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Vocational Education and Training in New Zealand and Australia

Increasing globalization has led to the development of complex international approaches in Career and Technical Education. In Australia and New Zealand, these approaches geared towards the attainment of an internationally accredited career and technical education is the Vocational Education and Training (VET). Across the international spectrum the efficiency and effectiveness of Career and Technical Education (CTE) is becoming a measurement of a country’s socioeconomic investment in education and the development of skills of its workers (Brown 2003; Mulder & Sloane 2004).

VET also fosters the employability of workers. All these efforts aimed at reforming the education sub sector are geared towards the promotion of a country’s level of economic productivity and competitiveness under the umbrella of a global market. Countries are striving to forge connections between career technical education and academic education in response to the paradigm shift of employment opportunities from crafty industries to the emerging organizations in the information age.

The age of craft industries emphasized on an educational system that could provide employees with action centered skills. The new age of information technologies, changing markets and new organizational paradigms demand intellectual skills (Mulder & Sloane 2004). To satisfy this demand, knowledge and skills must be gained in context. Changes in didactic and content of vocational training present as the only stimulant to self directed learning, cultivation of the process of lifetime learning, problem formulation and problem solving.

These are the fueling forces behind New Zealand and Australian Vocational Education and Training reforms. The relationship that exists between Australia and New Zealand is so close both at an interpersonal and national scale owing mainly to their shared borders and British colonial heritage. Trends of Employment in Australia and New Zealand Labor Market The labor market is extremely dynamic in nature. Factors influencing employment are broad in nature.

These factors include; the domestic and international economy, government policy, technology and societal attitudes. While the effects of these factors are predictable, some changes are so dramatic as to disapprove of forecasts in the trends in the labor market. However, assessing these likely and unlikely changes remain essential elements of informed decision – making by governments across the global spectrum. There are a variety of reasons why the levels of skills and associated qualifications will continue to skyrocket.

This phenomenon will receive full government support and encouragement. Globalization has opened up geographical enclosures to international competition. When this is coupled with the emerging new technologies, employment is being affected across a wide spectrum of industries. These effects on employment trends are industry specific as they represent the vulnerability of the industry to exposure of global competition. In the Australian labor market today, workers in low skill manufacturing industries are the most vulnerable.

The high skill and service industries which are more exposed to global competition have the lowest degree of vulnerability (Shah & Burke 2006). In the wake of this trend, the Australia’s employed workforce is continually and substantially shifting in the occupational and industrial composition. While there is an employment trend favoring the movement towards high skill jobs, the low skill jobs that are considerably insulated from the effects of globalization and technology, such as retail, is providing more job opportunities.

By 2006, the number of Australians in workforce had topped over ten million. Eighty percent of these jobs were in the construction, health, retail, property and business services, education and community services. Education, business and property services and health and community services sectors had the most qualified employees. Employment in agriculture and manufacturing had a decline in employment levels. Occupational sectors enjoyed an expanding workforce; representing almost a third of the entire workforce in Australia.

Additionally, the trends in employment in the trades, transport, intermediate production and laborers demonstrated a marked decline (Shah & Burke 2006). These changes in occupational mix create an increased demand on VET. An increased growth in employment and job replacement undoubtedly adds onto this demand. However, while it is generally accepted that technological changes increase the demand for skilled highly skilled workers, it alternatively leads to the creation of a de-skilling effect where gaps left by these skilled professionals increase the demand of low skilled professionals.

Overall, future trends in employment will most likely require people with higher qualifications and as individuals with these qualifications seek more challenging, highly rewarding positions, redistribution will occur across the spectrum of Australian workforce (Anderson 2006). With regard to VET qualification and the underlying scenario where higher qualifications fetch higher rates of employment, individuals with VET qualifications will also be guaranteed of higher employment rates but higher incomes comparable to individuals with higher qualifications may not be self evident (Ryan 2002; Burke et al.

2003), but better mental health, physical health, psychosocial effects, behavioral effects are guaranteed. The major factor in VET that is increasing the demand for workers is skills deepening. This term refers to the increase in the percentage of the number of workers in occupation ho have got additional qualifications from employment growth. Forecasts show that employment by qualification and employment by occupation will increase due to entry of new qualified workforce and skills deepening for those already in employment.

Comparisons and Reforms of New Zealand VET and Australian VET The objectives of reforms in vocational education and training mainly include; enhancing productivity, addressing skills shortages, increasing workforce participation, personal development and social inclusion while assisting the disadvantaged in the society to access education and training opportunities hence promoting their ability to be fully employed and cultivate meaningful participation in the society.

