Message from the CEO: Opening the door to potential

Happy New Year! 2015 is well behind us, and we’re looking forward to an exciting year as we prepare to welcome over 500 young apprentices, trainees and students who will compete at the 2016 WorldSkills Australia National Competition, Melbourne on 6-8 October.

Toward the end of 2015, Skills Ministers led by the Hon Luke Hartsuyker MP reaffirmed their focus on reform of the VET system, in particular the areas of the relevance of training and the quality of training delivery. While these are encouraging words, throughout 2015 we heard several stories about unsavoury recruitment practices within the sector. The fact that these incidents were identified and resolved proves that the VET Reform Taskforce is accomplishing what it was created to do, but it is a shame that these incidents have also managed to shed a negative light on VET and the apprenticeship system.

Most primary and secondary school educators can tell you that apprenticeships are a time-honoured tradition as old as the pyramids. For thousands of years, skilled professionals have taken eager young people under their wing and bestowed upon them the secrets of their trade. During the 18th, 19th and 20th dynasties of ancient Egypt, it was tradition for a young man to follow his father into a profession by becoming his apprentice, particularly if that led to working on a project for the Pharaoh. In Middle Ages Europe, the ability to design and build an intricate piece of furniture was considered a status symbol and the craftsmen and apprentices with this ability were held in very high regard.

When and why did this mindset change? While it is difficult to pinpoint an exact moment in history, the fact is that educators have the power to change it again. By becoming advocates for VET, we can help parents and their children discover the benefits of VET – how it opens the door to potential and sets children up for success.

In my September-November message, I discussed how trade and skill-based careers are entering an exciting period of evolution. In this world of ever-advancing technology, employers are increasingly seeking skilled labour with the ability to be flexible, responsive and adaptable to the requirements of the profession. This is the beauty of vocational education and training: VET pathways and apprenticeships provide young people with practical, hands-on knowledge that can be used now and translated into a world of future opportunities. As Year 9 students are busily selecting the subjects that will set them up for their future careers, wouldn’t it be a shame if they weren’t provided with every single opportunity available to find the right choice for them?

The 2015 Skillaroos led by example as they dedicated months of time to training for the 43rd WorldSkills Competition in São Paulo, Brazil, where they showed all Australians where an apprenticeship can lead a person. This year’s national competitors continue to be inspired by the success of these young champions. Educators – particularly in Victoria – can do their part by bringing their students to the National Competition – by giving them the opportunity to witness their peers achieving greatness as they compete for the coveted title of National Champion, or discover their own potential as they try their hand at a large variety of trade and skill-based careers through WorldSkills Australia’s popular Try’aSkill program.

2016 is set to be an exciting year for WorldSkills Australia and, I hope, for the VET sector as a whole. I look forward to seeing you at the National Competition.