Claire Field on VET’s not so great for business diploma

by Claire Field

Business management skills will be important as Australia re-builds post-pandemic

People looking for entry-level management positions might consider a VET Diploma of Business or a Bachelor of Business. Bearing in mind that a VET diploma is equivalent to first year undergraduate study, the core subjects in these respective courses should be comparable.

UTS is highly regarded for its undergraduate business courses. Its Bachelor of Business contains eight core subjects:

* Accounting for Business Decisions A * Managing People and Organisations *Marketing Foundations * Economic for Business * Fundamentals of Business Finance *Business Statistics * Integrating Business Perspectives * Accounting for Business Decisions B

The VET Diploma (BSB50120) has five core units:

* Develop critical thinking in others * Manage budgets and financial plans * Manage business resources * Develop workplace policies and procedures for sustainability * Lead communication in the workplace

While I am all for Australian businesses being more sustainable – is writing policies and procedures for business sustainability really a core responsibility of an entry-level manager?

Similarly, I support critical thinking but it seems nonsensical that the VET sector is not focussed on helping new managers develop their own critical thinking, nor on the more basic demands of managing people.

And what does “develop critical thinking in others” involve? Well after RTOs secure sufficiently qualified staff to teach the unit, they will find it has 11 performance criteria – the first of which is to “research models of critical and creative thinking.” This is one performance criteria from one unit in a 12-unit diploma which is taught in 12-18 months. So, what seems like a major piece of research needs to be crammed into learning and assessment for 10 other activities in a four to six-week period.

At a time when the Australian Industry and Skills Committee has stepped up its work rate in approving new VET qualifications – it is unclear how much attention is being paid to the content of what is approved. I appreciate that people with a business background sit on the Industry Reference Committee that designed the new Diploma of Business– but I am struggling with their decision making and the qualification’s approval in its current form. The contrast with the university sector is stark.

Claire Field is an advisor to the tertiary education sector.