Supported Pathways Program
At all levels of the pathway, students are provided with industry experience and are able to exit and access employment outcomes
The University of Wollongong’s Supported Pathways Program is designed to improve the participation of LSES and Indigenous people in higher education. The program involves collaboration with local government agencies, TAFE NSW and local private-registered training organisations to raise the educational capacity of the Illawarra South East Region. The partners identify skills shortages in the region and provide tangible pathways and vocational qualifications to further education and employment. The program is designed to provide individuals from under-represented backgrounds with education and employment outcomes, and with the transition and academic skills to be successful in higher education.
- University of Wollongong (UOW)
- Department of State Training
- Department of Education and Workplace Relations
- Regional Development Australia
- UOW College
- Eurobodalla Adult Education
- Illawarra Retirement Trust
- Southern Pathology
- TAFE NSW.
In 2013, the Illawarra South East Region’s unemployment rate was three times the national average, making it the highest in Australia. This collaboration aims to increase the aspirations, awareness and attainment of individuals from LSES and Indigenous backgrounds and offer them tangible opportunities and pathways to gain employment and further their education. The partners work together to design programs and pathways that meet the needs of each organisation, aligned with regional priorities around employment, and develop the skills and knowledge of individuals they work with to make a successful transition between each phase of the pathway. The University of Wollongong’s HEPPP allocation for 2013 and 2014 was used to establish networks between the partner organisations, offer financial support to students, and develop support and transition programs to ensure student access and success.
Activities and programs are guided by formalised agreements between each of the partners, which outline the approach, funding contributions, scope, roles and responsibilities of each partner to contribute to an overall framework. There are a series of activities common to all partners that include:
- Clearly articulated pathways to further education and employment: Students who participate in a Supported Pathways Program have the opportunity to complete Certificate III, Certificate IV and Diploma level courses which have specific jobs outcomes with the training provider and guaranteed university entry into specified courses. At all levels of the pathway, students are provided with industry experience and are able to exit and access employment outcomes, or continue through the pathway and progress on to university. These pathways are clearly communicated to potential students.
- Financial support for students during phases of transition: During the Supported Pathways Program, students can access financial support to assist them in furthering their education or making the transition to employment. Students can apply for support to cover the cost of their course or apply for a stipend to be provided on completion of their course.
- Embedded transition programs to build capacity for further education: Throughout the vocational qualifications, UOW staff have embedded an academic skills and university transition program to encourage students to aspire to higher education and provide them with the skills and knowledge to be successful. An individual career pathway plan is also developed with each student.
In 2013, Eurobodalla Adult Education, the UOW, Department of Education and Workplace Relations, and the Department of State Training partnered to offer the first Supported Pathways Program, ‘Pathways to Careers in Health’. Ten students successfully completed the program, gaining a Certificate IV in Aged Care. All students had offers of employment, with five subsequently moving into employment and five enrolling in a university degree. In 2014, the program was expanded to 158 students across five registered training organisations. Qualitative comments from students indicate that the program has provided them with the awareness to pursue a university education and the skills and knowledge to translate that awareness into success in higher education.
“Thank you so much for the feedback – it was more positive than I anticipated. This academic writing is absolutely foreign to me, but I am determined to work really hard at it for the sake of this midwifery dream.” – student, 2014.
Over the last two years, the partnerships evolved organically, but were developed based on a mutual goal to support individuals from under-represented backgrounds to gain employment or access higher education and raise the capacity of the local region. Over the last year, the partnerships have evolved into a strategic collaboration which has been underpinned by high level strategic agreements between each organisation, with management committees to oversee the successful delivery of the programs. The agreements set out a shared philosophy and approach, while recognising the strengths of each organisation and the role they each play in delivering the program. The agreements include a shared funding model for the program as well as a common marketing strategy, collaboratively developed transition programs, and a commitment to continuous improvement, planning and feedback mechanisms between each stakeholder. The partnership also involves collaborating within the university to gain the commitment of faculty to support the program. The partnership works because:
- The program meets the complex operational needs of each organisation, as well as sharing a mutually common goal of supporting students from under-represented backgrounds into employment or higher education.
- It builds on the strengths of each organisation working together to achieve a common goal.
- High levels of trust have been developed between the partners and regular opportunities for input and review have allowed for the model to be collaboratively developed.
- Clear and concise communication between stakeholders is documented through collaborative project planning.
- The program is flexible and adaptable to meet the needs of diverse organisational structures.
The partners involved in the Supported Pathways Program have recognised the value of this collaboration and are keen to continue fostering these relationships into the future. The existing partners are currently negotiating a three-year strategic plan for Pathways to Employment and Higher Education, based on the model that has been piloted and implemented over the last two years. Other new partnerships are also being explored with the hope of expanding the Supported Pathways Program to 500 students in 2015.
This case study is one of a series of 31 presented in our case study publication, Partnerships in Higher Education.