NCVER ‘No Frills’ conference July 9th 2021

VET and worklife learning pathways

To understand, evaluate and enhance how vocational education and training (VET) contributes to individuals’ learning of their occupational capacities and workplace requirements necessitates appraising those contributions across the course of their working life. It is particularly helpful to know more about how VET assists and supports working age Australians through key worklife transitions to appraise its contributions. Here, the concept of a personal curriculum – the individual pathway comprising across working life – is introduced and evoked to capture the worklife pathways some individuals take and the contributions that VET can and should make. Drawing on a current project elaborating individuals’ worklife histories it is found that three interdependent contributions arise: the person, educational provisions (widely defined) and those from ‘community’. The concept of personal curriculum and the factors shaping it are advanced in this paper. It concludes by suggesting ways those pathways might be supported through VET provisions and processes.

Apprenticeship as a mode of learning and model of education

Apprenticeship is usually seen as a model of education combining experiences in workplaces and tertiary education institutions. However, apprenticeship has been primarily been a mode of learning (Billett, 2016). Before the advent of education provisions for occupations mainly over the last hundred years, across human history and cultures apprenticeship was primarily a process of the apprentice engaging in active and self-directed learning. This remains the case in countries that practice what is referred to as ‘traditional’ apprenticeships (ILO 2015, Marchand 2008). Given concerns about learner engagement, requirements for learning contemporary occupational knowledge, and need to develop the capacities required for learning across lengthening working lives, it is timely to revisit the original concept of apprenticeship. That is where learners are positioned to ‘apprehend’ the knowledge required for occupational practice and having responsibility for organising and optimising their learning. As in earlier times, contemporaneously, much occupational knowledge cannot be accessed by learners’ discovery efforts alone. Hence, alongside a focus on active learning, it is necessary to consider the pedagogic practices that guide and support that learning. Importantly, these practices are sometimes distinct from those designed for teaching and classroom instruction. As noted, these kinds of processes of active engagement and guidance are not just limited to the initial occupational preparation but have a key role in the ongoing development of occupational capacity across working lives. It follows, this paper will set out premises for viewing apprenticeship as a mode of learning, elaborate learner engagement qualities, briefly elaborate curriculum and pedagogic practices supporting it and conclude with potential implications for vocational education and development of occupational capacities.

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