02 SES 07 A, Transitions from VET to Higher Education
Echoing the ECER conference theme, Education & Transition, this paper outlines initial findings from an ongoing a research study, which focuses on the concept of transitions from further education to higher education in Ireland.
A new architecture is emerging in Further and Vocational Education and Training in Ireland (SOLAS, ETBs, QQI etc.), which has created an opportunity to influence the overall development of the sector. In the past the F/VET sector has grown organically – Youthreach is/has been the only "planned" and led initiative – and it is vital to develop a knowledge base. Further and Vocational Education and Training in Ireland includes but is not exclusive to vocational training and apprenticeship, VET (Vocational Education & Training), the PLC (Post Leaving Certificate) sector, alternative basic skills programmes such as Youthreach, Community Training Workshops, Traveller Education, Adult Literacy, Adult and Continuing Education and Community Education.
The contribution from Higher Education to the future skills agenda is well established (higher level skills and qualifications, etc.). However, the Irish economy has a significant shortfall in intermediate skills. There is now major focus on intermediate (skilled technician) level but with a new fluidity – all employees will be expected to be open to continuous training. As SOLAS (the new Further Education and Training Agency) refines its analysis of the skill needs it will be commissioning newly established Education and Training Boards (ETBs) and others to undertake programmes and initiatives to address these skills needs/deficits. This means that the sector will be more focused and less intuitive than heretofore, more planned and less organic. Decisions and programme designs will have to be based on the best evidence – a blend of empirical data (and research into best existing and emerging best practice in Ireland, the EU and OECD countries. All programmes will be expected to raise and/or broaden participants' skill levels and to encourage and promote ongoing engagement with learning and progress through and across the NFQ (National Framework of Qualification) and the EQF. The urgency and importance of this work was demonstrated recently by the EU Council of Ministers decision to include some six billion euro in the budget between now and 2020 devoted to initiatives to tackle youth unemployment.
This paper outlines ongoing research on one aspect being addressed through collaborative HEI projects. The focus of the research is on the area of Access, Transfer and Progression. The theoretical framework of the research is based upon barriers, drivers, structures and human and social capital. The research aims to increase the progression and transition of young people from school, through to further and vocational education and on to higher Education. This research poses some pertinent questions such as; How will the emergent system develop appropriate policies and processes integrating the best available research evidence, particularly from comparative studies? How will learners be encouraged and empowered in their dealings with the new system? This and future research will require good data-gathering templates and mechanisms that yield comprehensive quantitative and qualitative data including evidence on economic and labour market trends and skill needs. Within the labour market, the goal of the individual and employer are acknowledged in the literature as concepts of human capital and social capital (Bourdieu, 1986 and Putnam, 2000) as both paradigms actively seek to address how trust is acted upon for a functional society.
Initial research findings suggest that the labour market is still flexible and there are also fixed avenues at play; the CAO (Central Admissions Organisation) points are fixed yearly to determine places in higher education level. Besides, these traditional fixed routes, there are disparate ‘progression’ routes to HE, ones that involve ‘access’ entry routes.
Bourdieu, P. (1986). ‘The forms of capital’ in J.G. Richardson (ed) Handbook of theory and research for the sociology of education, New York: Greenwood Press, pp. 241-258. ESRI (2014) Leaving School in Ireland: A Longitudinal Study of Post-School Transitions, Economic and Social Research Institute, Ireland, ERSI National Access Office (2014), the Consultation Paper: Towards the development of a new National Plan for Equity of Access to Higher Education, Ireland, NAO Quality and Qualifications Ireland (2013) Strategy Statement 2014 – 2016, Ireland, QQI, NUIM (2013) The Evaluation of the HEAR and DARE Supplementary Admission Routes to Higher Education, NUIM, Ireland Putnam, R. D. (2000). Bowling Alone: the collapse of Americas social capital_, New York: Simon and Shuster. SOLAS (2013), SOLAS Corporate Plan 2014 – 2016 , Ireland, SOLAS, SOLAS (2014) Further Education and Training Services Plan, Ireland, SOLAS, SOLAS (2013) Further Education And Training Strategy 2014 –2019, SOLAS, Ireland,
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