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No Frills 2018: An Overview

The 2018 National VET Research Conference 'No Frills' ran in Sydney from 15-17 August. The event was attended by researchers, policy makers, industry and employers, training providers and others working in the vocational education and training space.

The conference kicked off with a keynote by Prof Lene Tanggaard from the University of Aalborg, Denmark, talking about creativity in vocational education. Prof Tanggaard's passion and enthusiasm were evident when discussing the high levels of creativity and innovation needed in STEM and trades. Assistant Minister for Vocational Education and Skills, The Hon Karen Andrews discussed the importance of a high quality VET sector, and her belief that Australia’s sector is the best in the world. Dr Andrew Charlton, Director of AlphaBeta completed the keynote sessions by bringing some realism to the discussion of automation: not every job will be replaced by computers and robots!

There were a number of presentations that discussed apprentices and trainees, including: women in trades, aspirations in rural and remote areas, the effects of seasonality on commencements and completions, and new ways of training.

Key messages from the conference included:

  • Creativity is one of the top skills requested by CEOs, but there have been recent declines in school student's creativity level. Apprentices and tradespeople display high levels of creativity, especially when solving problems on site. (Prof. Lene Tanggaard, Aalborg University, Denmark)
  • There are massive skills shortages in rural Australia, but many young women move away to pursue further education. Many employers like recruiting female trade apprentices, but find it difficult to get enough interest. There are a lack of role models for women who are interested in getting into a trade. (Stacey Jenkins, Charles Sturt University)
  • Many young people in rural and remote areas don't know what they want to do when they finish school, but few aspire to jobs that are trained through the VET sector. Similarly to metropolitan areas, rural and remote students favour university pathways over vocational education and apprenticeships. (Leanne Fray, University of Newcastle)
  • Commencements and withdrawals from trade apprenticeships happen seasonally, particularly in the north of Australia! Typically, commencements occur at the start of the year when trade school starts, while withdrawals tend to occur when the weather heats up. (Don Zoellner, Charles Darwin University)
  • Augmented reality is a fun and safe way to train new trade students: it can't replace traditional training but compliments it well. AR welding looks like a lot of fun and a great way to encourage people to consider a career in welding! (Geoff Crittenden, Weld Australia)
  • Students who withdraw from their apprenticeship, then restart in the same occupation or industry, are much less likely to complete than an apprentice who never withdrew. This occurred event during the GFC when apprentices were being laid-off rather than withdrawing themselves. These apprentices need additional supports to get them to completion. (Karen Vaughan, NZ Council for Educational Research)

No Frills 2019 will be co-hosted by TAFE SA and held in Adelaide, South Australia. We hope that apprenticeship and traineeship research is a highlight of next year's conference!

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