Case studies in TAFE curriculum [ Contents ]

Chapter 3
A Case Study in New Curriculum Design Methodology

Helen Smith
Ministry of Education, Victoria

The report of the committee of inquiry into labour market programs (the Kirby Report) was released in January 1985. The committee assessed the array of federally funded labour market programs, and concluded that

At the core of the difficulties with Australia's current array of labour market programs is the lack of an overall strategy or rationale for the development evaluation and modification of the programs. This is the natural result of the ad hoc way in which the programs have evolved. (Kirby, 1985, p.5)

To break the pattern of addressing labour market problems with marginalised add-on programs, the Kirby Report set the framework for a long term strategy to reform education and training by recommending an integrated series of programs and support systems, which involved the establishment of a national traineeship system.

Key features of the Australian Traineeship System

In introducing the Australian Traineeship System (ATS), the Department of Employment and Industrial Relations (DEIR)1 adopted most of the recommendations in the Kirby Report (1985) for a system with the following training features

The proposal for accredited, broad based off-the-job training set a new precedent for labour market programs and established ATS as a program with the potential to impact on traditional curriculum models and training orientations in TAFE and to become a mainstream TAFE responsibility rather than a marginalised course dependent on short term funding.

While traineeships were intended to provide skills training directly related to specific trainee jobs, this component of training was to be largely a responsibility of employers via structured on-the-job training. By basing off-the-job courses on transferable work and personal skills including communications, mathematics, manual, visual and problem solving skills, and a knowledge of and skills in the application of information technology (Kirby, 1985, p. 115), traineeships were to be a major vehicle for individual career mobility and not a short-term solution to specific skill shortages.

The Kirby Committee, appealing for the coordinated development of more compact and less complex labour market training arrangements, noted the need for changes to administrative and advisory structures, for the devolution of decision making to regional and local levels and for the involvement of employers, unions and community groups in planning, policy formulation and review (Kirby, 1985, p.15). The committee saw the Commonwealth as playing a major role in coordination and the States, through their training authorities, as being responsible for the basic management of the system. To date, the general thrust of this administrative scenario has been maintained. Decision making about the structure and content of training and industrial relation issues is the province of tripartite Industry Working Groups (IWGs) convened by State Training Authorities. Approval of individual traineeship plans by State Training Authorities is essential for implementation and proposals must include full details of training arrangements and industrial relations agreements. However, the role played by the Commonwealth government is somewhat larger than anticipated in the Kirby Report. National IWGs convened by DEIR have taken on the task of developing national traineeship packages and resource materials. While such national intervention might appear to be a means of reducing duplication of effort within the States, in reality, given both the official role of the State training authorities and legislative and operational differences between each State's education and training arrangements, the augmented role of DEIR has tended to reduce the involvement of local and regional groups, and thus undercut the principle of "industry driven" development, rather than reduce duplication at State level.

Curriculum design and development

The introduction of ATS in Victoria was both facilitated and complicated by the implementation of the Victorian Government's work-study program in 1985. Under the Youth Guarantee Policy, the government created 1,250 public sector trainee jobs for disadvantaged youth. Participants attended a TAFE college for two days per week and work for three days and received a State-wide TAFE credential and an Industrial Training Commission of Victoria certificate upon successful completion of their traineeship. Work-study facilitated the introduction of ATS insofar as it provided an opportunity to pilot new curriculum development and delivery processes. However, there were also numerous State level policy and administrative issues to be resolved in the rapid implementation of the work-study program. Consequently there was less time to plan an administrative structure appropriate to a national system.

Within TAFE in Victoria the introduction of both work-study and the ATS was further complicated by the fact that official curriculum development and accreditation procedures, by and large, were inappropriate for traineeships.

Since 1981 the officially sanctioned curriculum development model for State-wide accredited courses in TAFE in Victoria has been the Instructional Systems Model (ISM). The Systems approach to training in industry and government agencies has its origins in the United States Armed Services, in weapons technology and engineering training programs dating back to the early 1900s (Gillespie, 1986). It is a highly centralised model which addresses training needs related to specific tasks and which, as the name suggests, lends itself best to instruction rather than broad independent learning. Despite attempts to link the ISM with androgogical learning theories and to demonstrate the breadth of teaching methodologies which can be accommodated within the ISM (eg, Braddy et al, 1980), the model is essentially behaviourist and constructed around a myth of scientific manipulation of the environment.

