Here’s another idea, building on our first article this issue. It’s from Holmesglen Institute Mackenzie Research Centre.
It proposes “the Diploma of Professional Studies, that utilises existing training packages and also incorporates literacy, numeracy and digital competence skills.”
What’s the deal?
Authored by Gerald Burke, Tom Karmel and Bruce Mackenzie and entitled “A vocational education response to the pandemic”, it is – sort of – another take on the article in our last edition focused on rationalising qualifications and another in this present issue around promoting cadetships through higher level studies at AQF 5 and above. The key target group for their proposal is 18 to 22 year‐olds who have left school but are not going to university.
The authors see this as a full-time qualification offered over two years, or maybe three if it covers nursing. It will incorporate significant work-integrated learning (WIL) along with exit points at different stages, and perhaps embedded Certificate-level qualifications. It would be supported through a stipend, and studies would be focused in priority vocational areas for employment – health, aged care, building, engineering and education. Burke and his colleagues also propose that it have a “substantial component of general education.” As such it would also provide a pathway to further, higher education at degree level. It aims to be shorter in duration than either a bachelor degree or an apprenticeship.
What about the proposed stipend?
The authors suggest that it should be fully Government funded by the Commonwealth, not means tested and “set at the Youth Allowance rate” (currently $304 per fortnight if living at home) with a supplement if students need to live away from home. There are other conditions outlined in the paper too.
Why a significant general education component?
While industry want VET graduates that are work-ready there has also been criticism that their courses have been too narrow (hence the notions of rationalising qualifications that we highlighted last issue) and a greater focus on T shaped qualifications – as they are doing in the UK. But there are other reasons for this more generalised approach too. Many graduates do not gain employment in their actual field of study, and a more general approach may better future-proof them and open up broader job and other opportunities given that they will have a working life spanning 40 or 50 years.
Assessment and implementation issues
The authors suggest that, if adopted, this Diploma could increase its credibility by being externally assessed by “a separate assessment body that delivers some sort of capstone assessment at the end of the study period to gain the qualification.” They note, however, that the “assessment body would need to have credibility with both educators and industry.”
Again, external assessment has been recommended for adoption in Australia before, and the UK and other places have models using external assessment – for example City and Guilds.
In terms of implementation they propose restricting the providers that can offer the qualification to those “currently able to offer VET student loans.” Work would also be needed, they believe, to ensure that WIL systems functioned well and providers would need to develop not only links with employers but also an industry placement capability. The development of this capacity will need to be funded, they suggest, and employers participating in WIL would need to be remunerated as well. We note, though, that placement schemes with employers are already highly competitive, with both VET and HE providers – and even schools – competing for what may already be a limited capacity.
Finally, the authors point out that:
“The qualification will also take people out of the pool of the potentially unemployed for two to three years. In effect, this qualification buys time for the job market to improve while also providing real VET qualifications and employment experience.”
Its success of this qualification would be judged by the level of its completion rates, and “employment and further study rates will indicate how well the qualification has equipped young people for the transition from school education to the workforce.”