Outline the Recent History of Vocational Education and Training in Australia

Outline the Recent History of Vocational Education and Training in Australia
Institutional Affiliation
Outline the Recent History of Vocational Education and Training in Australia
In the recent past, business organisations have considered the workplace training as a
critical element in the creation of their strategies. They have treated workplace training as a
fundamental function that adds effectiveness and efficiency in their operations (Armson &
Whiteley, 2010). It is in this regard that numerous economies are pursuing measures to see the
enforcement of employee training policies by the business organisations. This piece of writing
provides a brief review of the history of vocational education and training (VET) in Australia. It
also critically examines the factors influencing the adoption and change in the national unified
VET system. VET has been described as a method adopted by organisations to empower the
workers by providing them with training so that they can develop certain professional skills.
Also, the paper discusses some of the philosophies underpinning the adoption of VET system. In
the course of the discussion of these issues, the paper describes the meanings of work-based
learning (WBL) and competency-based learning/training (CBL/CBT) and their role as well as
how they underpin VET.
Brief Review of the History of VET System in Australia
According to Robinson (2000), for the last 30 years, Australia has introduced substantial
reforms of the VET system with an intention of meeting the dynamic social and economic needs
of the country. The early reforms of the system can be traced back during the 1800s when the
craft-based apprenticeship system was ‘transported' from England (Robinson, 2000). Between
the 1800s and the 1960s, the country experienced a slow expansion of apprenticeships in certain
occupations and craft areas. Furthermore, in the course of that period, there was a gradual
establishment of technical secondary schools, technical colleges, mechanical institutes, and
vocational training and education institutions. In the 1970s, the country modernised the VET
system by introducing the Technical and Further Education (TAFE) institutes that were publicly
funded (Robinson, 2000). Additionally, the Government introduced the national subsidies for
apprenticeships. The National Centre for Vocational Education Research (NCVER) was later
established in the early 1980s. Following the Kirby Report of 1985, a traineeship system was
established to compliment apprenticeships (Robinson, 2000). The report also informed the
decision to execute the competency-based training in the late 1980s. Moreover, the establishment
of the Australian National Training Authority (ANTA) in 1992 marked a critical stepping stone
for the development of VET in Australia (Robinson, 2000). The organisation foresaw an increase
in the number of VET students in the country by about one million. The efforts of ANTA were
boosted by the establishment of the Australian Qualifications Framework (AQF) that made all
the training and education qualifications compulsory and categorised them under one national
qualification system.
It is important to note that, during the 1990s, the Australian Government developed the
National Training Packages that were to be applied across all the occupations and industries that
existed in the country (Robinson, 2000). This effort, together with the establishment of the
Australian Recognition Framework (ARF) in 1998, led to the number of VET students increasing
to approximately 1.5 million (Robinson, 2000). In these developments, the Government made
considerable emphasis on the enhancing of the workers’ contemporary skills so that they can
adjust to the rapid changes in the field of technology and the ever-increasing effects of
The Catalysts for Reforms on the VET System
There are numerous factors that necessitate the need for a Government to adopt and make
changes to the VET system. Ballenden (2001) identified one of these factors as the need to have
a qualified and skilled workforce that will catalyse the economic development of a nation.
Vocational competencies and skills of the workforce have been found to be key ingredients to
the performance of a country's economy (Brown, 1999; O'Toole, 2010). Through an effective
vocational training, new and productive talents are developed. These talents are critical in a
country’s industrial development. Ballenden (2001, p. 39) noted, "The skills Australia needs for
economic and social success are often generic and transferable and currently undervalued in the
formal education and training system." Therefore, there is a need for countries to show
commitment through strategies to value and develop workforce skills because they equip
employees to work in a knowledge economy.
