In the last issue of VDC News, we highlighted the long-awaited survey of the VET teaching workforce.

This time, Erica Smith takes a look at it from other perspectives: career development, working conditions, qualifications and professional development.

The paper

In a paper entitled ‘The VET teaching workforce in Australia’ commissioned by the Korea Research Institute for VET (KRIVET), Professor Erica Smith of Federation University draws on her long experience as a VET teacher educator and researcher. With a clear eye on an overseas audience, Erica backgrounds Australia’s VET system before providing an overview of VET teachers. You can find the paper by looking here.

The report was written before the release of NCVER’s VET workforce survey, and highlights its importance in providing an up to date and more comprehensive view of its nature. However, as Smith points out, VET teachers tend to be older having come to teaching as a second or subsequent career.

Teachers’ working conditions

Erica highlights the terms and conditions, focusing principally on those employed in TAFEs and on their relative salaries. She points out that, comparatively, TAFE teachers are generally better paid than school teachers, although this is offset by them entering teaching later in life. On the other hand, their salaries are initially comparable with more junior university academics, but academics potentially have a salary advantage in mid and later career.

As the paper points out, little information is available about those VET staff from outside TAFE and, indeed, many VET staff are on not employed permanently or full time, no matter what provider they work for.

Qualifications available to VET teachers

Erica highlights the history of VET teacher education, beginning with the Diploma and later degree qualifications required when VET more or less meant TAFE. As we all know things changed in the late 1990s with the move to a mandated Certificate IV. She highlights the issues, often negative, this qualification has bought with it too.

She points out that there are fewer available higher education qualifications as universities have pulled their offerings, and a number are only offered through distance learning. Despite this, she reports, satisfaction is still high amongst those completing these awards. The NCVER’s report on the VET workforce, which we highlighted in an earlier issue, shows that around 8% hold a Diploma level qualification as their highest level teaching qualification, while a similar percentage have a qualification at an even higher level. On the other hand, 77% hold the Certificate IV as their highest-level teaching qualification.

Professional development

Maintaining industry currency can be problematic, but Erica’s paper notes that common approaches include networking and membership of employer bodies or industry associations. Less formal approaches include regular industry-related reading.

To maintain and enhance teaching skills the most common approach reported were short courses, seminars and workshops within their own RTO, with less formal approaches using electronic or non-electronic newsletters or noticeboards, email lists or blogs and their own reading. A few staff are PD junkies, participating in 10 or more events organised by external PD providers, but others are not. Their real preference, though, is anything face to face (61%).

Career development

Erica describes the range of capability frameworks and approaches to career and professional development, including the Independent Tertiary Education Council Australia’s recently-established ‘College of VET Professionals’ and Chisholm Institute’s ‘Professional Educator College’ with its associated app to develop their own career and professional development passport.