When and why did the VCAL start?

Students at senior secondary level have the choice of two certificates, the Victorian Certificate of Education (VCE) and the Victorian Certificate of Applied Learning (VCAL). The VCAL was developed in response to education and learning needs identified by the Ministerial Review of Post Compulsory Education and Training Pathways in Victoria (2000), also known as the Kirby Report. One of the findings of the Kirby Report highlighted poor senior secondary outcomes for many students.

The VCAL was accredited in 2002 and introduced into 22 selected Victorian secondary schools and TAFE institutes and organisations. Today there are over 440 secondary schools, TAFE institutes and Adult Community Education (ACE) organisations delivering VCAL to over 22,000 students.

What are the aims of VCAL?

The VCAL aims to provide students with the skills, knowledge and attitudes to make informed choices about pathways to work and further education.

The principles underpinning the VCAL are:

  • new accredited pathways for secondary students
  • tailoring a program to suit students’ interests
  • personal development
  • development of work related and industry specific skills.

These principles are within the context of applied learning.

In the VCAL these principles are shown through:

  • the development of knowledge and employability skills that help prepare students for work and for participation in a broader society – family, community and life-long learning
  • the development of knowledge and skills that assists students to make informed vocational choices and facilitate pathways to further learning and employment.

What are the qualifications?

The VCAL is accredited at three levels:

  • Victorian Certificate of Applied Learning (Foundation)
  • Victorian Certificate of Applied Learning (Intermediate)
  • Victorian Certificate of Applied Learning (Senior).

The three qualification levels cater for a range of students with different abilities and interests. They also provide a progression in the development of skills, knowledge and attributes.

Foundation level

At this level the focus is on basic and preparatory knowledge and employability skills. There is also a strong emphasis on literacy and numeracy skills.


Intermediate level

At Intermediate level the focus is on knowledge and employability skills development that leads to independent learning, confidence and a higher level of transferable skills.


Senior level

At Senior level the focus is on knowledge and employability skills that lead to a high level of interpersonal skills, independent action and achievement of tasks that require decision making and leadership. The demonstration of knowledge and skills that apply directly to the workplace or further training is also important.


What are the entry requirements?

There are no formal entry requirements for VCAL. Students can enter at the level of VCAL to suit their learning needs, abilities and interests. Decisions about which VCAL level a student should be placed in should take into account the student’s literacy level, interests, goals and abilities. The decision about entry level should also take into account the student’s:

  • strengths and interests
  • preferred learning style
  • vocational goals
  • readiness for participation in structured workplace learning or formal  vocational education
  • envisaged pathways
  • leadership capabilities

How is the VCAL structured?

The VCAL has four curriculum areas, called strands. These strands are:

  • Literacy and Numeracy Skills
  • Industry Specific Skills
  • Work Related Skills
  • Personal Development Skills.

A student’s VCAL learning program must include studies in each strand.

What must students do to receive a VCAL qualification?

A student is awarded a certificate when they gain credits for 10 units that fulfil the minimum requirements for their learning program. A credit is gained for successful completion of a unit of study. A unit of study can be:

  • one VCAL unit
  • one VCE unit
  • 90 hours for VET modules or units of competence and/or Further Education (FE) modules.

Each unit of study must be justified against the purpose statement for one of the four VCAL curriculum strands.

A student’s VCAL learning program must include:

  • a minimum of two VCAL units
  • at least one literacy unit*
  • at least one numeracy unit
  • at least one unit from the Industry Specific Skills strand (at the Intermediate and Senior levels this must include a unit of study from a VET qualification)
  • at least one unit from the Work Related Skills strand
  • at least one unit from the Personal Development Skills strand
  • at least six credits at the level or above, of which one must be literacy and one VCAL Personal Development Skills unit