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Report points to fully-integrated VET

Campus Review, 22 August 2001

MORE needs to be done to address VET change management and staff development needs, according to a new study which specifically investigated what is required to achieve an integrated, national VET system.

At the national level, a more strategic approach to staff development and change management is required, the study says, including the advocacy of efficacious change management methods, identifying priority areas of staff development and providing more information about how to achieve a national VET system.

The study, titled High-skilled High-performing VET, was carried out by educational consultant John Mitchell and Susan Young, project manager of 'Framing the Future'. It was commissioned by the Australian National Training Authority in response to the report 'Re-framing the Future', which argued that the national staff development program 'Framing the Future' was effective but could achieve more.

According to the authors, 'Framing the Future' can be expanded to become more comprehensive in its coverage of staff development and change management needs to become the national support program underpinning the implementation of the national VET system.

The authors suggest the new name 'Reframing the Future' to signal this expansion of services.

"The vision for 'Reframing the Future' is that, by 2005, the fully integrated national VET system will be acknowledged world-wide as a key contributor to Australia's economic growth and social well-being," they say.

CEO of ANTA Moira Scollay said the report's findings would contribute to the ongoing training and development of Australia's VET practitioners.

"This study shows that Australia has world-class organisations and individuals and provides an insight into what makes them succeed," she said.

"Current information about good practice in the field in invaluable to both the VET and tertiary sector in developing education and training for VET practitioners."

According to Mitchell and Young, the external environment is becoming increasingly demanding for VET, with globalisation and information and communication technologies impacting upon industries, enterprises and individuals, generating a demand for new skills in the workforce.

"The changing Australian business and social landscape requires VET providers to conduct staff development to ensure the continuous re-skilling of an ageing and increasingly part-time and casual workforce," they say.

The study found that while the range of VET stakeholders have different views about the trends in the VET environment, they agree that much more needs to be done to ensure the industry-led national training system becomes more responsive to various needs and is implemented consistently.

The policy framework for this new environment is dominated by the current ministerial focus on national consistency, risk management and quality in the national training system.

"This policy imperative will need to be underpinned by the provision of new, comprehensive and national change management and staff development programs," Mitchell and Young note. At the moment the VET environment is turbulent with the emergence of many new trends creating challenges for the system, according to the study which notes that this situation creates both opportunities and threats for organisations.

The authors say that if VET organisations are to take advantage of the opportunities provided by the environment, they need to develop the following:

  • Multi-faceted strategic plans to identify priorities and to develop strategies to meet a wide range of needs;
  • The organisational structures, skills and resources, particularly the flexibility and creativity, to respond to such a complex environment.

VET stakeholders interviewed for the study agreed that much more needs to be done to ensure the national training system becomes more responsive to various needs and is implemented thoroughly.

During the course of interviews for the study many people advocated the need for forums and mechanisms to debate and critique the assumptions and construction of the national training framework, in terms of continual improvement. Criticisms included:

  • Asense that the national training framework was introduced in the mid-1990s in a top-down, dogmatic fashion, with few opportunities for those in the field of VET to influence or change the policy;
  • A sense that the national training framework ignored the skills and devalued the contribution of VET provider personnel who delivered institution-based training; and
  • A belief that the initial Training Packages were often of uneven quality.