Friday, April 29, 2011

ITF research conference - day two

Day two begins with keynote form Jeremy Baker on identifying and reporting the value added from training. Important to not only measure training outputs in term of quantification completion but also to take into account training as a process and experience. Value related to right training for the right business and the right job. The training process runs through getting ready, undertaking, assessment and putting into practice. At the moment 90% of the ITO effort goes into the middle steps but 80% of the impact of training actually in the first and last steps. Therefore to calculate reported value added RVA for training requires evaluating each of the stages of training. The steps for the RVA process therefore are to identify things that drive productivity and performance in the business, identify which are affected by skills, then refine information on drivers and impact of skills and staff satisfaction, then work out how trained and untrained employees perform and the $ value. Importantly, review the $ value to analyze is the right sort of training offered, do business practices encourage effective skill deployment and what improvements need to be made to skills and training? Recommendations include need to review content and assessment of training programs, implementation of staff development programs, more thinking about career pathways and aligning training roles, and more emphasis on training element. Therefore not just more training but appropriate and useful training.

Concurrent sessions begin with a report from Professor Rob Strathdee of Victoria University on the social composition of VET in NZ. Outlined the three phases of VET provision, meritocratic, market and managed. These phases are progressively introduced to try to increase participation range of students from various social backgrounds. Concluded VET not just for lower decile schools. However, students from higher decile schools are likely to engage in higher level VET.

Followed by Dr. Peter Waterhouse from the University of Waikato on telling tales on skills and employability: reviewing some australian research through nz lens. Began by introducing the work and future direction of the National Centre of literacy and numeracy for adults. Presented several reports from Australia, mostly through the NCVER, relevant to literacy and numeracy. Include - contradicting the stereotype - on people who succeeded even with lit/ num challenges. Two dimensional work - even though work places say they demand creative workers, some workplaces did not provide space for creativity, critical thinking or critical literacy. Making experience work - could displaced workers transfer their employability skills? Not automatically or inherently generic, key skills of transfer required, important to be able to unpack, repack, latent skills might not beam apparent etc. Skills ecosystem research refers to recognizing context. A good overview of Australian research in the adult literacy field.

Next lot of concurrent sessions with Heather McDonald and Anne Alkema from Heathrose Research and Justin Blakie from the Ag ITO. On what makes a difference to support completion and credit achievement for ag Ito trainees. Tried have 75 trainees interviewed, with recently completed, fervently exited without completing and currently enrolled across dairy (40), sheep/beef (15) and water (20) but ended with 59. Most who left self initiated, usually within first year. 97% knew what was expected of them during training. About half said they did not need qualification to do the job, they saw value in training, farm mobility was common and employers less influential about commencing training. On job farm training valued, conditions could be better, time for training an issue. Off job training valued but written work a challenge for some. Written work a challenge across educational spectrum. Support from employer and training advisor important. Motivator - future prospects once qualification completed. Thosenwho find it harder have lower qualifications, less positive employer relationships and lack time outside work to study. John reported on how ag Ito put findings from the research in place to enhance completions.

After lunch, Dr. Rose Ryan and Heather McDonald and Anne  Alkema from Heathrose Research on saying what you mean and hearing what is meant: issues in researching trainee and employee perspectives on industry training. Covered the challenges of ensuring trainee voice and experiences are included and logistical, methodological and ethical issues. Challenges include access to workplace, reliance on interviews, building rapport and interpreting meaning. Reviewed NZ research on industry training 44 of which 27 was primary research and only 10 talked to trainees. Generally case studies, with interviews etc. Ad most had small participant numbers. Access to interviewees include getting workplaces to participate, selection of interviewees, informed consent and ethical assurances (power dynamics and confidentiality in small workplaces). Communication is also issue with gender, ethnicity, ESOL and age. Also how well researchers understand the workplace context and how well interviewees understand the process of research?

Then, a sessions with David Earl from the Tertiary sector performance analysis/ Ministry of education on how can tertiary education deliver better value to the economy? Theories - human capital - more skills = more productivity, improved capacity to innovate and knowledge transfer. Generally improved education (quality not quantity) leads to improvements in economy. Tertiary Ed. = diploma or higher, NZ almost 50%  - almost 60% for younger and 60% have above level 3 literacy. Both skills and qualifications complement each other and in combination are important. NZ has well educated workforce but low productivity. Still shortage in engineering, building, architecture, specialist health and post-graduate info. Tech. High skills and more qualifications still important.

Last lot of concurrent sessions starting with Ann Harlow from University of Waikato on the impact of embedded literacy and numeracy teaching on adult vocational learners. 100 students from ITPs and PTEs asked about what teaching practices helped them improve literacy. Students appreciated fun ways to learn, often using more visual representations, games, linking directly applicable to practice often just in time. Students enjoy learning in groups, experts coming to class, use technology, role plays and one on one tutor assistance. Work placement and research assignments were also good ways to learn. Frustrations included difficult vocational jargon, complicated processes to remember, lack of Internet access at home.

Last session with Professor Frank Sligo from Massey University on NZ managers' low literacy : does it matter.  76% of managers are below level 3 in literacy. However, nature of managerial work is more inclined to orality then print literacy. Policy has tended to support workers' literacy improvement. However, low literacy in managers has consequences to workplace practice e.g. Affordances for other workers to literacy support Plus modern digital (document driven) world requires enhanced critical literacy. Innovation also requires both practicalities and literary intelligence. Therefore important to complement NZ no. 8 wire approach capability in print literacy.

Conference ended with a plenary panel discussion with Dr. Peter Coolbear and Professors Stephen Billett and Jane Bryson and Jenny Connor, filling in for Jeremy Baker. Each did a short overview of items learnt over the course of the conference, making links to their own presentations and those of others. Each also raised more questions requiring further work and need for vocational education sector to work with other tertiary sectors.

Overall a busy two days and good to attend a diverse range of sessions and to see how vocational education research is progressing in NZ.

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