NotesFAQContact Us
Search Tips
ERIC Number: ED524659
Record Type: Non-Journal
Publication Date: 2011
Pages: 31
Abstractor: ERIC
Reference Count: 68
ISBN: ISBN-978-1-9219-5528-0
The Role of VET in Workforce Development: A Story of Conflicting Expectations. Research Report
Bretherton, Tanya
National Centre for Vocational Education Research (NCVER)
This is the final report from a three-year program of research investigating the role of vocational education and training (VET) in workforce development. The research focuses on meat processing and child care, both of which are characterised by low-skill entry points to the labour market. The author pulls together the key themes emerging from the research and puts the focus firmly on the ability of VET to respond to the workforce development challenges within those industries. The author and her colleagues have developed a four-domain model, which they use to understand the skills development of workers in each sector. The four domains are: the product or service (for example, child care or meat processing); the industrial organisation structure (for example, the role of internal labour markets); labour supply; and VET. The VET system faces conflicting expectations and it is often criticised by industry for not being responsive to industry needs. However, rapidly changing conditions in the relevant industry and variation in the demands of individual employers make this a difficult task. Providing high-quality training is also made difficult by the high degree of casualisation in the workforce of those sectors and the lack of reward for upgrading qualifications. In the child-care sector, there is little in the form of increased pay for upgraded qualifications. In meat processing, training is typically focused on single tasks and the status of qualifications remains low--investing in high-level training is not worthwhile when labour turnover is high. Thus, in both industries, there is an equilibrium characterised by low pay and relatively low levels of training. The author argues that the way to move away from low levels of training is to improve the status of VET qualifications in these industries by creating the notion of "vocation" based on the idea of groups of skills, thus playing down skill development alone as a means for upward mobility. This is a provocative suggestion and emerges from the idea that people can compensate for low status and low wages by promoting child care and meat processing as "noble callings". A more conventional economic view would be that the only way of moving away from a low-skills equilibrium would be to provide greater rewards for higher skill levels. However, this will not happen in the child-care industry unless governments or parents are prepared to pay a lot more for child care and, in the meat-processing industry, consumers a lot more for their meat. This is unlikely to occur for the simple reason that both industries, while complaining about the extent of labour turnover, have not had any real difficulty in recruiting workers prepared to work at current wage levels. Some low-skill and low-paid jobs are inevitable and individuals typically undertake education and training to move on from them. (Contains 1 table and 2 footnotes.)
National Centre for Vocational Education Research Ltd. P.O. Box 8288, Stational Arcade, Adelaide, SA 5000, Australia. Tel: +61-8-230-8400; Fax: +61-8-212-3436; e-mail:; Web site:
Publication Type: Reports - Research
Education Level: Adult Education; Early Childhood Education
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: Australian Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations
Authoring Institution: National Centre for Vocational Education Research
Identifiers - Location: Australia