Curriculum changes must be vocation-focused

The Illawarra Business Chamber has called on the independent review of the NSW school curriculum to consider further reforms aimed at preparing students for the workforce in its next phase of deliberations.

An Interim Report of the review, led by Professor Geoff Masters, was released today and has made 15 recommendations.

Importantly it recommends a review of the Australian Tertiary Admission Rank (ATAR) system, which addresses concerns raised by the business chamber that the single-minded emphasis on maximising ATARs is diminishing student development and access to alternative learning pathways; particularly vocational education and training.

Another major concern for the business chamber addressed in the Interim Report is a historically low level of school-based apprenticeships and traineeships in NSW; which was attributed to a lack of flexibility in school timetables and administrative red tape.

However, Illawarra Business Chamber Executive Director Adam Zarth said that the next phase of the review should reflect greater input from employers and focus on job readiness.

“The Interim Report highlights some pressing concerns for business, but needs to go further in clearing the way for more students to enter vocational education and training – and school-based apprenticeships and traineeships in particular,” said Mr Zarth.

“Professor Masters is right to propose a review of the ATAR, as the current arrangements do a great disservice to the 60 percent of students who do not go to university and present a missed opportunity to prepare that cohort for the rigors of the workforce.”

“The curriculum lacks practical measures aimed at job readiness, and our experience in delivering the NSW Government-funded Illawarra Youth Employment Strategy (IllawarraYES) has also revealed that too many young people in the Illawarra leave school without a basic understanding of the expectations of employers, and a range of skills including communication, team work and digital literacy.

“With growing skills shortages being reported by businesses across the Illawarra, it has become clear that the current curriculum needs to be enhanced to prepare young people for productive and rewarding careers,” said Mr Zarth.

“The construction, human services, and hospitality sectors are crying out for job-ready workers.”

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