The Taster Way to Becoming Construction Curious

The Taster Way to Becoming Construction Curious

published by Dr. Mahrukh Khan, ConCOVE Tūhura Senior Researcher

According to Pierre Bourdieu (2012), tastes are socially qualified. It is, arguably, through social conditioning, and specific “practices and the perception of those practices” that mainstream taste trends are established (p.172). Using this premise, this piece would look at the significance of Taster programmes to the possible development of a Trades and construction curious palate.

Tasters are a great way to present alternative experiences at early stages of career development; especially for school aged pupils 16 years and above (ASDAN, 2022; Clarke, 2012). The career shadowing and observations gained from a taster programme can provide the career insight and reflection that this particular age group can most benefit from. Albeit, there may be restrictions to an in-depth practical experience within a taster, a good overview can be gained and necessary pathway planning and networks for the future can be developed (NHS, 2011).

In the U.K. and Australia, tasters are delivered as part of the larger VET frameworks. The taster programmes are added to the overall VET delivery and structure to provide foundational knowledge and skills insight into future career options. In Australia, the key focus of the Career Taster Programme (CTP), is to “explore careers and pathways through engaging activities that expose [learners] to the world of work and training” (CTP, 2022). Some taster programme delivery is carried out in New Zealand but it is not a widespread, and commonplace practice that is followed across the sector.

The construction and infrastructure industry in New Zealand can benefit immensely from the taster programme being formally included to an ecosystem for entry training. This can become an introduction to Foundation Curriculum for potential career interests or specialities. More so, a construction and infrastructure taster portal (CITP) can be created to provide an exposure into sub-sectors and sub-specialities, particularly for skill shortage sectors to showcase vocational opportunities and occupational possibilities.

Key to the taster programmes across the world, is a curriculum orientation that allows reflection and self-awareness for personal, social and employability skills. The combination of practical work-based learning and personal and social effectiveness (PSE) courses can empower learners, through a taster programme, to explore and discover themselves for identification of future employability interests. Also, the taster is deemed particularly effective in “re-engaging young people” most at risk for becoming NEET (ASDAN, 2022). More so, without necessary long-term time commitments, learners could identify, for themselves, relevant and matching vocational interests to pursue, preparing them to thrive in further study and training. As researched, some of the specific benefits to achieve from a taster programme are as below:

  • Tasters can help build specific tastes for skill shortages faced by the industry
  • Tasters provide a broad introduction to specific careers and offer an opportunity to explore the relevant skill-set attached
  • Tasters could offer flexibility in programme organisation, delivery and design as per the participants needs
  • Tasters offer the opportunity for schools and industry to come together and deliver a closer and constructively aligned introduction to prospective workplace skill requirements 
  • Tasters can serve as promotional strategy in their own right for specific industries, facing workforce development needs and skill shortages
  • Tasters can provide secondary school learners with options into alternative careers alongside academic pathways

Thus, for addressing the skills gap in Trades careers, immense advantage can be gained from the premise that tastes may not be “innate” and simply follow a “practice generating principle” invested in consistent and considered “unifying practices” (Bourdieu, 2012, p.175). The taster approach to building Trades careers can provide us with just that. A taster can provide us with vital entry level attraction strategies for building a lifelong palatable industry profile—one that is desirable, engaging and rewarding.

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