From education to employment

Australian VET Report Finds Sector Playing “Critical Role” in Regional Development

The debate regarding the most efficient way for the Government and for training providers (indeed, FE in general) to engage with communities, businesses and individuals is one that occupies decision makers in Britain.

The restructuring of the Learning and Skills Council (LSC) and the re ““ appraisal of the regional and local learning provision would appear to indicate that there is an awareness that local and regional provision can be more responsive to the changing demands placed upon it. If an example is sought outside the UK of how great an impact such regional provision can have, one only needs to turn to Australia, where the Vocational Education and Training (VET) sector has been found to contribute both socially and economically.

Social and Economic Concerns

The report in question, called “Building learning communities: Partnerships, social capital and VET performance”, tackles the issue of building on the capacity of a region; using the resources to hand in the most efficient manner. The report builds on the existing data in the regions of Australia, but takes a broader approach, seeking to add what they describe as a “qualitative dimension” to the existing data that has been gathered and utilised.

The report focuses on the concept of learning communities and the fact that there has been a shift in this direction. The belief is that this is not simply pragmatic – involving people and institutions in gaining and developing the knowledge and skills necessary for effective regional development in a knowledge economy and learning society – but also represents a creative cultural and social opportunity for Australia. Learning infrastructures and processes in the regional development agenda can be developed through the implementation of effective VET partnerships.

The report also considers the improvement that could be made, however. It looks at the changes that VET might have to make in order to better engage in the economic and social development of regions. It also notes that, as in the UK, higher education still enjoys a certain prestige in terms of reputation. However, the VET sector is still seen in Australia as crucial to issues of employment and skills development, for both school leavers and those re-entering the workforce.


The proof of a study, of course is in the eating; but any good chef will state that the process of preparation is everything. As such, two sets of indicators were used to evaluate the responses of the study; the first, to deepen and broaden the understanding of the performance of the VET sector within partnerships; and the second, to measure the performance of VET through an assessment of regional development and the growth of learning based communities. Broadly speaking, the impact of VET is largely drawn from the viability, longevity and resilience of the partnerships involved.

The report determined that VET partnerships had “created and mobilised social capital, as well as human, environmental, cultural and built (that is, physical) capital”. This was seen as crucial for sustainable development (another theme that has been highlighted in the UK, and should be taken note of). They have also encouraged both individual confidence – through skills provision, life enhancement and the improvement of career prospects ““ and community confidence ““ through the above means as well as improving participation and involvement amongst the community in question with the delivery of targeted and relevant training schemes.

The report did determine that there was still room for improvement, however. It suggested a more individually focussed approach above the modular and package model, especially amongst the indigenous population in Australia. Whilst leadership is sometimes good, VET partnerships are urged to participate more fully in the regional development strategies (often not engaged with through competition demands), to the benefit of both the region concerned and the VET sector. The VET sector could also improve upon the current delivery through small local centres.

Therefore, whilst there is much that others could learn from the integration of the VET sector into development strategies in Australia, there is also much that needs changing there. As the report states in it’s executive summary: “The experience, leadership and social capital are there, and it is time now to consolidate these activities to more explicitly benefit and complement regional development.”

One truly notable area in which Australia’s system appears to be leading, however, is the awareness of the impact that social development and personal development can have on productivity. Blending the two motivations for learning ““ the economic motive, which would appear to be the focus of the British Government, and the social and community motive ““ can lead to a much more effective and productive individual, community, society and economy. It is difficult to picture success in some without success in all.

Jethro Marsh

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