There is enough evidence that suggest that highly trained and better educated workforce have higher production output and consequently economic growth. For instance, it has been established that the level of earning is directly correlated to the levels of productivity. The higher the earning, the higher the productivity and since earning is a product of better qualifications, the provision of a more efficient and effective vocational education and training program would undoubtedly increase productivity (Burke 2008; Shah & Burke 2008).

These were the reasons behind the employer association’s stance in urging the publicly funded Australia’s VET system to focus on employability skills preferring that the education system should instead develop employee attitudes, personality, values and other personal qualities to bridge the shortages that exist in both the traditional craft industries and the emerging sectors (Sheldon & Thornthwaite 2005). Australia is governed under a federal governance system composed of 6 States and 2 territories. Because of this system of governance the Federal Government only holds limited constitutional authority over education and training.

However, in view of the fundamental role of education on economic growth, the Federal Government uses its superior fiscal position to push for reforms that have an economic influence. It is for this reason that the University education sector falls under the primary responsibility of the Federal Government. Its influence on VET sector is achieved through the Australian National Training Authority (ANTA); founded in 1994 and supported by Government Institutes of Technical and Further Education (TAFEs) and Industry Training Boards (ITBs).

Historically, there has always been a difficulty in interstate and Federal Government cooperation in inclusively drafting comprehensive and uniform education and training programs and policies. The disjuncture of funding, accountability and responsibility has often led to slow progress in the implementation of policies and programs that are in accord with the changing times (Reeves & Watanabe 2003). The creation of ANTA was but a follow up of the wide ranging reforms that began in the education administration sector in the mid-1980s.

Its creation was a landmark of the cooperation between the governments, unions, and businesses in the wake of international competitiveness. Emphasis was laid on competency based training where all the states and territories all agree to adhere to an all inclusive national qualification framework; the Australian Qualification Framework. ANTA progressively introduced training packages that were definitive of competency standards, qualification levels for each and every award and assessment guidelines. Additional components included; materials for professional development, assessment materials and learning strategies.

All these training packages defined the national training system. After the establishment of the training system other companies registered as private VET providers. Competency based training ushered in the focus on flexible delivery which was much suited to the workplace (Reeves & Watanabe 2003). Apprenticeships which form an integral part of VET programs were structurally reformed under government regulation to smoothen the pathway between young men just from schooling to the workplace environment (Strathdee 2003).

Unlike Australia where jurisdictional issues in education policies have been the case, New Zealand operates under a centralized governance system. In such a system education and training lies under the sole authority of the government. Under a single authority, the jurisdictional issues prevalent in the Australian education sector were non existent. However, the same economic issues that necessitated changes in the education sector also affected New Zealand. These reforms were bed rocked on and largely pervaded by wider macro economic reforms.

Education and training systems, the labor markets and the economy are not just three distinct sectors, but their interconnectivity created a complex dynamic system. This system operates in a non linear fashion and can not be put under the control of rigid hierarchical rules. At one time or the other, this interconnectivity produces unpredictable things that could not be forecast. It is this unpredictability that called for wide ranging reforms in the VET system.

In the late 1980s New Zealand rose to the challenges of rising unemployment, inadequate and deficient education, low productivity growth and most importantly international competitiveness. A solution to these issues was believed to be the improvement on the quality of training that emphasized on demonstrated competence and continuing education and training (Reeves & Watanabe 2003). The main infrastructure that supported the desirable reforms in the VET was the system of polytechnics that provided initial and post initial education and training courses in preparation to the industrial workplace.

This was often accomplished in conjunction with other enterprises and training bodies. To oversee these changes, New Zealand Qualifications Authority (NZQA) was created in 1991 with the responsibility of coordinating the implementation of a National Qualification Frameworks (NQF). This NQF was designed as units of competence that had specific and explicit learning objectives, assessment criteria and performance criteria which recognized prior learning experiences (Reeves & Watanabe 2003).

These qualifications and unit standards constituted national standards and they were products of professional groups and industry bodies. By 1992, New Zealand created Skill New Zealand which was originally referred to as Education and Training Support Agency. The Skill New Zealand was established together with Industry Training Organizations (ITOs) to set up national skills standards, develop training packages that could be used by employers in the workplace, assess the competence of trainees individually, and arrange delivery of off the job and on the job training.

Through the Industry Training Fund (ITF) created in 1996, the government ensured that these educational and training establishments thrived and strode towards the achievement of an efficient and quality system (Reeves & Watanabe 2003). In 2000, the government carried out a review of the tertiary education program hence prompting changes that led to the creation of the Tertiary Education Commission to oversee and coordinate the tertiary education sectors. The review largely led to a strengthening of the existing VET infrastructure hence improving on the quality of VET in general.

