Inside International CTE: Australia

April 29th, 2015

This interview with Dr. Phillip Rutherford, one of the world’s leading experts on VET/CTE training and education systems, explores the CTE/VET system in Australia. He has been central in the introduction of such systems in many countries, including the United Kingdom, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, South East Asia, and the Middle East. The interview was conducted by Katie Fitzgerald of NASDCTEc and is part of our ongoing series examining international education systems in partnership with Asia Society’s Global Learning blog on Ed Week.

  1. What is the progression of Vocational Education and Training (VET)/CTE in Australia?australia

The VET system in Australia is unique in that it was among the first in the world to identify, on a national basis, the skills and knowledge required of competent employees in the workplace. Competent, in this respect, meaning not only the possession of certain skills and knowledge but also the proven ability to apply these in different situations and contexts, individually as well as in teams (where necessary), and in a managed, self-directed and self-motivated way.

This enabled employers to have greater control over what was taught to potential employees and helped smooth their pathway into the workforce. However, over the years the processes has become more aligned with what adult educators are capable of teaching as opposed to what workplaces need, and has begun to lose its direct connection to the workplace. So even though VET in Australia continues to focus on trades and entry-level professional skills, those who teach within this system are expected to be in continuous touch with what current and future employers want from graduates of their courses even though that is not always possible. For example, in a large city it is easy to teach ICT programs on the assumption that students have access to a wide range of technology and software, whereas in a small country center it has to be assumed that students do not have such access. Regardless of access to the technology or industry, the curriculum remains pretty much the same and is just contextualized to local conditions.

One unique feature of Australia’s VET system is that the standards against which vocational curricula are developed are based on the skills and knowledge required within individual industries, and are created to meet the needs of specific industries and trade sectors. They are not aligned against individual workplaces but are sufficiently flexible to enable trainers to contextualize their programs to meet the needs of local and regional employers.

Students’ skills and knowledge can then be assessed on the job and under realistic working conditions. Once students meet the standards – whether through the studies they undertake as part of the course or by bringing forward skills and knowledge they gained elsewhere – they receive the same certification as someone who entered the training program directly.

  1. Please describe the landscape of Career Technical Education/VET in Australia:

What percentage of the student population is a CTE/VET student?

Students in Australia completing their secondary studies go either directly to university as undergraduates or into the labor market. Therefore, under law, all students must take part in VET studies, either integrated with their academic subjects or as stand-alone apprenticeships or trainee programs as part of their secondary education.

VET is taught in schools as a means of giving all students part or all of a vocational qualification (certificate) prior to entry into the workforce. Like the U.S., each state in Australia has a slightly different approach to VET where some schools have comprehensive VET programs which they run themselves or programs which are conducted by an external training organisation and provide students with real workplace experience. Regardless of where the program is conducted, the standards remain the same across the country.

What sectors/fields of study does it encompass? Which are most popular with students?

The Australian VET/CTE system encompasses almost every trade, para-professional or professional field found in the workplace. The only areas not covered are those for which students must attend university to study such as engineering, medicine and dentistry. Therefore, students are able to study any subject they wish, just so long as the school has the capacity to support them.

The choice of fields usually depends on student interest and the competencies required in those areas where they intend to seek work. For example, in rural areas subjects of study such as agriculture, water control, horticulture, transportation and nursing are very popular, while in urban locals subjects such as IT and management tend to attract the most students. There are also a lot of international students studying in Australia and they pursue skills that they can utilize when they return to their home countries.

How is CTE/VET funded in Australia (publicly, privately, by federal or local funds, etc.)?

Funding for VET comes from three sources:

For VET in secondary school programs, funding comes from the state government and is subsidized by families and, in some cases, employers who train and assess students in the workplace.

National programs, such as programs for unemployed people and the socially disadvantaged, are funded by the state government as a study assistance loan. This means the costs of the VET program must be paid back when the individual graduates and earns above a certain wage. This is in effect, a loan paid by the state to the student (but paid directly to the training provider) that the student does not have to repay until they achieve an income above a certain level.

