Learn, Experience, Access Professions (LEAP)
Greater retention and success results when students enter university well informed about how university will assist them to achieve their goals
Access to the professions through higher education for LSES secondary school students across Victoria is the aim of the Learn, Experience, Access Professions (LEAP) program. LEAP adopts a consortium approach of coordinated outreach activities developed and delivered through a partnership of the Victorian universities, Department of Education and Early Childhood Development, Catholic Education Commission of Victoria and Independent Schools Victoria.
Initially focussing on the design, engineering, health and law professions, LEAP provides applied learning activities and online material to engage students through a learner progression framework comprising two key foci. ‘Understanding the Professions’ (Years 7–9) demystifies the professions and associated careers, illuminating the journey from school experience to a diversity of outcomes within the field. ‘Making it Happen’ (Years 10– 12) builds learner confidence, knowledge and the tools to support LSES students reach their goals for entry to the professions through higher education. All activities are linked to both the AusVELS (Australian Curriculum in Victoria) and Victorian Careers Curriculum Framework to provide learning context.
Schools access the program through a web-based LEAP Portal. The portal will be a sustainable, expandable platform for future outreach activities by participant universities.
LEAP’s main objective is to engage LSES students, Victoria-wide, with universities and professional communities to demystify the links between school, higher education and professional careers. This involves:
- stimulating students’ interests in particular fields, enabling them to experience and engage with a range of career possibilities
- enhancing students’ and families’ understanding of how to prepare for entry to specific fields, supporting informed decision-making, and
- challenging and extending students, increasing their confidence and enthusiasm for personal possibilities.
This program seeks to extend the generic aspiration raising offered directly through individual school university partnerships, enabling partners to draw on more opportunities than would otherwise be possible.
LEAP is the recipient of a HEPPP competitive grant from 2011. Contributions are also made by consortium members. Funding covers operational costs, including the development of targeted, effective and appropriate hands-on activities and web content, along with their delivery to an identified priority group of approximately 250 schools.
The success of LEAP is indicated through the formative responses of participants and in the medium term, increased LSES enrolment in higher education. Participation has included over 3,000 students from 125 identified schools.
To date, over 80 per cent of students indicate an increase in their knowledge of careers, and approximately 70 per cent of all students indicate their knowledge of options and pathways into professions had increased. Variations do exist which highlight particular issues for rural/remote students. Our feedback suggests students from regional locations typically have poorer knowledge of the professions prior to participation. They also indicate they are less interested in university prior to participation, with just 38 per cent strongly indicating interest in university compared to 58 per cent of metropolitan students.
From preliminary findings it appears that regional/ remote students face bigger challenges and hurdles to higher education participation than their metropolitan counterparts. An understanding of these hurdles and a holistic approach from all levels of government and education is required. LEAP will look to embed the program across the Victorian universities and promote participation in higher education as a pathway to the professions.
LEAP partners include:
- Australian Catholic University
- Catholic Education Commission of Victoria
- Deakin University
- Department of Education and Early Childhood Development
- Federation University Australia
- Independent Schools Victoria
- La Trobe University
- Monash University
- RMIT University
- Swinburne University of Technology
- The University of Melbourne, and
- Victoria University.
This case study is one of a series of 39 presented in our case study publication, Access and Participation in Higher Education: Outreach – Access – Support.