Higher Apprenticeship Program for the Social Service Sector

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The world of business is rapidly evolving. Technology and work practices are driving demand for people with higher level skills associated with qualifications at diploma level and above. This trend has been observed in the Australian and broader global labour markets.

To address the skills gap in the Australian labour market the government are piloting apprenticeship like models of training at higher qualification levels. In May 2019 the Victorian Government announced an initiative to pilot a higher apprenticeship training model in the social service sector. RMIT and the Future Social Services Institute (FSSI) were selected to lead development of the pilot project in collaboration with industry.

Higher Apprenticeship Program for the Social Service Sector

The pilot program kicked off in April 2020 with 25 higher apprentices from seven industry partners enrolled in the Advanced Diploma of Community Sector Management at RMIT. All participants currently work in management roles in the social service sector and have been handpicked by their employers for their leadership potential.

The program provides the participants with the opportunity to upskill on-the-job and potentially take on more senior management roles in the future. The apprenticeship program is fully funded by the Victorian Government, which means participants do not pay any course fees.

Co-design workshops with industry and the higher apprentices, along with research on current education and training approaches are used to refine the pilot project and inform the design and development of the final higher apprenticeship program.

The higher apprentices, like many work-based learners, are time poor so a training model that facilitates flexible study is a must. Blended delivery approaches and microlearning techniques that embed learning in the flow of work are just some of the approaches being trialled in the pilot project. The VE Design Team are working closely with the FSSI and the industry partners from the social service sector to deliver a final higher apprenticeship program that can be scaled across the sector from the beginning of 2022.

Why the social service sector?

The community services industry is among the fastest growing industries in Victoria, projected to generate one in four new Victorian jobs over the next five years (VCOSS). The Future Social Service Institute (FSSI) predicts that between 2018 and 2023 there will be a need for over 1,000 additional managers across the social service sector. The higher apprenticeship program for the social service sector is designed to support this growth.

FSSI Director Micaela Cronin says, “this is exactly what the FSSI was created for – to design world-best education programs for the social service sector and help train the workforce of the future.”

What are higher apprenticeships?

Higher apprenticeships are similar to other apprenticeships and traineeships where you study whilst gaining on the job experience and earning an income. Higher apprenticeships are typically undertaken in higher-level VET qualifications such as Diploma or Advanced Diploma. Some industries are experimenting with apprenticeships in higher education qualifications.

There are several different higher apprenticeship programs happening across Australia with most commencements occurring in community services, business services and public services. Industries such as construction, plumbing, tourism, travel and hospitality, aviation, sustainability and health are also trialling higher apprenticeship programs.

To find out more about higher apprenticeships in Australia visit the Australian Apprenticeships Pathways website.

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Sinead Murphy

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