VET ‘a forgotten corner’ by Gonski

Experts in the sector say the Gonski review has ignored an opportunity to advance vocational education in The number of students doing Vocational Education and Training (VET) in Schools programs has steadily increased in recent years from 171,700 in 2006 to 233,800 in 2010, according to National Centre for Vocational Education Research statistics published in December 2011.
In 2010 that included 17,400 school-based apprentices and trainees and a further 216,500 other VET in Schools students. The Gonski review paper quotes the COAG target of lifting the year 12 or equivalent attainment rate to 90 per cent by 2015, and it specifically mentions the options available to complete year 12 though VET programs and the ability to obtain Australian Qualifications Framework qualifications in the process.
However, a lecturer in management at RMIT University, Dr Alan Montague, said the report “doesn’t even come close” to addressing improvements needed in school-based apprenticeships and traineeships and VET in Schools programs.“When you look at the link to VET, I can’t see it in the Gonski report at all, it seems to be a forgotten corner,” Montague told Education Review.
Montague, who has worked as a vocational counsellor and was manager of apprenticeships and traineeships at RMIT University for over 10 years, said part of the additional $5 billion per annum proposed in the report should be used towards getting secondary students access to the extensive TAFE facilities and resources that already exist around the country.“Secondary students are not allowed to be just part-time students in TAFE, why can’t those resources be used on a Saturday morning, for example,” said Montague, whose research areas include education policies and their impact on industry and post-compulsory education pathways.
There should be a mechanism to enable senior students to go in and use TAFE resources in electronics, plumbing, hairdressing, hospitality, cooking and so on, he said. To determine which TAFE resources can be linked to which students, Montague said an investment in career counsellors was needed to create a bridge between the two. He said while the report talked about linking students to work, employment and education, there was no mention of the key productive outcome, career counselling. He described the absence as a “gaping chasm” in the report and said that prescriptive career counselling was a must.
“Why on earth you would want to put a another $5 billion in without having somebody who’s extremely professional on the production line of education to link the key clients to their potential in the labour market, whether it’s VET or higher education.” He said he couldn’t understand how there was funding for chaplains in schools but not professionals to provide the signposts to advise students on their potential adult vocational life directions.
“Where are professionally trained people in the school to uncover the capabilities the standard curriculum does not uncover; to talk to students and their parents and suggest a VET pathway or higher education pathway to suit the skills of the particular people we’re referring to.” Montague further said the report seemed to miss students who were undertaking senior secondary qualifications in TAFE colleges altogether.
“The secondary school students that are in TAFE colleges seem to have been neglected completely by the Gonski report, some of the $5 billion should be moved to that area and assist some of the people in that sector.” They are often older and seeking to generate secondary school qualifications as a more mature student, he said.
On whether the recommendations would improve VET in Schools and other pathway programs, Montague said that would depend largely on the creativity of the principal at an individual school. Elsewhere, Kevin Gould, lecturer in economics at CQUniversity, who has experience with all school sectors, said a major omission in the recommended funding model was ignoring senior secondary schooling – years 11 and 12 – and school completion rates.
“A recommendation that all exit-year 10 students will be entitled to the financing of two years further study in school, VET, apprenticeship, would have been in keeping with the panel’s equity objective,” he said. Gould asked why the panel did not recommend a system of monitoring the educational progress and development of every student post-year 10 and until they obtained a year 12 certificate or equivalent. 

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