VET’s perception battle can be won by being more ‘agile’

The VET market has an opportunity to grow by re-framing its offering in line with the agile learning people are looking for to boost their employability, an Australian education consultant has argued.

Mark Pettitt, founder of higher education consultancy Edified, argued that in the recent past VET has been challenged by the higher education sector’s embrace of employability and job outcomes, and might need to re-characterise its offering to compete on this particular measure in the future.

However, Pettitt told ReadyTech CEO Marc Washbourne on the latest episode of the WorkED Podcast that it was possible for VET to do this so it does not lose more ‘perceptual space’ to universities.

“I think probably the best way to go is to try and re-position [VET] to be a kind of nimble, skills-based, agile, bite-sized, fast-paced kind of learning, that gives you meaningful outcomes in a short time.”

Pettitt said there is currently an intense focus on employability in the higher education sector – which he called a “hurricane” – that is influencing every conversation universities have with themselves and with the world. He said it was leading universities to stake their reputations on employability.

The challenge for VET providers is that higher education’s embrace of employability and job outcomes moved right into the “perceptual space” that has been traditionally occupied by the VET sector.

“[In the past] VET’s space was where you would go and do an apprenticeship or you would go and do a Diploma and that would lead to a job, whereas a university was kind of for ‘smart’ people to go and do something and then somehow they would just end up somewhere else,” he said.

Pettitt added that the employability push was an uncomfortable one for universities and that it may not be a good way to measure the true value delivered by higher education – or VET.

“I’m personally not comfortable really with the term employability in that I think it devalues in a way what education can do. Education can really enrich your life in many more ways than just your propensity to earn income. I’d be interested how long the phrase stays in the kind of zeitgeist.

“It wouldn’t surprise me if there is a turnaround and employers start looking for philosophy graduates and music graduates; there’s a lot of skills that come from just thinking about things and doing things that are not related particularly to a skill.”

The WorkED Podcast – The Employability Hurricane

A university education used to be about higher learning rather than getting a job. That conversation has turned upside down, with universities now caught in the eye of a new employability ‘hurricane’. What does it mean for the future of universities and the vocational education and training industry? Listen to WorkED Episode 004 – The Employability Hurricane with Mark Pettitt to find out.

About ReadyTech’s WorkED podcast

The future of work and education is here! WorkED is a new podcast from VETtrak’s parent company ReadyTech, investigating what the future of education and work will really look like and asking whether we’re ready for it. In conversation with ReadyTech CEO Marc Washbourne, leading thinkers come together to share their personal work stories and challenge the outmoded thinking, business models, community assumptions and policies being reshaped or upended by technology.

Read about previous podcasts with Sara Caplan from PwC and Saxon Phipps.

Listen now on the ReadyTech website, Spotify or iTunes