There is considerable policy attention on disadvantage, and disadvantaged groups. It includes Indigenous Australians, people with a disability, those from culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) backgrounds, people who are unemployed or learners with low prior educational attainments.

This article follows up on the “Disability and disadvantage in focus: What VET and others can do to help” article published in the April 11 issue of VDC’s newsletter.

Context and approach

VET enrolls students from a wide range of backgrounds, but their study success can be uneven. This is particularly so for those experiencing disadvantage. It is important to find what helps engage them in the learning process and maximizes their chances of success. The report drew on interviews, a range of survey and other data and case studies to help advise what might be termed ‘best practice’ delivery of teaching and learner support by VET’s providers.

The lessons

The lessons outlined below draw very heavily on the key messages from the report itself.

Lesson 1: The whole institution needs to commit

Supporting disadvantaged learners is successful when it is an institution-wide commitment. The institute should have a defined set of initiatives in place, such as providing learning support and intensive course and career guidance as well as matching more experienced staff with high-need learners, rather than relying on ad hoc practices. In addition, it needs to use flexible approaches to program delivery – for example delivering the program outside the institution in a community setting or co-locating education and training with other community services.

Lesson 2: The institution needs to build strong external relationships

Building strong relationships with employers and other service agencies in the community is important but requires adequate resourcing. These relationships help training providers gain a better understanding of their local community and the types of disadvantaged learners within it. Such relationships also help the institution to appreciate the available employment and labour market opportunities. This helps them better support their students.

Lesson 3: Support needs to be customized to ensure success

While diverse groups of disadvantaged learners are widely offered support, it is necessary to customise the support to the individual, particularly for culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) learners and learners with low levels of prior educational attainment. Support includes tailored services to the individual’s specific learning needs, such as extra literacy and numeracy support, as well as promoting the benefits of specific outreach programs in the community.   It must also be flexible and responsive.

Lesson 4: Collaboration is the key

The development of regional frameworks that coordinate relationships between local community groups and networks, VET providers, external agencies and regional labour markets would likely benefit all involved. Collaboration helps to develop a comprehensive and coherent approach to the engagement of disadvantaged learners and may help to strengthen the relationship between VET completion and relevant job opportunities. Community-based providers are often particularly good at this.