The Instructional Systems model is characterised by objectivity, the use of criterion tests on go/no go basis ... and functional context training to facilitate the transfer of school-learned skills to the job (Braddy et al, 1980, p.2).

The ideology of the ISM is embedded in the language through which it is expressed and in the processes it advocates. The ISM process of curriculum development commences with a consideration of skill needs, identified by industry and analysed by curriculum experts and follows a linear path through design (experts and expert advisers) to implementation, when teachers enter the arena to "implement the instructional program" and "administer tests".

Students, along with teachers, are accorded a partial role in evaluation via an "analysis of college performance". The real validation of the course, however, carried out through an analysis of graduates' on job performance, is again in the hands of the curriculum expert. The dialectic which might inform more dynamic analyses is absent from the ISM process of curriculum development. It is similarly missing from the ISM training sessions in which curriculum officers are instructed In development processes, as many participants, including the present writer, can testify.

The ISM was found to be particularly inappropriate for the development of traineeships courses for three reasons.

  1. The nature of needs analysis
    The ISM focuses on the analysis of job skill specifications as the basis for course design. Although ISM manuals note that the "social climate and personal circumstances" influence "manpower (sic) and training needs" (Braddy et al, 1980, p.11), it is in fact the specific job which is the real subject of the needs analysis. The structure of a job is broken down into its duties and tasks and each task stated as a training objective. As Anderson and Jones (1986) maintain

    ... an instructional systems approach to training (objectives model is too narrow and too inflexible to research effectively the learning requirements of adult students because it focuses on the analysis of the job, rather than the learning styles of students. (p.13-14)

    Anderson and Jones note that the systems approach works best when applied to an occupational area which is comprised of a homogenous workforce with relatively stable training needs but that it "does not identify how an occupation is changing" (p.14).

    In contrast, the objectives of the ATS imply the development of programs which acknowledge change and heterogeneity as fundamental characteristics of the labour market. There is a logical contradiction embedded in instruction solely for specific job tasks in a program aimed at facilitating transferability of skill and career progression.

  2. The roles and characteristics of students
    Despite references to adults and adult learning in ISM manuals, the student is the recipient of instruction rather than an active participant in decision making about learning modes. Further, the ISM implicitly assumes that all students are the same, with the same orientation to learning

    ... each student is treated in the same way as every other student, or, if you like, each student is given the same opportunities for learning the same things. (Blachford, 1986, p.42)

    This is extremely problematic in a program such as ATS which has targeted a specific client group. Given the diversity of socioeconomic and educational backgrounds within the client group of 15 to 19 year olds, "equal treatment" will in fact lead to unequal opportunity. In designing a training program, one must take account of the culture and interests of the client group and, in particular, acknowledge the role played by culture in shaping perceptions of vocational needs and attitudes to learning, It is also important to recognise the effect of traditional barriers to learning, including inaccessible language, inappropriate teaching and assessment strategies, and gender based educational stereotypes. Programs need to be designed to lower these barriers and maximise access.

  3. Time
    The exacting and methodical requirements of the ISM through its five phases can be excessively time consuming (Gillespie, 1986). Victorian TAFE courses can take up to four years to develop and implement, by which time they may well be out of date. The average development lead time for the preparation of ATS courses has been approximately three months. For simple practical reasons the ISM is unsuitable.

    Ironically, time lines also acted as a constraint on the design and implementation of new curriculum processes. While new modes of needs analysis and a new curriculum philosophy have been articulated, it has not yet been possible to develop really relevant forms of curriculum documentation. However, the involvement of teachers, and in some cases trainees, in the earliest stages of development has established a forum for debate about new approaches to documentation. Recent changes in accreditation structures are creating a climate in which such changes will be received more favourably.

The Traineeship curriculum structure

The process of designing a traineeship curriculum structure commenced with consideration of the recommendations in the Kirby Report and the ATS Guidelines produced by DEIR. On this basis, three skill and knowledge areas were identified

Identification of these broad categories provided a framework for allocating on- and off-job training responsibilities (see Table 1).

