A new report has highlighted “an education crisis” affecting Victorian students that could have an impact on Australia’s ‘comeback strategy in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis.

Entitled Why Victoria needs high-quality VET and Technologies Teacher Education, the report from the Campaign for VET and Technologies Education (CVTE) lays bare an array of current issues for schools, students and students’ future careers. It argues for the reintroduction of vocational education & training (VET) and Technologies initial teacher education (ITE) programs following the closure of the sole program in Victoria producing secondary qualified VET and Technologies teachers for Victorian schools.

According to the report, secondary schools are now unable to offer the high quality of education needed due to long-standing skill shortages of secondary qualified VET and Technologies teachers. Moreover, now that the only course producing secondary qualified VET and Technologies teachers for Victorian schools closed in 2020, the full impact is yet to be realised.

This confluence of events will see many schools become unable to offer Technologies programs and many applied learning programs and pathways are in jeopardy. This holds serious implications for Victorian schools and their capacity to fulfill ‘high-quality’ teaching and learning obligations. This situation will also impact secondary schools’ capacity to nurture, engage and kindle student’s curiosity for technical and engineering futures.

“A skilled workforce does not just fall from the sky,” commented Greg Chalker, Corporate Services Manager at the Australian Manufacturing Technology Institute Limited (AMTIL), in response to the report’s findings.

The report also argues that the unfolding crisis will not only affect the future careers of young Victorians, but could potentially undermine Australia’s post-pandemic recovery strategy. Without appropriate courses to prepare and qualify VET and Technologies secondary teachers, Commonwealth and Victorian state government efforts to convince tens of thousands of young people to engage with apprenticeships, traineeships and technical careers will be weakened, potentially derailing manufacturing- and construction-based recovery initiatives.

The report calls for the reintroduction of undergraduate VET and Technologies teacher education programs in Victoria.

“If we do not act now to re-establish teacher education programs to generate secondary-qualified VET and Technologies teachers, young Australians will pay the price,” said Dr Karen O’Reilly-Briggs, a lecturer La Trobe University in Melbourne and one of the reports co-authors. “Australian governments are depending more than ever on secondary students wanting to embark on apprenticeships and traineeships to become the tradespeople, technicians and engineers needed to resource a swathe of major infrastructure and big build projects created to drive the nation’s comeback. Many professionals, technicians and tradespeople made unemployed during the Covid recession would welcome the chance to enter the teaching profession.”