Mid-June saw the release of an issues paper on VET in schools to support its review.

The review is aimed at finding ways to strengthen vocational pathways from school to employment for secondary school students.

The review process

The review involves an issues paper, focus groups with key stakeholders over 6 weeks, including a series of public forums being held in Adelaide, Mount Gambier and Whyalla in late June and early July. Finally, the review offers an opportunity of make a submission based around the series of issues with VET in schools covered in the paper.

As the review’s website points out:

“VET is a valuable contributor to secondary school learning for students, providing a recognised pathway to employment or further education and training. Completion of VET at school develops competencies that position young people well to participate in the workforce.”

In 2018, around 3,500 South Australian government school students undertook VET studies. These included a school-based apprenticeship or traineeship while completing their secondary studies. “Of these students, around 1,500 completed a full VET qualification.”

This review is one of a number that have been conducted or in progress. The ACT reviewed its VET in schools program in 2015, and you can take a look at the Future Directions report and the subsequent responses to it here. Western Australia did the same, with a report published in 2014. Another mainland state is also looking at VET in schools in its system at present.

A lot is going on, and there is a real focus on raising the status of VET studies at school. VDC News has highlighted this too last year and more recently.

What does the South Australian issues paper talk about?

The paper identifies 4 issues: perception, access, quality and relevance. A great summary can be found an article in the Adelaide Advertiser of 13 June, but this may require that you have access to their articles. So, we will try to summarise the 4 issues here.

Perception

VET in schools has an image problem we have highlighted in other VDC News articles. Schools can see it as a place to put at-risk students, but this ignores their far greater potential. Parents and other key influencers also don’t know enough about VET and its strong prospective job, well-being and salary outcomes. Fragmented information about VET and career options doesn’t help.

Access

Access can be affected by the availability of suitable funding. But student access is also affected by curriculum and timetabling flexibility, transport difficulties, thin markets, the availability of suitable workplace experiences and for Aboriginal students and those from low SES backgrounds. And:

“access to VET may be limited by the ability to build a critical mass of students and may require schools to work together within their alliance or with cross-sector schools to ensure VET opportunities are made available to school students.”

Quality

While the paper reports that “there are many excellent examples of high-quality VET being delivered to school students” there are quality issues too. Quality relies on high quality delivery and assessment, whether the school is a registered RTO itself, outsources to another registered RTO or has an appropriate auspicing arrangement. Quality assurance arrangements can be problematic in terms of resourcing and compliance, as can be the teaching qualifications and industry currency of those teaching VET in schools.

Finally, better information is needed on the outcomes and pathways of those taking VET in schools.

And finally, relevance

It is critical that VETiS training is relevant to employers, students and the South Australian economy, the paper points out. In addition: “Employers report that some school enrolled VET graduates are not work-ready and may lack the workplace and enterprise skills required by industry.”

Connectedness and partnerships between schools and their local employers can be an issue. Access to work experience and placements and sufficient hours of training is also an issue. However, “many schools lack the dedicated resources and in some cases the know-how to create opportunities and build relationships with industry.”

The Advertiser article notes that “the review of VET in schools policy coincides with reviews on VET funding and careers counselling in schools.” Changes will start being implemented as early as next year.