Vocational Education just as good as University18/04/2017 12:17:28

There is no reason why a vocational education can't carry your career just as far as a university education.

Many don't perceive this as being true; but all the statistics we have on career outcomes point to this being very true.

Vocational education in Australia, the UK and some other countries has developed an image problem over recent decades; not without reason.

“Vocational Education and Training is now widely considered an inferior educational choice”  (Quote from article by Kenneth Wiltshire, professor University of Qld, Business School - published in the Australian newspaper, pg 33, March 29, 2017)
The UK recently introduced some reforms as an attempt to correct this situation.  Only time will tell whether those reforms have an impact or not. There’s no doubt that something needs to change though.
University is so often considered a superior, but the reality is that tradesmen are now often in higher demand than graduates from many university disciplines. Reports have been published in the Australian and other places over recent years to highlight problems with vocational education.

There are two issues in this whole situation:
1. A lack of understanding of both the benefits and limitations of both vocational and university education
2. An inflated perception of the value of university education and a deflated perception of the value of vocational education.
Kenneth Wiltshire made other poignant observations in his article (the Australian newspaper, pg 33, March 29, 2017), including:

“ The shine has gone off our Vocational Education and Training system .... this is reinforced by a lack of understanding of the system by parents and students” (and I would asset also parents and bureaucrats who run the system).

“Some school principles reinforce the notion of VET being an inferior pathway by discouraging poor performing students from more academic pursuits”

“VET subjects are too narrowly technical and need more general content included from the humanities and social sciences” 
The following comment by Kenneth Wiltshire was particularly poignant:
“The business sector, often aided by unions has done a disservice to the nation by calling for ever narrower technical content in VET offerings and the shortening of the period of study to complete qualifications such as apprenticeships and traineeships. Their only interest has been skills or competencies, rather than knowledge and the achievement of well rouded citizens. The result has been a dumbing down of the curriculum and a perception and a perception that VET exists just for the production of industry fodder”

is important to take a holistic approach to delivering vocational education.  Learning should be broad, and that takes time. Education should provide a foundation for life, and added to (after the course) with experience.
A properly skilled tradesman only emerges after they have been educated to understand and retain the underpinning principles of their trade; then had years of experience to appreciate where, when and how to apply skills and knowledge across a broad scope of contexts.

To learn how to perform a practical task is of limited use unless that learning is given a broad contexts. Understanding how to do something is of reduced value unless the student can understand where and why that thing is to be done. Often though, Vocational teaching has been reduced to the how, -perhaps to save time and money in the education spend. The net result may be graduates who are incapable of making decisions of when and where to use skills, or adapting skills to different, unforeseen situations).

What are We Doing about all of this?


ACS Distance Education abandoned offering accredited courses in 2003 for the same reasons espoused by Kenneth Wiltshire. We have concentrated on developing and delivering courses that often take longer, but teach more and give priority to providing a lifelong foundation for working in the discipline studied. We are only one college though. Changes need to be made in all colleges. The UK government shows signs of being aware. We have spoken to some politicians in Australia too, and I believe their awareness and understanding of such issues is growing strongly.
We write articles like this to raise awareness and understanding - read them, share our articles - change only comes as individuals one by one become aware.