by CLAIRE FIELD
If we need to prepare learners to work with intangible assets and in fluid, unspecified roles then we will need to change what and how we teach
A keynote address at last week’s seventh Congress on Research in Vocational Education and Training is pertinent to the VET reform underway here in Australia.
Prof. Lorna Unwin from University College London reflected on the changing world of work and what it means for VET. In doing so she argued that if the sector is to continue to have relevance we need to shift our thinking of VET being predominantly institutionally focussed (mostly on a student’s initial post-school qualification) to a broader focus on developing learners’ expertise throughout their life.
I particularly liked her characterisation of the drivers of change in the workplace and society. In addition to the three core drivers: technology, climate and demography – she added two which receive little attention in Australia:
- the growth in intangible assets (ideas, brands, marketing, networks, etc), and
- lifestyle changes (an increased focus on work-life balance, and at least in the UK, a growth in craft-related hobbies)
She then went on to describe how these changes are in turn changing the way people think and talk about their work…from solely occupationally focussed, “I am a chef” to the hybrid “I am a manager”, to the fluid “I work in IT” and increasingly amongst younger people to “I am starting/building a…”
She also highlighted how the skills required in even quite traditional apprenticeships are changing. For example, aerospace engineering apprentices who have to use “information” knowledge in meetings with clients not just their “technical” knowledge and how these apprentices are no longer seen as novices in the workplace but are expected to contribute ideas.
If Professor Unwin is right (and I think she is) and we want learners to use more than just their technical knowledge in “traditional” occupations and if we need to prepare learners to work with intangible assets and in fluid, unspecified roles then we will need to change what and how we teach.
Let’s hope the new Industry Cluster operators and VET providers themselves are ready for these changes.
Claire Field is an advisor to the tertiary education sector