There is general consensus that vocational education and training (VET) faces a number of workforce problems, including the ageing of VET teachers, the high level of casualisation, the need to increase the capacity of trainers, and the maintenance of industry currency. These issues, along with the need for the VET sector to respond to critical national workforce development requirements, have been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Industry experts, who are highly knowledgeable and experienced in their sector, are an underutilised resource as VET practitioners. Their knowledge and experience can provide rich information on up-to-date workplace skill needs, thus adding value and quality to the VET sector. The continuing debate associated with the minimum qualifications for VET practitioners and flexibility in entry points to the VET profession indicates that further input into innovative and practical solutions is required.
Through interviews and surveys with registered training organisations (RTOs) and VET practitioners, this project explores approaches to attracting industry experts to become and remain VET practitioners. Drawing on findings from the research, the authors provide strategies for consideration by government, industry, regulators, RTOs and VET practitioners that can help the journey from industry expert to VET practitioner be more rewarding and productive.
- As described by participants, becoming a VET practitioner is an ongoing journey, not a destination, involving vocational and educational preparation; a transition to VET; and continuing practice and updating of skills to maintain the dual professionalism that is required to train, assess and respond to the changing needs of industry.
- Helping the next generation of workers to develop was a key motivator for industry experts to become VET practitioners. The provision of a supportive culture, structured mentoring, and RTO-supported professional development was the most effective strategy for retaining industry experts as VET practitioners once they were employed.
- The level of remuneration was a key consideration for industry experts in their decisions about transitioning to a VET practitioner role. The perceived lack of career pathways and the continual upgrading of the Certificate IV in Training and Assessment qualification — the qualification required for training and assessing learners — were, however, seen as deterrents to remaining in that role.
- A means for addressing both currency of skills and workforce development could be achieved by more flexible ‘boundary crossing’ opportunities, whereby VET practitioners move back and forth between the classroom and the workplace. Industry bodies would seem the best placed to assist with this.