more and more recognised in current competency concepts. It in spite of the behaviouristic perceptions, the initial CBT concepts have managed to address such issues. Earlier, Heywood, Gonczi and Hager (25) argued that competency is holistic and has attributes, skills and knowledge. Schofield and McDonald (14) agree that through training packages implementation, CBT has developed to be a new format, especially after the reinforcement of its basic ideas. Training packages as mentioned by Schofield and McDonald (14) have a regulatory and enabling function that offers flexibility for employers, providers and learners as well as enables the VET system to be recognised nationally. Training packages are considered necessary and important, but there are some problems associated with review and development processes (Hellwig 55).

Work Base Learning

Advocates of Work Base Learning (WBL) believe that it is important for adult education and learning and maintain that it is related to the organisations transformation. The Work Base Learning approaches to professional development according to Henry, Mitchell and Young (5) have been presented in the VET system through documents that are more procedurally and technically styled. Still, workplace education potential is inadequately appreciated (Gonon and Kraus 141). The value of learning from and at work is widely recognised in research, not just for vocational skills but because of its contribution to the education. The WBL contribution in supporting economic competitiveness and youth employment is recognised far and wide (Mitchell, Henry and Young 14). Australia has a VET system that is attractive and strong and its apprenticeship systems have enabled it to perform effectively in youth employment. The WBL can generally make the industrial sector as well as work practices of the VET system to put a framework for learning management as well as rational justification around the experiential learning and offers for improved outcomes for both participants and employers.


the national unified VET system adopted in Australia is influential and effective in generating highly productive and efficient workforce. The objective of the VET system is to improve and reinforce on-the-job-training. As emphasised in this essay, riefly outlined the recent history of VET in Australia and has critically examined the factors crucial in the adoption of VET system. As mentioned in the essay, the objective of developing the VET system in Australia was to ensure the quality VET skills is achieved nationally and to all people with such skills to gain from their training across the nation.essay has bIn conclusion, the

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