Why vocational training for professional development should not be overlooked is explained by WILLIAM COWIE of Inspire Education.
Just about everyone is aware of the need to pursue ongoing professional development throughout their career. Professional development helps us to keep our existing skills current and relevant to industry, and also expand the scope of our abilities to tackle new challenges. Facilities managers are no exception.
Professional development is a broad term, however, and can encompass a wide variety of approaches, interests and people. Common professional development activities can include coaching, mentoring, study, consultation, workshops, tutorials, technical assistance, reflective supervision and more. It’s easy to miss a valuable opportunity with all these options, and vocational education and training (VET) is often overlooked in favour of university study.
WHAT IS VET?
VET is a style of education that focuses on teaching procedural knowledge – specific knowledge exercised in the performance of a task. That means the courses teach the specific skills needed to perform a particular job function or role.
It is related to the traditional system of apprenticeships and has historically been used to teach trades, crafts, technical roles and even professional positions such as medicine, nursing, engineering, pharmacy and architecture. Vocational training in Australia has expanded and now includes training for industries like tourism, cosmetics, information technology, retail, marketing and visual design. Importantly for facilities managers, vocational qualifications include essential skills such as work health and safety, project management and training and assessment.
- Practical focus: Vocational qualifications train students in skills they can apply in the workplace. Many courses include practical components as an essential component of study.
- Cost: Costs vary depending on the course, but vocational courses are typically much cheaper than studying at a university.
- Time: Courses can vary in length from around six months to two or more years. Many vocational qualifications; such as Certificate IV in Work Health and Safety, and Certificate IV in Training and Assessment; can be completed in two five-day workshops with a small amount of work to be completed at the student’s own pace at home.
- Nationally recognised and accredited: Many vocational qualifications fall within the Australian Qualifications Framework (AQF). This means they are developed and delivered to nationally recognised and accredited standards, and only certain authorised organisations can accredit and issue them.
- Courses for just about any situation: As well as the broad horizontal scope of qualifications covering a huge range of industries, vocational training offers a great vertical range too. Within a single field, vocational qualifications can take students from learning the initial skills required to start basic work all the way to advanced semi-professional work. In many cases, vocational qualifications can provide an entry path into university study.
- Take whole courses or single units: One of the best features of vocational training is the ability to study the whole course, or just select units within the course. Students can identify units that fill gaps in their knowledge and abilities and just study those. If they later choose to pursue a full qualification incorporating those units, then they can apply for recognition of current competency and get a head start on their study. Once competency has been obtained in an accredited unit from a registered training organisation (RTO), it should be recognised by any other RTO.
- Choice of training style: Vocational courses can be delivered in a number of ways. There are often classroom-based options for those with time for on-campus study, blended delivery with a mixture of classroom and distance study, and pure online/distance. The last two options are often best for those working full time. They offer much more flexibility in terms of study schedule, allow for self-paced learning and save a lot of time commuting between work, home and the place of study. With modern communications technology, it’s still possible to stay in close contact with the course trainers and there are a huge range of resources and support tools available.
- Recognition of prior learning (RPL): If a student has already developed expertise in a particular field but they want to formalise those skills with a qualification, RPL can be obtained. As long as evidence of competence for the course unit can be provided, recognition for the skills already developed can be obtained, saving time on earning a new qualification.
VET VERSUS UNIVERSITY
What the AQF rankings don’t take into account is the value of hard, practical skills taught in vocational training that can immediately be applied in the workplace. Education, Employment and Workplace Relations Department data has revealed that Certificate III-IV trained employees earn, on average, $53,200 a year within the first six months of completing their training. That’s actually $3200 more than bachelor degree graduates, who average $50,000. Diploma graduates earn even more – $60,800 a year. A higher proportion of vocational graduates were employed as well.
In the long term, the university graduate will likely come out ahead financially, because their qualifications give them more scope to progress in the workplace. However, in the short term, vocational qualifications add more value for employers and can translate into more job opportunities. For those who already have a university level qualification, vocational training might be the ideal way to complement existing skill sets and develop new, practical abilities to enhance a career.
William Cowie is a blogger and inbound marketer for vocational training provider, Inspire Education.