‘The landscape of vocational education is changing’

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The diversity of opportunities available through vocational pathways was emphasised when Southern Cross Catholic Vocational College Burwood hosted the NSW launch of National Skills Week.

Politicians and key players in the Vocational Education and Training (VET) sphere attended the event, held at the College on August 29. The initiative was introduced by SkillsOne in 2011 to highlight the benefits of vocational training and its many providers.

Minister for Regional Development, Skills, and Small Business John Barilaro spoke about empowering students to make their own study choices after recounting the pressure he felt from his migrant parents to attend university, only to drop out of an accounting degree and take up carpentry work– a field where his passion lay – and eventually politics.

“National Skills Week is a fantastic opportunity to put a spotlight on those that have used vocational education as a pathway to a great career, and a wonderful life,” he said. “We’ve heard Prime Ministers mention that every child in this nation should go to university if they want to have a great life and a great job, we know careers advisors skew young people towards university, and often Mum and Dad don’t believe that vocational education is a pathway.

“That’s something that we’ve got to work on.  In NSW right now there are jobs everywhere, be it in tourism, hospitality, construction, the health sector. The NDIS rollout means by 2019 we’ll need another 25,000 personnel just in NSW to meet need and 90,000 across the nation.”

We’re committed to applied learning, building professional confidence and leadership skills for our students.

– Patrick O’Reilly

“The landscape around vocational education is changing.  Government has a part to play in this, but at the same time greater competition from a deregulated university sector with lower ATARs means there are about 50,000 students today at university that I believe are being set up to fail where they possibly should have been looking at vocational education as their pathway to that great career.

“What has changed significantly is the demand of industry, businesses and students needing and wanting flexibility in the way they train and in what. When you look globally it is about skill sets and transferrable skills.”

Southern Cross opened in 2010 after a group of 11 Catholic schools in Sydney’s Inner West formed a consortium and received $11 million from the federal government’s Trade Training Centres in Schools program to help build it. The College has won the ‘School Pathways to VET’ Australian Training Award in 2013 and in 2015. It was also recognised as an example of best practice in the independent review of the federal government’s Trade Training Centre’s in Schools program.

SCCVC student Alana Samrani balanced casual work, an apprenticeship in Real Estate and HSC study in her final year of high school.

Principal Patrick O’Reilly said the College now offered 16 different VET courses, and students typically completed three of these as part of their HSC. In 2016, the College took on 116 external VET students, who attend from 12 different schools for the VET component they have chosen to complete in their senior school years. About 40 per cent of SCCVC’s students are also school-based apprentices or trainees.

Hosting the NSW launch of National Skills Week – the first time the event has been held at a school and outside the Sydney CBD – was another highlight in a seven-year upward trajectory for the College.

“Up until now the launch of National Skills Week has been more about training organisations or business and not connected so much to schools, and even from a learning perspective the focus has been more on TAFE and private RTOs [Registered Training Organisations],” Mr O’Reilly said.

“For us it is fantastic to know that we are regarded as making a significant contribution alongside all of those other organisations that are big players in the schools space.

“We are blessed having fantastic staff here who lead, mentor, train and teach our students. We’re committed to applied learning, building professional confidence and leadership skills for our students.

“We have quite a significant number of businesses here at Southern Cross to deepen and extend the learning of our students. It’s all about providing them with real-life experiences and with real clients so they rise to the challenge, meet the expectation, and grow with and beyond this place.

‘We’re excited at the number of our individual awards and corporate awards we’ve received, and we’re excited that next week one of our Year 12 students Alana Samrani is a finalist in the NSW training awards in the school-based apprenticeship and traineeship category.

“We are committed very much to the success of young people, so that ultimately they leave us the most skillful and employable.”

National Skills Week is a fantastic opportunity to put a spotlight on those that have used vocational education as a pathway to a great career.

– John Barilaro

The launch also included displays that highlighted the work of Southern Cross students and qualifications available to them at the College. Information, Design and Technology students showed their work on dual operating systems, converting Apple computers to run Windows software and Android devices to run Apple software. Childcare and Health Services students also presented a sample of their work, including caring for mechanical babies that simulate the sleeping and feeding patterns of real ones (childcare) and monitoring blood pressure (health services).

A preview of the ‘Reality to Runway’ showcase held annually in September also formed part of the launch. The event will take place on Tuesday, September 13.

The collaboration between entertainment, hair and beauty services students sees them create the lighting, sound, hair, makeup, and fashion looks for a live catwalk. Last year’s offering included Africa, Zombies and Burlesque in its theme.

Students model hair and makeup looks by Southern Cross catholic Vocational College students at the NSW launch of National Skills Week. Photo: Gene Ramirez

Students model hair and makeup looks by Southern Cross Catholic Vocational College students at the NSW launch of National Skills Week. Photo: Gene Ramirez

Year 12 Beauty Services student Lauren Purdie, 17, is among the Year 12 students who will graduate in three weeks’ time work-ready after learning valuable skills at the College. She created a Hollywood glamour look for the showcase preview at the launch.

Lauren was also the youngest of 21 freelance makeup artists – many with years of experience – to compete at the International Beauty Expo held at the Sydney Exhibition centre in August and placed third.

“We had to research and plan the makeup, the hair, the clothes and how it would tie together,’ she said.  “The hair, beauty, and entertainment students all work together and collaborate to get the end result. It is a lot more detailed than the average school project.”

Lauren came to Southern Cross from Aquinas Catholic College Menai to take up beauty services. She works casually as a makeup artist at a beauty salon in Alford’s Point after impressing during a work experience placement there.

“It feels really good to go to a College that is getting a really good name for itself,” she said.

“Graduating is kind of scary but also exciting at the same time because we get to go and work and we have qualifications that are going to help us out into the workforce now.”

SkillsOne General Manager Kirstin Casey said the launch at SCCVC was a great start to National Skills Week celebrations. “National Skills Week is about putting skills and trades on the agenda, celebrating its contribution to building a strong workforce, and changing existing attitudes towards VET,” she said.

“Vocational Education and Training presents many benefits that will guide students into secured employment, especially in sectors in need of skilled professionals. The VET system is in-tune with current Industry demands, and aims to shape students into employable and qualified workers that are able to find a job very soon after graduating. These are just some of the many reasons why VET should be more of a first choice.”


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