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The challenges and opportunities for the future of VET

August 27, 2020

This year, NCVER’s ‘No Frills’ event was held online, yet the quality and importance of the discussions were not diminished by the virtual environment. The theme, workforce ready challenges and opportunities for VET, highlighted how much Australia’s economy relies on the successful transition of workers from training to job.

Kindergarten Cop

John Buchanan from Uni of Sydney was clear that two strategies lead to dead-ends in 2020: linear gap analysis and micro-credentials supporting 21st century skills.

Linear gap analysis (mapping out what skills may be needed in the future and filling the gap of what is needed in VET according to this plan) has shown to be unhelpful, as projections are usually wrong. As for micro-credentials, they simply don’t create good problem solvers or collaborators. Buchanan gave the example of putting a highly trained engineer in the middle of a childcare centre with 20 three-year-olds melting down simultaneously. We don’t need to watch Arnold Schwarzenegger’s ‘Kindergarten Cop’ to know they probably wouldn't know how to handle it.

Adaptability and technology

COVID-19 has affected every industry, and as we have sadly seen all over the news, especially the aged-care sector. But, there is innovation spurring from the pandemic. Anne Livingstone from the Australian Aged Care Industry Information Technology Council discussed the work of Juniper in Western Australia who have created a new role of the New Tech Advocate to help staff and volunteers within the aged care sector enhance their skills and digital literacy. The amplified disruption of the global pandemic has caused an increase in the use of telehealth, telecare and digital strategies - overall building a more resilient and adaptive workforce.

Livingstone spoke on the aged care sector taking advantage of the fact that people aren’t trained to be capable of doing one thing only - they have skills that can translate into other jobs, they can upskill, and they have complementary skill-sets.

Mother knows best

It’s no surprise that parents are generally found to have the greatest influence over young people making decisions about their futures. Erica Smith from Federation University Australia found parents were most likely to advise young people about what they knew about - if someone’s dad was an apprentice, they’ll probably become an apprentice too.

For apprenticeships struggling with retention rates, Smith found one effective strategy was to go through the details of the apprenticeship with parents, removing the parents’ conscious or unconscious biases and fears.

15 going on 25

Looking at labour force stats at 25, David Redway from the Australian Government Department of Education, Skills and Employment noted around 90% of young people are in employment, but the nature and quality of the employment depends on their educational experiences and attainment. The educational choices that young people make have a significant effect on their longer term outcomes, however, the transitions are becoming more difficult. Higher educational attainment is no guarantee that young people won't experience difficult transitions or periods of unemployment. Redway concluded that young people with lower levels of educational attainment experience more frequent and longer periods of unemployment than those with higher education levels, but education doesn't entirely protect young people from extreme events, such as the global financial crisis.

During 'No Frills' there was much debate over how workplaces will look and what skills workers will need in the future. However, one thing remained clear - almost all workers will need to upskill or retrain throughout their working lives.


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