Finally, individuals and/or the organisation with whom they are employed can pay on a fee-for-service basis. VET in Australia is not only taught in schools, but also by public and private training providers who serve secondary students, employees of companies and individuals who sign up to learn new skills or enhance those they already have. School-based apprenticeships and traineeships are generally run in conjunction with a private training provider. The government largely funds the creation of the curriculum against which all VET training is conducted, and provides a quality assessment of training providers registered to offer nationally-accredited courses. The training is conducted by qualified trainers who are employed by either public colleges (known as Technical and Further Education – TAFE – colleges) or private for-profit or not-for-profit training organisations.

CTE is integrated within a framework or hierarchy of qualifications (certificates) known as the Australian Qualifications Framework. This framework starts with foundational knowledge and skills and increases in industry-specific knowledge as students move through their education and training. For example, Certificate I focuses on entry-level skills, Certificate II on skills for competent or experienced employees, Certificate III on skills for supervisors or those who need greater depth of understanding and so on. The VET hierarchy has eight certification levels with the last two integrated with undergraduate degrees providing students with the opportunity to earn Bachelors and Doctorate degrees. The certification structure is funded by the federal government, which provides financial support to industry bodies at the state level that create and administer the curriculum for each vocational or professional area.

  1. What are the major goals of VET/CTE in Australia?

There have been many objectives of the VET system but the most recent one is more of a statement of purpose than objective: ‘….enable students to gain qualifications for all types of employment, and specific skills to help them in the workplace.’

While it isn’t the most inspiring goal, we consider it to be accurate and achievable. As can be seen, however, this ‘purpose’ has more to do with what the trainer or educator does than what the student achieves as a result.

Katie Fitzgerald, Communications Associate

Inside International CTE: Switzerland Part Two

March 26th, 2015
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A Swiss manufacturing apprentice demonstrates his work. Photo courtesy of Heather Singmaster.

Today Heather Singmaster continues her interview with Ursula Renold, head of the Education Systems field of research in the KOF Swiss Economic Institute on the Swiss vocational education and training system (VET or career and technical education system as we call it here in the U.S.). This is presented in partnership with Asia Society’s Global Learning blog on Ed Week .

Many consider the Swiss system one of the best in the world. But every system has its challenges – what are yours? What are some solutions you are looking to implement?

There are specific areas we have identified as challenges and solutions we are pursuing:

Demographic changes: We have an aging workforce and not enough students to replace them in the VET system. Therefore, we are looking at ways to “re-tool” all employees and raise their productivity with further education.

Potential perception issues: We continue to fear that too many parents will insist their children pursue a university pathway instead of the VET pathway, thereby weakening the economy (something experienced by Denmark, which also had a strong apprenticeship program). An international dialog and exchange of knowledge on the importance of VET competences to close the 21st century middle skills gap is one of the solutions to this problem. Another route is to connect the worldwide community of scholars and experts, which could provide the evidence and the rationale for well-balanced educational diversity.

Globalization: The increase of international companies working in Switzerland threatens the VET system. These companies do not have a tradition of VET and are therefore less supportive of the system. It is very important to launch an information campaign for multi-national companies and newcomers to Switzerland who are not familiar with the VET system so that they can understand the comparatively outstanding outcomes of our VET system.

What do you think the future of VET/CTE in your country looks like?

I am confident our VET system will evolve in line with the changes in the world of work because of the role industry associations play in defining curriculum content and educational standards. These partners will continue to adapt those frameworks to meet the future needs of their industries every three to five years. Due to the fact that technology-forward companies often advance such revisions, small to medium size companies will continue to profit from spillover effects because they too will have to apply the best available technology if they would like to offer an apprenticeship. We also anticipate apprenticeships forming in new and additional industries if there is a need due to the high flexibility of our system.

What advice do you have for other systems attempting to reform their VET/CTE systems? What are some of the policies in Switzerland that could assist others in overcoming the challenges they face in VET/CTE?

That’s maybe the most difficult question. There is no simple solution for other countries. One has to take into consideration the context and ecosystem of a country. But there is one crucial aspect, which should be carefully analyzed: What is the link between education and employment systems – e.g. governance, curriculum design and curriculum application? According to my experience, most countries that are trying to reform their CTE/VET system are struggling with this issue and do not know how to bridge education and employment systems in an effective way. Therefore, our Swiss Economic Institute (ETHZ) is launching a policy development program for education policy leaders that includes a summer policy seminar to help participants to tackle these problems and to assist them in building capacity in their own region. For more information please contact me: ursula.renold@kof.ethz.ch

Follow NASDCTEc, Heather, and Asia Society on Twitter.

