The chapter on Societal concerns Wexley & Latham (2002) provides a detailed analysis of the expected future for Australia's workforce and the micro economic implications of a broader trend in areas including workforce training and education. The thesis question of whether the Vocational Education Training (VET) system currently in place in Australia can or will enable the solution to concerns of a current and future society is a function of whether the VET has in place the proper measures to handle the forthcoming issues and to enable the resources to its solution.
The VET has enjoyed a high degree of success with Australian employers (What employers want, 2009) "A study by NCVER examined employers' views on the three ways they can engage with the VET system: by having vocational qualifications as a job requirement; employing apprentices and trainees; and using nationally recognized training. Employees who had apprentices and trainees were the most satisfied group. More than half of Australia's employers (54%) have a connection with the VET system through one or more of these three ways." (What Employers Want, 2009)
Job training is clearly expressed as an issue for the future of Australian society. Will there be sufficient resources to enable the citizens or the visa workers in Australia to increase productivity and sustain an increasing marginal return on GDP growth. The VET system clearly integrates the resources necessary to increase vocational qualifications to the workforce. However, there are some issues that need to be addressed.
"What improvements would employers like to see? Some employers think that the skills being taught are not relevant, some think training is "too general" and "not specific enough," and some think there is not enough focus on practical skills. Employers who have a higher involvement in the VET system, either with apprentices and trainees, or using nationally accredited training, are less dissatisfied." (What Employers Want, October 2009)
The type of skills is ostensibly a subjective issue as one employer may not deem the VET system appropriate to address their particular vocational training issue. Nine out of ten employers however, may view the vocational training as sufficient to addressing their workforce skills needs as the market changes and adapt to new software, technology, and means of doing business/commerce.
"The OECD has conducted a review of VET in Australia as part of its "Learning for Jobs" policy study. The intent of the study is to help countries make their VET systems more responsive to labor market needs. VET competencies and qualifications cover around 80% of occupations in Australia. During the research (2008), over half of employers reported having used the VET system in the previous 12 months. Employers' involvement was either because they had jobs requiring a VET qualification, they employed an apprentice or trainee, or they had staff that undertook other nationally recognized training." (What Employers Want, June 2009)
The VET system seems to address the rather urgent need for qualified individuals within the Australian economy. Investment into training the workforce to empower the economic engine of Australia will solve a number of sociological issues that are mentioned in the societal concerns chapter. Such areas including Basic Skills Training, English as a Second Language (ESOL), Older Workers, Telecommuting Training, Cross-Culture Training, and Time Management. The successful completion of these training programs is what may hinder the solution to the underlying problem.
"Enhancing the capacity of the VET system to address skill shortages is another key priority. The low rate of completion of training courses is an additional policy issue facing the sector. Education is provided in a variety of settings including early education and care (child care, pre-schools) and the three sectors comprising Australia's education and training system " school education, higher education, and vocational education and training (VET) (Figure 3.1) (SCRGSP, 2008).1 VET programmes can be undertaken through multiple pathways connecting schools, post-secondary institutions and the workplace (AEI, 2006)." (Enhancing Educational Performance, 2008)
The areas addressed in societal concerns are able to be addressed throughout Australia given the integrated network that creates a nexus to the places of learning where technology and resources are available, the workplace and the demands of the workplace, and the trainee. The VET is a system that facilitates the integration of these core elements that are critical to sustaining the skillset needed to supply a growing economy and increasing productivity.
"Enhancing the capacity of the VET system to address skill shortages is of great importance for the sustainability of growth. Recent reform initiatives aiming to increase the skills of the workforce and eliminate the existing skill gaps are therefore welcome, as is the introduction of a more demand-driven provision of training, accompanied by an outcomes-based funding. Finally, less rigid policy frameworks for school and higher education sectors would promote flexibility, making the education system more responsive to changing needs and challenges." (Enhancing Economic Performance, 2008)
Training to prevent sexual harassment remains a strong policy issue yet is nascent in its evolution from a written document to the transition into viable framework that governs employee behavior. This is true across the globe, as litigation is still the central arena to where sexual harassment suites either finish for better, or for worse. Most organizations are performance driven and therefore do not comingle sexual leanings with financial successes. However, this is not always the case as the power relationship between employer and employee, supervisor and subordinate, or between management and worker, is a dyadic nightmare for internal affairs and human resource management executives to address because of the propensity for abuse within these relationships.
"The implications for VET are, we should expect a rise on the demand for higher level VET qualifications, of associate diploma and diploma level. There will be a continuing need for VET courses that cater to people who have been displaced from their low to middle skill level manufacturing (and increasingly, services) jobs by competition from overseas. Employment levels in many occupations fluctuate from year to year in ways that cannot possibly be matched by variations in the number of new graduates from the VET system." (Richardson, 2008)
Much of the current focus on the VET system is on training the youth of the Australian society. By enabling the youth, the idea appears to be that the integration of the employer and employee into the system early on will allow the system to track and train the employee according to prior work experience, expected career goals, and current skillset.
"The contribution of the skilled VET workforce to innovation is not limited to its role in direct production. Across the European Union and Australia, around 45 per cent of the business R&D workforce is comprised of VET qualified workers, mostly technicians and tradespersons. A recent large scale study of the role of tradespeople and technicians employed in Australian R&D labs found they make a significant contribution to the performance of R&D. This reflects their particular practical skills, knowledge and approach to problem-solving." (Toner, 2010)
The older workforce is addressed by Toner above. These often knowledgeable and skilled employees that wish to remain employable in the vibrant economy. All workers will be subject to the competition available within the market place and therefore, the number of skilled workers may be greater than the number of available positions.
"The VET system is remarkably varied and diffuse. It can broadly be defined as the delivery of post-school, non-university education and training by public and private sector entities. The system is important in workforce education and training. In 2007, 60 per cent of the total Australian workforce had a post school qualification, as recognized by the Australian Qualification Framework, of which 60 per cent were below the level of a bachelor degree (ABS 2007: Table 11). In 2006, around 1.7 million people enrolled in publicly funded VET courses. Around 12 per cent of the total population aged 15-64 undertakes Vet training at some point in time over the course of a year; with about 80 per cent of these enrolled at TAFE (Skills Australia 2010)." (Toner, 2010)
The varying degree of the qualifications of the workforce within the VET is a function of adult education and training. The workforce is dynamic and modern with the advent of VET the ability to update the skillset provides a potent workforce that is not subject to attrition very easily. "For more years than I care to remember, qualifications have been an issue for trainers and educators. How important are they? Do employers care about them, do they make a difference to earnings, to employability? So the list goes on. Like so much in our society, our views on these matters have waxed and waned over recent years. Sometimes qualifications have been viewed as central -- absolutely essential. At other times they're "nice to have" but not really needed. In recent years, Australia has been part of an international trend back towards the importance of qualifications.
Our vocational education and training system is now built around qualifications. These provide the central organizing structure for the…