The first VET SIG meeting addressed the so-called “model of continuous improvement”.

Inadequate support for VET

Joan Lemaire
Senior Vice President

Lack of resources and unreasonable demands continue to impact on vocational education and training (VET) students and teachers.

This became clear at the first meeting of the Vocational Education and Training Special Interest Group (SIG), attended by more than 40 VET teachers from across the metropolitan area on February 13.

Last year, Federation surveyed VET members and pursued the issues raised with the Department. At that time the Department was reducing its 10 registered training organisations to four. It is apparent the changes have not addressed the issues.

Federation is seeking further meetings with the Department.

A major concern for VET teachers attending the SIG meeting was the so-called “model of continuous improvement” that the Australian Skills Quality Authority (ASQA) has adopted nationally for all VET framework courses. This model has resulted in constant changes in VET syllabuses, with short timeframes for implementation. Students may enrol for one qualification only to find out mid-course that ASQA has changed it to a different qualification which may impose new requirements. The rate of change creates considerable difficulty for teachers and students. These difficulties are exacerbated by a lack of sufficient time and resources from the Department of Education and Communities to adjust to the changes.

The changes imposed by ASQA also result in teachers being required by the Department, through its Registered Training Organisations, to frequently update industry-specific requirements despite being fully qualified teachers holding a Certificate IV in Training and Assessment as well as possessing relevant industrial skills and experience. Teachers are constantly required to “retrain” in relation to basic competencies which have already been demonstrated and certified. The so-called “retraining” imposes a significant additional workload without adequate release and relief.

In essence, teachers are being required to continuously retrain in order to teach similar skills and competencies on the basis that this will allow them to adjust and update teaching programs. Teachers are professionals, well qualified to not only make such adjustments but also to support an individual student’s particular learning needs. The so-called retraining is professionally demeaning. It is clear that the Department through its registered training organisations has failed to put in place procedures which establish that teachers have the relevant industry skills and competencies as well as their qualifications as a teacher, trainer and assessor.

Teachers also identified a lack of support and effective communication from the Department’s Registered Training Organisations on requirements for compulsory training upgrades. This results in teachers constantly being required to resubmit proof of their current VET qualifications. Federation will call on the Department to establish a database with all relevant information to prevent this unnecessary work.

The issue of unrealistic and excessive demands to document and provide evidence regarding the assessment of student competencies was also raised at the meeting. In addition, teachers have been told to undertake tasks such as photographing, scanning or videoing student work and then uploading those files into a data storage “cloud”.

Those attending the meeting felt the requirements for work-placement in all VET courses created significant demands on schools and teachers. Teachers reported difficulty finding, supporting and administering suitable placements. These difficulties are exacerbated in rural and remote areas.

The next VET SIG meeting will be held on May 1 in Teachers Federation House, 23-33 Mary Street, Surry Hills, 4.30–6pm.

To join SIG, email research@nswtf.org.au. More than 60 teachers from rural and remote areas have registered their interest in becoming corresponding members.