Katie Fitzgerald, Communications Associate

Inside International CTE: CTE in Switzerland

March 24th, 2015

Today Heather Singmaster interviews Ursula Renold, head of the Education Systems field of research in the KOF Swiss Economic Institute on the Swiss vocational education and training system (VET or career and technical education system as we call it here in the U.S.). This is the second in our series on international best practice in career and technical education (CTE), presented as part of our ongoing partnership with Asia Society’s Global Learning blog on Ed Week . 

1. What is the progression of Vocational Education and Training (VET)/CTE in Switzerland?

Please see the chart below as well.

Students chose at age 15 if they want to pursue a traditional university route or if they will follow the vocational education pathway. All young people from eighth grade on have access to comprehensive guidance counselling. This includes access to a national, online database of available apprenticeships, career testing to see where their skills match to job or academic requirements and then assistance with applying for an apprenticeship. VET students will learn and work at an apprenticeship for three or four years, while simultaneously continuing their studies in math, science, languages, etc. These studies are tied to their career – so they are learning in the classroom and then applying those skills on the job every week.

When they finish they earn either a Certificate (for the two-year apprenticeships) or a diploma (for three- or four-year apprenticeships). More academically gifted young adults can earn a Federal Vocational Baccalaureate degree at the same time as or after the apprenticeship. This will allow them to enter directly into a University of Applied Sciences, which is a university that specializes in applied research and development. With an additional year of general education, young adults with a Federal Vocational Baccalaureate can even enter directly in a conventional university.

We have built in a high degree of permeability in the system, which allows for a multitude of career pathways for young people. There are no dead ends. With every degree there comes further education options, thus VET is a very solid foundation for lifelong learning

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2. Please describe the landscape of Career Technical Education/VET in Switzerland:

  • What percentage of the student population is a CTE/VET student? 

Two out of three young adults are enrolled in VET/CTE, compared to the 25 percent of young adults who pursue the traditional university route after leaving compulsory school. However, we found that many of those students end up switching over to the vocational education pathway after a year of university or vice versa. Those with a VET background may continue their studies at universities.

  • What sectors/fields of study does it encompass? Which are most popular with students?

Switzerland offers around 230 VET pathways for young adults between the ages of 15 and 19. The most popular VET sector is the commercial sector, covering about 25 percent of all apprenticeships and including industries such as banking, finance, manufacturing, retail and travel. Other highly favored VET pathways are health care and information technology (IT).

  • How is CTE/VET funded in Switzerland (publicly, privately, by federal or local funds, etc.)

The VET system is run and paid for by three partners working together – the federal government (or Confederation), the states (26 Cantons) and around 600 professional organizations representing industry. Both the government and the education community are clear that the system works because it is designed to meet the needs of industry. Therefore, the VET system enjoys enormous support from the employer community. The government works closely with business to set the standards and design the curriculum, putting industry associations in the driver seat for setting program expectations and content.

Business also provides the apprenticeships and pays for more than half of the cost of the system because they regard the apprenticeship as a mid-term investment in their future workforce. Periodic cost-benefit analyses show that the costs are offset by the productivity of the apprentices during the two-, three-, or four-year apprenticeships. Employers see the system as beneficial both to themselves as well as to the students who gain experience, are paid good wages (averaging between US$700 – $1,000/month) and are treated with respect as adults.

3. What are the major goals of VET/CTE in Switzerland?

Among others, the VET/CTE system should provide young professionals with the knowledge and skills relevant to the labor market so that they easily find a well-paying and satisfying job. The VET system should articulate the skills required by the labor market. Hence, the VET system has to secure the volume of labor market quantitatively and qualitatively that is necessary for prosperity and social development.

Come back on Thursday for part two when Ursula discusses the common challenges of CTE/VET in Switzerland and the world and provides advice on overcoming them.

Follow NASDCTEc, Heather, and Asia Society on Twitter.