Table 1 Traineeship curriculum structure

Off-the-job training On-the-job training

related skills
Job specific

The second phase in the design process focused on an analysis of the concept of broad transferable skills/knowledge. By definition, skills and knowledge relevant to work force participation in general should be the same across all traineeships, therefore constituting the basis of a core curriculum for all trainees. An analysis of overseas and Australian research and practice indicated a broad agreement on what might constitute this core curriculum and validated the proposals in the Kirby Report (Kirby, 1985).

A core curriculum consisting of four subject areas was developed and this curriculum, outlined in Table 2, became the basic point of reference in negotiating the content of individual traineeships.

Table 2 Traineeship core curriculum


Communications Overview of communications in the workplace
Skill development
Interpersonal skills
50 hours
The Working Environment Work and working conditions
Industrial relations
Occupational health and safety
Career planning
60 hours
Information Technology Electronic technologies
Social and economic implications of electronic technologies
Using a computer
30 hours
Social Personal skills
Access to resources
20 hours

While 160 hours has been specified for the off-the-job component within a minimum 390-hour program, these hours are subject to modifications in relation to specific trainee needs. Further, while the general subject areas may be common across all traineeship, skill applications and specific areas of knowledge within the four subject areas must vary to ensure relevance to individual trainees and to different work environments. Accordingly, as each traineeship developed, the core curriculum is reviewed in the light of job requirements. As each traineeship is implemented, individual trainee needs are assessed and specific content and learning modes negotiate.

The process of developing individual trainees commenced with an assessment of five areas of need - those of the student, the occupation, the local context, the labour market socioeconomic context and the educational environment (see Figure 1). This process of needs analysis may appear unduly complex compared with the linear, one-dimensional focus of the ISM, but it does enable a more compact process of curriculum development and one which facilitates greater teacher and student participation. Key benefits of the adoption of this model include the following.

Figure 1 Needs analysis for Traineeships

Figure 1

The employment of a multidimensional needs analysis provides a mechanism to demonstrate that curriculum development is not a lock-step process in which specific decisions, once completed, remain fixed until later evaluation throws up reasons for change. It becomes clear during the design of the course and the specification of intended outcomes that it is not possible to adequately identify local needs and the specific needs of trainees yet to enrol in the program. This process can only take place when the program is implemented and teachers and trainees examine the course which they are about to undertake. If the course does not have sufficient flexibility to meet specific needs, early review can lead to modifications, which can be ratified by the Industry Working Group.

Designing a form of documentation which satisfactorily reflects the objectives of the ATS and meets the demands of key stakeholders and the requirements of accreditation authorities has not been easy. In fact traineeship curriculum documents still reflect elements of the systems model ideology, such as the expression of subject and unit objectives in performance terminology (e.g., "Given instruction and practice, the trainees should be able to .....). Roy Farren (1985) points out that this practice can "reduce the learning process to a mindlessness and triviality that has serious implications for the learner" (p.3).

It also has implications for the evaluation and design of programs which have broad and less behavioural objectives (e.g., to assist students to communicate more confidently in the work place) which can neither be expressed nor assessed in conventional performance terms.

Perhaps the most serious problem embedded in this form of curriculum writing is its deskilling effect on both teachers and students. Faithful interpretation of performance objectives constitutes a rigid instructional hegemony, which Kincheloe and Staley (1984) term "literal mindedness". This they see as "one of the greatest impediments to critical thinking and the understanding of broad concepts in education" (pp.16-17). Accordingly, traineeship curriculum designers and writers continue to wrestle with a number of contradictions which highlight some key issues for curriculum design for structured labour market programs

In approaching these issues, TAFE in Victoria needs to take a more proactive role to develop curriculum strategies which promote long-term, independent learning, rather than simply reacting to demands for instruction to meet short-term skill requirements. New curriculum design policies, development and implementation processes, and flexible teaching strategies to assist students to become independent and self managing learners and workers, are long overdue. Clearly, changes of this magnitude are complex and new policies alone are not the panacea. They are, however, the foundation upon which professional development in designing and implementing programs will occur.


One further problem in the development of traineeship curriculum concerned that of accreditation and credentialling. One of the 13 basic features of traineeships identified in recommendation 22 of the Kirby Report is that

... the program should be appropriately accredited and provide avenues to further accredited education training and employment (p. 18).

