Submission of the Tertiary Education Union Te Hautū Kahurangi o Aotearoa
On the Ministry of Education’s “Vocational pathways initiative”
7 September 2012
The Tertiary Education Union Te Hautū Kahurangi o Aotearoa (TEU) welcomes this opportunity to respond to the Ministry of Education’s survey and documents relating to the Vocational Pathways initiative. As the largest union and professional association representing staff in the tertiary education sector (in universities, institutes of technology/polytechnics, wānanga, private training establishments, OTEPs and REAPs), our members are extremely interested in ensuring that the transition from secondary to tertiary education is as seamless as possible. We are pleased therefore that work has been undertaken to address some of the complexities that face learners wishing to continue their studies in vocational education and training.
As the survey provided on the Youth Guarantees website is more focused on providers and educators, we will confine our response to some general comments on the initiative itself.
General comments on the Vocational Pathways initiative
Supporting learners with clear information about their choices
Since the inception of this initiative, the TEU has been supportive of its intent. The basic premise – that learners seeking an education and career pathway other than a traditional academic route should have clear information to enable them to easily make the right decisions – is a sound one. This country is in desperate need of skilled people who can contribute across a broad range of sectors. We also have a deplorable record of youth unemployment, a situation that is concerning for each individual and hugely wasteful of human potential. The TEU believes that well-articulated pathways as proposed by Vocational Pathways that allow learners to see how their learning can build towards a cohesive qualification is a vital part of the work to keep young people in school and engaged in learning.
We recognise however that the issue of youth unemployment and low skill levels for some of our more vulnerable young people is complex, and will not be addressed by this initiative alone. Vocational Pathways must sit within a broad strategy of youth achievement and engagement that links all the relevant government ministries and agencies with schools, iwi, community organisations and whānau.
As this initiative “beds in” we would hope that it also contributes to schools, whānau, and young people better recognising and valuing the option of a vocational education and career pathway. In the future, our hope would be that Vocational Pathways are seen as the route to high-skilled, well-paid and rewarding careers across a broad range of sectors. Our further hope is that the major providers of vocational education and training are equally recognised and valued by government and communities as those providers offering more academic pursuits.
Investing in education and investing in employment
Along with the investments that we make in education and training, we must also invest in job creation, for our social and economic wellbeing, but also so that learners can see evidence of opportunities that exist and importantly, the on-going career pathway that is available to them in a particular industry or sector. A cohesive national skills strategy, of which Vocational Pathways forms a part, would be an excellent framework on which to build social and economic growth.
Specific comments on the pathways
The process of learning and skill development encompassing knowledge and skills development about the area of work the individual intends to seek employment in is of course a key element in an individual’s learning pathway. However the learning process for readiness to work, in particular, should also develop the learner’s understanding of how to be a good citizen and contributor to society. As they are presently described, the vocational pathways appear to be more narrowly focused on skills directly related to employment. A broader focus on life skills and wider competencies in our view is equally important.
Providing a common set of foundation skills and competencies is supported. An enhancement to the pathways would be to clearly identify the compulsory literacy and numeracy ‘thread’ throughout the levels. Particularly in the case of numeracy, learners at times question the relevance of required components, and to be able to see these learning requirements clearly in relation to other learning would be beneficial.
The visual structure and layout of the pathways is important. The current layout from our point of view is appealing. However we would suggest (if this has not already occurred), that current learners, schools, and whānau are given the opportunity to ‘road-test’ the model. This way, any confusion or lack of clarity can be identified early on. Related to this, we believe it will be important to evaluate the model with learners, schools, whānau and employers to gain their feedback on its usefulness.
The TEU commends the work already undertaken in progressing this initiative. We look forward to seeing it implemented.
The TEU also supports the submission of the Council of Trade Unions on the Vocational pathways initiative.