Katie Fitzgerald, Communications Associate

CTE in Singapore: Looking to the Future

February 13th, 2015

Today we continue our joint series on international CTE practice and programs with Education Week’s Global Learning. This is the second part of Heather Singmaster’s interview with Mr. TAN Seng Hua, Dean, ITE Academy in Singapore and one of the architects of Singapore’s CTE/VET system. Be sure to also read Part 1. 

Q: What are the challenges VET/CTE faces? What are some solutions you are looking to implement?

A: There are multiple challenges faced by CTE globally. First, we need to ensure that the training programs are up-to-date and the curriculum is able to address the skilled manpower (workforce) needs of the economy. Working in close partnership with employers to plan and design the CTE curriculum, developing an authentic learning environment, and providing real work and workplace experience to the students are essential approaches adopted by ITE.

Second, we need to understand the profile of CTE students and their learning behavior to better design pedagogic approaches and enrichment activities to bring out their full potential. Pedagogic innovation to make training fun and engaging will further help to develop and retain the interest of students in CTE, given their preference for activity-based learning. To a certain extent, ITE colleges are designed as “Education Wonderlands”, allowing students to acquire relevant skills and knowledge through fun and authentic learning activities.

Q: What is the role of employers/labor/industry in your VET/CTE system? 

A: Partnership with industry is a key strength of Singapore’s CTE system. Over the years, ITE has established a network of industry partners to support its training programmes. These are industry leaders in their respective fields locally and globally, and they support ITE in the setting of skill standards and curriculum design, workplace training and attachment, skills promotion and marketing, employment and engagement of our graduates, sponsorship of students and industry project collaboration, and constructive feedback on both the performance of our student interns/graduates and the improvement needed in our training structure and contents.

The labor movement in Singapore is also very active in promoting the importance of skills acquisition among their members. Many of the union leaders play the role of “skills champions” to encourage their members to acquire new skills and train for deeper skills to improve their career advancement opportunities and enhance their earning power.

Q: What do you think the future of VET/CTE in Singapore looks like?

A: CTE will continue to be a key component of Singapore’s education system in the years ahead. It is a key strength of our education and human resource development structure and a major contributing factor to the success of Singapore’s economic development over the past few decades.

Moving forward, CTE in Singapore would evolve to further engage the employers in the training of the present and future workforce. While the present college-based CTE system has worked well in the past to prepare the youths for the workplace, given the fast changing economy and technology, the skilled manpower needs of the employers have also changed rapidly. To avoid a potential mismatch of the competency of our graduates with the skills demand of the employers amid this shorter product and technology life-cycle, we need to work in close partnership to redesign our curriculum to enable the acquisition of industry-specific and new skills at the workplace.

Q: What advice do you have for other systems attempting to reform their VET/CTE systems? What are some of the policies in Singapore that could assist others in overcoming the challenges they face in VET/CTE?

A: ITE in Singapore has gone through waves of transformation in the past two decades. We have raised the quality and image of CTE in Singapore and gained the acceptance and recognition by employers, parents, students, and the community as a whole that CTE is a viable post-secondary education option that can prepare youth for a rewarding career.  We have developed three world-class campuses, designed to provide authentic learning environment to support the total development of our students. We have also developed an innovative curriculum structure to better prepare our students for the changing work environment in industry, and creative pedagogy to inject fun learning in CTE. Last but not least, we have put in place a strong and effective academic quality assurance system to instill professional pride and discipline among our CTE leaders and staff to continually improve our CTE system and delivery.

The success of ITE in Singapore is a result of system review and staff competency at all levels. There are many useful lessons that could be shared with the global CTE community. At the national level, there are important policy decisions, which must be addressed to position CTE appropriately in relation to the education and economic development of the nation. At the institution level, the philosophy of education and the strategic focus of the management team will determine the quality and relevance of the programs offered, and at the individual level, the passion and commitment to provide innovative solutions and learning activities will contribute to the success of the CTE system in developing and retaining the interest of students.

Our success story has attracted the interest of many countries globally. We have frequent visit requests from the CTE community globally, and many of these visits ended up with requests for assistance to review/enhance their CTE system and development of their CTE leadership and professional competency. Currently, we have CTE consultancy projects in some 25 countries around the world, and they cover a wide spectrum of areas including CTE Infrastructure Planning and Development, CTE Leadership Development, CTE Technology and Pedagogic Development, CTE Assessment and Certification Systems, and CTE Academic Quality Assurance System.

