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New Skills Program for NMIT Apprentices

26 Feb 2007

Rosanna resident Nic Jeffrey struggled through school as a slow reader that often caused him embarrassment in class.

At the end of Year 10 in 2006, he decided school wasn't for him and this year opted to enrol in a pre-apprenticeship in furniture studies/cabinet-making at the Heidelberg campus of Northern Melbourne Institute of TAFE (NMIT).

But Nic, 17, thought the 19-week course would be mostly practical, and became worried and nervous when he found out there was considerable theory involved.

'I didn't want to fall behind and fail the theory, and while I could do some basic maths and read, I started worrying about what I'd have to learn,' Nic said.

What Nic didn't know was that NMIT had recently introduced a new literacy and numeracy assessment designed to identify skill problems with reading and maths for pre-apprentices, apprentices and trainees across the institute.

The 2006 Victorian Equity Project, funded by the Government's Office of Training & Tertiary Education, aims to provide equity in access to education by developing vocationally-specific assessment tools to identify literacy and numeracy needs among pre-apprentices, apprentices and trainees and provide professional development for teachers and trainers.

Last year, NMIT assessed 819 students in diverse trade areas and found 59 per cent required some kind of assistance in literacy and numeracy to successfully complete their studies.

Study support is now provided at NMIT through the institute's Study Skills Advisory Service.

'Department staff across NMIT were aware that some students had literacy and numeracy needs and we developed a generic assessment to identify those students who needed help,' the Head of the Foundation Studies Department, Fran O'Neill said.

'We now test all new students and run customised workshops in specific trade areas to help them improve their literacy and numeracy skills. We've also developed self-paced learning resources for the workshops.'

NMIT Furniture Studies/Cabinet-Making Program Coordinator Alex Dobric said a lack of literacy and numeracy skills was a huge problem with young school leavers who had found secondary school difficult and had not mastered basic reading, writing and maths.

'These assessments and workshops can now help raise the literacy and numeracy standards of our students by providing help where and when it's needed.'

Nearly 40 trade teachers at NMIT were involved in professional development training last year.

'Many trade teachers do not have secondary school teacher training and were unable to assist the students as they needed. We were not able to pass on the underpinning theoretical knowledge which is critical to comprehend what the job involves on a practical basis.'

Alex added there was now light at the end of the tunnel and hope for the young students who we were previously unable to give that extra tuition in literacy and numeracy.'

For Nic, receiving extra help has been a big boost to his confidence and helped allay his worries about falling behind in his studies.

'Doing the assessment has been very good for me as it picked up what I couldn't do and the teachers then showed me the right way to do things. I had problems in multiplying and dividing big numbers and as the trade involves mathematical calculations, I needed to know how to do these things.

'Without understanding the theory, I wouldn't have been able to do the practical work of actually making things so I needed help.'

Nic said he was now enjoying the course and looking forward to taking up an apprenticeship.

Interview / Photo Opportunity

Media enquiries should be directed to the NMIT Communications Officer, James Gardener, on 03 9269 1579, 0413 483 182 or

NMIT (Northern Melbourne Institute of TAFE) – Situated on six campuses and six training centres throughout Melbourne’s north plus a regional campus at Ararat, NMIT delivers vocational training, higher education and lifelong learning capabilities for a global workforce.  NMIT forges partnerships with community, industry and government to produce practical, solution orientated graduates capable of making meaningful contributions to their chosen field of endeavour.