For everyone All aboard the good studentships

  • By Louise Swinn
  • This article was published more than 1 year ago.
  • 7 Dec 2022
Craig Jones. Photo: Meredith O'Shea

Studentships are the kind of incentive that can change an industry – and a life. For her 2012 Masters thesis, ‘How lucky my generation was: teaching studentships in Victoria 1950–78’, Marilyn Bowler interviewed several recipients of Victoria’s earlier studentship program and it’s clear that many of them simply would not have been able to attend university without them. Between 1950 and 1978, over 22,000 teaching studentships were provided.

As Bowler found, “One clear indication of the importance of teaching studentships in providing tertiary education for students from lower socio-economic groups are the responses to the survey question: ‘Would you have been able to attend university/undertake tertiary studies if you were not offered a teaching studentship?’ Some 41% of all respondents were quite definite that they would not have been able to, and another 13% thought that it was unlikely.”

Studentship programs allow keen students to take up teaching who would otherwise have been hesitant due to the financial strain. With the cost of tertiary education on the rise, this is truer than ever.

Daniel Knott, who manages the technology facility at the Northern College of the Arts and Technology, says he would not have been able to make the transition into teaching without the option of a studentship.

“The old model under the Hawthorn Institute was one where tradespeople worked for three days a week and the other two days they were studying. In the late 70s, I did one year in that, and I was onsite at a college within six to 10 weeks of being accepted into the program,” Daniel says.

“There are people who would make the move, but because they have to pay to do it, they don’t. It’s a question of providing the means to get people into teaching.”

DANIEL KNOTT

“There’s a lot of noise that continues to be made about the idea that getting tradespeople out of the trades and into teaching is difficult because of high salaries in industry, but I think that’s a bit of a furphy. There are people who would make the move, but because they have to pay to do it, they don’t. It’s a question of providing the means to get people into teaching.”

As someone who has been educating students to work in the construction industry for decades, Daniel is more aware than most about the current demand for workers, and the need to boost training opportunities in plumbing, electrical, building, furniture-making, automotive, and more. “This industry is so critical to the economy, and we have shortages of workers in all these areas.”

Craig Jones, recently retired from Melbourne Polytechnic, was a teaching bursary-holder in the 1970s. He was paid to study engineering in college plus a retainer to go to teachers college. “And then contracted for three years after that to serve with them – and here I am, 42 years later!”

“If you really want to help people make teaching their career, you need to pay people properly while they’re training.”

Craig Jones

Like Daniel, Craig comments on the difficulty of asking professionals to take a sharp decrease in salary to pass on their skills. “If you have an electrician who is being paid 100k a year and they look at $70-80k for teaching when they’re first out – and they have to do a year’s training even to get there – well, they won’t do it. But, if you offer them a transition process that keeps them financially stable during that time, they can.

“If you really want to help people make teaching their career, you need to pay people properly while they’re training.”

Shirley Priskas works as a diploma-qualified early childhood educator at North Essendon Kindergarten. Since March, she has a fully funded place at ACU completing the Bachelor of Early Childhood Education (Birth to Five Years), which she does while working in her paid kindergarten role.

The Victorian government, as part of a new program, pays her employer to cover her wage as well as a replacement for her while she is on her 80 days of placement. When she graduates in October next year, Shirley will be employed as a kindergarten teacher.

 

“A lot of the women doing the course can only afford it because we do not have to stop work.”

Shirley Priskas

When asked if she would have been able to complete the degree if it wasn’t fully funded, Shirley says: “I would never have been able to pay for myself because of the HECS fee and having to take leave. But it’s all covered and paid for. A lot of the women doing the course can only afford it because we do not have to stop work.”

Becoming a teacher is an exciting prospect for Shirley. “The wages go up with experience a lot more, and there are different roles to move into, even management roles further down the track.”

Read AEU Victoria’s Ten-Year Plan for Staffing in Public Education.

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