Sunday, September 06, 2015

INAP conference day 1 - 1st September 2015

Last week, was at Ballarat for the bi-annual innovative apprenticeship (INAP) 2015 conference. link to conference page. Some introductory activities on the Monday afternoon with opportunity to look through the trades facilities based at the Federation University SME campus. Several brand new facilities with modern equipment. Apprentices from almost to south Australia border and east to Gippsland supported with day release, block courses and some pre trade training. In the evening a welcome session with drinks, finger food and welcome speeches from University, city leaders and region's political representatives. 

Tuesday Morning (1st September) of the first day conference dawns fine and frosty as we are bussed out to the mount Helen campus where the rest of the conference is situated. Day begins with conference opening  and a poignant welcome to country introducing the Worrarong perspectives of sustainability and the need to take care of the land for our descendants.  Professor Phillip Gonon provides background of INAP and its role. professor Erica Smith who is conference chair starts off with general introduction to facilities and programme. 

First keynote is from Senator Simon Birmingham, assistant minister of education. Spoke of revival worldwide of support for apprenticeship systems and role required into the future. Apprenticeship completions, quality of outcomes, status of apprenticeship compared to higher education and support systems to be funded for mentoring. An apprenticeship reform panel to be formed to strengthen apprenticeship systems to maximise apprentice numbers and completions (sitting at 50% for many years). Area to explore include 'incentives' to apprentices and employers, pre-apprenticeship prospects - how can they be successful? and alternative models including greater flexibility for provision and support. 

The mornings second keynote is with Paul Comyn from the international labour organising (ILO) based in Geneva. The topic is 'can traditional apprenticeships in the informal economy of least developed countries be integrated as legitimate pathways in formal skills development systems?' Or 'quality apprenticeships: can the informal become formal? Covered global apprenticeship trends, quality apprenticeship design, informal apprentices and formalising apprenticeships with examples from South Asia. Recommends need to understand how the informal system functions and progressively link the informal and informal.

After morning tea, concurrent presentations begin. First up, select a session with Phil Loveder from NCVER Australia on 'why apprentices drop out in Australia and policy implications'. Presented on importance of continuing work on trying to understand the ongoing challenge of completions. Australian completions still static 52.4% with many completers also not working in the trade on completion. Lower level quals even lower! Main reasons were personal, redundancy, job mismatch, relationship issues at work and unhappy with training. Employers contributions still important. Most apprentices leave in first Year to second year. Recommends investigation of alternative models including RPL, split on job and off job half for each, accelerate time, reduce costs to employer, early sign off allowed etc. 

Second session with  group from  University of Melbourne with Dr. Gosia Klatt and others on 'working their way to school completion, school based apprenticeships and traineeships for young Australians'. Provided overview with 20,000 young people engaged and little longitudinal evidence to gauge effectiveness. Especially no evidence school based track effective in leading to employment for dis-advantaged kids. Challenges include usual suspects - low completions, school capabilities, student readiness, objectives unclear and lack of support system. Overview of research approach and findings presented. Strong correlation between low SES and low quality levels, segregation of gender and high uptake if supported by state incentivisation. 

After lunch, I present on some of the findings from out project surface tablets. 'Improving dynamics of feedback through deploying mobile technology enhanced learning during pre-apprenticeship'. Go through rationale, projects, findings and recommendations. Emphasis on use of videos and peer feedback and role in assisting accelerated learning, feedback loop and learning of judgment to provide peer feedback. Stressed need to have confidence in staff by supporting digital literacy attainment with staff. Students also need preparation with feed back skills and digital literacy. 

Stay in the same room to attend James Canaan's from Manukau Institute of Technology presentation on 'pre-apprenticeships towards apprenticeships using practice focused learning'. 
Overview of part of PhD study, focused on understate pedagogy of practice based learning principles and styles. Investigates benefits of practice focused learning for students, employers and industry. Predominantly to look at practice based learning before and during work and in work of practice focussed learning in institutions. Automotive and electrical students form ample and Initial findings presented. 

Then paper by Professors Thomas Deissinger and Phillip Gonon on 'stakeholders in the German and Swiss systems role in innovating apprenticeship'. Applies the 'justification' approach to VET to address various issues including revitalisation of VET. Begin with description of Swiss and German VET. Employers' and trade unions' roles as key stakeholders listed and discussed e.g. The conflicts and consensus between the two. Therefore compromise required for VET policy including hybridisation of qualifications. 

Afternoon tea followed with session with Magnus Fjellstrom and Per Kristmansson from Umea University in Sweden on 'learning as an apprentice,  comparative study on affordances for vocational learning in school and work life apprentice education'. Compares employed construction apprentices (12) with business admin students (15) in upper secondary school who spent part of time at work. Based on concepts of workplace curriculum (Billett, 2001). Similarities and differences identified. Apprentices could not identify curriculum goals as they related completion of time sheets as main goal. Students were able to as they were being assessed to goals in course syllabi.  

Day closes with keynote with Raymond Patel from MerSETA, South Africa. The presentation focused on 'developing T-shaped people to comply with needs of a 21st century education, training and workplace demands'. MerSETA is the sector education and training authority for manufacturing, engineering and related services. Discussed differences between skill and  skilfulness. Presented future challenges skills development will need to meet. Global warming and impacts on social structure brought about by water shortages, social inequalities etc. Means VET has to train for a 'greener' future. Skilfulness implies nimbleness and dexterity with the ability to apply knowledge across various contexts in a lively manner. Uses Worldskills as an approach with TVET whereby international curriculum can be developed to address challenges in a holistic manner. 
Conference dinner follows back in town, closing a longish but informative day. Good to meet up with familiar international friends and meet and discuss shared interests with other apprenticeship researchers. 

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