Plus international recruiters on the job and Ziggy in super-smart company

Life transforming

“Researchers from the University of New England are looking for individuals who want more excitement in their everyday life to participate in a new study.” Yep, that will do it.

ANU new 5

Training: what we know and what we need

Five years ago the wise and the good of the voced community established five research priorities. And now Francesca Beddie reviews what the estimable National Centre for Vocational Education Research has learned.

On skills and productivity she says the research shows the need to engage kids without academic orientations with different forms of learning while still at school. “This is easier said than done and requires the active engagement of employers, including smaller and medium enterprises, in school and training delivery.”

On structures in training and post school education Ms Beddie warns Australia’s federal system and entrenched attitudes  “are obstacles to efforts to adapt education and training to the demands of contemporary Australia. “

Training also needs to be more flexible to address the circumstances and incorporate the needs of people who need help to participate in society.

Perhaps the conceptually broadest issue the VOCED community must face is how technology is changing the way people acquire skills and what this means for teaching;

“With content now available from a multiplicity of sources of variable reliability, we need to re-imagine the tertiary teacher, to see them as a person who can transmit a capability for using evidence and analysis, in contrast to an individual who functions as a one-way channel of information. The research has suggested the idea of removing the teaching‒research divide by making scholarship an inherent part of all tertiary education, whose role is to cultivate the creative minds needed in the twenty-first-century workforce,” she writes.

And while she puts the question much more delicately, Ms Beddie does ask whether the VET workforce is up to what the market needs. It seems, she answers, not always; “in the crucial area of numeracy, a study of VET practitioners working in the process manufacturing industry found a mismatch between the skill required to address the industry’s numeracy needs and the capacity of VET practitioners, in terms of their understanding of numeracy requirements, their qualifications, skills and experience.” So what’s to be done? You don’t need a life of voced experience to work it out.

“The future of the VET sector, wedged between schools and universities, is uncertain. It does have a place but until this is better defined, with its various purposes clearly articulated, it will continue to labour under the burden of trying to do too much with too little. … Some of the strain on the VET sector could be alleviated by a clear articulation of the purpose of vocational education and training and a commitment to the professional development of its workforce.”

But hold not your breath, “The lack of parity of esteem between VET and higher education has been a perennial problem, fuelled by the nature of occupational hierarchies as well as those in tertiary education. Without a change in mindset that allows a debate about entirely new approaches to post-school education, it is likely these will persist.”

This is much more than a snapshot of the state of research – it encapsulates perennial policy challenges for voced.

Cold cash

Last year’s fundraiser for motor neurone disease, the Ice Bucket Challenge delivered dollars, raising $1m on final figures for research at the University of Queensland and Macquarie U. So good on all who chilled-out, including Education Minister Chris Pyne, University of Adelaide VC Warren Bebbington, who got really wet and then challenged University of South Australia VC David Lloyd to cop a bucketing, who accepted. Cool cats all.

SBY moves in at UWA

It did not take the University of Western Australia long to decide relations with Indonesia are back to normal, announcing Dr Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has become a visiting professor and a senior fellow of the Perth USAsia Study Centre. CMM suspects this announcement was originally intended for Dr Yudhoyono’s Perth visit last month, which was cancelled because of the executions in Bali (CMM April 28).

Recruiters rewarded

University recruiters searching for an export edge should look to the employment aspirations of international students, says Deakin’s Cate Gribble. “Work experience is a key priority for many international students across a range of disciplines, however, many students struggle to find placements and institutions are grappling with how to meet growing demand for work-integrated learning,” she writes in her guide to assisting international students with foundation career building skills. Her report, for the International Education Association of Australia details the issues students have and provides case studies of what universities are doing to help. Good for Dr Gribble and IEAA; there is a great deal of information in this open access report that people would pay for.

Science elite expands

The Australian Academy of Science will announce its 21 2015 fellows this morning, including RMIT chancellor Ziggy Zwitkowski, “a respected leader in innovation and business, who has advocated at the highest levels for technology, science and academia.” The other 20 men and women come from campuses across the country with five from the University of Queensland, three from ANU and two from James Cook. Another 11 universities and research institutes are home to a single fellow, All up Group of Eight institutions are home to 12 new fellows.

Arts on outer

A reader suggested CMM have a look at budget arts funding, given most arts training occurs in universities. So CMM did, to find funding for the Australia Council for the Arts allocated by government in ways Australia Research Council observers will find familiar. While ACA funds for designated programmes continue, its discretionary budget took a 30 per cent hit. The result is programmes variously suspended and dropped with money diverted to government arts initiatives.

Cash tight and new oversight

There is more money for post school education in the New Zealand budget, notably a 7.5 per cent increase in tuition funding for science and a 20 per cent hike for agriculture. But it comes less from increased public spending and more from declining demand. “A stronger economy with more people in paid work and a decline in the size of the population aged 18-25 are reducing demand for tertiary education over the next few years, Tertiary Education, Skills and Employment minister Steven Joyce says.

This does not impress education unionists, who argue the government is only reducing the rate at which student course costs are increasing.

The government is also funding the forthcoming Rate my Qualification website, which will publish employer and graduates judgement of courses. Perhaps something people working on the feds’ forever forthcoming Quality Indicators of Learning and Teaching project should look at.