For the past eight years, through the NSW Tertiary Pathways Project, the department has driven the collaborative development of pathways to new credentials that integrate the technical strengths of vocational training with the deeper content knowledge of university degrees.
The project is a response to changes in the world of work. As lower-skill jobs are automated, demand for higher-level qualifications and stronger theoretical knowledge is rising, but employers and students find that pathways between qualifications in VET and higher education are underdeveloped.
The project aims to go beyond traditional credit transfer arrangements to develop seamless progression through VET and higher education qualifications, with entry and exit points as needed. The project has involved collaboration at all levels – across the education and training sector, with industry and between two large government departments. It has delivered four unique pathways that are already enrolling students, with another four under development.
The pilots have already created a lasting legacy by developing models which can be replicated in other industry areas, and by clearing some of the regulatory barriers to a more flexible approach to training pathways.
Of particular significance is the work done to adapt the traditional apprenticeship training model to higher level qualifications. The “degree apprenticeship” model offers a bachelor degree with an embedded apprenticeship. To enable future replication of degree apprenticeships, the project worked with the NSW Department of Industry to simplify the State regulatory environment with a new Vocational Training Order (VTO). Another pathway offers employment and work-integrated learning that takes a student to a bachelor degree, with the option of exit to a sub-bachelor qualification along the way.
The project also developed new pathways to higher education in areas with growing demand where job roles have traditionally been VET qualified. This allows workers to step up to a bachelor degree by tailoring academic content to the needs of students transitioning from the VET learning environment, and providing academic support.
The project shows that the higher education and VET sectors can work together to address gaps and barriers and deliver student and industry focused outcomes. This paper identifies seven key lessons that can be applied to pathways work in the future. Of these, two that stand out are:
- close collaboration with industry and employers through all phases of the process is critical to success, and
- student-centred design is essential to ensure the pathway will be taken up and will deliver the outcomes intended.
This paper is intended to encourage the broader uptake of pathway models through improved curriculum co-design, increased recognition of the benefits of sub-bachelor qualifications and more flexible use of the apprenticeship framework.