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Facing the future: how the VDC can assist the VET workforce

Updated: May 31, 2023


The ISS Institute caught up with Martin Powell, who has been the CEO of Melbourne's VET Development Centre (VDC) for the past seven years. The VDC has provided a strong platform for our Fellows to share their learnings to better inform the sector on global practices. We delve into the history of the VDC and ask what the remainder of 2023 has in store for the company.


Why was the VDC established?

The purpose of the VDC is to promote the development and raise the professional standing of people working in VET (Vocational Education and Training). VDC has evolved since its establishment in 2005 to provide and host over 400 professional learning events for over 10,000 attendees annually. Our vision is to be Australia’s centre of excellence for continuing professional learning to the VET workforce.


What have some of the highlights been over the past year?


We returned to our training facilities in February wondering what would be ahead of us in 2022. The work from home culture had set in, but we were determined to do our bit to reinvigorate the Melbourne CBD and provide an alternative to online professional learning.


A gradual increase in office days for VDC staff balanced with a WFH roster for safety and continuity of service as staff succumbed to COVID throughout the year, enabled an invigorated team to remain in place to welcome the VET sector and other professional learning participants back to in-person learning. Now equipped with the latest hybrid ZOOM Room learning technology, VDC was also able to provide hybrid learning for attendees unable to attend due to illness, backfilling colleagues, or caring for family.


And the outcome, over 2000 attendees came to the VDC premises for training and events in 2022, the room utilisation ratio climbed from 0 to over 50% from April onwards and a further 12,000 registering for online professional learning in Victoria and across Australia. For the first time, VDC delivered and supported over 500 sessions in a year.


How can the VDC support educators - what services do you provide?


The VDC provides continuous professional learning to all teaching and non-teaching staff in the VET Sector across Australia. This is achieved through the design and delivery of an extensive range of webinars, workshops and thought leader events, as well as Victorian Government funded continuing professional learning and evaluation activities to the Victorian VET workforce. VDC provides learning in the form of online, in-person and hybrid workshops, webinars, self-paced modules, free thought leadership seminars and an annual national conference.


Since its inception in 2005, the VDC has evolved to become one of Australia’s leading providers of professional learning for VET educators, trainers, lecturers and other VET professionals. Its training programs are independently evaluated by the Australian Centre for Vocational Educational Research. All program content is mapped against the VET Practitioners Capability Framework for educators at all stages of their careers. There is no membership fee to utilise the VDC’s services, however, there can be a small fee for enrolment in individual training events.


How did the VDC adapt during the pandemic? Have new practices been implemented in the past year?


During the pandemic, the fact that VDC was able to deliver almost 400 sessions in its fee for service and government funded training activities annually, as well as host and support other organisations, is a testament to its resilience and the adaptability of its online training and business systems. The stop start nature of providing in person training saw VDC plan for the contingency of continual online training delivery, which became the reality for 2021 and 2022.


We experienced a high level of engagement for online training which reflected the VDC’s capacity, ability and extensive experience in providing online professional learning prior to the pandemic. With the cessation of room hire services and in person training sessions and events, VDC was able to maintain engagement through an extensive range of webinars through its own Professional Learning Program as well as convert existing workshops to a virtual delivery format as interactive online sessions.


In terms of new practice, with society returning to normal, this has now evolved into hybrid sessions where the attendee can choose to participate in a workshop virtually whilst an in-person session is being delivered at VDC. We were early adaptors to the ZOOM Room technology for training rooms which was fully installed at our facilities in early 2022.


In addition, the need and demand for self-paced learning has now been met through a new Professional Learning Platform “VDC-Learn” was launched on 15 March 2023. This provides self-paced learning modules and enhanced webinar recordings. A contemporary and innovative addition to the extensive range of Professional Learning provided by VDC, the Moodle Learning Management System based platform has been integrated with the VDC website and our registration system to house 10 new self-paced learning modules “eLearns” and 30 enhanced webinar recordings. Certificates of attendance are available for the completion of self-paced learning.


What are the priority areas when delivering workshops or conferences. Sustainability, Trauma Informed-teaching and Blended Learning all seem to be relevant topics in education - are there any other approaches to education that we should be mindful of in the coming year(s)?


VET has a pivotal role in addressing the skills shortages facing Australia in the face of climate change and recent global issues. The sector is not immune to this and faces educator and trainer workforce shortages itself. The challenge for VET will be to attract the expertise from industry to train our future workforce. I’ve heard it said regarding teacher shortages, it’s a skills drought not a skills shortage we’re experiencing as the expertise is there in industry already. Industry, government, and education providers need to collaborate to engage industry experts to teach and support a sustainable knowledge transfer.


In attracting industry experts to VET teaching, education will need to focus on high quality onboarding and support to develop and retain this new workforce. Professional learning should provide access to teaching theory and practice, the compliance requirements to being a VET trainer, maintaining industry currency once in an RTO and ongoing career development.



Why has the VDC placed emphasis on sustainability?


As an organisation, VDC understands its corporate responsibility to ensure sustainable practices as part of good governance and the betterment of society. As an education provider VDC can also influence educators and ultimately their students on the importance of sustainability in any vocation.


Providing a national Fellowship focusing on sustainability research for VET practitioners is one positive action and contribution. In addition, we have introduced Sustainability as a topic in our professional learning programs. We delve into the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals and discover how you can apply them in your daily work. With the focus on sharing knowledge, developing skills, and building learner motivation, participants you will learn how to lead with hope and not fear in the context of global challenges.


What’s planned for the rest of 2023?


2023 is proving to be an exciting year of innovation and change for VDC and professional learning. In addition to our regular program offerings highlights include:


  • The launch of VDC-Learn, the new professional learning on-demand platform that enables access to enhanced webinar recordings and new self-paced E-Learn modules.

  • The new partnership with TAFE Directors Australia to present a national Industry Boost Program that focuses on industry currency for educators.

  • The VDC Teaching Fellowship Program and Workforce Development Grants applications which are currently open for Skills First providers funded through the Victorian Skills Authority.

  • The National Thought Leadership Seminars online 4 times a year, that are free for all participants.


VDC has a proud 18-year tradition of providing one of Australia’s leading teaching and learning conferences for VET.


The VDC National Teaching & Learning Conference 2023, to be held at the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre on the 17 & 18 of August, promises to be the biggest in-person VDC conference.


The first time, the VDC National Teaching & Learning Conference will be held in conjunction with the WorldSkills Australia National Championships. VDC has partnered with WorldSkills Australia to provide VDC conference delegates with access to international WorldSkills guests and participate in bespoke guided tours of the championships at Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre. Over 2-days there will be an abundance of professional learning opportunities with a focus on VET practitioners, as well as a stream of sessions featuring VET applied research for other VET Sector professionals.


If you are not aware, Skills competitions are an opportunity for Australia’s trainees and apprentices to test their skills and knowledge in their chosen field against their peers. Held every two years, the National Championships are the biggest trades and skills competition in the country and will consist of more than 50 competitions.


The VDC is located at Level 8, 379 Collins St Melbourne. For more information visit vdc.edu.au/

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