It the same year the Modern Apprenticeship program was produced from the earlier version. Ideally, the new version became a work based initiative of education with complete national qualifications. At the onset of these reforms only a minority of the populace pursued post school education. Their was virtually no culture systematic training and in cases where this existed, they involved mainly government employees in the military, post office services , transport and public works departments.

Many young trainees did not complete the even the last two years in their schooling, always leaving schooling at fifteen years. This phenomenon was supported by the labor market at that time which accepted individuals with little or completely no qualification at all. The dawn of the 1980s, came with rising unemployment rates. Skill shortages were rampant as industries began adopting new technologies for production. In the 1980s, New Zealand had lower levels of retention of sixteen to nineteen year olds as educational trainees as compared to Australia.

It is at this time that both the governments of Australia and New Zealand began taking an active role in the development of education and training system to meet the rapid evolution and demand of skills in the workplace. The 1980s system was ideally a formal apprenticeship system based on distinct time served approaches with own curriculum, development of qualifications, accreditation, assessment and approval approaches. Rapid technology changes rendered these qualifications obsolete, and the huge economic pressure towards the dusk of the 1980s meant that comprehensive reforms had to be carried out with much agency.

Numerous reviews were done to come up with a more reliable system that would ensure a continuous learning process to counteract the unpredictable adjustments in the workplace. In Australia, the paradigm shift to the philosophy of lifetime learning that employed a holistic approach to education and training created a seamless system. This only happened after the realization that technical institutions were suffering from chronic under-funding.

Their disconnection from the industry and the insistence on an irrelevant schooling curriculum provided a major challenge as the skills these institutions taught were not congruent to the changing labor market needs. Articulation between schooling and post schooling became a smooth pathway. This marked the birth of life long learning. Additional political support ensured the institution of new educational systems. Legislations created relevant industry training bodies mandated with the task of identify the training needs of the industry and formulating appropriate qualifications.

The National Qualifications framework created a means of unifying all the qualifications and focusing on outcomes. The New Zealand Qualifications Authority helped to develop qualifications in areas lacking in any form of formal training in collaboration with other standard setting bodies. The concept of lifelong learning enabled learners to gradually progress their qualifications in the workplace. Continuous assessments were done and recorded. The new system also recognized prior learning.

Registration and accreditation of providers was established to act as Quality Assurance compliance where standards had to be met for funding to be received. The overall reform program of VET recognized senior secondary schools which has remained the stepping stone to tertiary qualifications. With the curriculum and qualifications reforms, students could be able to progress to tertiary qualifications in school. In the Australian society and even New Zealand, VET is an integral component of the education system extending from compulsory schooling into higher education.

To safeguard against school dropouts, the leaving age was also raised to 17 years and the focus shifted from schooling to work to school to tertiary institutions, workplace learning, alignment funding, career planning and advice, course alignment and the provision of transition services for young people at risk. The Effects of Reforms on the Labor Market The reformation of Vocational Education and Training system (VET) has contributed to the creation of an increasingly qualified and skilled workforce that is able to adapt to the global competitiveness.

Broad economic and demographic changes will continue to put more pressure on the education systems to disseminate skilled man power to meet the rapid changes in technology. The governments of both New Zealand and Australia are continually injecting financial support to promote the development of stronger VET infrastructures. Policies have been introduced to improve the efficiency and the quality of VET by the creation of national competency based labor market driven training packages. These packages are linked to nationally standardized awards.

The shift to flexible delivery, competency based training, workplace delivery and VET and enterprise training and education requires novel structures that have the capacity to uphold the delivery of quality training (Reeves & Watanabe 2003). Despite the dynamic nature and unpredictability of the global labor workforce, reforms in VET are instrumental foundation blocks for the future provision of higher qualifications and complex skills which are prerequisites to national growth in a constantly changing and globally competitive labor environment.

The beauty of VET programs is that they offer the opportunity to gradually advance professional development while at the same time gaining additional skills and experience in the workplace. VET programs have been demonstrated to infer the ability to pursue highly rated employment options that would not have been possible without continuous education and training. From an era where VET programs served only as a way of meeting the underlying shortages in the labor market, VET has grown into a strong force behind the distributions of workforce across occupational and industrial employment opportunities.

Current rates of employment show that there is a positive effect of VET on employment rates. With regard to VET qualifications and the underlying scenario where higher qualifications fetch higher rates of employment, individuals with VET qualifications are also guaranteed higher employment rates and higher incomes comparable to individuals with higher qualifications (Anderson 2006). In addition, better mental health, physical health, psychosocial effects, behavioral effects are guaranteed.


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