In a recent Teacher article, we shared details of a report from the National Centre for Vocational Education Research (NCVER) exploring why students choose to undertake VET studies and the factors that characterise successful VET programs in schools. The report included eight case studies of schools from around Australia, which demonstrated success in their VET programs.
Mildura Senior College (MSC) is host of one of the eight successful VET programs identified in the NVCER study. It is located in the north-west of Victoria, on the border of New South Wales and close to the South Australian border. MSC is a government school for Year 11 and Year 12s, with up to 950 students, 100 staff, six partner schools, and 678 student enrolments in the VET program at any one time.
Three key features were highlighted as success factors for MSC’s VET program: a wide variety of subject offerings; promotion of the VET program; and having quality staff and a dedicated VET coordinator.
‘The benefit of being such a large school is being able to offer a wide and diverse range of subjects,’ Linda Snoxall, VET Coordinator at MSC tells Teacher. ‘Students are hopefully more engaged in what they are studying, and even if they find they don’t enjoy a subject that is not necessarily a bad thing… Students have a diverse range of interests and school should be about exploring options, whether they are career related or purely for personal interest.’
MSC offers VET classes in Automotive, Engineering, Electrical, Building and Construction, Furniture Making, Hospitality and Patisserie at the Deakin Trade Training Centre on site, as well as Business, Community Services, Screen and Media, Music Retail and Fitness. Some programs are delivered at SuniTAFE, Riverside Trade Training Centre, Red Cliffs Secondary College and online through GOTAFE.
The school’s VET subject offerings having doubled over the past decade, with a tripling of student enrolments in the program during that period, attracting students from surrounding schools.
‘The positives [of having a wide range of subjects] include attracting a wide range of staff and teaching options, and local employers and industry approach us directly when they are looking to employ or to be involved in partnerships with the school.
‘The benefits for local industry is to connect with the next generation, to source Structured Workplace Learning and School-based Apprenticeships and Traineeships students as well as identifying trainees and apprentices… We do encourage students to undertake placements where they can, and to connect students in with local industry through visits and guest speakers in the classes.’
Promotion of VET program
‘[Our] VET programs are promoted through a number of Transition events,’ explains Snoxall, listing the Year 10 Discovery Day, the Year 9 Tour, Orientation Day for Year 10, Head Start days for Year 11, Open Day, Trades@Deakin Day, taster days at SuniTAFE and Riverside TTC, as well as transition activities for Indigenous students and students experiencing attendance or wellbeing issues.
The program is also promoted through online and printed material, shared with partner and non-partner schools.
Although student enrolment is high, attracting qualified VET staff is an ongoing hurdle, despite the school’s successful program.
‘[An] issue we are facing in attracting staff is that it is much more financially viable to work in industry than it is to work in education,’ explains Snoxall.
She adds that VET staff are, however, able to access online training (one of the positives afforded by the pandemic), and to undertake work placement or professional development offered by local industry. ‘Some of the Registered Training Organisations we use [also] offer PD and teachers also get access to PD through the Victorian Curriculum and Assessment Authority (Scored Assessment workshops) and VET Development Centre webinars.’
Dedicated staff and VET coordinator
‘VET programs are only as good as the teachers who teach them and our teachers are amazing,’ Snoxall says. ‘They are required to put in so much extra work to maintain the requirements to teach VET including, currency, updating qualifications, maintaining skills and knowledge, training and assessment requirements.’
VET Teachers are required to have the Cert IV in Training and Assessment qualification to teach VET in schools as well as their teaching degree and the qualification they are teaching for VET. As well as VET staff, MSC employs a VET Coordinator, Snoxall, whose duties include: contracts, compliance, enrolments, program and student monitoring, subject counselling, finance, VET data, managing issues, taster and other transition events, course guides, handbooks and website marketing. MSC also employs a VET administration officer who manages enrolments, unique student identifiers, attendance, reports, use of the Victorian Assessment Software System, data collection, archiving, events, marketing, photographer, minute taker, student support, promotion, information disseminator to students and parents.
Reflecting on the benefits of VET programs for students, Snoxall shares that ‘VET gives students the opportunity to gain a qualification while they are still at school. It is a great way for students to explore career options or to take the first step towards a career if they have already decided what they want to do.’
Misko, J., Lees, M. & Chew, E. (2021). VET for secondary school students: insights and outcomes. NCVER.
If you are running a VET program in your school what do you consider to be the strengths of your program? Which are areas that could be improved?
Have you considered partnering with businesses in your local community to broaden work experience opportunities for students and to secure training or employment pathways?