Explore Melbourne Polytechnic

The Rise of Vocational Education and Training – 1940s

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Technical schools had to make do for years with sub-standard equipment and facilities.When they were then publicly criticised for sub-standard performance, and referred to as ‘hard working, second rate hack technical  schools’, in a report by a Mr. F Ellis to the Council of the Melbourne Technical Colleges in 1941, Collingwood Technical School Principal, Alexander Strang, came out swinging.

In defending the performance of technical schools on behalf of the ‘national cause’, Principal Strang, writing to The Age in his capacity as President of The Association of Principals of Victorian Technical Institutions, wrote:

‘It is comparatively easy to produce first-class results with first-class equipment under ideal conditions, but no “second rate hack technical school” however hard working, ever produced the results that are now being produced for the national cause by the majority of Victorian technical schools using an insufficiency of commonplace and mediocre equipment, housed often in unsuitable buildings which cause a maximum of difficulty and waste of time. And these results are not entirely limited to work for the national cause. No. I won’t have it that we are hacks…….Technical education today resembles a hungry infant. It just yells for sympathy and satisfaction. Surely a well-filled financial bottle can be found somewhere. Regular feeding is essential.’ (Alexander Strang, April 4, 1941).

1944: Commonwealth Reconstruction Training Scheme established provide ex-servicemen with trade training. Scheme leads to the ‘fast-tracking’ of training and the shortening of the traditional apprenticeship contract.

1945: Robert Menzies (then Leader of the Opposition) calls for an extension of aid to education and with regard to technical education stated … ‘The first sufferer in a depression was the unskilled man and that fact alone was a powerful reason for actively forwarding technical training…Australia must lead the world in technical skill and not follow it’.

1946: Tradesmen’s Rights Regulation Act passed to protect the employment of surviving pre-war tradesmen. In many cases ‘dilutees’ (often women) and unqualified migrant workers lost their jobs in favour of trade-qualified returned soldiers.



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Last Modified: June 14, 2013

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