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What NCVER Wants You to Know About Your Disadvantaged Learners

May 3, 2018

A great VET environment creates great VET graduates, who become great contributors to society. This in turn improves the economy, improves communities, and makes the world a better place for everyone.

It’s no surprise that some learners are in a better position to learn than others. While there are regulations in place to ensure VET consistency between all institutions, there’s still an irregularity across Australian training.

NCVER addressed this disunity in a recent publication in an attempt to improve VET success for disadvantaged students. They identified not only the factors putting some learners at risk of being disadvantaged, but also addressed the best mechanisms to put an end to this disparity.

Identifying is the first step

So, who’s at risk?

A 2009 NVEAC study defined disadvantaged learners as:

  • Indigenous learners
  • Learners with a disability
  • Learners from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds
  • Unemployed learners
  • Learners with low levels of previous education

It’s important to remember that these factors are not mutually exclusive, and a compound effect can put students at higher risks of disadvantage. As the NCVER study pointed out, “VET is a fundamental contributor to productivity, workforce development, and social inclusion”. It’s absolutely essential that adequate procedures are in place to ensure that these groups aren’t excluded from the many advantages offered by VET education.

We know what works

Studies have shown that simple approaches can greatly impact the VET experience for disadvantaged individuals. A CIRES survey (2016) compared the pedagogical approaches of Australian RTOs and noticed a pattern of practice which made the difference between low- and high-performing education.

There’s a clear correlation between these strategies and high-performing training.

NCVER found other approaches which were used by RTOs in the high-performing regions, including:

  • Institution-wide commitment to catering for disadvantaged learners
  • Establishing relationships with local employers and agencies
  • Seeing learners as individuals and catering for their specific needs

These studies show the clear correlation between improved training outcomes and the commitment to the success of disadvantaged learners.

Effective Intervention

The strategies used by high-performing RTOs can be categorised into four key areas of effective intervention. This model identifies where an RTO should focus to improve the VET experience for disadvantaged students (Davies, Lamb, and Doecke, 2011):

  1. Outreach: connect with learners, identify their needs, give them options.
  2. Wellbeing: ensure students are given the tools to overcome personal obstacles
  3. Pathways: link current training goals to future options.
  4. Pedagogy: adapt learning to the needs of the individual.

It’s common sense

These studies took different approaches, but they’re all saying the same thing. Ensuring everyone is getting the best out of VET takes an institution-wide adoption of effective intervention strategy. It sounds daunting, but the results show that these practices work.

Fostering a learning culture that’s fit for everybody is an instant win-win. If we can improve the training standards for all Aussie learners, the benefit to our society will mean a nation-wide community filled with skilled, confident, and capable individuals.

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