Case studies: Cross sector electives in building and construction
Employers, students and teachers explain how cross sector electives in construction can combine practical and theoretical knowledge to advantage the students and the industry.
Dual sector education in construction programs is seen as an effective way of ensuring graduates have both the practical "hands on" experience as well as the theoretical knowledge base required by industry now and into the future.
In 2007 the School of Property, Construction and Project Management was funded under the Learning and Teaching Investment Fund (LTIF) to examine the possibility of dual sector education in construction and to undertake a pilot skills elective in this area.
The project aims were:
- to promote pathways for dual sector qualifications
- to provide students with industry relevant education and learning
- to develop a model for staff exchange and collaboration between HE and TAFE.
- to create self-funding skills elective modules in the HE construction program
Changing work practices in construction are demanding greater breadth and depth of understanding of technical equipment and construction processes (Productivity Commission, 2000). Reliance upon narrow understandings of building processes is not adequately equipping future students for the rigours of an ever changing international workplace. The construction industry skill/knowledge profile of graduates is changing. Industry sources and research quote the need for "hands on" experience coupled with a higher education knowledge base (Curtis and Lucas, 2001).
There was an urgent need to develop dual sector and nested programs in line with the knowledge and skill requirements of current and future labour markets. There was also a need to provide our students with both academic and technical qualifications and various entry and exit points. This skills elective project allowed students to tailor courses and qualifications to match their current employment needs and their long term construction careers.
Competencies within the Diploma of Building and Construction (Building) were mapped against the Bachelor of Applied Science (Construction Management) and the Bachelor of Applied Science (Project Management). The competencies were matched to the skills and knowledge of the degree courses. The “gap” competencies that could not be matched were organised into a skills set and offered as a HE elective – BUIL 1223.
Approximately 25 students in each semester enrolled in BUIL 1223. The course has now been conducted four times and students successfully completing the skills elective have applied for, and received RPL for the Diploma. Approximately 36 students to date have graduated with both the Diploma of Building and the degree in Construction Management.
For this skills elective to succeed, the goodwill and additional support of a wide-range of people from the PVC, Jim Barber, to Heads of Schools, co-ordinators and administrators was required. Most importantly they require the energetic support of the front line personnel: the teachers and lecturers. It is these people who provide the learning experience for the students and create solutions to the problems on the ground when the pilot is conducted. Without the support of these staff the projects will not succeed.
These skill electives create a template for the future for other TAFE and HE schools and provide flexible, useful pathways and learning opportunities for RMIT students, ensuring our graduates are first choice for construction employers and remain industry leaders into the future.