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Labour market would benefit from revamp of qualifications – Research

2 June 20150 comments

Labour market would benefit from revamp of qualifications - researchReforming training qualifications could provide workers with stronger capabilities, enabling them to adapt more quickly to changing labour market, and help reduce persistent skills mismatch, according to new research.

The researchers were exploring the notion that many graduates do not end up in jobs directly related to their qualifications and examining the effect of ‘vocational streams’.

Titled ‘Linking qualifications and the labour market through capabilities and vocational streams’ and published by the National Centre for Vocational Education Research (NCVER), the work is the final report from a three-year program that investigated the educational and occupational paths people take and how their study relates to their work.

The researchers identified ‘vocational streams’ as work-related capabilities that share common knowledge, skills and practice across inter-related occupations – for example, commonalities between aged care and disability care are part of the broader vocation of ‘care work’.

They are best identified by collaboration with ‘social partners’ made up of employers, unions and professional, occupational and accrediting bodies, educational institutions and governments.

The researchers said that qualifications could be redesigned using ‘vocational streams’ as a structuring guide and the identified shared capabilities as the basis for the curriculum.

They argue that the development of such streams would provide graduates with more transferable skills, so they can better adapt to changing labour market circumstances. This, in turn, would ease the difficulty faced by organisations when sourcing workers.

This notion was tested with four industries – agriculture, community services and health care, electrical trades and engineering, and financial services.

“We found that support for vocational streams varied greatly between the four sectors”, says co-researcher Dr John Buchanan from the University of Sydney.

“Two conditions are needed if vocational streams are to help overcome deep segmentation in these sectors. First, there must be common practices, knowledge, skills and personal attributes shared by workers across related occupations. Second, the social partners need to be prepared to collaborate on the development of pathways between such related occupations.

“We conclude that better links between education and work will occur and a more coherent approach to vocational development will result if educators and social partners collaborate to nurture better vocational streams,” Professor Buchanan said.

The researchers found that the labour market profoundly structures individuals’ educational trajectories, including transitions from vocational education and training (VET) in schools and flows within, and outcomes from, tertiary education.

“The connections are, however, complex and often non-linear. Current VET qualifications are based on competency-based training, which assumes a direct link between qualifications and jobs: individuals are trained for specific workplace tasks, and VET qualifications codify this,” the researchers said.

“Assuming a direct linear connection exacerbates skills mismatches because narrowly focused qualifications and training are the result.

“This project found that vocational streams could, potentially, provide a better frame of reference for shaping the evolution of qualifications and jobs.

“The development of such streams would provide graduates, especially VET graduates, with more transferable skills, giving them the capacity to better adapt to changing labour market circumstances.

“This in turn would ease the difficulty faced by organisations when sourcing the labour they need as business circumstances change,” the researchers said.

Laurie Nowell
AMES Senior Journalist