A recent delegation of Victorian Minister for Training and Skills and Minister for Higher Education, Gayle Tierney and industry leaders looked at how Australia can learn from European education and training systems to ensure best-practices in preparing a future workforce.
Visiting Finland, England, and Scotland, Michael Grogan, national director of skills and training at the Advanced Manufacturing Growth Centre, who joined the delegation, highlighted that Australia has much to learn from education systems in each of these countries.
Grogan distilled these messages into three points. Noting the importance of lifelong learning, Grogan noted that education should continue throughout a career.
“Too often we focus on school-leavers and apprentices and neglect our existing workforce. It is vital that members of Australia’s existing workforce are trained and re-trained throughout their careers, and the right courses and facilities are on offer to expedite this training.”
Clarifying connections between different levels of education was also brought to light.
“We must create a post-secondary education and training system with clear and flexible pathways between higher education and VET. Even if school leavers are unable to attain the ATAR they need, there must be other options and pathways available,” said Grogan.
Another area of importance, highlighted Grogan, was how education can adapt to changes in industry, something Australia was not keeping pace with.
“Apprenticeships and degrees need to be much more flexible—even within the four or five years that an apprenticeship or degree takes, industry is undergoing rapid transformation. This is where micro-credentialing could help.”
Examples seen throughout the trip reinforced these messages. Grogan noted that in England, students could progress through various stages of education with their prior learning recognised.
“The model offers different pathways, which can be particularly beneficial for students who learn differently. England’s model offers stronger recognition of prior learning, and promotes more flexible articulation between school, college (or TAFE),and university,” he said.
Industry also needed to be involved, as a visit to BAE Systems in Scotland highlighted.
“BAE Systems told us that they will have to retrain their existing workforce—not new graduates—in the next five years, and then again in the five years after that. They cited rapid rates of change in industry and technology as the reason for this training. While a job might remain the same, the processes that their employees are using to complete the job are changing rapidly,” said Grogan.