One of latest publications from NCVER explores whether the Australian vocational education and training (VET) system could be neatly divided into two categories: initial VET and continuing VET.
Their key finding was that it is not a dichotomy; rather, it is a more complex matrix.
Defining initial and continuing VET
The NCVER’s report, authored by Michelle Circelli and John Stanwick, examines whether a distinction can be made in Australian VET between initial vocational education and training (IVET) and continuing vocational education and training (CVET).
Broadly, CEDEFOP defines IVET as ‘general or vocational education and training carried out in the initial education system, usually before entering working life’. They define CVET as ‘education or training after initial education and training — or after entry into working life’, where the aim is to help people to acquire or further their knowledge and skills, and/or to continue their personal or professional development.
On the surface, this separation seems sensible and easy to understand. It also encourages notions of lifelong learning, which has also been touted strongly by the Business Council of Australia, and through the revised Australian Qualifications Framework. And if:
“IVET and CVET [are] recognised as separate entities, a context is potentially created whereby government can be informed about the types of training to be funded. Two distinct categories of VET would also make it easier to determine whether qualification policy is meeting the needs of different learner groups.”
On the other hand, notions of IVET and CVET are complicated by the intents of both qualifications and learners. As the report notes:
“One of the key issues for consideration … is whether the student is learning for a career or whether they are learning to obtain a particular skill.”
Does a matrix approach work better for Australia?
One of the issues for Australia is that VET caters “for all people, at all ages and stages in life.” It has “a multi-purpose role.” In addition, the report suggests that:
“it may be difficult to categorise learners as IVET or CVET based on age but rather points to the requirement for a more nuanced categorisation.”
For example, there are a relatively high proportion of adults undertaking an apprenticeship or traineeship, which would normally be seen as an initial qualification, so are these qualifications IVET or CVET? It depends. In Europe VET in schools (VETiS) might be seen as initial VET, but in Australia is seen by some as preparatory, but a lot depends on post-school intents and the pathways actually taken. Support for including or viewing VETiS programs as IVET was given by a number of those consulted during the project. They saw “the important role such programs can play in helping young people to develop employability skills and in establishing pathways to further education and/or employment.” On the other hand, most see short courses and skills sets as part of CVET. Again, however, there is no straight forward answer.
In the end, the report’s authors conclude that:
“We began this project with what may be considered, in hindsight, a naive idea, that of categorising VET delivered in Australia as either initial or continuing — naive because it only provides for an either/or solution, where in fact Australian VET encompasses many nuances and options.
As the consultations clearly highlighted, a far more subtle and sophisticated approach is required, one that takes account of both the learner — as they move through their life and work journey — and the type of learning they undertake at the various points along this journey.”
So, have a look at the definitional matrix for learners and learning they propose in the summary section of the paper. It is defined by the type of learning being undertaken on the one hand (foundational skills, pre-vocational, qualification, apprenticeship and traineeship, short course and subject only, and licencing) and the type of learner: career starter (there are several types of these), career developer, or career changer. In addition, it considers non-career-based education and training and training associated with regulatory or compliance requirements. It IS worth a look!!