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Experience the difference!

A workshop presentation by

Judith Sinclair
Australian Network of Practice Firms

This presentation demonstrates an innovative and creative training delivery method which gives students a solid and meaningful business experience. It highlights the changing role of traditional education. The prime mover of this form of learning is the Australian Network of Practice Firms (ANPF), a major national education, training and employment-related initiative being adopted by many concerned education and training providers across Australia.

A practice firm is a simulated business, owned and operated by students. They take on different roles and tasks, learning by trial and error, and working in teams to reach successful and profitable outcomes. They develop technological and task management oriented skills which open doors into real workplaces. All this takes place in a virtual business environment, which can be adapted to suit the level and challenges needed by the group. Students are guided, coached and mentored by their teachers and staff from a real business but are encouraged to practice action learning strategies: planning, acting, reflecting and incorporating new ideas and insights.

Practice firms trade their virtual products and services with other practice firms in ANPF. There are currently over 160 practice firms in Australia, located in all States and Territories, in schools, TAFEs and universities. The context of a practice firm is an ideal way for a student to develop job-ready skills. Competency based courses have outcomes that fit well within the practice firm training environment. This contextual environment can be successfully used for academic programs including business studies, information processing, languages, and communication. Practice firms trade internationally with over 3,500 international practice firms in Europe, Canada, the US, South America and Asia. Students work on a global basis, learning about different cultures and currencies, and managing the challenges of changing exchange rates! The headquarters of ANPF at the Canberra Institute of Technology provides a simulated bank, taxation agency and public utilities necessary to simulate real business activities. The Office also manages an e-commerce site and works collaboratively with urban and rural schools and TAFEs, private training providers and distance education programs across Australia.

Experience a brief taste of working in a simulated business environment. Incorporating the principles of experiential and reflective learning, this experience will help to identify the distinguishing features between the practice firm training methodology and other business training simulations. It will also highlight the need for close involvement of business and industry in the provision of training programs that are designed to provide career opportunities and sought after future employees.

Please cite as: Sinclair, J. (2002). Experience the difference!. In S. McNamara and E. Stacey (Eds), Untangling the Web: Establishing Learning Links. Proceedings ASET Conference 2002. Melbourne, 7-10 July.

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