Regulatory and funding challenges
A key challenge for the NSW Tertiary Pathways Project is that the VET and higher education sectors operate independently, with different funding and regulatory systems. This can make integrating VET and higher education content challenging. However, the pilots have shown that funding and regulatory barriers can be minimised through a student-centred design approach, careful planning and engagement with key stakeholders.
The integration of higher education and VET content has implications for both course fees and institutional funding arrangements. To overcome this, the clear sequencing of qualifications becomes important to minimise the cost and burden for students.
For example, the construction management pathway was carefully designed so that students would remain eligible for Smart and Skilled funding for their VET qualifications. Automatic recognition of prior learning (RPL) arrangements were also negotiated upfront with participating universities to ensure students did not have to pay twice to repeat content.
Apprenticeship requirements presented another regulatory challenge, especially in developing the electrical engineering pathway. Strict work experience and other requirements for gaining an electrical licence had to be built into the bachelor degree. As part of the development of this pathway, Training Services NSW created a higher education apprenticeship pathways VTO. This ensures that students qualify for an electrical licence at the conclusion of the pathway and also provides a framework for fee liabilities between students and employers.
This new VTO model can now be applied to other industry sectors wishing to pursue a similar model.
Case study: electrical engineering degree apprenticeship pilot
The University of Newcastle electrical engineering degree apprenticeship integrates an electrical licence and a bachelor degree in electrical engineering. The pathway responds to industry demand for engineering graduates who have the technical skills to work in an industrial project engineering environment.
The strict requirements for gaining an electrical licence were successfully incorporated into the pathway through engagement with both industry and government.
The integration of the bachelor degree and the apprenticeship required automatic RPL arrangements across separate accrediting bodies and the division of delivery costs between institutions.
Under the terms of a formal apprenticeship, employers are responsible for funding costs directly related to the trade qualification. In this case, employers are obligated to cover all students’ costs related to the certificate III training while students will be able to access subsidised fees for their university studies through the Commonwealth Grants Scheme.