Restoring the ideal of a vocation

A new discussion paper from the NCVER reminded me of George Eliot’s great novel Middlemarch, which has as its theme the ideal of having a vocation in life – something more than a job, something more akin to a calling. The NCVER paper The Role of VET in Workforce Development argues that our current training system is too focussed on the acquisition of competencies or abilities to complete tasks. Instead the training system needs to promote the development of vocations, which encompass the acquisition of deep conceptual understanding and problem solving skills.

The author, Tanya Bretherton, discusses how this concept is applicable to childcare:

In child care, the best-practice centres considered by the analysis focused on the need to adopt non-hierarchical structures, in which every worker, regardless of their qualification level, could be involved and participate in decision-making processes (through team-based sessions and mentoring). In one case, a centre had adopted the policy of referring to all staff at the centre as ‘teachers’, regardless of whether they were certificate III, IV, diploma or degree-trained. While this may represent a controversial approach to some, it does re-cast the notion of skill around a ‘vocational area of practice’ and away from narrow and procedural notions of competency.

The NCVER paper is a valuable addition to the debate around the training system, especially given the competitive pressures that are driving increasing demands on workers and requiring higher-level problem solving skills.

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