Project lessons to date
Since 2016 the NSW Skills Board has provided funding to the NSW Department of Education (the department) to support a range of pilot courses which offer an integrated pathway from vocational education and training (VET) to higher education.
The Board’s objective for the pathways pilots was to demonstrate that integrated pathways between VET and higher education are viable and to identify keys to success for future tertiary pathways which mutually benefit students, employers, industry and institutions.
The pathways pilots have been successful thanks to the extensive collaboration between multiple government departments, universities, VET providers, employers, industry groups and students. The commitment of these parties to creating meaningful and sustainable pathways was critical to overcome numerous barriers and challenges.
An important ongoing challenge is the current structural arrangements, regulatory environment and funding framework. The integration of course content is challenging because the VET and higher education sectors operate under different regulatory and funding systems and this means that a boutique solution needs to be found for each pathway, which requires extensive consultation. However, the pilots have shown that these challenges can be managed through a student-centred design approach, careful planning, collaboration and engagement with key stakeholders. This is discussed under 'Regulatory and funding challenges' in the report.
Future pathways projects looking to replicate this success should apply the following best practices and lessons learned.
- Industry partnerships - employers need to be involved throughout the development of a new pathway because the views of individual employers may differ from those of their industry groups. Collaboration with individual employers assists in ensuring alignment with current and future skills needs while delivering real employment outcomes for students.
- Work integrated learning - relevant work experience throughout the pathway allows students to apply the skills they are learning in real time and increases the likelihood of gaining employment within their field of study.
- Meaningful entry and exit points - having clear entry and exit points along the pathway increases the options for students to engage with different levels of higher education at different points, while enabling them to leave at their chosen point with a recognised and meaningful qualification.
- Student-centred pathway design - the needs of the student cohort are integral because these have wide-ranging implications for delivery mode, course structure, affordability and the type of student support offered.
- Supporting students to transition - the pilots have incorporated support services to ensure students are able to successfully transition from work-integrated training to the university classroom.
- Project management and governance – the effective collaboration and engagement of consortium members (higher education and VET providers, industry bodies and employers, with dedicated project management staff) was key to the success of the pilots.
The pilots have demonstrated that industry, higher education and the VET sectors can work together successfully to deliver both student and employer-focused outcomes across a range of industries and study areas. The pilots have also proved that barriers can be overcome through commitment, goodwill and persistence. The lessons learned can guide stakeholders to develop innovative solutions for the workforce needs of the future.
It is the NSW Skills Board’s desire that the lessons learned from these pilots will influence broader reform and provide an important foundation for development of further pathway models.
Philip Marcus Clark, AM
Chair, NSW Skills Board