If Australia is to maximise the benefits from resource and manufacturing industries in regional Australia, it needs a workforce with the necessary knowledge and skills. There is a clear need for a new model of delivery which supports engineering Vocational Education (VET) and Higher Education (HE) programs in regional areas. Evidence to-date suggests this is difficult to achieve, with regional students often limited by their choices and access to HE and VET programs. Regional HE and VET campuses also struggle with the viability of engineering courses in geographically scattered and thin markets. While there are some excellent distance education programs these are often not appropriate for many prospective students who need personal support to make the transition into education and training at a tertiary level. The project aims to foster participation, engagement, and retention in education by up-skilling the engineering workforce and improving the productivity of resource and manufacturing economies.
PURPOSE OR GOAL
A number of regional HE and VET providers have partnered to develop a flexibly delivered Learning Platform model for engineering, which aims to provide access to engineering pathways and expand curriculum choice and coverage. It reduces individual campus delivery costs and cross-institutional barriers, and improves the availability of engineers and associated para-professionals in regional economies.
The project has its origins in a resource based view of strategic management and adopts a Regional Development Platform Method (RDPM) (Harmaakorpi, 2007) as a pragmatic but innovative solution to provide higher education in thin markets to dispersed populations. The project takes a cross-sectoral and Knowledge Partnering (KP) approach (Eversole, 2013), involving a staged process of identification, mapping and development, followed by pilot implementation and evaluation. It moves away from the traditional emphasis on developing resources for teaching and curriculum, but rather applies a social constructivist paradigm to focus on the development of student learning outcomes, lifelong learning, and student pathways.
The project sets out to develop and pilot a platforms-based solution to the national issue of critical skills shortage in the resources and associated manufacturing industries, particularly in rural and regional Australia. By knowledge partnering across HE and VET institutions and industry, the learning platform creates a vehicle to efficiently utilise and share resources across the providers, to broaden access to pathways and engineering skills. The learning platform provides access, choice, industry relevance, and retention, generating economic and social benefits through a more skilled and stable workforce for regional areas.
A knowledge partnering and collaborative approach, not only builds cost-effective coverage and improves choice for students in regional areas, but also affords the opportunity to ‘pioneer’ an innovative solution which can be applied to other disciplines. By taking a collaborative approach to the design and delivery of such a model, this project aims to find a solution which may be applicable to any regional area throughout Australia and can be adapted by other universities wishing to effectively service distributed markets.
Para-professional, Engineering pathways, Articulation, Regional education