Conference Notes

The Seventh Annual Best Practice Teaching Forum, 8 - 9 December 2005.
Presenters: Di Riddell, Manager (Industry Initiatives, State Training Services, NSW) John Finch (Success Education and Training, New Zealand) David Day (Pilbara TAFE) Rob Wye (Director of Strategy and Communications, Learning and Skills Council (LSC), UK)


Labour market

The labour market and the nature of work itself is increasingly fragmented. Vocational Education and Training is not an answer in itself to labour market problems.

Some labour market experts are now looking at skill ecosystems. That is, skill shortages are holistic and comprise:

New training markets: older workers

The Welfare to Work Bill will force non-working people to find work, and they will need skills. This will probably create new training markets.

With the greying population, the greatest employment growth is the over 45s, but employers are reluctant to hire people over 40. Over 45s are dramatically increasing in numbers in VET. In fact, VET enrolments are generally up and VET is better understood. Women are more willing to increase their skills than men.

There is a push for licensing and regulation, and this generally means that people need formal training.


The employers' view

Employers use the VET system if it meets their needs; otherwise they circumvent it. They want training to be cost-effective, in the workplace, specific to their needs, and in plain English. However, the VET sector doesn't like plain English and its systems are difficult to navigate.

Industry sometimes expects training for tasks that are in planning but that they are not yet doing. But how do you train for something that doesn't yet exist? Besides, some employers don't want training until they have a labour or skill shortage, and try to avoid training whenever possible.

Here's some advice for training providers wanting to engage employers:


Generation Y

Generation Y (born after 1980) need to be treated very differently from their predecessors. Peter Shehan is the prominent author on cultural aspects of Gen. Y. Gen. Y has the following characteristics:

They tend to value training, management style, flexibility, staff activities, and non-financial rewards higher than money. For example some want to work only three days a week, to be able to flex work time around other things, and/or will wag work if the surf's up.

They tend to change jobs more often than previous generations and see the breadth of experience as valuable. The lack of loyalty to employers is at least partly due to employers' unwillingness to give them job security. (Employers give them casual jobs and will sack them on no notice.)

Skills are increasingly divided into: cognitive, technical, behavioural, and aesthetic skills (need to look and act right).

Employers who train gen Y need to be taught to manage gen Y.

In matters of learning, Gen Y doesn't want to take whatever is on offer. They want to develop their own unique combination of learning items, and access it and study it when they want. It might be provided on a website or a download to their iPods or mobiles phones.

Tip You can create little stories (150 words or less) to illustrate one point at a time, and that can be accessed in any order. That way, students can get whatever they want at any time.

Snippet 3.5 million Britons don't have adequate literacy skills for their employment.


Collaboration: At-risk youth

Students are often isolated through their own personal experience, positive forces (personal independence), and negative forces (no help offered).

Lateral thinkers get isolated very quickly because they think outside the box. They get bored with spoon-fed pat answers. These kids get their work either always right or always wrong.

Some kids are isolated through: well above average abilities, low self esteem, oppositional behavior, high energy, susceptibility to temptations (easily led astray), limited attention span, and desire to do well. Their care-givers (often parents) are tired, emotional and haggard.

Problem kids tend to collaborate because they are all similar to each other. Team-building can be very effective.

One key aspect of working with these kids is to form strategic partnerships. Partners can include:

At an institutional level, schools need to work with RTOs, and government agencies. They also need to align curriculum so they offer something useful to the kids, while still meeting school requirements.


Getting learning on-line

Online learning may include:

See See details and resources.

97% of respondents said over 50's had exactly the same problems getting into online learning, but are more fearful.

Older women tend to be early adopters and innovators in on-line learning.

To be effective in implementing on-line learning, release a person from the team to:

  1. be the champion
  2. produce resources
  3. mentor other staff (this is the most effective way to get staff into on-line learning, but is most time-consuming).
  4. start small, for example, by collecting assignments electronically.



Program management

(This section is based on the management of VET colleges in England.)

Get rid of poor quality provision through:

Intervene strongly in cases of poor provision.

Simplify funding arrangements