Learn, Experience, Access Professions
LEAP stimulates students’ interests in particular fields, enabling them to experience and engage with a range of career possibilities
Victoria’s Learn, Experience, Access Professions (LEAP) program targets secondary school students from LSES communities to improve participation in higher education. LEAP partner universities provide shared delivery of numerous activities, themed under six professions which are traditionally under-represented with students from LSES communities. A website complements and extends these activities, providing students with the opportunity to further inform their aspirations and connect with higher education. Activities include in-school workshops, on-campus experience days, profession-located events and multi-day programs for senior students.
- Australian Catholic University
- Deakin University
- Federation University Australia
- La Trobe University
- Monash University (host)
- RMIT University
- Swinburne University of Technology
- University of Melbourne
- Victoria University
- Department of Education and Early Childhood Development (DEECD)
- Independent Schools Victoria
- Catholic Education Commission of Victoria
- professional groups.
Students from LSES communities often experience limited interaction with role models working in different career fields that require university qualifications. As a result, these students are less cognisant of the benefits and opportunities a university education can bring.
LEAP engages students with universities and professional communities to demystify the links between school, higher education and professional careers. This is achieved by stimulating students’ interests in particular fields, enabling experiential learning and engagement with a range of career possibilities. Activities offered challenge and extend students, increasing their confidence and enthusiasm for personal possibilities. LEAP enhances students’ understanding of entry to specific fields, supporting informed decision-making for successful entry.
Suites of activities developed under the six identified professions of business, design, engineering, health, law and sciences adhere to a learner progression framework comprising two key foci. ‘Understanding the Professions’ (Years 7–10) demystifies the professions and associated careers for students, illuminating the journey from school to a diversity of profession outcomes. ‘Making it Happen’ (Years 10–12) builds learner confidence, knowledge and provides the tools to help senior students reach their goals for profession entry through higher education. All activities link to the AusVELS (Victorian Essential Learning Standards, reflecting the design of the new Australian Curriculum) and Victorian Careers Curriculum Framework, providing learning context. Activities are also complemented by resources and learning content on the LEAP website.
Since first delivery in 2013, more than 300 events have been run, with over 14,500 student attendances from 227 schools. Participation has been maximised by repetition of activities in different regions across Victoria. Activities provided are hands-on, showcasing the diversity of careers under each profession through practical application. Event locations include university campuses, hospitals, law courts, specialist centres, art galleries and city centres as well as in schools, providing students with an enriched experience.
Multi-day workshops targeting senior students provide in-depth learning experiences whereby students develop confidence in the key skills required for success while immersing them in a university environment.
LEAP also makes use of current university students studying related fields. They provide positive role models and help inspire students that they too can achieve. Video diaries and blogs by current university students shared via the LEAP website provide further engagement opportunities for school students as they follow these learner journeys over time.
Feedback from both students and teachers has provided an indication of program achievements. The program is effective in providing students with information about the nature of work in the targeted professional areas. It is also successful in providing information about alternative pathways to the targeted professions, and this is considered valuable by students in the upper years of secondary schooling. A quarter of students indicate they are ‘now more interested in going to university’, while nine per cent indicate they ‘had not considered university before but now are’. Teachers believe LEAP to be having a positive impact on students’ knowledge of professions and aspirations towards university. Over 89 per cent of teachers agreed that the activities helped students understand the value of studying at university.
The LEAP program was the first substantial program of jointly-coordinated outreach activities to be conducted under the Victorian Multilateral Partnership Agreement (VMPA) signed in 2010 by the Victorian universities, Department of Education and Early Childhood Development, Catholic Education Commission of Victoria and Independent Schools Victoria. The VPMA supports the increased participation in higher education of students from LSES backgrounds. A group meets regularly to oversee LEAP: a central team comprising a program director and web technical officer coordinate the partnership arrangements, while six profession coordinators, based at different partner universities, manage activity delivery. Agreements were established to manage the finances and ensure geographical location was not an impediment to participation. Regular profession coordinator meetings facilitate good communication and sharing of best practice.
The LEAP website and associated content management system has established a strong infrastructure platform, engaging with schools, managing activity requests, recording outcomes and communicating news to over 900 subscribers.
The partnership works because:
- clear protocols and guidelines were established in the early phase to ensure stakeholder expectations were managed
- a communication strategy was established, providing clear lines of communication along with checks to ensure its effectiveness
- strengths and expertise of the professions is encouraged and valued amongst the partner universities
- advisory groups associated with each profession provide additional support and engagement across the partnership
- the rollout and delivery of activities has been progressive, allowing steady program growth while ensuring activity content and delivery responds to feedback
- activities avoid a one size fits all approach, being allowed to develop to meet the uniqueness of each profession
- the nine school university liaison officers provided by DEECD facilitate greater connection and engagement with schools, supporting them to participate in activities on offer while fostering an ongoing connection with the program
- a culture of shared learning exists among the profession coordinators.
Collaboration has been seen as an important component of LEAP by all partners along with the infrastructure provided by the LEAP website. Current discussions are investigating the optimum structure to continue delivery of the activities developed to date along with the website as a communication tool with target schools.
This case study is one of a series of 31 presented in our case study publication, Partnerships in Higher Education.