Meaningful entry and exit points
Having clear entry and exit points along the pathway increases options for students to engage with different levels of tertiary study while enabling them to leave at their chosen point with a recognised and meaningful qualification.
The NSW Tertiary Pathways pilots have demonstrated the value of sub-bachelor qualifications (AQF level 5 and 6) for certain industries, especially in sectors where the workforce has traditionally been trained at the certificate level. These qualification levels are where VET and higher education come together and can be an important stepping stone between the sectors.
For example, industries such as health and community services are increasingly recognising an associate degree as a standalone qualification for career progression and a means to upskill their workforce. The aged care pathway established an associate degree as a meaningful, industry focused qualification which prepares graduates for higher level aged care duties and managerial roles. While the associate degree articulates into a number of related bachelor degrees, many graduates will choose to exit the pathway at this point and use the associate degree in roles requiring skills at this level.
However it is crucial that new qualifications at this level meet a genuine sector need and lead to real employment outcomes. To ensure this, engagement with industry groups and employers is important to understand sector dynamics. This is demonstrated by the early childhood education pathway model which created an associate degree, a qualification that is unrecognised in the industrial award and regulatory framework. As a result it didn’t appeal to employers or prospective students.
Case study: the aged care tertiary pathway
The University of Newcastle’s aged care pathway responded to changes in service models in the sector which increased the demand for employees with higher level qualifications. The university undertook extensive market assessment among aged care providers during the development process. Course content and assessments were developed through a series of strategic working groups with industry representatives.
The creation of the Associate Degree in Integrated Care in Ageing provides a new avenue of career progression for certificate III and IV qualified aged care workers. The associate degree is an employer-recognised qualification which prepares graduates for higher level roles and introduces foundational units to enable progression to university study.
Industry continues to be involved in the associate degree through an external advisory group which monitors the qualification and advises on curriculum relevance, graduate quality, industry trends and professional practice. These mechanisms ensure that the pathway will remain relevant as the aged care sector continues to change.