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Using vocational education to boost your professional development
By William Cowie
What is professional development?
Professional development is a way to improve your skills & employability, attain that promotion you’re seeking, stay current in best practices in your industry and for your personal satisfaction. It encompasses a broad range of facilitated learning activities such as conferences, formal courses, university degrees and even informal learning opportunities that occur normally in the course of your job. In an economy like Australia, where increasingly higher levels of skills are demanded by industry, ongoing professional development is becoming a priority for many of us.
So how can you make vocational education and training work for professional development?
Work out where you want to go with your career and create a training and development plan you can work towards achieving. This can include higher qualifications in your immediate area of expertise, cross-training in other fields, or picking niches courses that fill in gaps in your knowledge and skillset.
Develop your expertise and qualifications in your field
The most obvious step in your training and development plan is simply to enrol in a higher level vocational course in your field, and that is a great option! Even if you’ve got higher level qualifications, a vocational course can open up new career opportunities. Take the ‘Fast Track’ course in Training and Assessment for Teachers as an example – teachers are already highly qualified and experienced in the teaching industry, but a Cert IV in TAE gives them the legally required qualifications they need to pursue training jobs in the VET industry. Developing skills in your immediate area of expertise, and broadening your understanding of your role and how to fill it, is an excellent way to expand your career choices.
Cross train in other fields
As an alternative, you can cross train with a vocational qualification in a related or complementary area. Many people have trained in a number of vocational courses and are experts in a particular industry or trade. For whatever reason, continuing to work in that field may no longer be so appealing, so they are looking for an alternative career.
Again, the Certificate IV in Training and Assessment is hugely popular for this purpose. This qualification will teach you skills and techniques to be an amazing trainer in your workplace, teaching your skills and passing on experience in your field. Once you have the Certificate IV in Training and Assessment, you can teach other vocational qualifications you’ve obtained! This means you’ll also opening up opportunities for you to seek out job opportunities as a professional trainer or TAFE teacher.
Find niche opportunities
Finally, you can choose the parts of a vocational course that will most benefit you. The Training and Assessment course is made up of 7 core units and 3 electives. You might not want to spend time doing the full course, but the Design and develop learning programs unit (TAEDE401A) covers exactly the area of your skill-set you’re trying to improve. Short courses can also be useful: for example, a bus drivers license and an accredited starter pistol course could be beneficial for a Physical Education teacher’s career.
It doesn’t just have to be for professional development either – you can add units to your training and development plan that will maximise your personal development. For instance, as a volunteer aiding the in care of the aged and elderly, a unit like Follow Safety Procedures for Direct Care Work (CHCOHS312A) can help you ensure your own safety, the safety of those you’re caring for, and the wider community. ‘Cherry picking’ the vocational units you need to achieve the best career results can be a boon for your professional and personal development.
One avenue for your professional development is vocational education and training (VET). Vocational training has become increasingly popular in Australia in recent years. There are a number of reasons, but a large part is demand for a more highly skilled workforce in many industries, which can be achieved through vocational training.
Some industries have self-regulated minimum training requirements. The aged care industry, for instance, has no legal minimum training requirements. They have, however, adopted the Certificate III in Aged Care or equivalent/closely related courses like the Certificate III in Home and Community Care as a defacto minimum standard of training for employment. As a result, you’d have trouble finding a carers position in the industry without a qualification of that caliber.
Government regulated industries
In other cases, there are Government regulations establishing minimum levels of training in various roles and jobs in Australia, such as the upcoming implementation of the Certificate III in Early Childhood Education and Care as the minimum qualification for working in formal child care from the start of 2014. At least half the people working in child care centres will also need to have a Diploma in Early Childhood Education and Care qualification. As a result, vocational training has become extremely important for many people working in these fields.
Our society also changes over time. People working in many industries need to learn how to overcome new challenges or incorporate new methodologies and technologies. Youth workers in NSW, for example, are getting additional training to help them achieve the best outcomes for refugee youths from various backgrounds, who are struggling with homelessness for a variety of reasons.
Further education pathway
Vocational training has also become an effective route into university education. It does depend on the field you’re studying, but we can use the Certificate IV of Accounting and Bookkeeping courses as an example. Either of these qualifications is perfect for starting a career in the financial services industry, and meets the minimum training requirements to be a registered Business Activity Statement Agent. After a few years of working in the field, you might find that you’ve outgrown your qualification and are looking for a new challenge. Fortunately, you can continue your training with a Diploma, an then an Advanced Diploma. Not only will these courses qualify you to start a Bachelor’s Degree at university, you’ll also be able to receive some credit that degree (depending on the university).
Be the best
Finally, some people just want to pursue their personal passion or be the best in their field. Vocational education and training encompasses a huge spread of industries and skills, including professional careers and trades. As a result, there is a course that will suit just about everyone – no matter what profession, broad or niche, interests them. Vocational training also offers people the chance to formalise or specialise their expertise in a multitude of professions and have a nationally recognised and accredited qualification.
Training and development for professional and personal success
Most of us will go through many forms of professional development throughout our careers. Many employers actively seek out professional development for their employees to develop skills that are needed in the workplace. Some employers will also allow you to pursue your own professional development opportunities as part of your job! Create a training and development plan so you know what courses and programs you want to do. See which ones you can get your employer to fund and then pursue the rest on your own time.
Vocational education can offer you many professional development opportunities. With classroom or online based training options, you can fit your course around your personal and professional life with the delivery method that suits you. Get out there and start working on your professional development!
For more information about how to plan your professional development, check out Create a Professional Development Plan for Your Success!
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