Clear and present challenge – recruiting and training the best teachers
At Latrobe University’s leafy Bundoora campus in Melbourne’s north, two academics have crafted a thoughtful report on The teacher education of VET in Schools (VETiS) teachers (32 pages). Mike Brown and Karen O’Reilly Briggs have an attachment to their topic; both were trade teachers in earlier days (sheetmetal and welding respectively).
They tackle questions too frequently glossed over – what’s the state of play in initial teacher education (ITE) for VET in Schools teachers, and what improvements are feasible? There’s an imperative to ensure high quality teaching for secondary students if VET is to achieve equal standing in a school system weighted to the academic track and which tends to limit its post-school outlook to university pathways. After all, in Victoria alone around half of all students complete some VET study during their secondary school years.
Reducing the VETiS recruitment pool
Given that orientation, relaxing ITE requirements for VETiS teachers seems curious, and curious too as recruiting VETiS teachers becomes more difficult. The paper notes:
‘With VET facing questions about its credibility, and with young people facing a world of increasing complexities, it hardly seems the appropriate time to reduce or minimise the educational knowledge and skills required by VET in Schools teachers.’
Brown and Briggs report a startling finding: only six of 29 universities that participated in their study, and which run ITE programs, offer teacher education in some form to VETiS teachers. That’s almost a lockout. Why?
One reason for the lack of ITE for VETiS teachers is that those likely to be interested in VETiS teaching don’t match the usual recruitment pool for ITE degrees:
‘…people with suitable and appropriate backgrounds were reluctant to enrol into the existing teacher education programs on offer. Trade and VET qualified individuals with extensive industry experience are often mature age and somewhat older than the usual cohort within teacher education programs. They often have established family and financial commitments and frequently unable or unwilling to endure the upheaval and change of lifestyle associated with a return to study.’
Opening up the VETiS option to the best recruits
Another way of putting it is that the system isn’t set up to train the best people for the job. It could be better, Brown and Briggs suggest:
‘At the very least, such students need to gain advanced standing for their existing VET qualifications and industry experience, and be offered truncated degree programs. This may be hard for some within universities to approve as they are constantly struggling to defend the quality and integrity of their institute’s programs.’
In the absence of a unified tertiary education system, recommended way back in 2009 by the Bradley Review, it might be time to charter the VET sector with ITE for VETiS teachers.