Russell Thorn returns from study tour of UAE and USA


​GOTAFE Building Construction Trainer, Russell Thorn has recently returned from a study tour of The United States of America (USA) and United Arab Emirates (UAE). He attended the International Network on Innovative Apprenticeships (INAP) conference in Washington DC, followed by tours of colleges in New York and Chicago. His study tour also included a visit to the World Skills Competition in Abu Dhabi.

Russell said that the INAP conference, brings together researchers and research institutions with a common interest in vocational education and training.

“The conference was attended by more than 120 visitors from Europe, Africa, Asia, North America and of course Australia and I think that demonstrates that there is new interest in the re-establishment of dual secondary and vocational training, basically VETis or Tech school models.

“The conference discussed the trend towards alternative models of training and the framework of qualifications that each country used.

“Most countries also shared similar challenges like youth unemployment, and the push towards directing students into VET qualifications, trying to create pathways from secondary to VET instead of secondary studies to academic qualifications.

“We visited a number of colleges across America – Virginia NOVA College which is a privately funded institution, most of them are privately owned, so they need to achieve a minimum 70% employment outcome for students for them to be eligible to get government subsidised loans.

“They also have strong relationships with industry, for example all the machinery and equipment is donated by industry, they are not reliant on government funding, they rely on those relationships for support and to get their students into employment.

“What stuck out for me was that their apprenticeship courses are designed with minimum duration of one year, so apprenticeships are really anything, any course.

“But something that I didn’t expect was the standard these school adopted, the professionalism if you like, the students all had a uniform, different colours identified individual trades, that they were expected to wear at all times. Their appearance was to be presentable at all times with shirts tucked in and they were all to acknowledge the teachers when they walked past by looking them in the eye and greeting them. All these practices were enhancing students work readiness building on the values of respect, confidence and community behaviour social skills.

“A large amount of the theory work was assessed through oral presentations in class instead of just handing in assignments. This was to build confidence and enhance student’s communication skills which will assist them when applying for jobs and in the interview process.

“The main take out message for me was that America has had a big emphasis on college for so long, that it has lost its way when it comes to VET, in this way, Australia is a leader of competency based training, we are in a good position, America is just getting into this model.

Russell also attended the World Skills Competition in Abu Dhabi, stepping off the plane to the make the opening ceremony which is his words was like the Olympics Games with all countries represented in the arena.

“My main learnings from seeing the World Skills competition in action was, especially trade areas was the need for those fundamental foundation skills in hand and power tool skills and undertaking problem solving activities, these are both very important in our training programs, I see a need to re-introduce the focus back to these.”

Russell is a big supporter of World Skills Competition and encourages staff to get on board.

“I encourage staff to get involved with the World Skills Competition, I would even suggest becoming involved in the judging at these events. To be selected or nominated to judge you are regarded as one of the best in your field, it’s a big accolade and a great marketing tool for GOTAFE.”

Russell’s study tour was made possible through his alliance with the Apprenticeship Factory (as a board member) and of course the support of GOTAFE. His tour was co-funded by GOTAFE and himself personally.