Australia recognises the value of competency and improvement in the workforce. We have regulation and training options for almost every industry application and education itself is a major industry. Our cultural attitude to education has direct application to the systems and processes that we have established for formal instruction in theology. For this post, I would like to talk about school leavers investigating formal training in ministry/theology. Obviously I will be talking in generalisations – but that’s what blogging is all about!
At the completion of secondary education, every teenager will undergo some form on additional training. For 24 months they have been working towards an ATAR ranking that will define their “worth” to the higher education system. Students who do not pursue university will often enrol in a Certificate III, IV or Diploma course at their AQF-endorsed training provider (we call it VETAB in NSW). Other students will participate in an apprenticeship or continue their training in their profession. I sat next to the Learning & Development Manager of Suncorp Bank at a recent conference in Melbourne. He told me that Suncorp was developing an internal academy to train their employees (similar to programs in major technology companies).
What this tells the church is that students will be trained. We don’t have to throw up our hands and ask – “where are the students?” They’re being trained – just not by you.
School leavers value qualifications. Would you like to know the difference between Home Depot and Bunnings? Check out the warning signs in the plumbing and electrical section. Australians like to know that their time and financial investment in training is leading to a recognised qualification. We can debate the merit of this cultural attitude – but it’s true.
Ministry training schools in Australia receive their accreditation through the AQF framework to offer Certificate IV and Diploma level courses. Schools that wish to offer Bachelor level courses are self regulating by nature of their tenure or associated with a major self regulating body in Australia (such as the Australian College of Theology or Sydney University).
Narrowing the scope to schools within our circles of association, you will notice that the learning program is established on the American model of course delivery. This doesn’t correlate with the competency model at the Certificate IV / Diploma level.
School leavers want to keep all of their options open. Teenagers don’t want to be pigeon-holed by their first choices. They dream of travel and a flexible, fictitious lifestyle. If they achieved an ATAR of 98+ – they will try medicine even if they have no aptitude in the subject (that’s why universities now have an additional round of testing and they encourage post-graduate entrance).
There are many ways to capitalise on this using different modes of delivery and venues within a pathway to a Certificate IV or Diploma. I will discuss this specifically in the next post.
There is a lot of competition in higher education. One of my colleagues is a career advisor. She constantly receives marketing material from schools all over New South Wales. Many of my higher education friends talk about the over-saturation of higher education institutions in Australia (which traces back to some politics in the 80s and 90s).
In the first instance, I think there is a great opportunity for formal training in ministry and theology as a both/and rather than either/or for school leavers looking at higher education options. A program that provides a student with a richer view of God in their formative tertiary years can lead to further opportunities for training and effectiveness in ministry.