Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Work Integrated Models of Learning

The Foundation for Young Australians’ (FYA) New Work Order report points out that despite increased post-secondary qualifications, only half of 25 year olds have full time work. To accelerate the transition from education to full-time work the report recommends: enterprise skills courses, relevant paid employment for students in an area with a future, and an optimistic mindset. The report points the very real mental health issues with students expectation of employment not being met.

The VET sector leads the way with courses teaching useful skills, but universities are catching up. I have designed a university course on how to learn. The hard part has been not what to teach, but how to get the students to put the time into learning this, and to make it it into a suitable topic for serious university study. Sixty students will be in the pilot this semester.

Finding relevant paid work is extremely difficult for students. Traditionally apprentices received less pay than other workers, and in some industries the apprentices paid the employer for their position. As it is, it is difficult to find enough positions even for unpaid interns in in-demand industries such as computer software. Employers are reluctant to go to the trouble and expense of training a part-time, temporary employee with no experience.

Instilling an optimistic mindset in a student is difficult, if they know they have little chance of ever having a full time, secure career. Regrettably some universities, and universities academics, give students the false idea that a general degree will set the student up for any career. While many professions are being "disrupted", with the skills needed changing, what is certain is that if you graduate with a degree not aligned vocationally you are going to find it difficult to get a good job, or any job.

One way around the disruption in full time employment has been to teach students start-up entrepreneurial techniques. The student learns there is an alternative to a full time job for a large organization: they can instead start their own business. The students are told that their chance of success in this is very small, but even if they never set up a successful business they learn valuable business skills.

However, if a student doesn't have any vocationally relevant skills, then entrepreneurial studies are not going to help much. A few successful entrepreneurs did not finish university, and are held out as role models, but their global businesses are staffed by professionally qualified accountants, lawyers, marketers, engineers, and computer scientists.

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