Career Progression, Professional Development and VET

I wrote about this topic almost 12 months ago, (I don’t want to be a trainer all my life) but a couple of conversations I have had recently have got me thinking again about the whole concept of career progression, talent management and succession in both organisational L&D and the VET sector.  As I sit back and look at the world of Learning and Development and Training, after having been involved in it for quite a lot of years, in all parts of the industry, accredited and non-accredited, public and non-public, delivery, management, strategy, in very large enterprises and small ones, I realise that the path I took to get to where I am was (like with most of the other people I know) quite crooked, there was very little in the way of straight line progression in terms of moving from one role to another and gradually climbing some career progression ladder.  Not that these days it seems there is really that linear progression in terms of careers which were very much part of the generations before us.  The other thing I noticed was that there was very little in the way of mentoring or talent management in any part of my career.  I was essentially left to my own resources.

Which brings me to the subject of professional development and how it ties into career progression and talent management.  It seems to me that the world of Professional Development in the VET sector is divided into two distinct streams;

  1. How to be a better trainer (which includes look at this lovely new piece of technology)
  2. How to meet compliance standards

Now some might try and paint their PD programs to make them look like they are something else, but in reality at least from what I can see the vast majority of PD falls into these two categories.  Please note that I am intentionally avoiding talking about any PD that relates to industry currency that is a whole different ball game altogether.  So my question is where are the professional development programs around leadership, ethics, management (not compliance management, management), mentoring.  There are a whole range of skills that just don’t seem to make it onto the PD offerings for training professionals.  Now I know what some of you are going to say, that sort of stuff is available through other avenues and generalist programs and you are probably right, but wouldn’t it be nice, I dare say even useful to have leadership, management and ethics programs that focussed on the sector.  I certainly think it would be.

In order to do that however we would need to know what career progression looks like in this sector, and I am not sure that we do.  One of the problems is of course one that exists in any sector where there are practitioners and administrators/managers, and much like in the social sciences practitioners  at some point have to choose, whether to stay a practitioner or do I want to be a manager.    Trainers and facilitators have to choose as well, do they want to stay heavily involved in the teaching side of the profession or do they want to move over into administration and management.   This is why in a lot of organisations, particularly as the organisation gets bigger, more and more of the management staff coming from the administrative/co-ordination/compliance side of the business than the training side, the move seems a lot easier to make.  And make no mistake this is not just the case in the non-public side of the sector, even in the public (TAFE) side we see the same thing and they have a very structured environment with all of these levels and things for trainers to traverse, but again at some point the trainer has to choose and in the case of TAFE added to the change in focus from actual training to administration which comes with any move like this there is also in a lot of cases a loss of ‘perks’ such as non-contact hours and the like, things that people from the administration side have never really had anyway so they won’t miss them when they move.  The other thing we need to know is what makes a good manager in this sector, what is the skill set of  someone in Educational Management?  We also need to know how to take someone who is a good trainer and help them to become a good manager and we cant do this if we don’t know what we are aiming for.  Then of course it is just a simple matter of getting people on board with the idea of doing something for their staff other than sending them to a conference or a two day program in flipped learning and that more than anything may actually be the biggest challenge.

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About pauldrasmussen
Paul Rasmussen is one of Australia’s most widely read Vocational Education and Training Commentators. He provides deep, unbiased analysis and insights not only on topical issues, but also on the underlying structure and policy which supports the industry. His writing and analysis has been praised for its uncompromising and thought provoking style and its ability to focus on the issues of real importance to the sector. He has advised various government departments and ministers, training providers, public and private organisations, not for profits and small to medium enterprises on the VET sector and the issues and opportunities facing it. He is one of Australia’s most awarded learning professionals and a regular speaker at a range of conventions and forums. His extensive experience in vocational education, and learning and development coupled with formal qualifications in philosophy, ethics, business and education management allow Paul to provide a unique view of the road ahead and how to navigate it.

One Response to Career Progression, Professional Development and VET

  1. basdenleco says:

    @Paul,
    You raise many valid points which occur when deciding to accept the challenge of progressing from workplace training and assessment to management in an RTO structure.
    There are IMHO parallels with many industries that progression from the coal face to management is circuitrous and may not suit many aspiring candidates.

    Because some one is an outstanding trainer, assessor, candle stick maker (what ever) does not imply that they will be an excellent leader / manager / innovator.

    As you state it is in determining what are the attributes and skills sets of a recognised good manager of an RTO has to be the starting point.

    The diversity of RTO’s in the FE(VET) industry should be able to provide relevant information but when one looks at the NCVER there does not appear to be a great deal.
    From the NCVER the following

    “What is a practical, effective and sustainable approach to leadership development at the
    Canberra Institute of Technology?”

    “Careers in vocational education and training: What are they really like?”

    shed some light, but with the rapidity of changes inthe Australian VET system they may be outdated.

    And that is also part of the challenge that the rapid changes that have occurred and more than likely to continue may mean that a progression from trainer to management over a period of time is not a feasible fiancial model for an organisation.

    Does being the operational manager that is providing a training service really need the experience of delivering the training to be an effective manager?

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