A mission statement for Vocational Education and Training

Those of you who were at the recent VET Leaders congress at Edutech 2016, may have heard a forum discussion, that I was part of,  about the future of VET in Australia.  During the conversations I suggested that one of the things that we clearly need in the VET sector in this country is a clear vision, or a mission statement if you will.  There was some discussion about the problems of achieving something like this at a government, strategic level and that any kind of statement which was created at this level would be compromised to some extent by the agendas of various stakeholders.  Now while I understand this concern and have seen it happen at all levels of not just government, but private enterprise as well, I tend to think that it may miss the point of what I was suggesting and almost throw the baby out with the bathwater so to speak.  So what was it that I was driving at when I suggested we need to have a vision for VET?

When I looked around the various websites and documents about the sector from government departments and the like, I could see a lot of talk about what VET was and how it was delivered, but very little that was inspiring, very little that would make me want to become involved in the sector, whether as a student, a provider or an employer.  It was all very boring and perfunctory and well, to be honest just a bit disappointing.  There were also lots of statements about data and regulation and quality, but again it was all written in such boring and uninteresting ways that no one could actually get excited about it.

I wrote late last year about the problems of the VET brand in Australia and that as a sector we needed to do something about it and that actually having an overarching brand for the sector would make a significant difference.  The general public, students, their families, even their employers are not terribly interested in figures and data and papers written about completion rates and how the VET sector helps disadvantaged people to improve their chances of workforce participation.  I mean even I got bored writing that sentence, now imagine how someone feels who is trying to find somewhere to study aged care or plumbing, or any other VET course, or trying to decide whether to go to Uni or and RTO, feels when they read that.  I have got a word for you – uninspired. People want to be inspired to take action, they want to feel that the decision they are making is the right one, they want to feel reassured and unfortunately data and boring statements about what VET is doesn’t do that.

Now to be fair, I know that a lot of  providers both public and private do a tremendous amount of work on their brand and their vision and position themselves wonderfully within the sector.  I know that we spend a lot of time thinking about our position and brand, and what it says about us and what we do. However I can’t help but think that if we had an overarching mission statement, a vision for the sector from which we and other providers could hang our particular brand, our way of living up to that vision then the sector as a whole might be a better place.

The vast majority of providers, be they public or non-public, do a fantastic job of providing outstanding outcomes for students and lets face it, this sector changes peoples lives.  There is absolutely no doubt about that what so ever.  We are however as a sector absolutely terrible at telling people this, in motivating, inspiring and meaningful ways.  We as a sector need to have a single cohesive vision of our purpose and goals.  We need to make this explicit and we need to spread it far and wide.  We need to make the value of vocational education and training part of this countries psyche and ensure that it is valued for the amazing contributions that it makes no matter who delivers it.

So here is the challenge for you all.  What should a mission statement or a vision for VET in Australia contain, what is it about this sector that will inspire and motivate not just those of use within the sector, but everyone else as well?


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.

3 Responses to A mission statement for Vocational Education and Training

  1. Gavin Howard says:

    Definately agree Paul, you just have to look at RTO’s on Facebook and social media platforms who believe that promoting their next course every 2nd day is good enough.
    Whilst VET requires currency for trainers. It appears “Currency” for RTO’s and the VET Sector in general is not as important. How much more inspiring would the Vet Industry be if they able to share, communicate and take advantage of the technology and platforms their students are so saavy with.

  2. Peter Hannigan says:

    A mission statement requires there to be clarity of purpose. That seems to have been lost over the last 10 years (and maybe longer). Achieving that clarity is not as simple as writing a purpose – it has to be agreed among stakeholders. If they can’t agree and are working at cross purposes then there is not an actual coherent VET system.

    • pauldrasmussen says:

      Peter, I think one of the main problems for the sector is that various government use this sector (more than others) to instantiate various policies they have around employment, workforce participation and the like. One of the things that happens as a result of this is the view of the purpose of the sector shifts. I don’t think the actual purpose of the sector shifts that much but the view of that purpose shifts dramatically. One of the reasons to consider some overarching statement of purpose is to in fact to try to avoid the conflicts of agendas. Now I agree that there is certainly some difference of opinion around the purpose of the sector, however I often think that difference of opinion often based a lower level than at a level of what the overarching purpose of the sector is. It is an issue of implementation shall we say.

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