And reclaiming lost ground for traineeships

As 2017 ran down, the Victorian Skills Commissioner (VSC) ramped up, launching a report with oomph. Rebalance and Relaunch will repay your attention. Its subtitle captures the intent: ‘Supporting Victoria’s economy by enhancing apprenticeship and traineeship pathways as a mechanism for skilling the future workforce.’ There’s loads of ambition in its 28 pages.

There are three ingredients in the recipe for relaunching apprenticeships and traineeships:

  1. Build a culture of co-investment by supporting employers who invest in apprenticeships and traineeships.
  2. Renew the focus on quality by investing in quality training and assessment based on industry demand.
  3. Elevate the status of apprenticeships and traineeships by promoting the benefits to employers, young people and the broader community.

Sound familiar? The difference is in how the ingredients are assembled. Bite sized proposals, written with verve and fizzing with potential for impact. The report blends the ingredients through four recommended action areas, each with elements relevant to VET practitioners and providers delivering apprenticeships and traineeships.

Recommended action area – better demand data

The first recommended action area is ‘Better demand data: to inform decision making.’ The VSC puts out the call for much improved collection and analysis of training and labour market data, the end product being skills demand profiles.

This de-emphasises the idea that supply is the issue for policy and funding. No, the issue is better data about skills demand, and steering policy, funding and provision towards meeting demand. Under this approach, highly valued apprenticeship and traineeship pathways are

‘clearly identified to inform funding decisions and student choice. Highly valued pathways can be identified as those that represent valued occupational roles, priority and growth industries, and areas where there is unmet demand or a reliance on imported labour.’

Recommended action area – targeted pilots

The second recommended action area is ‘Targeted pilots: to test approaches for

strategic, cultural change.’ Such change will rebuild confidence in the apprenticeship system, and the report suggests it’s best pursued within industry sectors. The VSC wants industry consortia (comprising employer and employee organisations, and employers of apprentices and trainees) to design and run pilots that

‘align apprenticeship and traineeship uptake with identified labour market demand. The pilots would aim to rebalance the apprenticeship and traineeship system by countering the current overreliance on training decisions based on supply-side information.’

The VSC envisages pilots in sectors facing clear labour and skill gaps, regional pilots focused on geographically significant industries, and pilots that pivot on the power of major projects.

Recommended action area – improving quality

Under the third recommended action area – ‘Proactive programs: to embed quality into

the apprenticeships and traineeships model’ – the VSC persuasively argues for improving quality of training outcomes through measures like producing high quality learning materials, trailing independent assessment of proficiency, and designing industry-driven pre-apprenticeship programs.