Scholarship opens up the world of vocational education, writes Kristie Kellahan.
Robert Lawson believes teaching vocational education and training subjects in schools is vital to keep engaging students who do not want to go to university. Providing a clear pathway into the workplace or to further education is the way to hold the attention of young people, he says.
A teacher at Kirrawee High School, Lawson teaches mandatory technology in years 7 and 8, food technology in years 9 and 11 and hospitality as a VET subject.
Lawson was recently awarded the Premier's Commonwealth Bank Vocational Education Scholarship, a prestigious annual award given to a teacher to examine best practice in vocational education for students, innovative delivery in vocational programs and to build on current skills and knowledge. The scholarship allows five weeks' study leave along with $15,000 from Commonwealth Bank to cover the costs of travel and accommodation.
"I'm very excited to be travelling to Switzerland and the UK where I will focus on the qualifications being delivered and how they further education and/or employment," Lawson says.
"I will also investigate how industry and business organisations influence the skill level of the qualification being delivered. I will then compare our Certification levels with those in the UK and Switzerland."
Lawson says Switzerland is regarded as the world leader in the delivery of VET subjects and VET connections to industry and employers. Britain has recently undergone a governmental review of its VET delivery resulting in a number of best-practice recommendations.
"The delivery of VET programs has been a passion of mine for many years and being awarded this scholarship will enable me to gain a better understanding of the value of VET qualifications in transitioning students to the workplace," Lawson says. "To be able to have professional conversations, build networks and see a highly successful educational system where nearly 60 per cent of all students choose vocational pathways will be a career highlight."
His European study tour will take in schools, colleges and universities in Switzerland and the UK, as well as meetings with ministerial representatives on business, innovations and skills development. He will be using social media to post updates and will maintain a diary so other teachers and students interested in his research tour can follow the journey.
"As a teacher it is great to see students progress through school and achieve their goals, be it articulating to University, TAFE or into the workforce," Lawson says. "Working in an environment that promotes personal best, supports a student-directed curriculum and is truly a comprehensive high school has enabled me to maintain my enthusiasm in teaching."
Lawson strongly encourages other teachers to apply for Premier's scholarships. "Take advantage of the knowledgeable and helpful Premier's scholarship staff, especially Lloyd Christensen and David Bromley who can assist in the application process," he says.
"I would also like to acknowledge the support of Commonwealth Bank, which has a longstanding history of educating young Australians about money management and supporting schools through programs such as its StartSmart financial literacy workshops."