As Australia stands poised to elect its next federal government, both major parties have addressed the issue of nationwide education opportunities, up to and including Vocational Education and Training (VET) and Tertiary education. And, specifically in regards to our industry, of vital importance is the education of professionals up and coming in the building and construction industries. We must deliver course and learning content that hones and develops the future practitioners of the building design profession.

Tomorrow’s professionals must be educated today to work at a variety of jobs and levels within our profession. Sadly, though, the Australian educational system is not currently delivering the high-quality outcomes that even begin to meet this goal. Furthermore, no major political party is addressing this specific issue.

Past, federally funded RTO schemes designed to deliver VET course qualifications did not prove successful. And current schemes go a bit easy on students, forgoing intensive study and exams in favour of online or curtailed studies that takes RPL (Recognition of Prior Learning) perhaps too much into account. Students may not even have to provide that much hard evidence of their RPL experience.

In 2017, an investigative report revealed that NSW colleges were accepting students with ATARs as low as 30—and that at one university in particular, 99 percent of the 251 pupils who earned spots in its Bachelor of Construction Management program could not attain the cut-off level of 85. Considering that it isn’t much of a challenge for many to garner a score of even 50, we need to demand far more advanced ratings and skills of our aspiring building design professionals.

In today’s commodity-driven culture, students are now regarded as patrons or customers. Students are looking for the fastest and most affordable means of attaining licensing and professional accreditation. They want to order up their assessments and qualifications much as they do fast food.

Degrees should be awarded based on merit and qualification, not simply sold to any students who pays their tuition fees. By the time they graduate, these students should leave their schools qualified to do the jobs for which they went to school in the first place.

This is difficult to achieve in a nation and culture in which licenses and accreditations may be handed out via courses administered through the private sector, and through means that might not fully prepare students for the ever heightening and complex standards and requirements of the jobs and tasks that they will undertake in their future professions.

When students go un- or underqualified for the jobs that they undertake in the design and construction field, then they may be more likely to produce poorly planned buildings with numerous defects, as has been happening all too often lately on the Australian construction field.

At this point, we need a national board or commission to regulate and moderate educational requirements for today’s building design students; so that they can become the professionals that we need to build a better Australia tomorrow.