Last issue we highlighted a paper developed by AiG on the future of apprenticeships in Australia

This article follows up on initiatives between the European Centre for the Development of Vocational Training (Cedefop), and the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development’s Centre for Skills.

The publication spans a wide range of topics

The publication, which can be accessed here, was a collaboration between the European Centre for the Development of Vocational Training (Cedefop), and the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development’s Centre for Skills. It arose from the first joint Cedefop/OECD symposium on the next steps for apprenticeship held in Paris in late 2019.

It covers a range of topics and countries, including apprenticeships in Sweden, Germany, Swizerland and England. The topics are interesting too, including a chapter on graduate apprenticeship programs, another on shaping the relationship between vocational and academic education and a third on making apprenticeships a top-tier destination by asking the question: How can we make apprenticeships more attractive to learners? These are all topics we are well familiar with here in Australia.

Another topic focuses on attractiveness and excellence and, for VET programs, the chapter defines excellence in terms of “a holistic approach that emphasises smart specialisation, inter-disciplinary co-operation and quality assurance [at the] individual, organisational and (inter-)national level.” Excellence in VET, amongst other things:

“enables learners to acquire vocational and key competences through high-quality provision that is underpinned by quality assurance, builds innovative forms of partnerships with the world of work, and is supported by the continuous professional development of teaching and training staff, innovative pedagogies, and internationalisation strategies.”

The Macklin Review is pretty much singing from the same hymn book, and let’s not forget the skills reform process the Commonwealth is currently undertaking, which we highlighted in VDC News here.

Other topics covered in particular chapters include understanding creativity as an occupation-specific competence, developing innovative learning cultures in apprenticeships and the concept of shared apprenticeships, involving rotation through different workplaces and the potential benefits this brings for companies and apprentices. This is something that can be seen readily in Australia through the work of Group Training Organisations.

What this means

The publication demonstrates how governments across Europe and the OECD “have invested considerable resources in improving apprenticeship provision.” They have introduced and reformed apprenticeships in order “to reach ever more learners, both young people and increasingly adults.” Moreover:

“The consistent aim has been to ensure that apprenticeships are attractive to learners, to employers and to society, providing apprentices with skills demanded by employers while contributing to societal and economic wellbeing.”

Apprenticeships are deep in work-based learning, or should be. However, apprenticeships reflect the societies, economies and education systems in which they are located. This makes comparisons interesting but sometimes tricky, but there are lessons that can be learnt by looking across the range of approaches adopted. This does not mean that ideas can necessarily be picked up and readily dropped into another system such as Australia’s though. However, the first chapter of the publication sees a few important next steps.

The big messages of the publication include, first: the need to safeguard the purpose and function of apprenticeships to maintain and build a strong identity. Second, it argues for embracing a better convergence between general and vocational education. Indeed,

“technological change is breaking down the historic divide between two styles of learning. For both general/theoretical and vocational/ practical learners, technology allows knowledge and skills to become more easily accessible, with consequences for both educational preparation and workplace demands.”

And this is a discussion that is going on in Australia at present too as apprenticeships adapt to the requirements of the new world of work.

Finally, the publication suggests ‘aiming high’ to promote greater movement between vocational and higher general education so that educational opportunities become ‘more permeable.’ It needs to do this by pursuing attractiveness and excellence, the publication maintains. All of this requires a responsive VET system: a system that is concerned with “who is taught VET, what they are taught and how they are taught.”