In Victoria, the courses which provide a direct avenue to further TAFE study are those with Statewide accreditation with the TAFE Accreditation Board (TAB).2 While a TAFE college credential may assist students to enter further study within that college, there is no guarantee that the credential will be recognised by other colleges. Also, given the variable perceived status of colleges, there is a danger that employers will select according to the college and not the credential.

The simplest way to ensure State-wide accreditation for traineeships was to select subjects from existing accredited programs. This option was rejected on the grounds that existing programs were inappropriate for trainees, having been designed for adult workers with previous work experience, and designed to meet specific job requirements rather than being oriented to broader occupational objectives.

Accordingly, the curriculum designed for traineeships was seen from the outset as a program in its own right - for a particular target group, training under specific conditions. Because the jurisdiction of the TAB extends only to TAFE providers, it was agreed that TAFE would accredit off-the-job training only, and that the Industrial Training Commission of Victoria (ITCV) would be responsible for issuing a traineeship certificate acknowledging completion of both on and off-the-job training.

Although the TAFE credential formally recognises only the TAFE training component, it has been possible to increase the level of achievement in the off-the-job program because of practical on-the-job training. For example, trainees can achieve 45 wpm typing speeds if their employer provides time for appropriate on-the-job typing practice; technical assistants can complete Ecology in less time with sufficient practice in plant identification and similar skills in the field.

The normal process of development and accreditation of State-wide TAFE courses in Victoria can take between two and four years to complete. The lead time for traineeships of approximately three months not only necessitated a more rapid process of development, but also streamlined procedures to assess courses for accreditation. Agreement was reached between the Program Standing Committee of the TAFE Board, the TAB and the ITCV on the following

The registration of the traineeship credential as a State-wide program has reduced the chance of traineeships being marginalised as has happened to previous Federal labour market programs. Accreditation means that the needs of a target group are as legitimate in curriculum design and development as the needs of an industry. Further, traineeship programs submitted for accreditation as streams within the Certificate in Vocational Studies contain recommendations on credit transfer. Accreditation is a State-wide endorsement of these recommendations which confirms the portability of the credit transfer across colleges.


Despite the difficulties created by restrictive curriculum policies and procedures, the implementation of traineeship programs has provided a springboard for local initiatives and, as successive courses are evaluated, TAFE teachers and trainees have participated in the formulation of more responsive programs. Several issues deserve mention.

1. As a means of overcoming the rigidities inherent in the accreditation process, curriculum developers are including guidelines for implementation in each document submitted for accreditation. In this way official endorsement has been gained for flexibility and local modification. The guidelines address the issues of

These guidelines form a framework for interpretation of the accredited curriculum and for the development of local teaching plans. Colleges have appointed teachers to act as traineeship coordinators and a co-ordinators' network has been established to provide a strategy of implementation across colleges. The role of the network has extended to become a major reference point for both development and implementation. As new traineeships are initiated, the co-ordinators' network is involved in forward planning, in selection of teachers as curriculum writers and of colleges for delivery. When the curriculum has been accredited, delivering colleges meet to coordinate the development of teaching plans and sharing of resources. During the delivery stage, groups within the network continue to meet to plan and implement staff development programs and to evaluate the traineeship. In this way, it has been possible for TAFE to submit well founded recommendations for modifications to training plans to Industry Working Groups at points during the year.

The network also has become a forum for the development of policy and the exchange of ideas on alternative delivery modes. Currently, Conservation Forests and Lands Technical Assistant trainees employed in locations across the State are undertaking an off-the-job program which features block release in their college and in field locations, teleconferencing and workplace based research assignments.

This pilot will serve as a model for delivery of a traineeship for Integration Aides, similarly employed in scattered locations, and for the development of longer term strategies for flexible delivery. The positive role of the network, in providing a point at which groups involved in development and implementation can plan and evaluate, cannot be overstated. However, like other good ideas and practices within large institutions, it is limited by time constraints, the organisational workload it demands and travelling time. It is hoped that, as traineeships become a more stable component of regular TAFE delivery and teachers become more familiar with its demands, the network will be able to meet centrally less often and to use teleconferencing and electronic mail to facilitate rapid communication and exchange of new ideas.

2. Maintaining continuity of training between the college and the workplace is a feature of the ATS which is promoted strongly by DEIR, but is under-researched and inadequately resourced. It is not only teacher time which is an issue, but time availability and training for on-the-job supervisors.

