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Technical and further education diploma graduates : personal capital investments and returns

Queensland University of Technology
Publication Date
  • Federal Government
  • Human Capital
  • Investments
  • Personal Capital
  • Tafe
  • Returns
  • Vocational Education And Training
  • Design
  • Economics
  • Education
  • Political Science


This research has examined the personal capital investments and returns of a group of TAFE Diploma of Community Work graduates through the use of qualitative research methodology. Recognising that the concept of personal capital is distinct from human capital in that it considers the intrinsic reasons, impetus and values that individuals ascribe to their motivation to undertake and complete a course of study. Personal capital is not quantifiable within the present human capital outcomes paradigm, however the personal capital paradigm allows for a deeper exploration of a range of further tangible and valid outcomes not addressed in the human capital approach. There is a gap in the current research literature regarding evaluation of TAFE outcomes and it stems from a predominant human capital focus. The existing paradigm of human capital, which values the acquisition of knowledge and skills for their economic value, has been of primary interest and significance, particularly in terms of government policy in relation to vocational education and training By using an interpretivist approach comprising in-depth interviews, the researcher was able to explore the intrinsic drives, motivations and aspirations and impetus that brought the TAFE graduates to initially undertake their studies in the diploma program. This approach also allowed for an examination as to whether the graduates perceived that they had obtained a return on this personal capital investment in the study program. Through the conceptual framework, the research established a set of predetermined personal capital investments and returns, although the research was not constrained by these pre-determined themes. The use of grounded theory data analysis procedures in the study allowed for the evolution and analysis of emergent categories or themes relating to personal capital investments and returns. Consequently, the qualitative analysis of the in-depth interviews has revealed a broader range of themes relating to personal capital investments and returns than otherwise might have been discovered if the research had been limited to the pre-determined themes arising from the conceptual framework. It is the author's contention that this qualitative study of TAFE diploma graduate's personal capital investments and returns gives insights about the notion of personal capital and its importance to decision-making as to why individuals undertake the Diploma of Community Work. This study also reveals what they personally and professionally expect from study in such a program. Neither of which the current quantitative data about TAFE graduates, namely the Student Outcomes Surveys; by design and intent are as yet capable of acknowledging or exploring.

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