Innovative partnerships for youth engagement in education and work

Project contact

Prof. John Polesel
T: 8344 8293
E: jpolesel@unimelb.edu.au
W: Personal web page

Project Details

In most modern OECD nations, secondary schools are required to form partnerships with a large variety of organisations, ranging from other education and training providers to community groups, businesses and associations. These schools typically manage a large number and various types of relationships with external organisations. These may include Work Placement Coordination providers, local businesses offering work placements, external vocational education providers, such as Technical and Further Education (TAFE) Institutes in Australia, and other non-educational and community institutions.

This study was undertaken to evaluate the motivations underlying the formation of the partnerships, the positive outcomes these partnerships provide for students, and the difficulties they face. The data presented in this report were collected as part of a project exploring the role that partnerships play in the senior secondary school curriculum in Australia. It included the school survey conducted in 2014. The survey targeted all secondary schools that provide applied learning and VET programs (State, Catholic and Independent) across the three states, from metropolitan, regional and rural locations.

This research also draws on over 30 in-depth, semi-structured interviews with school principals, teachers and program coordinators and 30 focus group meetings with 134 students conducted in 2015 in metropolitan and regional secondary schools located in VIC, SA and NSW. The interviews collected data on the background of the school and the type of VET programs offered, the motivation for providing applied learning programs, the resources involved, and the perceived challenges to the organisation and management of partnerships relating to VET provision.

Researchers

  • Professor John Polesel (University of Melbourne)
  • Professor Jack Keating (University of Melbourne)
  • Professor Karen Starr (Deakin University)
  • Associate Professor Damian Blake (Deakin University)
  • Mr David Gallagher (Victorian Curriculum and Assessment Authority)
  • Mr David Michaels (New South Wales Department of Education and Communities)

Collaborators

Industry partners

  • Victorian Curriculum and Assessment Authority
  • Victorian Department of Education and Training
  • Catholic Education Commission of Victoria
  • Catholic Education Commission New South Wales
  • South Australia Department for Education and Child Development
  • New South Wales Department of Education and Communities
  • Association of Independent Schools of New South Wales, and Catholic Education South Australia.

Funding

  • Australian Research Council Linkage grant
  • Victorian Curriculum and Assessment Authority
  • Victorian Department of Education and Training
  • Catholic Education Commission of Victoria
  • Catholic Education Commission New South Wales
  • South Australia Department for Education and Child Development
  • New South Wales Department of Education and Communities
  • Association of Independent Schools of New South Wales, and Catholic Education South Australia.

Research Outcomes

The findings of this study confirm the changing nature of secondary school programs in recent years. Teaching and educational provision no longer remain exclusively linked to one institution, and new and innovative programs are being implemented to involve the wider community in learning and skills development. The most visible, and arguably the most important, of these innovations are the applied learning programs that have been introduced into all the senior certificates in Australia and which require the building of partnerships with various community actors. The perceived benefits for students deriving from these programs are clear to the students themselves, and to their teachers and the external partners. However, they are dependent on a number of factors. This study found that:

  • Schools formed partnerships with a large variety of organisations, ranging from other education and training providers, government agencies and community groups, to businesses and associations.
  • Almost 70% of respondents did not form any relationships with any professional associations of employers such as the Australian Chamber of Commerce & Industry (ACCI) or the Australian Industry Group (AIG).
  • Partnerships with business comprise the largest category of schools’ partners overall. *  Schools are aware that industry exposure is an important objective of VET programs, but they faced challenges in organising work placements.
  • Partnerships’ objectives corresponded with the level of disadvantage, the number of refugee or indigenous students and location.
  • A very broad range of VET and applied learning programs were offered, and over 80 different programs were named by the respondents.
  • VET offerings are driven mostly by student demand.
  • Many students saw themselves as a “hands-on person” and did not see the general academic pathway as being suitable for them.
  • Three top attributes that assisted teachers in partnerships were:
    • capacity to respond to individual needs,
    • broader understanding of ‘learning’,
    • networking with community.
  • The motivated teachers (champions) as well as schools’ own networking played a highly significant role in initiating and maintaining partnerships.
  • The greatest barriers for effective implementation of partnerships were:
    • limited financial resources,
    • limited human resources,
    • teachers being overloaded.
  • Over 75% of school staff would like to further expand their applied/VET programs in the future.
  • Some students considered the vocational pathway to be superior to the general curriculum pathway; they felt it to be “further ahead”
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Download Research Publications

Innovative-Partnerships-for-Youth-Engagement-in-Education-and-Work.pdf:

Download Research Publication [PDF]