Training Now and for the Future

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-By Robert Hoshowsky

Over the past 30 years, Holmesglen Institute of TAFE has evolved from a small institution into one of Victoria’s largest providers of vocational and higher education. Growing from 90 programs to over 600 programs today and in excess of 50,000 students, the institution for Technical and Further Education delivers courses nationally and internationally from campuses in Chadstone, Moorabbin and Waverley. Offering a wide range of courses in a number of disciplines such as arts and design, business and finance, engineering and technology and health and social sciences, Holmesglen is internationally renowned for its many building and construction courses.

Starting as a teacher at Holmesglen 25 years ago, Dr Henry Pook has adapted to changing times and evolved, much like the institute itself. Moving from a teaching to a management position, he is today the Executive Dean for the Faculty of Building, Construction and Architectural Design, a position he has held for the past 11 years. An ardent believer in ongoing education, he recently added a major accomplishment to his curriculum vitae, earning his PhD in industrial relations in the building and construction industry.

“The major focus I have in this faculty is to make our learning interesting and relevant to the student, to the employer, and to industry generally,” says Dr Pook. “To do that, we encourage innovation in delivery and development, and the embracing of teaching philosophies. This is far different than the lock-step approach you find in some other institutions. We are quite prepared to innovate, to think outside the boundaries, try something different, and to work with various stakeholders to make sure that is appropriate for what they want.”

At Holmesglen Institute of TAFE, students are offered a wide variety of over 40 courses ranging from basic entry-level classes to short courses, pre-apprentices, and apprenticeships in all the trade areas. Depending on areas of interest, students can focus on degree, advanced diploma, diploma, certificate and other courses in construction trades like bricklaying, carpentry, flooring, painting and decorating, plumbing, stonemasonry, and many other specialities. Under Holmesglen’s degree programs, students can earn Bachelor’s Degrees in Building Surveying, Construction Management and Economics, and Facilities Management. The institution offers Advanced Diplomas in Building Design (Architectural) and Building Surveying. Diploma disciplines include Building Surveying and Building and Construction, while the Certificate, Apprenticeship and Pre-Apprenticeship programs encompass Solid Plastering, Furnishing (Leadlighting and Stained Glass), Small Business for Building Trades, Roof Tiling, Waterproofing, Painting and Decorating, Industrial Rope Access, and many other areas. “Our offerings are fairly diverse, and fairly extensive,” says Dr. Pook.

Close Ties to Industry

A “one-stop training shop” for the nation’s burgeoning building and construction industry, Holmesglen prides itself on the vast number of courses it offers through its state of the art facilities. Many of the institute’s teachers and lecturers are themselves still active in their particular vocation, and better able to bring their vast, hands-on and time-tested knowledge and relevant industry experience to students. “We look for people with extensive industry experience,” says Dr. Pook. “They have to show a capacity to embrace teaching, and to undertake the teaching and instruction process. You may be a good tradesperson, but not necessarily a good teacher.” For Homlesglen’s degree programs, experience is a must, along with the willingness and capacity to work with the institute’s problem-based learning program, and the ability to deliver it using a tutorial-based system.

“Holmesglen has a history as a preeminent provider of training for the industry,” comments Dr. Pook. “We have very close contact with industry organisations, and a diverse program offering that covers quite a range of building and construction-related activities.”

For a number of years, Holmesglen has maintained a relationship with the Australian Institute of Building (AIB), the recognised accrediting body for building and construction degrees at educational institutions. Founded 60 years ago, the AIB remains the leading institute for building and construction professionals, and continues its history of supporting and servicing the nation’s building professions, improving the standing of the profession, and bringing people together who share the same goals from across Australia and overseas. In addition to the AIB, Holmesglen’s programs also have accreditation from the Australian Institute of Building Surveyors, and the Australian Institute of Quality Surveyors.

“With the degree program taking off in 2006, we have developed a long-term relationship with the AIB,” says Dr. Pook. Professional development through Holmesglen’s degree program has now been confirmed further, with the AIB using Holmesglen as a platform to offer programs to members across Australia.

