Sunday, November 2, 2014

Education for the Real World

Last Friday was Halloween and walking down to a tram stop in Sydney's inner west I saw many children in costumes (I was jealous of the small boy dressed as an astronaut, as I always wanted on of those NASA uniforms). Some of the parents were also dressed as witches, goblins and, in one case, a Hawaiian skirt. But one person wearing a high viability work shirt looked happier than everyone else. When asked if this was a trick-or-treat outfit he said "no", he had just got his riggers certificate at the nearby Annandale Campus of Petersham TAFE College. Asked what a "rigger" did, he proudly pointed to the scaffolding around the building site next to the tram stop and said: "that".

On the tram, the student could not resist proudly showing off his certificates. After months of practical work on campus and study at night, the student explained his qualifications would allow him to work at the mines in Western Australia, at least doubling his income (needed for a large family, he explained). As well as working at heights outdoors, his training included working in enclosed space, such as a lift shaft.

This reminded me of how important to the real world education is. The mining industry is dependent on this form of training, to provide much of Australia's export economy and keeping the workers, and the community, safe. Esoteric discussions of educational theory are one thing, but an education system which facilities billions of dollars in export income and protects workers where one slip can be fatal, is another.

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