Reply to Helga’ s Post – – access and social justice

COURSE: WORK AND LEARNING

FORUM: Current development and discourses on work and learning

TOPICS: P. BROWN, SKILL FORMATION, HUMAN CAPITAL, SOCIAL JUSTICE, ACCESS,AUSTRALIA, GERMANY, IMMIGRATION


Reply to Helga’ s Post – – access and social justice  (link to forum)

Hi Helga,

What a wonderful thread! I really enjoy reading all the interesting posts. I checked out Claudia’s e-portfolio profile and realized that she has quite a bit of experience in this area, which definitely adds to my interest in reading all these posts. I added my comments below.

HELGA WROTE: Seems that in a lot of countries there is a meritocracy, where those with higher qualifications are recognised (even if its only for an interview). This idea is not pervasive in Australia where those who are highly educated are regarded with some suspicion and distrust –  the idea is that those qualified people are trying to pull rank or be “better” than their mates. This particularly applies to recent arrivals, where there is still an apprehension that they have come to “take our jobs”

As an immigrant, I became very familiar with this Australian trait and learned to know it as “the tall poppy syndrome.” (basically and crudely, those who stand out get pushed back down into alignment with all the others). I found that particular issue one of the most striking differences between the U.S. and OZ. Based on individualistic premises, in the U.S. personal self-reliance and initiative are highly encouraged. As for the “they-come-to-take our-jobs” attitude, I just posted another message about Italians being chased away by fearful British workers in these days. Would the historic link between Australian and the U.K. serve as an explanation of such similar attitudes? Although we also know that the same could happen in a lot of other places.

HELGA WROTE: One way of dealing with this is to require that they undergo local training. I have come across many highly qualified doctors whose qualifications and experience are simply not recognised here and who are not in a position to undertake extensive retraining. What a waste of human capital!

Yes, I agree. I remember bringing this up in our first course. It also reminds me of my personal experience upon my arrival in Sydney. I thought I was being looked with suspicion because I had an American education rather than the required Australian credentials.

HELGA WROTE: As far as qualifications in the service industries go, the government here, with the agreement of industry,  has made some kind of qualification mandatory  in many previously quite menial jobs. Therefore, to work as a waiter/waitress, one now needs a Certificate in Hospitality (or be prepared to get one). To work in childcare, one needs a Childcare Certificate or Diploma, and these requirements are now spreading to Aged Care, Disability etc. Even to work in retail as a shop assistant, employers are looking at some kind of certification.

This reminds me a lot of the system in place in German-speaking countries, and to some extent – based on what I read – also in Scandinavia, where the VET system is highly structured. For those who grow up with such system, things will eventually fall into place. Credentials are built over the years, through formal education and a mechanism of workplace training. But for those who are new to the country, no matter what their credentials are, they would be feeling like aliens in a system that does not have much room for variation and foreign alternatives.  This is definitely true for Germany, though I am not sure if the same also applies to the Nordic countries. Such certifications have also found acceptance into Australian immigration laws. Up to the late 1990’s “skilled migrants” was accepted based on their potentials; now they have to go through an evaluation process of their education and professional credentials.

HELGA WROTE: Having written that, I realise that we seem to be heading towards some kind of “norm” (or mediocrity) –  no one too qualified and no one totally unqualified. That means that those outside those parameters will have the most difficulty finding work.

Helga, I agree with you. If one goes the motions, adjust to requirements and the system, s/he’ll be o.k. For those instead who – in spite of high qualification and valuable experience – do not match in-country requirements, life can be very difficult. This is definitely an area where nation states do not want to give up control, no matter how much they otherwise support policies of globalization of both the market and education.

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