Continuing professional development for a diverse VET practitioner workforce

By Mark Tyler, Darryl Dymock Research report 24 May 2017 978-1-925173-81-9


This occasional paper provides a stocktake of recent developments in continuing professional development for VET practitioners. It explores issues such as industry currency, the debate around a professional association for VET and the Certificate IV in Training and Assessment as the minimum qualification for VET practitioners. Through synthesising the literature, the paper highlights enduring issues for continuing professional development in VET, such as the need to address both pedagogical knowledge and industry skills, and the necessity for individuals to actively engage and willingly participate in professional development in order for changes in practice to occur.


About the research

Vocational education and training (VET) practitioners play a critical role in skilling Australia’s workforce. The need to ensure that both their teaching practices and industry skills and knowledge remain current has never been more paramount, especially when faced with rapidly changing industrial, technological and economic environments.

This occasional paper synthesises the literature relating to continuing professional development (CPD) for VET practitioners, with a focus on identifying the elements impacting on their ongoing learning. It looks further afield to international examples and to CPD in other professions. These examples, while quite different from vocational education and training, provide insight into whether CPD for VET practitioners is ahead of or behind other professions in their approach to ongoing skilling for the workplace.

Key messages

The authors highlight a number of the enduring issues affecting continuing professional development for VET practitioners, including:

  • The VET workforce and the organisations that employ them are varied. VET practitioners come from a range of backgrounds, are employed under various conditions (part-time, casual or on a contract basis) and have significantly diverse career paths when compared with the schooling or university sectors. This diversity means that no single approach to continuing professional development for VET practitioners can meet the needs of every industry, organisation, teacher or trainer.
  • A challenge for VET practitioners is ensuring their currency of skills in both educational expertise and industry practices. Continuing professional development for VET practitioners needs to take into account the duality of the role.
  • Continuing professional development for VET practitioners is largely institutionally specific, rather than nationally systemic. Some proponents have argued for the establishment of a professional association for the VET sector, which could register VET practitioners, track professional development and be the organisation publicly accountable for the quality of VET delivery.
  • VET practitioners are currently required to have a Certificate IV in Training and Assessment in order to deliver training packages. There are concerns that this qualification in isolation does not adequately prepare VET practitioners for the variety of teaching and assessment scenarios they will encounter. More readily accessible and recognised continuing professional development could complement the minimum qualification by providing additional training as practitioners’ responsibilities change.

There is an obligation for registered training organisations (RTOs) to ensure that their VET practitioners meet the requirements for teachers and assessors, as outlined in the Standards for Registered Training Organisations 2015. Clause 1.16 specifically stipulates a requirement that ‘trainers and assessors undertake professional development in the fields of the knowledge and practice of vocational training, learning and assessment including competency based training and assessment’. There is insufficient evidence collected and collated on how this is done. Any assessments gathered during field audits do not make judgements on the value or adequacy of this training, and RTOs are only measured as being compliant or non-compliant. The school system, by contrast, requires teachers to undertake a certain number of CPD hours per year to remain registered.

The study underlines the paucity of current data on the VET practitioner workforce and the lack of focused attention on this aspect of supporting quality across the national VET system. The last significant VET workforce review was undertaken by the Productivity Commission in 2011. A recurring national survey conducted at least every five years would provide a better informed picture of VET practitioners, including their qualifications, employment status and any professional development undertaken. An appropriately designed survey could serve as a tool to assess if, and how, VET practitioners are gaining access to CPD in accord with the regulatory standard. The importance of quality in training and assessment means this information should be just as relevant and critical as other national VET collections.

Dr Craig Fowler
Managing Director, NCVER


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