DEIR assumed at the outset that, if they provided training manuals for supervisors, if curriculum documents identified both off- and on-the-job training activities and if trainee record books provided teachers and supervisors with a format to check off completed training, then integration would be achieved. Because this document led approach was insufficient, Victorian TAFE teachers with the experience of work-study to alert them to the real problems developed alternative strategies.

Using the Industry Working Groups as a means of securing employer agreement, TAFE colleges organise meetings with on-the-job supervisors prior to commencement of training and at intervals during the year. In most cases, trainees are also involved in meetings. The establishment of early personal contact with supervisors has had a number of advantages, including

3. Time and funding for integration activities remains a problem. Private employers (and some government departments) have been unable or reluctant to commit resources to this aspect of training, when its financial value has yet to be demonstrated. For TAFE colleges, particularly those which have employed sessional teachers for traineeships, payment for liaison with supervisors creates a cost above the allocated $1,800 per trainee.

4. The first traineeships to be implemented in Victoria were for clerical trainees employed by the Commonwealth and Victorian Public Service. When these traineeships (and early clerical work-study programs) were evaluated, one of the most consistent criticisms was that the curriculum was too narrow to reflect the wide variety of educational backgrounds and potential careers of trainees.

Flexible implementation strategies which developed during the Pilot year assisted to a small extent, but the agreed curriculum created strict limits. Interstate comparisons revealed that same pattern and Victorian and South Australian representatives on the DEIR National Office Industry Working Group developed broad guidelines for subsequent clerical traineeships. Using these guidelines, Victoria has developed a General Office/Finance Traineeship which is capable of meeting a wide variety of trainee and industry needs. The curriculum consists of three stages.

Stage One: Broad skills and generic clerical skills at a basic level catering for trainees with no existing clerical skills and meeting the learning needs of early school leavers.

Stage Two: Existing middle level and associate diploma subjects which have been adapted to meet traineeship requirements and trainee needs (e.g., extension of time allocation, integration of on-job practice, changes in learning strategies). Specialist subjects developed for specific traineeships (e.g., clerical procedures for the building industry, medical secretarial practice, legal practice).

Stage Three: Advanced Certificate and Associate Diploma subjects from Secretarial and Business Studies courses. When the traineeship commences, trainees and teachers meet to assess individual needs and trainees are enrolled at an appropriate level. The minimum requirement for successful completion of the traineeship is completion of stage one and of specialist subjects, which provide entry level skills for further study and skill requirements for work in different industries. Trainees who move beyond stage one receive credits in advanced credentials.

This broad model thus far has been used as the basis for traineeships in a number of State government departments, for local councils, the building industry, receptionists for private medical practice, legal secretaries, Ansett finance clerks and clerical officers in statutory authorities.

For trainees it has the advantage of maximising individual achievement from a variety of entry points. Of particular importance to female trainees is the availability of accounting/finance and computing subjects and the broadening of career options beyond the traditionally identified role of secretary/ typist.

Negotiated curricula

The involvement of students in designing learning programs is not a common feature of mainstream TAFE curricular practice. Because programs are designed to meet the skill requirements of industry, the seemingly logical premise is that industry, and not students, will know what skill needs exist and how to meet these needs. Work-study and traineeship courses similarly have derived occupational skill requirements on the advice of industry experts. However, in one case in Victoria, insufficient development lead time prior to the implementation of a work-study course created a loophole through which a negotiated curriculum slipped. Twenty trainees were employed as Laboratory Assistants in schools and colleges and enrolled at one TAFE college for their off-the-job training. Teachers and curriculum officers planned the introductory phase of the program in advance and involved trainees in planning the remainder of the program. Following a general orientation and introduction to basic safety techniques, trainees were responsible for organising field trips to each of their workplaces and for administering a survey and holding discussions with their supervisors regarding skill requirements for their own job and for jobs into which they could progress.

On the basis of these data, teachers, trainees and supervisors developed a skills inventory, which in turn formed the basis of a "concept map" (which linked the scientific concepts underpinning the practical skills involved in laboratory work). The concept map enabled teachers to develop subjects which the trainees could readily perceive as meeting their immediate and longer term needs. A wide range of teaching strategies were employed, with a strong emphasis on practical activities as a means of deriving theory. Trainees were also involved in developing assessment strategies in which self assessment played a part.