Another important factor that spearheads the adoption and changes in a national unified
VET system includes the challenges resulting from globalisation. Globalisation has seen critical
changes in the world of work and the economy evident through outsourcing, downsising,
structural changes, and rapid technological changes (Ballenden, 2001). Indeed, Brown (1999)
consented to that point by alluding to the fact that the onset of the knowledge economy due to
globalisation has had a profound effect on operations of work worldwide. The change in
technology is occurring at a rapid pace. Ballenden (2001, p.) observed, “An hour’s work is, on
average, twenty-five times more productive now at the beginning of the 20
century. Some of
the resources that were considered critical in wealth generation in the past, included labour, land,
and physical materials. However, in the recent past, knowledge, creativity, and ideas have been
regarded as the key resources required for wealth generation. From Robinson’s (2000) view, it is
becoming increasingly apparent that the contemporary employees need much knowledge in IT as
well as excellent human relations and interpersonal skills to bring out the best in them.
Furthermore, to make sense of the existing massive and bulky information in the contemporary
world, the workers must have critical interpretive and analytical skills (Australian Workforce and
Productivity Agency, 2013).
The desire to adopt and make changes to the VET system can also be informed by the
need to promote the per capita income and the living standards of an employee (Ryan, 2011).
Vocational training enables a person to gain intensive competencies and skills related to his/her
specific profession. The competencies translate to improved overall efficiency and productivity
of an individual, hence the alleviation of living standards and per capita income of a country’s
The ageing population is another factor that informs the effort to make changes to the
VET system. In the case of Australia, the population is forecasted to expand at a rate of one per
cent per annum in the next twenty years. However, the number of youth between 15 and 24 years
is not expected to grow whilst that of those between 45 and 64 years is anticipated to grow by
over forty per cent (Robinson, 2000). From Robinson’s (2000, p. 39) position, “The source of
new skills in countries like Australia will need to be increasingly developed amongst older and,
often, already employed people.”
The Philosophies Underpinning the VET System
There exist various philosophies that explain the reasons for the adoption of the VET
system by countries, particularly Australia. One of the evident philosophies that underpin the
adoption of the VET system is the philosophy of behaviourism. It holds that the practices and
behaviour of an individual are a reflection of the person’s education and knowledge. Therefore,
the philosophy advocates for amendment of the existing education structure for the sole reason of
moulding the learners’ behaviour (Schilling & Koetting, 2010). To contextualise the
behaviourism philosophy, the Australian Government is needed to make changes to its
educational system in order to accelerate the industrial development. The system should be
changed to become more industrially inclined. Education plays a significant role in the
development of intensive vocational competencies and skills in a student. Consequently, the
skills and competencies affect the student’s behaviour in the long run.
Besides the behaviourism philosophy, the liberal education philosophy also advocates the
adoption of a unified structure of the VET system (Jones & Iredale, 2010). According to the
philosophy, education is one of the core and basic needs of a person. Education transforms the
competency of individuals in their professional capacity by equipping them with knowledge,
effective social and ethical behaviour as well as a positive sense of values (Jones & Iredale,
2010). A proper educational structure greatly shapes the long-term sustainability of a country.
Moreover, the progressive education philosophy supports the adoption of the VET system
because education and training are essential in making the students’ practices and thoughts more
progressive. The philosophy advocates for experiential learning/expeditionary learning for
students (Rojewski, 2002). The most effective approach to educate a person is to learn by doing.
The prime education deliverables recommended by the philosophy include critical thinking,
problem-solving, group work, and collaborative learning. The philosophy supports the VET
system due to its ability to offer non-conventional and practical learning to students, which
contributes to the growth of productivity of both the individual and the country’s economy.
The National Unified Vocational Education and Training System
According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics (2012), there exist about 5,000 training
institutions in Australia that are registered and recognised by the Government. They include
those sponsored by private entities and those run and funded by the Government. The term
vocational education and training has been widely used to mean the acquisition of
competencies, skills, and knowledge required for job performance (Karmel, Mlotkowski, &
Awodeyi, 2008). However, it is important to note that there is no universally consented meaning
of VET. The Australian Qualifications Framework has made attempts to unify VET under the
same qualification levels, but the framework has continued to define VET on sectorial divisions
instead of qualification levels (Australian Quality Training Framework, 2007). Therefore, it is
not clear whether VET is unified nationally. The streams of VET are presented separately. In
fact, at some level, the streams overlap. For instance, diplomas are issued in both streams,
making it difficult for the providers to distinguish between VET and higher learning.