Accessible Learning

At Holmesglen, instructors and lecturers realise that the construction industry never stands still. Tools change, along with new technologies, and the institution has been at the forefront of change when it comes to offering innovative methods of delivering learning to all students – the world has come a very long way from just the bricks and mortar classrooms from 1982, the year Holmesglen was created on the former site of Holmesglen Constructions in Batesford Road, Chadstone. It was founded at a time when there was a great shortage of tradespeople, one of the reasons Holmesglen was formed with such a strong focus on the building and construction industry. From the beginning, Holmesglen realised that every student is unique. Some are still in their teens seeking to learn a trade, while others are older and wishing to change careers. Some are full-time students, while others work and have only a few hours each day to spare. Some live in large urban centres, while others reside hundreds of kilometres away from major cities. Over the years, the institute has made a concerted effort to accommodate all students, regardless of age, experience, and location.

“With our pre-apprentice areas, students tend to be younger,” says Dr. Pook, “usually in their late teens or early twenties. Holmesglen has always presented itself as being very flexible in its approach to the delivery of its programs,” comments Dr. Pook. “You can study weekdays, evenings, weekends. You can study by distance; for example, our building degrees may be studied by distance, and also diplomas as well. By offering courses at various times and in various ways, we are trying to offer the opportunity for people in the industry – or wishing to join the industry – to take up the training or education that they want at times that pretty much suit them. We have degree and diploma programs that can be accessed from anywhere in Australia.”

One of the most recent teaching technologies embraced by Holmesglen is Moodle, an innovative Open Source Course Management System (CMS), also known as a Learning Management System (LMS), or a Virtual Learning Environment (VLE). Instead of working against the traditional classroom setting, Moodle works with it, and focuses on providing educators with the best available tools to manage and promote learning. Moodle is designed to be used by teachers and instructors to augment face-to-face courses, or as a platform to conduct courses fully online. Along with dynamic tools and activity modules (forums, databases, and wikis), communities of learning are built around a certain area of study, and the platform can be used to deliver content, assess learning through assignments, administer tests or quizzes, and a great deal more. Students hundreds of kilometers distant can participate virtually in a real physical classroom with other students in real time, ask and answer questions, listen and watch video, and participate fully with other students.

“In our last trimester, in our building degree, about one in four students enrolled would have been in distance learning. So it’s becoming a bigger part of our operation, and we see it as a great opportunity for us,” says Dr. Pook. “This is also where we’ve linked in to the Australian Student Building, and its College of Building. They have set up a College of Building, and we are providing the opportunity for AIB members to undertake subjects through our online program, but also if they choose to undertake or complete degree study through our program.”

Apprentices can take up to three years to complete their program, but this can be accelerated. “There is a big push to try and allow people to complete their training at their own pace and to complete it before those time limitations,” remarks Dr. Pook. “It is not time-based, it is competency-based.” Degree and diploma programs are created on a full-time trimester basis, over four years.

Flexible in its delivery and approach to students and employers, Holmesglen’s training programs are supported by Australia’s building and construction industry, many industry organisations, and professional associations. Many courses are unique to Holmesglen, and since a number are competency-based and linked to national training packages, students graduating from Holmesglen are better equipped to work in and deal with the ever-evolving needs of the nation’s building and construction industry.

“Since 1982, we have grown from a small provider largely set up to service the building industry in Victoria at that time into a very diverse institution that covers three campuses, over 15,000 enrolments, and has programs ranging from very basic introductory and entry level programs right through to degrees,” says Dr. Pook. All programs are applied, with the degree program being a recognised higher education program, supported by Victorian legislation and accredited and re-accredited by the accrediting authority in Victoria as a legitimate, well-resourced, and high standard degree program. The school’s hands-on approach is evident in actual projects students take on for community organizations, under the direction of Holmesglen. “This approach might allow a church group to build a hall they wouldn’t be able to do otherwise,” says Pook.

Just as the construction industry has changed dramatically over the past three decades, so has the approach to education at Holmesglen Institute of TAFE, which continues to work with industry bodies to create the nation-builders of the future.

Home Automation

Call it ‘domotics,’ and you are likely to receive a blank stare, but refer to it as ‘smart home’ or ‘home automation,’ and you will get a nod of acknowledgement. For the past few years, consumers have heard the word ‘smart’ attached to countless products and services, from food and drink to snacks like popcorn and mobile phones, which no one seems to refer to as a ‘cellphone’ anymore. Yet what, exactly, constitutes ‘smart’?

November 28, 2020, 10:31 PM AEDT