Rethinking skills in vocational education and training: From competencies to capabilities – BVET


Governments around the world are concerned with skill – skill development, skill shortages, and skills mismatches. As with many other countries, Australia is seeking to increase its ‘stock’ of skills because they are considered intrinsic to innovation, competitiveness and productivity. Skills are also considered intrinsic to social inclusion as those without skill are marginalised from work, experience lower levels of health and well?being, and have less capacity to shape the major developments in their lives.

However, while there is general agreement that skills are important, there is less clarity on the nature of skill, the kinds of skills we need and how they should be developed.

This paper has been commissioned by the New South Wales Board of Vocational Education and Training (BVET) to generate discussion about work, skill and qualifications. BVET has a tradition of publishing new work that questions existing orthodoxies in vocational education and training (VET) in Australia and this paper is part of that tradition. BVET’s contribution to policy debates in Australia is wide?ranging; it provides the space we need to have robust debate so that existing policy is critiqued but also so that alternatives are challenged and improved in the process.

The purpose of this paper is to be provocative.As authors, we regard the paper as the next step in the conversation about alternative ways of envisaging skills. Preparing the paper has been a challenge because while there is a well developed critique of existing VET policy and VET’s competency?based training (CBT) qualifications, it is more difficult to develop coherent and well formed alternatives that go beyond general exhortations to do things differently.

SOURCE: Leesa Wheelahan and Gavin Moodie, “Rethinking skills in vocational education and training: From competencies to capabilities”, New South Wales Board of Vocational Education and Training (BVET), Nov 2011

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