The program was formally accredited after seven months of implementation. Ongoing reviews and summative evaluation revealed that trainees felt that they had a better understanding of their work and their working environment. They felt confident about making decisions at work and in relation to further study and developed a sense of identity as a team. At this stage, there is insufficient data to draw conclusions or to assess the effect of student involvement in curriculum decision making on later study and work.

Procedures for developing traineeships have not permitted the same flexibility as in this work-study program. However, a Laboratory Assistant traineeship based on the above experience has been accredited and, while all subjects and assessment procedures have been established, trainees still will be involved in an occupational analysis which will enable teachers to demonstrate the relevance of subsequent study. If the occupational analysis conducted by students reveals new and unmet needs, modification of the curriculum can be recommended to the IWG.


From the outset, there was widespread agreement in TAFE that, as programs designed for young people disadvantaged by labour market conditions, traineeships should focus on assisting trainees to access employment and not on grading them in order of merit, based on examination results. Accordingly, it was agreed that all assessment would be college based and criterion referenced and that the minimum standard for award of the CVS would be satisfactory completion of assessable activities in the program. The definition of "satisfactory" varied according to the area of skill and knowledge under assessment. Where standard tests (e.g., typing speed) or relevant industry standards of quality existed, these were used. Safety issues, for example, demanded a level of satisfaction of 100%. Because some areas of skill and knowledge are best assessed by the individual student in consultation with teachers, self assessment was encouraged as a means of both diagnostic and summative assessment.

In order to record individual achievements reliably without recourse to grading, each trainee receives a descriptive assessment, written by their teachers in consultation with supervisors and with the trainee. While evidence suggests that employers prefer the practice of awarding numerical or letter grades, it was felt to be more equitable as well as more reliable to describe achievement than to maintain a pretence of objectivity through the award of grades. Hopefully, the wider use of descriptive assessments, for example in senior secondary school as well as in TAFE, will lead to greater acceptance and a recognition that it is a more reliable form of assessment.

Key issues

After two years of operation, the Australian Traineeship System has a number of achievements to its credit. However, it has also reproduced some of the problems of previous labour market programs, as well as generating a few of its own. It is beyond the scope of this chapter to deal with these issues in depth. The overview of the key issues which follows is provided as a means of highlighting areas for further study.

Federally funded labour market programs in Australia commonly generate tensions between the Commonwealth and the States. Almost inevitably, the demands by the former for accountability and the insistence of the latter for control of implementation generate dual administrative structures and disputes over roles and responsibilities. The administration of ATS is no exception. Agreements have been struck through the Commonwealth and States Training Authorities Council (COSTAC), which accord each State control over approval and implementation of traineeships within Commonwealth funding, industrial relations and curriculum guidelines. Evidence to date, however, suggests that the central (Canberra) office of DEIR is exerting more direct control. This has led to disputes between DEIR, TAFE and State Labour Departments and Training Authorities and also between DEIR central office and State branches.

In an effort to develop national standardised traineeship packages, DEIR in Canberra has established National Industry Working Groups and industrial agreements with Federal Union branches. Both ventures have come unstuck in several instances. Accreditation and industrial relations requirements vary between the States and sometimes extensive modifications need to be made to national traineeship models. State/Commonwealth rivalries account for other casualties. In one instance, an agreement between DEIR and a Federal union was rejected by its Victorian Branch on the grounds that it was not consulted. The national Textile, Clothing and Footwear Traineeship was almost completely rewritten to satisfy Victorian demarcations between proclaimed trades and semi-skilled training and to meet accreditation requirements and target group needs. In contrast, the National Office Industry Working Group, which opted instead for national curriculum guidelines, has seen its guidelines adopted completely by three States, two of which - Victoria and South Australia - co-operated to produce highly portable credentials.

There is a number of reasons why employers and unions have been slower to accept traineeships than anticipated, including overly optimistic targets, traditional employer conservatism and union protection of existing awards and conditions. There is also some evidence that industry has found the whole scheme to be over-bureacratised and unwieldy. The Kirby recommendation for local and regional participation in decision making largely has gone unheeded and smaller employers (often working with local councils and TAFE colleges) have found their initiatives frustrated by rigid rules and administrative arrangements.