From a close observation though, the Australian Government has attempted to set up a
unified system of VET in the entire country. The National Unified VET is hugely based on
work-based learning (WBL) and competency-based learning/training (CBL/CBT). The former
occurs in the real environments at work through engagements, interactions, and authentic work
activities. WBL plays a critical role in furthering the tenet of VET by emphasising on learning
through practice. The latter was introduced in Australia in the 1980s and focuses on what the
individuals achieve in the workplace upon completion of a certain course (Misko & Robinson,
2000). CBT equips a person with knowledge and skills required in a specific organisation or
industry (Hager, 1998).
From the analysis, it is evident that the national unified VET adopted by the Australian
Government plays a significant role in producing a highly effective and efficient workforce.
There are several factors that necessitate not only Australia but also other countries to adopt and
make changes to the VET system. They include the economic development, globalisation
challenges, technological changes, the need to improve the performance of individuals, and the
ageing population. Some of the philosophies that support the same include behaviourism
philosophy, liberal education philosophy, and progressive education philosophy.
Critical Reflection
The assignment has critically expanded my understanding of the VET system concept
and its significance in the present-day society. I take note of the importance of the literature on
philosophies related to the VET concept, which informs me about the relevance of attaining
knowledge and skills through training. I have learnt that the VET system does not only improve
my performance in production but also the performance of my country's economy.
In the process of writing the essay, I experienced the challenge of interpreting the
philosophies and relating them to the case study. I had to engage the literature intensively to find
out the meanings of the philosophies and apply them to the case scenario of Australian adoption
of the VET system.
With regard to the essay’s major strengths and weaknesses, I found out the following:
Strengths: The work involved a vigorous review of latest literature that shared relevant insights
into the topic. Moreover, I used philosophical insights to support some of the claims made by
various scholars regarding the reasons behind the adoption of VET system. Therefore, I found
the paper to be more insightful and more informing.
Weakness: The paper did not cover a substantive relevant literature because of the nature of the
Armson, G., &Whiteley, A. (2010). Employees' and managers' accounts of interactive
workplace learning: a grounded theory of “complex integrative learning”. Journal of
Workplace Learning, 22(7), 409-427.
Australian Workforce and Productivity Agency (AWPA). (2013). Future Focus: 2013 National
Workforce Development Strategy. AWPA, Canberra, Australian Capital Territory.
Australian Bureau of Statistics.(2012). Trade and Economics Statistics, Australia, (Cat. No.
1350.0) Retrieved from http://abs.gov.au/downloaded Dec 2012.
Australian Quality Training Framework.(2007). Department of Education, Employment and
Workplace Relations. Canberra, Australia: Commonwealth of Australia.
Ballenden, C. (2001). Skills for the 21st century: The limits to training packages. In 9th Annual
international conference on post-compulsory education and training, Gold Coast (pp. 3-
Brown, P. (1999). Globalisation and the political economy of high skills. Journal of education
and work, 12(3), 233-251.
Hager, P. (1998).Understanding workplace learning: General perspectives. Current issues and
new agendas in workplace learning, 30-42.
Jones, B., &Iredale, N. (2010).Enterprise education as pedagogy. Education+ training, 52(1),
Karmel, T, Mlotkowski, P &Awodeyi, T (2008).Is VET vocational? The relevance of training
to the occupations of vocational education and training students. Adelaide, Australia:
Misko, J., & Robinson, C. (2000).Competency-based training in Australia. Competency-based
education and training: a world perspective, 61-83.
O'Toole, S. (2010). Training, L&D, OD, HRD-What's in a name? Australian Journal of Adult
Learning, 50(2), 419.
Robinson, C. (2000). Developments in Australia's vocational education and training system.
Adelaide, Australia: National Centre for Vocational Education Research.
Rojewski, J. (2002). Preparing the workforce of tomorrow: A conceptual framework for career
and technical education. Journal of Vocational Education Research, 27(1), 7-35.
Ryan, R. (2011). How VET responds: a historical policy perspective. NCVER.
Schilling, J. F., &Koetting, J. R. (2010).Underpinnings of competency-based
education. Athletic Training Education Journal, 5(4), 165-169.

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