I recently facilitated a Vocational Education and Training (VET) Sector workshop in COFFS HARBOUR NSW through BAM Community Pty Ltd. What an amazing experience. The opportunity to network with purely positive and passionate professionals is always powerful.
It was an opportunity to reflect on the Australian VET Sector. A sector that has undergone tremendous change and tumultuous scrutiny. It is also an industry that I have been proud to be a part of for many years. It is an industry that has attracted much criticism – and with a lot of this criticism coming from within the sector. Are these signs of a sector in crisis?
Henry Ford, the Ford Motor Company visionary and innovator once said, “Whether you believe you can do a thing or not, you are right.” So, starting today, I would like to expand the boundaries of believing about Vocational Education. He also said to “be ready to revise any system, scrap any method, abandon any theory, if the success of the job requires it”. Today, VET needs to adapt the ‘WE CAN DO’ belief instead of I “I can’t believe what they have done!”. It is a mindset change about VET from people within VET.
This is a paradigm shift. The Cambridge dictionary defines paradigm shift as a time when the usual and accepted way of doing or thinking about something changes completely. (https://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/paradigm-shift).
It is time for a paradigm shift about VET from within VET. Vocational Education needs to change the way we talk about VET and how we choose to experience VET. Oldhabits may protect the status quo and positive changes may feel unfamiliar and uncomfortable. Fear may tell you that if you try, you will only fail – need to be released – to go – to die.
These paradigms can be very powerful and need to change. With consistent effort and some awareness of what to look for, VET CAN overcome these.
Moving forward in a productive and authentic way means that the sector must work to overcome these paradigms. It is important to remember that VET must move forward, although an element of the sector may wish to maintain their current reality. Navigating change always involves a choice — Can or will Vocational Education and Training in Australia step up or not?
HOW DO WE SHIFT THE PARADIGM?
VET in Australia is changing. The programs – with more courses and the courses changing so quickly. The structure – with more private RTO’s and the regulatory processes are all elements undergoing change. Change is afoot in VET. As a workforce we must change our paradigm to keep up because change can be difficult, it can be challenging but it can also bring immeasurable rewards to the sector, the community and the nation. We have to do VET right.
There are three important steps to managing this shift:
1. Be brave enough as VET Professionals to remain positive about the industry we serve – advocate, don’t decimate,
2. Stay quality focused – know that the system is not perfect – it works with humans (and we are imperfect beings). Don’t get distracted by imperfection, realign with quality and plan to improve things. Improve attitude.
3. Collaborate with positive and passionate professionals– share ideas, plan workshops, be open to upskill as a trainer and assessor by learning. Enroll in programs where you collaborate with other VET Professionals. Edge towards the uncomfortable to change, talk with others, be honest and open. Be vulnerable and build authenticity and meaning back into VET.
High-quality vocational education and training is vital to Australia’s economic prosperity. It provides the skills and knowledge that students need to make a productive contribution to the national workforce.
(https://www.asqa.gov.au). We have to do VET right – positive change, through building quality and collaboration.