The tension between national accountability and interstate portability on one hand, and State rights and local initiatives on the other, is notoriously difficult to resolve. However, given control of funding by the Commonwealth and the checks and balances which can be maintained via tripartite State level decision making in the context of broad national guidelines, it should be possible to permit greater interstate variation and local flexibility. The recent Federal Government reshuffle of portfolios and the establishment of the "Super Ministry" of Employment, Education and Training (DEET) under John Dawkins is at least in part an acknowledgement of administrative problems inherent in programs which cross Federal ministerial boundaries as well as State borders. A more low-key controlling role by DEET and a more proactive role for employer groups, unions and TAFE in each State must help generate more responsive programs.

A second issue revolves around the funding base. Commonwealth funding to the States for traineeships covers three aspects of operation: industry feasibility studies; planning and curriculum development; and implementation. Funding is allocated via development grants to industry and TAFE and per capita payments to employers and off-the-job trainers. Funding for curriculum development and for the capital costs of delivery of traineeships in TAFE are predicated on the assumption that TAFE will build costs progressively into recurrent budgets. Such funds are essentially seeding grants. Per capita grants of $1,800 to TAFE and $2,000 to non-TAFE training providers are intended to cover the cost of teachers/ trainers and teaching materials. A number of problems have been generated by these funding arrangements.

  1. The per capita grant for progamme delivery only covers sessional teaching rates. Student support services, careers and personal counselling, teaching resources and special teaching needs (e.g., one to one tuition for trainees with learning difficulties) must be covered by other grants or recurrent funding. Further, per capita funding tends to favour large classes. In practical subjects where safety regulations set maximum class sizes of 10-12 students, teaching costs outstretch funding.
  2. A number of traineeships require extensive investment in capital equipment. DEIR's answer to submission for money over and above capital seeding grants (again allocated on a per capita basis) is that TAFE must change its priorities to free up equipment. This has proved impossible in many cases. For example, Textile, Clothing and Footwear trainees use the same equipment as do apprentices and adults on DEIR funded retraining programs. Given that apprenticeships have a high priority within the State, and that employers willing to take on trainees are the same employers benefitting from adult retraining schemes, the demands on equipment have produced tensions only resolved by a politically expedient pre-election grant to specific colleges.
  3. While development grant funding has been adequate, the expectation that TAFE will build longer term costs into recurrent budgets has not been met, because it is impossible to forecast future development rates.
  4. Many aspects of traineeship implementation initially were undercosted or not built into any funding base. Examples include on-the-job supervisor training, costs of maintaining on- and off-the-job training links and costs of printing and distributing training plans, record books, learning materials and supervisor handbooks.

In some cases, DEIR has conceded need, but has interpreted the need in its own terms by providing video and print training kits, rather than incentives for supervisors to attend training programs, and by commissioning the production of learning materials at a national level rather than funding State developments and encouraging interstate cooperation. In cases where States have received money to develop materials which are relevant to other States, only the production of master copies has been funded, The Kirby Report noted that previous labour market programs suffered from inadequate evaluation. There is a danger that funding arrangements will create problems in evaluating ATS. While DEIR is carrying out national evaluations, State level evaluations are so far inadequate due to lack of funding. With numerous, equally valid demands on their resources, State TAFE Authorities justifiably can leave the responsibility for evaluation to the Commonwealth, which means that lessons which might be drawn from the experience of local/regional implementations will not be documented adequately.

Another key issue is that of quality training. Prior to the implementation of the ATS, Lyall Fricker, Director-General of TAFE in South Australia, made the following observations

Since the introduction of various forms of transition education in the late 1970s TAFE has developed a corpus of expertise in relevant curriculum methodology, but it has also been living off capital in the form of long developed and tested trade and similar courses. Kirby will introduce a quantum leap in the range of skills, occupations and clients for whom courses must be developed. It must be an integral part of the scheme that time and resources are available for adequate curriculum development. Equally, the industrial training component will require attention, as will links between on- and off-the-job activity. The Kirby principles of flexibility and broad based training are as relevant to on-the-job as to institution based training (1985, p.1). Experiences in Victoria have demonstrated the accuracy of these remarks. Notwithstanding the considerable effort invested in designing a curriculum relevant to trainees and in establishing new development processes, as well as the comparative success of these initiatives, the magnitude of the "quantum leap" referred to by Fricker should not be underestimated.