 Follow the ITE and Heather on Twitter.

Katie Fitzgerald, Communications Associate

CTE in Singapore: Education Wonderlands – Part 1

February 11th, 2015

We are delighted to announce our partnership with Education Week’s Global Learning blog to bring you a monthly profile of international practice in Career Technical Education (CTE) or Vocational Education and Training (VET), which it is called in many countries. To start us off, Heather Singmaster, the Assistant Director of Education with the Asia Society, interviewed Mr. TAN Seng Hua, Dean, ITE Academy in Singapore and one of the architects of Singapore’s CTE/VET system. This interview will be in two parts, so be sure to check back with us on Friday to learn what Mr. Tan sees as challenges facing CTE around the world, and how to overcome them. 

Q: What is the progression of VET/CTE in Singapore? 

A: Structured as post-secondary education options, CTE in Singapore collectively enrolls some 65% of each cohort of students (aged 17 and above), who have completed at least 10 years of academic education, including four years at the secondary school level. Please see the following chart depicting the education system in Singapore. (Editors Note: Or view an interactive chart.)

sg-education-landscape-printsm

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Based on their career interests and national exam results, students with keen interest in technical and vocational education may apply to either a Polytechnic college for a “para-professional/technical specialist” level of training or the Institute of Technical Education (ITE) for “technical skills” training. Those who do well in these programs will be able to progress further within the Singapore education system. For instance, students can progress from ITE colleges to a Polytechnic and eventually to a university.

To prepare these students for CTE options, the curriculum of the secondary schools in Singapore places great focus on English language, mathematics, and sciences. Students are also given opportunities to participate in career guidance activities such as the Experience ITE Programme during their secondary school education. Similarly, secondary school educators are engaged in learning journeys to the CTE colleges to better prepare them for a career and education counseling role in the secondary schools.

Q: What sectors/fields of study does VET encompass? Which are most popular with students?

A: ITE offers a wide range of courses including manufacturing, engineering, info-comm technology, business and services, design and media, applied science, health sciences, and hospitality-related training. These courses are regularly reviewed and new courses are introduced based on the demand for these skills projected by the various sectors of the economy and government economic agencies. As of January 2015, there are more than 100 different courses offered by ITE. Based on recent trends, those related to services and certain niche courses such as aerospace technology appear to be more popular among applicants of full-time ITE courses. For adult learners, their choice of training is largely steered by their job requirements and career aspirations.

Q: How is CTE/VET funded in Singapore?

A: Singapore views CTE as an investment by the government to enhance the competitiveness of the nation. The cost of ITE education is almost fully funded by the government, up to 97%. Students only need to pay a nominal portion of the fees to show their commitment to the training. Needy students from low-income families will be further supported by private funds donated by foundations, employers, the community, and individual donors.

For working adults attending continuing education and training at ITE, their course fees are also heavily subsidized by the government, in addition to sponsorships given by their employers. The main objective is to encourage more working adults to develop a culture of life-long learning and regularly upgrade and update their skills and knowledge to remain relevant in this fast changing world.

Q: What are the major goals of VET/CTE in Singapore?

A: The main goal of CTE in Singapore is to maintain its relevance to the workforce needs of the economy. This is a great challenge as there may be a mismatch between the interests and aspiration of youth and the manpower demand of the employers. Working closely with employers to enhance the career development opportunities in their respective technical sectors, to provide good career counseling, and to make CTE fun and attractive for youth, are key strategies to ensure the success of CTE.

Follow Singapore’s ITE and Asia Society on Twitter.

Seng Hua TAN has spent more than four decades planning and transforming the Vocational and Technical Education (VTE) in Singapore. In his previous appointment as Deputy CEO (Academic) of ITE, Mr. Tan led a major project to revamp all training courses of ITE from single occupation oriented to Career-Cluster Based Curriculum, incorporating work-based and personal life skills learning to prepare ITE students for the fast changing work environment.

Katie Fitzgerald, Communications Associate

 

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