The Tourism & Hospitality sector in Australia has long faced skills shortages. It’s difficult to pinpoint an exact cause, but investigating the challenges to skills development is key to ensuring successful programs for the future.
On Wednesday, our CEO Reinhold Forster presented his discussion of these issues at the Skills Symposium in Sydney. The following is a brief summary of his findings and key points. If you’d like to read his paper in full, click here.

Skills shortages in a wide range of occupations have plagued Australia for a considerable time. The current and continuing decline in apprenticeship and traineeship rates across most trades is a major cause of concern for all industry areas. Research also highlights the fact that employers generally are not satisfied with the quality of graduates.

You may ask, “Why is this the case?”. There’s not one simple answer.

Apprenticeships play a hugely important role in skills development within Tourism and Hospitality, and these programs are facing a number of issues. Key challenges that will impact the future success of apprentice and traineeship programs include:

  • Having a sufficient talent pool and entrants
  • A lack of desired skill levels and expertise
  • Completion rates
  • Red tape and barriers
  • Technology and generational challenges.

 

Many different Apprenticeship models exist around the world. Across different countries, there are also cultural differences between the value placed on VET and occupations, with some valued more than others. Looking at these different models is key to seeing what works, and what doesn’t work. Some key points to consider are:

  • Australia’s model is based broadly on the approaches of the United Kingdom. Australia focuses on gaining competencies with a strong emphasis on skills, knowledge and behaviour, whereas other international systems focus more broadly on a knowledge-based education framework.
  • European apprenticeship models are based on a dual approach of industry ownership and public formal training.
  • South Korea aligns trade education with business degrees.
  • The American system focusses on institution based training, with subsequent internships.
  • The New Zealand system has an institution based approach and a separate industry centric, apprenticeship on-the-job delivery model.

 

Notice how varied these approaches are? Each country’s approach is quite different, but none of them are perfect.

Each country has its own issues where there is room for improvement. One of the key issues in Australia and the UK is the lack of basic literacy and numeracy skills, whereas in the US a point of criticism is the financial demands of the system. However, when comparing Australia to countries like Germany, Switzerland and Austria that offer dual training systems, it’s important to note that the completion rate in those countries is as high as 90% in some cases; in Australia, completion rates are much lower. For example, the national estimated completion rate for government-funded VET programs at Certificate I and above is currently 38.0% (up from 34.5% for programs commenced in 2013).

When looking at this issue, you can’t ignore the red tape and barriers which get in the way of apprentices and trainees achieving a successful employment outcome. Administrative procedures, changes in requirements and the bureaucratic process can all hinder an individual’s success. Key to achieving a successful employment outcome at the end of the apprenticeship/traineeship is the match between the apprentice/trainee and their work placement host. This partnership is crucial.

The financial aspect is also a huge consideration. The cost between programs can vary significantly, with countries differing widely in public and private offerings. However, if a program costs more but has better potential outcomes, the outcomes will often be what a customer bases their decision on.

Another challenge faced by the sector is the changes to technology. The internet, smartphones and tablets have impacted considerably on our daily lives, even crossing over into the learning sphere. Therefore, these changes in technology can’t be ignored, and must be incorporated in learning models and delivery.

 

So, how do we aim to make apprentice and traineeship programs more successful? That’s the tricky question.

By looking at different research, a number of key success factors related to apprentice and traineeship systems can be identified. In particular, the NCVER research paper, The changing nature of apprenticeships: 1996–2016 identifies flexibility, employer involvement, and close partnerships between employers and educational institutions as some of the qualities that will lead a program to be successful. If you’d like to know more, you can review this research summary in further detail here.

Ultimately, most countries are concerned about building the workforce of the future. From looking at these challenges closely, it’s easy to see why. Attrition rates are an important factor, and a closer linkage between workplace skills acquisition and the knowledge skills is also very important.

 

In conclusion, regardless of the training environment, all stakeholders - students, teachers, workplaces and regulators - all need to consider what is in the student’s best interest for the long term. There is no single panacea, so all who are involved in vocational training need to take the initiative and contribute to the greater good. By reducing red tape, increasing engagement and using technology for good - not just because it is new - hopefully we can collectively address these current challenges and improve our industry for the long term.