Mainstream TAFE teachers in Victoria have worked under the ISM curriculum regime for many years and are used to implementing highly specific training programs. The majority of teachers are not accustomed to formally conducting needs analyses, devising alternative delivery strategies catering to widely varying learning needs or, with the exception of apprenticeship teachers, working with on-the-job supervisors.

The integration of broad based, flexible, high quality structured training programs into the mainstream of TAFE's responsibilities will necessitate considerable investment in staff development, a willingness by the system to review and evaluate programs critically during their implementation and a capacity to introduce flexibility into institutional arrangements. Similarly, as Fricker noted, development of quality on-the-job training requires a major investment of effort. We have been aware for many years that the uneven quality of on-the-job training in apprenticeships is a major impediment to many apprentices gaining sufficient breadth and depth of skill and knowledge to move readily beyond their indentured position into careers in changing industries.

Two aspects of on-the-job training require attention. One relates to the nature of the job itself. There is no point in establishing traineeships in areas of employment which require little or no formal training and in which career prospects are limited. One of the Youth Guarantee Work-study programs offered one year of structured training for station assistants, a job for which the transport authority already provided 10 days of training prior to job placement. It was nearly impossible to develop off-the-job training which was perceived to be relevant by the young people taking on these unskilled positions. The Retail Traineeship, in which many trainees are employed essentially as shelf stackers and check-out staff, is questionable for the same reasons.

Governments must ensure that individual needs and long term labour market requirements for a highly skilled workforce drive traineeships and that short term employment needs are met from their own resources.

The other aspect of on-the-job experience which requires attention is the quality of training and supervision. It is too much to expect that personnel with little or no trainer training can readily assume responsibility for the training of young people. This is an area in which employers must be prepared to invest for their own long term gain. Otherwise we are doing nothing more than providing young people with part time work and a 13 week introductory study program. The benefits of genuinely integrated high quality on- and off- the-job training are considerable and include offering a balance of theory and practice, meeting immediate and longer term training requirements.

The attitude of many employers towards training is that public education institutions, primarily TAFE, are responsible for quality delivery and control. Given this attitude and the tendency to blame TAFE if the goods are not delivered to employers' satisfaction, this issue looms large as a key in the success of the traineeship initiative.

It is easy to be critical of aspects of the operation of TAFE, as indeed I have been in this paper. However, we should be careful to apportion blame and credit where they are due. Despite considerable problems, TAFE teachers have met the challenge posed by traineeships creatively and with dedication. Shortcomings in delivery of training cannot be blamed on the intransigence of teaching staff, but must be seen as the result of structures and procedures geared to a previous era. The same must be said of on-the job training where supervisors have assisted trainees to the extent that on-the-job structures allow.

Since the introduction of ATS, there has been a prevailing concern on the part of DEIR with trainee performance in the achievement of competencies and standards. It is time that attention is turned to the quality of the educational and working environments and the capacity of both to deliver quality training for individual learning and job satisfaction.


  1. Following the Federal election in June 1987, employment and training functions of the Department of Employment and Industrial Relations (DEIR) was merged with the Department of Education to become a "super ministry" - the Department of Employment, Education and Training (DEET). Throughout this paper, DEIR is referred to as the ministry responsible for ATS.
  2. Legislation enacted in July 1987 has amalgamated the TAFE Accreditation Board with the Victorian Post Secondary Accreditation Board to form the Victorian Post Secondary Education Accreditation Board.


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Blachford, K. (1986). Orientations to curriculum in TAFE. Melbourne: Hawthorn Institute of Education.

Braddy, J. et al. (1980). Instructional systems model for vocational education. Melbourne: TAFE Planning Services, Education Department, Victoria.

Farren, R. (1985). The need for new methodologies in education and training. Paper presented at TAFE National Conference, Adelaide, November 1985.

Fricker, L. (1985). TAFE and the Kirby report. Paper presented at Conference of the National Training Council, Sydney, February 1985.

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Cite as: Smith, H. (1988). Traineeships: A case study in new curriculum design methodology. In C. McBeath, (Ed), Case studies in TAFE curriculum, p.14-26. Perth, WA: West Australian Social Science Education Consortium, Curtin University of Technology.

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