VET Workforce Blueprint… Guess who’s back? Back again?

It's somewhat ironic, or perhaps cyclically appropriate and reminds us a rap song, that we find ourselves revisiting the concept of a VET Workforce Blueprint in Australia, a notion that was a priority nearly two decades ago.  Despite the lapse in time, the fundamental challenges and opportunities within the VET sector have evolved, demanding a fresh, innovative approach to strategic workforce planning and development, and we all need to move past the common list of problems that get identified time and time again (cause nobody wants to here them again).

The initial scoping document for the Blueprint, whilst well-intentioned, notably skims the surface of what is a multifaceted and dynamic sector.  It outlines five key areas for development: growing and diversifying the workforce, attraction, retention, capability and career development, and succession planning.  While these areas are crucial, they represent only a fraction of the broader spectrum of workforce challenges and opportunities within the VET sector.

To truly revolutionise the VET workforce, this blueprint must extend its reach to address critical gaps such as recruitment practices that meet the demands of a rapidly changing job market, leadership that inspires and drives innovation, and effective change management strategies that keep pace with technological and societal shifts.  It must delve into the realms of product development and design, marketing and promotion, to better align VET offerings with client needs and market demands.

Moreover, the blueprint cannot overlook the imperative of conducting thorough training needs analysis, embracing micro-credentialing, and adopting world-class practices in assessment, teaching, and learning.  It should prioritise engaging disengaged groups, catering to contemporary learning styles, and designing assessments that truly measure competency and skill for current and future jobs.

A forward-thinking blueprint must also recognise the importance of industry engagement that prioritises job readiness and skills match over traditional qualifications, ensuring that learners are equipped with the skills and knowledge that directly translate to employability and success in the workforce.

In addition to these aspects, we must incorporate strategies to support mental health and life issues, recognising the whole learner and providing support systems that contribute to their overall wellbeing and success.

Furthermore, the blueprint should align with global initiatives and standards, such as the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UNSDGs), focusing on green skills and sustainability practices within the VET sector.  It must also embrace the potential of Generative Artificial Intelligence for enhancing strategic workforce planning and development, recognising existing capabilities and developing competency frameworks that reflect the needs of the 21st-century workforce.

In essence, what is required is not just a VET Workforce Blueprint but a comprehensive VET Workforce Action Plan that is underpinned by a clear vision, purpose, and set of priorities.  This plan can be informed by national roundtable discussions with key stakeholders, but it must go beyond rehashing perennial problems.  We need an innovative methodology that leverages AI and global benchmarking to create a dynamic blueprint that stakeholders can engage with, critique, and validate – so starting with something rather than nothing and building from there.

Taking a leaf from the entrepreneurial startup world, the concept of developing a Minimum Viable Product (MVP) could serve us well.  By putting forward an initial version of the blueprint for the community to interact with, provide feedback on, and improve, we can foster a more effective, fast and efficient process for blueprint development.

The engagement with industry and VET users is paramount, yet we must also ensure that this engagement is innovative, leveraging technology and global insights to support the sustainability and longevity of the VET workforce.

The VET Workforce Blueprint presents an opportunity to not just address the immediate challenges facing the sector but to reimagine and redefine the future of VET in Australia.  By broadening the scope of the vision and incorporating the diverse, complex needs of our workforce and learners, we can create a blueprint that truly reflects the dynamic, evolving nature of vocational education and training, and over time, sees the Australian VET Workforce and System back into the list of the best in the world.

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