Our Amazing New Technical Education Way

The Government has just introduced the concept of technical education for specialist trade and vocation areas and has positioned it as part of the higher education system. This is a
21 Nov 2015 10:32
Our Amazing New Technical Education Way

The Government has just introduced the concept of technical education for specialist trade and vocation areas and has positioned it as part of the higher education system.

This is a very new idea in Fiji.

The first of these started to appear this year and each seems to be well located in easy reach of good numbers of people. Nadi College is one school that was taken over by the Education Department for conversion.

These colleges are under the banner of Fiji National University, a department called TVET. It is an innovation that every business should welcome and support.



This is a major initiative by the government and the objective is to provide an education alternative to a University degree for those who want to follow a career in a trade or other sector of the workforce.

It acknowledges that the Fijian economy has a clear need for well trained people and that there is a shortage that was not being filled through the current further education structure.

It also accepts that many of the skills in the shortfall the system is trying to fill do not need years of tertiary education.

Competent block laying, timber framing, drainage, basic engine maintenance and many other tasks can be taught is six to nine months.

A further consideration is that many people are already in employment and can’t take the time off to attend classes to learn additional skills.

To address this need the education department is in the process of introducing a range of evening and weekend classes for a number of subjects.

This opens up the opportunity for people who already have a qualification to either upgrade or to add other related skills.



The concept of Technical and Further Education is new in Fiji, but as an example of the development that will occur, the Australian experience is interesting.

TAFE, as the particular educational level is known in Australia was created to address exactly the same issue that Fiji is now facing, a shortfall in the availability of enough labour in certain sectors of the economy, in those days the building sector.

Over the last fifty or so years, TAFE has spread to cover many industry sectors, to provide educational in recreational skills and to provide up-skilling for many people who have a certified skill but have fallen behind the current levels of knowledge and practice.



I am a typical example of the TAFE system.

I always wanted to be a graphic designer (in those days, an artist) and to enter the fledging advertising industry and I realised that I was wasting time continuing an education not related to what I wanted to do.

At age 16 I started studying graphic design at East Sydney Technical College at night and worked as an office boy in one of the early advertising agencies in Sydney, because I needed to support myself.

After three years of this I was working in the studio, making advertisements.

My career progressed and after a couple of years I took up sports car racing as a sport, so went back and did mechanical engineering at TAFE.

Then followed a series of other courses, lead lighting, building construction (because I need to be certificate to do certain work myself), Ocean navigation (because I was racing yachts and many longer races required a second certified navigator on board) real estate certificate at Uni of NSW (so I could get a license) and became a certified pulp and paper maker because I had a client in that business.

I then did a brick laying course because I loved building brick arched walls and fireplaces. All of these I studied by distance learning, a way of learning I found fitted into my lifestyle.

Many of my friends have similar study profiles; some of them even got their first degree in the normal way, from University, in law, accounting or something similar but felt the need to know about other things.

The point of TAFE is that it makes it possible to learn many specific skills in many different disciplines.

The system just launched is in its infancy, providing skills in specific subjects and helping people to improve their living standard by improving their knowledge, but there are plans to expand the subjects and the way they are offered in the future.

Many of those people who are studying in the system now will find the need (or often the excitement) to go on learning, and the system will grow to accommodate them.

There is no distance learning yet, but it will come because many people want the knowledge but are not able to attend a bricks and mortar college because of work or family commitments.

As the programs develop there will be lots of different courses and they will vary from very basis to intense learning levels.

Demand will drive the expansion of the courses offered and some will become more recreationally focused, but the main thrust (as with TAFE in Australia) will be to up skill the Fiji workforce and help improve the living standard of anyone prepared to commit themselves to learning more.

In Australia, many employers assist their people to attend college to gain skills that will assist the employee or to add to existing skills.

The system is regarded as a necessity by many people in industry in Australia and they are actively involved in introducing courses they believe their industry either needs to improve skills or is facing a shortage of such skilled workers in the future.

The Fijian government has developed a number of ways to assist people to study by providing scholarships or student loans so that everyone can use the colleges regardless of their financial situation.

This is a sector of the education industry that will grow rapidly because of demand and business, workers and the economy will all benefit directly.

John Ross is a Nadi-based marketing and advertising specialist with a long background in tourism.



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