How is your work experience recognised?
A short article about recognition by universities of student work experience in the Melbourne Age newspaper discusses the shortage of qualified people. It argues this is due to a reluctance by universities to recognise experience and so provide credits in relevant subject areas. The vocational sector recognises experience through a recognition of prior learning (RPL) process.
The article is part of ongoing discussions concerning the role of universities and vocational colleges. My reminder of this is a group of logistics lecturers (including me) being accused by another (more pure) academic of being “business people masquerading as academics” – a none too gentle reminder that universities exist to encourage questioning and thinking, not practicalities.
How much training and education?
A fairly common reasoning of the sectors is that (vocational) training should focus on ‘how’ we should work and behave, while (university) education is concerned with asking ‘why’. In logistics for example, how to manage a warehouse operation is training, while education considers ‘why’ we should consider owning, leasing or even using the warehouse. These are both valid and necessary learning and not an ‘either/or’ consideration, presenting one without the other. The question is the weighting given to each within courses.
Using the 80/20 ratio approach, should a university program be 80% ‘why’ and 20% ‘how’, while a vocational diploma be 80% ‘how’ and 20% ‘why’, or some other ratio? With student fees becoming more common as an income source, universities have an incentive to provide courses that are profession, industry or corporate based These are called professional programs for which premium fees can be charged. As such, it can be difficult to present an academically focused program that also meet the customer’s requirements; how much of the content should be concerned with the ‘why’ as opposed to the ‘how’?
Currently, the vocational diploma in logistics emphasises the ‘how’ through assessing competency, with little reference to ‘why’. As expected, university professional programs in supply chains and logistics vary in their approach to the content.
If universities were to recognise work experience, does this count as equal to questioning and thinking through the principles? Does many years of experience as a warehouse manager provide you with the equivalent knowledge to develop a distribution strategy and therefore be granted an exemption from the study of distribution?