Two presenters provide an overview and update on the national training environment. Their analysis of significant recent changes provides an insight into the impact and implications of those changes for community cultural development.
CEO, CREATE Australia
Cassandra has over 20 years experience in vocational education and training. She has played a mayor role in many policy developments in vocational education and training, having served on a number of national advisory bodies. Cassandra joined CREATE as CEO in 1996.
What is vocational education and training? A standard picture of vocational education is of apprentices in hard hats, of occupations like boiler making or building and construction. But that's an out-of-date perception. Vocational education and training covers an enormous range of occupations and courses - from entry level for people just entering the workforce to paraprofessional courses. Even the more traditional modes of training such as traineeships and apprenticeships are expanding to non-manufacturing sectors like the service and community sectors - sectors that haven't been well served by vocational education and training in the past.
Vocational education and training isn't just about traineeships and apprenticeships, as vigorously as these are promoted by government. It also offers opportunities for lifelong learning. At its best, vocational education and training offers access to further education for adults who missed out on education opportunities in the past, or who want to develop their skills and knowledge.
Vocational education and training has a number of key features which, to some extent, represent the results of public debate over the past 10-15 years. Its scope is defined through six national qualifications, four certificates, diploma and advanced diploma.
As its name implies vocational education and training places strong emphasis on employment outcomes although, as with any course, students participate for various reasons, not all of which necessarily relate to a particular job.
Consistent with this vocational focus governments generally seek to involve industry in decision-making in, for example, determining the content of courses or how public training funds should be allocated. Hence, the existence of organisations like CREATE which in some ways acts as a broker between industry, the community, students and training providers. But government rhetoric about industry involvement often exceeds the reality, and views about what constitutes "industry" may change, governments may or may not include unions in their definition of industry, for example. CREATE has adopted a broad interpretation of its brief and seeks to involve many different groups and individuals in its work.
One of the biggest changes that has occurred in recent years has been the encouragement by governments of a training market. There are now many different organisations involved in offering accredited courses - not just TAFE, but also private providers, colleges, enterprises and community organisations, and increasingly, schools and universities are offering vocational education and training courses.
The training market offers an opportunity to expand education and training and to improve access. A registered training organisation can offer accredited courses and award nationally recognised qualifications. Its courses may be more flexible and accessible than those offered by the more traditional education institutions, especially where enterprises offer workplace training. The training market has helped place pressure on all training providers to offer short courses that meet specific needs and training at times and in locations that suit individuals.
But there are also pitfalls, not the least being the potential for vastly increased costs and the consequent limitations on access. My own preference is to encourage partnerships between TAFEs and other training organisations, enterprises and community bodies, arrangements that can make the best use of each partner's skills and resources. In 1998 CREATE will establish new, flexible partnerships across all states and territories in the entertainment industry. We hope to learn from the experience and apply it to other sectors of the cultural industries.
Vocational education and training is a creature of national and state/territory governments. On the one hand, there are agreed national frameworks such as national competency standards. On the other hand, the system is administered by state and territory governments. This mix of responsibilities is one reason why vocational education and training is often very confusing, even to those who work in it.
Finally, vocational education and training in Australia is a system of competency based training. In a competency based system, training programs are based on competency standards. The emphasis is not on how or where learning takes place but on the outcomes of the learning.
There may be many different pathways to a qualification. In the past, a person would enter a TAFE college, study for a specified period and emerge at the end of the course with a qualification. But it is now possible to acquire a qualification in other ways. An experienced employee might, for example, receive a full qualification entirely through assessment either in an education institution or in a workplace, or perhaps in a combination of both.
It is this potential to establish different, and equally legitimate, pathways to a qualification that is the basis for much of CREATE's current work. The CCD training directory that Celia Moon and Meg Simpson developed in 1997 for the Australia Council will be the first step in establishing such pathways and improving access to vocational education and training for CCD workers.