Back to accessibility links

Aspiration and Ambiguity

Hunter New England Local Health District
Project Added:
24 May 2012
Last updated:
8 October 2014

Aspiration and Ambiguity

An evaluation of the implementation of school based new apprenticeships in a NSW area health service

By Jane Conway, Susan Brazil, Martin Losurdo, Hunter New England Local Health District


Globally, there has been attention given to addressing the workforce shortage in nursing. One strategy to respond to this has resulted in a renewed emphasis on the development of career and education pathways for students in the final years of high school.

School students in NSW are able to apply to undertake a School Based New Apprenticeship (SBNA) during their last two years of high school and complete a vocational qualification. For the Certificate III qualifications related to health and aged care work students must complete a total of 100 days of clinical placement.

An evaluation of the initiative in nursing for the period 2007-2010 in a regional Area Health Service in NSW was undertaken.


Data collection involved:

  • Interviews
    • 8 with senior managers from the Area Health Service and the Registered Training Organisations (RTOs) engaged in implementation of the SBNA
    • 18 with those more directly involved with the teaching and supervision of students e.g. Registered Nurses (RNs), Enrolled Nurses (ENs), Nursing Unit Managers (NUMs) and teachers at the RTO
    • 14 with students currently undertaking or finished the SBNA
  • A survey to stakeholder groups (students, parents/ carers, school teachers and clinical staff)
  • Review of outcomes, income and expenditure data.

Poster presentation of the Aspiration and Ambuiguity project
Poster Presentation
(PDF File pdf - 716 KB)

from the Hunter New England LHD Nursing & Midwifery 6th Annual Showcase in Clinical Innovations, March 2012

Findings from an evaluation of a school-based VET programme in an Area Health Service in New South Wales, Australia,
Journal of Vocational Education & Training
Volume 64, Issue 2, 2012


The evaluation revealed each stakeholder group had different priorities and expectations of the Program:

  • Students often aspired to be provided with opportunistic learning about things outside of the scope of the Certificate III.
  • Parents sought ongoing employment opportunities for students in the health service in the local community.
  • Staff of health and of the RTO had differing expectations of each other regarding program content, supervision and assessment.
  • Registered nurses believed the purpose of the Program and their investment was to provide a RN pathway. (see Table 1)

Table 1: Aspirations and ambiguities in SBNA in a NSW Health Service

Aspiration Ambiguities
Fulfill service delivery needs in the short term
  • Differing perceptions of what nursing is in the contemporary environment
  • Need to manage student employment in cost effective ways
  • Resistance to employment of a trained assistant workforce
Aspiration: Attract students to nursing as a career
  • No student attracted to the SBNA did not have a longstanding interest in nursing
  • Lack of enhancing student's appreciation of the RN role
  • Reluctance to encourage students to undertake VET courses at school due to change staff establishment in schools
  • Limited employment opportunities in the public health system for those with Certificate III qualifications
  • No net advantage to students when seeking to enter university programs in nursing or other disciplines
  • Celebration and acknowledgment of success; was not always reflective of individual experience
Provide a sustainable, high quality learning experience for students
  • Workplace culture of maternalism or hostility
  • Inequitable experience of student support from RTOs
  • Concerns about the quality and currency of student learning materials
  • Lack of capacity to supervise, teach and support students
  • Lack of role clarity in the assessment process
  • Lack of consistent student experience


There continues to be a positive approach to partnership in order to respond to the ambiguities within the SBNA that need to be addressed in order to better enable SBNA Programs to achieve the broad program goals within changing education and health contexts. These relate primarily to the need to clarify the intent of the program and the activities of health and education personnel in order to meet the shared desire among stakeholders to provide a quality learning and employment experience for students.

The evaluation revealed the experiences of the students who participated in the program were largely positive and students have continued to work and study in health related fields since completing the program.

Recommendations for improvement in the program's implementation include ensuring there is a consistent model to support student learning and optimise equity in student experience, providing greater role clarity for partners and providing realistic information to parents and students regarding employment opportunities after completion of the SBNA.

A further consideration in the implementation of SBNAs, is a need to take into account how a different cohort of students may have differing motivations expectations and aspirations to those who participated in this evaluation.


RN, BHSc, Grad Cert HRM, B Nursing (Hon 1)
Conjoint Associate Professor, Project Coordinator
School of Nursing and Midwifery, Faculty of Health
The University of Newcastle, Australia

RN,RM, Ba Nursing (UNE), M Nursing
Nurse Manager, Nursing and Midwifery Services
Hunter New England Local Health District
PO Box 1743, Newcastle, NSW, 2300
Phone: 02 49246838

Nurse Manager - EN & VET Programs
Nursing & Midwifery Services
Hunter New England Local Health District
PO Box 1743, Newcastle, NSW, 2300
Phone: 02 4924 6837

Search Projects

Browse Projects

Submit your local innovation
and improvement project