13 August 2012
RMIT comp showcases training standards at TAFE
As part of its Open Day last weekend, RMIT held a Trades Skills competition in which teams of apprentices competed to produce the best work under pressure.
Watched by their employers and trade teachers, three teams of six students from RMIT's plumbing, electrical and refrigeration programs had just 40 minutes to complete a demanding installation project. See the photos on flickr.
While just last week ABC TV's 7.30 Report was exposing the extent of rorting by numerous shonky private providers — making millions giving apprentices no training and faking evidence of their work — RMIT's Open Day showcased the dedicated hands-on training provided at TAFE, and the level of competency its students are required to demonstrate.
RMIT's manager of Apprenticeships & Traineeships Kevin Broomhall says the competition — apart from being a bit of fun — is designed to put students in an environment akin to one they'll experience in the workforce. "In construction, you might have three or four tradies in one room, with different tools, working on different aspects of the job. They have to engage, communicate and work with others."
He is committed to aligning RMIT trades training with a framework developed by World Skills International, a not-for-profit association working to build higher standards and status for vocational training around the world.
"This is particularly important in the light of the growing demand for apprentices to learn how to undertake much more advanced, multi-skilled work in the 21st century," Kevin says. "There will always be a need for tradespeople. You can't send your plumbing offshore.
"I saw a huge billboard the other day that said, 'Become a qualified tradie in 12 months.' That's ludicrous! We [Victoria] hand out licenses to take money and we don't have qualified people at the other end, just a piece of paper.
"Even if we run a complaints system, this is not new. We haven't learnt from our Broadscope experience, where they saw an opportunity to score some money, provided next to no training and walked away with a pocketful of cash.
"Instead of opening the gates and then checking the horses, we should be checking the horses before they go through the gates."
TAFE, on the other hand, has a long and proven history of producing highly proficient apprentices. "We've been here 125 years," he says. "We always continue working to improve our quality. But you're not here for 125 years and producing shoddy outputs."
As for how RMIT will respond to the budget cuts, he says management is still in the process of making those decisions. But Kevin admits he's concerned. "We'll have to put our prices up, and they won't cover our costs — won't come anywhere near to covering the budget loss — and we'll just have to see if students will pay.
"We'll continue providing those services that only TAFEs provide, even though we're not getting paid for them now. We won't let our students miss out on that."
Pic: Students teams (shown here) comprising an electrician, a refrigeration mechanic and a plumber together worked to install and wire a split system unit correctly, with connecting pipes to the basin and drain for water flow. Competition winners were Damien Green, Lachlan George and Wade McEwan. (Photo: Christina Jones, RMIT)