Strong industry involvement has been central to the NSW Tertiary Pathways Project. Collaboration with industry and employers produces pathways which align with current and future skills needs while delivering real employment outcomes for students.
Tertiary pathways can meet particular needs in evolving industries where skill sets are rapidly changing and in industries where educational gaps are preventing the workforce from upskilling. For example, the department has recently partnered with Australian Industry Standards to research new pathway options in the transport and logistics sector, which is undergoing rapid technological changes, with new job roles and requirements starting to emerge.
Industry partnerships help to ensure pathways deliver the right mix of practical and theoretical skills that employers need. For example, consultations with the emerging renewable energy sector identified demand for technically competent paraprofessionals with specific experience in renewable energy technologies. To provide this unique blend of skills, industry representatives became major partners in a consortium which delivered an Associate Degree of Applied Engineering (Renewable Energy Technologies).
Industry partnerships have worked best where employers have been involved during the entire development process. It is important to consider that the needs of industry groups and employers may differ, as the case study below demonstrates.
Case Study: Early Childhood Education Pathway
This pathway was created in anticipation of an increased demand for qualified early childhood educators as new regulatory requirements came into effect. It featured the creation of an Associate Degree in Early Childhood Education, which was led and delivered by TAFE NSW Western Institute.
The associate degree combined VET and higher education content to allow students to transition seamlessly from a Certificate III to higher level study. It fully integrated the content from the Diploma of Children’s Services and prepared students with the academic skills needed to enter directly into a bachelor degree.
Despite a high level of engagement and enthusiasm from sector peak bodies, employers and prospective students were unsupportive of the pathway. The associate degree is an unrecognised qualification in both the award and the regulatory framework, and neither group saw the value in upskilling to this qualification level.
Earlier contact with local employers and prospective students would have allowed for the disconnect between their needs and the aspirations of the project to be addressed.